PHILADELPHIA (AP) — East Carolina fumbled away a football game Saturday and, in all likelihood, its spot among ranked teams.
No. 21 East Carolina fumbled five times and had a dozen penalties in a stunning 20-10 loss to Temple.
Pirates coach Ruffin McNeill was quick to point out that the loss was not his most difficult.
“No, I’ve had tougher,” he said. “We didn’t do a lot of things well and we’ll correct that, but at this point in the season, we still can accomplish all of the goals that we set back in the summer, including winning the conference.”
Battling an opportunistic Temple defense and a driving rain storm, the usually high-powered offense of East Carolina (6-2, 3-1 AAC) was thwarted by uncharacteristic mistakes, as well as an inability to throw the ball with authority.
“It was tough to throw it in the first half,” Pirates quarterback Shane Carden said. “The weather was pretty bad, but it was bad for them, too. We just shot ourselves in the foot with it.”
The Pirates were still able to outgain Temple by a more than 3-to-1 advantage — 432 yards to 135 years — but were stopped repeatedly by untimely penalties and turnovers.
“That’s something we have to work on,” East Carolina linebacker Zeek Bigger said. “We have a whole week to work on it now because we aren’t done yet and we have to keep fighting. We still have a chance to win this conference, if we give it all we have.”
The win was Temple’s first over a ranked opponent since October 17, 1998, when the Owls defeated then-No. 14 Virginia Tech 28-24 in Blacksburg, Virginia.
It was only the third time in school history that the Owls defeated a ranked team, and it was their first victory against a ranked opponent at home. Temple had been 0-34 against ranked opponents since beating the Hokies.
Kenny Harper scored two touchdowns for the Owls (5-3, 3-2 AAC), but the difference-makers were on the defensive side of the ball.
Temple appeared to be the more composed team in the wind and the rain and played relatively mistake-free, jumping out to a 14-point lead in the first quarter and never looked back.
The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Pirates, who were whistled for 12 penalties worth 120 yards. The loss also spoiled East Carolina’s bid for the best eight-game start in school history.
Temple didn’t muster much offense. Harper led the way with two scores and 30 yards rushing on 12 carries.
East Carolina managed just three points in the first half. The Pirates were slowed by three fumbles by their running backs, including two by Breon Allen that led to Temple scores.
Tavon Young returned Allen’s first fumble 63 yards for a touchdown, giving Temple the early lead. Harper spun into the end zone from the 1-yard line to cap a six-play, 40-yard drive following Allen’s second fumble, making it 14-0.
Harper’s second touchdown came from 2 yards out and capped the only sustained offensive drive by Temple in the game, a 12-play, 76-yard sequence that built Temple’s lead to 20-3 in the third quarter.
The Pirates’ offense, which entered the game leading the AAC in yards per game (566.9) and points per game (39.6) struggled throughout.
Allen spent much of the second half on the bench after coughing up the ball twice. Carden, who was last week’s ACC player of the week, was held to 217 yards passing. He was sacked four times and fumbled once.
Marquez Grayson supplied the lone touchdown for East Carolina, and that didn’t come until the final minutes of the game, with the outcome all but decided.
Temple defensive end Praise Martin-Oguike, who disrupted Carden’s rhythm the entire game, also had a big game finishing with 1.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles.