By Harry Allison
Temple’s Anthony Russo redeemed himself after trowing three picks and the Owls handed Cincinnati its first loss.
Russo threw a tying, 20-yard touchdown pass with 49 seconds left to Brandon Mack, and then a 25-yard TD to Isaiah Wright in overtime as Temple beat No. 20 Cincinnati 24-17 at the Linc.
Russo was 20 for 41 for 237 yards passing, with three touchdown passes and three picks for the Owls (5-3, 4-0 American). He led a seven-play, 75-yard drive in the closing minutes to tie the game with the TD to Mack.
”We just didn’t quit,” Russo said. ”I think that’s a big step for our team and something we’re going to build on.”
Cincinnati (6-1, 2-1) got a first down on its first play of overtime, but an errant snap behind quarterback Desmond Ridder left the Bearcats with second-and-21 and a personal foul pushed them even further back. Ridder was intercepted on third-and-36 by Shaun Bradley to end the game.
Temple receiver Randall Jones caught five passes for 67 yards and scored a touchdown.
”They just took shots,” Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said. ”They made some plays down the field and you have to give them some credit.”
The Bearcats, coming off a 4-8 season, were off to their best start since 2009.
”You can’t get overwhelmed with being 6-0 and forget about the things that got you there,” Fickell said. ”This is an opportunity for us to quit worrying about the undefeated, the rankings and really kind of go back to work.”
Cincinnati’s Michael Warren II and Charles McClelland combined for 202 yards on the ground and the Bearcats dominated the middle quarters after falling behind 10-0.
McClelland’s 42-yard dash with 6:09 left in the third quarter broke a 10-10 tie and gave the Bearcats their first lead. Warren had 132 yards on 25 carries and scored a 24-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
Ridder was 14 for 33 for 111 yards.
”We went at them and we just kept chipping away and chipping away,” Collins said. ”The guys did a great job when it mattered.”
The Bearcats picked off Russo twice in the final six minutes, but Temple’s defense kept holding and giving the offense a chance. Temple got the ball back after a Cincinnati punt with 2:37 to play and Russo took over from there for a tying drive.
”You could sense and feel a little bit of that going down the stretch there,” Fickell said. ”Defensively, you play so well for so long and something has to give down the stretch.”