LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Temple set the tone early at No. 12 Louisville. The Owls just couldn't sustain their momentum in a 45-17 loss on Saturday.
Matt Brown took the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown and the Owls were in the hunt for their first win against a ranked opponent since 1998.
"I saw green grass. I was just trying to get as much of it as possible," Brown said. "I've been waiting to pop one and get one back. It finally came and it came at the right time."
Temple (3-5, 2-3 Big East) led 14-7 late in the first quarter following a 5-yard run from Montel Harris that capped an 82-yard touchdown drive. But the conference's bottom-ranked defense allowed Louisville (9-0, 4-0) to score on five of its six first-half drives and the Owls' one-dimensional offense couldn't keep up.
Temple's Brandon McManus tied it at 17 with 34-yard field goal at the 11:30 mark in the second quarter before Louisville ripped off 28 unanswered points. Down 24-17, Temple converted a fourth-and-1 before a bad snap and 18-yard loss on the ensuing play stalled the drive. Louisville's 90-yard touchdown drive just before the half made it 31-17 and killed Temple's chances of keeping it close.
The Owls' rushing attack broke through Louisville defenders early and Brown finished with 227 yards on kickoff returns, a Temple school record, but the Owls mustered just 54 yards through the air.
Quarterback Chris Coyer finished just 2 of 8 for 20 yards and was relieved following two third-quarter fumbles. Juniors Clinton Granger and Kevin Newsome saw time under center in the second half but Addazio gave Coyer a vote of confidence following the game.
"That was a backbreaker right there," Temple coach Steve Addazio said of Coyer's first fumble, a mishandled snap. "No one hurts more than he does right now."
Temple lost four fumbles, three in the second half.
"The turnovers definitely killed us," said Harris, who finished with 115 yards on 15 carries. "They have a great offense so we couldn't afford to make mistakes on offense. The turnovers cost us some momentum."
While Temple is experiencing growing pains with three consecutive blowouts by a 127-44 margin, Louisville is off to its best start in school history.
A major reason for that is Bridgewater.
He picked the Owls apart, throwing for 324 yards on 19 of 28 passing. Louisville's offense was nearly unstoppable.
"You can't predict games like these," he said. "It just comes, and we're thankful to have this type of success."
Strong doesn't talk about the unprecedented start with his team. But the players were mindful of making history.
"Going into this week we were aware (of the record) and we were trying to make history," Bridgewater said. "We didn't want to press or anything, so we just went out and played Cardinal football."
Temple didn't make it easy early on.
The Owls took a 14-7 lead on Montel Harris' 5-yard run to cap an 82-yard, 10-play drive. After Louisville went ahead 17-14, Temple then drove 58 yards to tie the game on Brandon McManus' 34-yard field goal.
Temple also had its way with Louisville's special teams.
Owls kick returner Matt Brown returned the opening kickoff for a 93-yard touchdown. The 5-foot-5 senior lit up the Cardinals' special teams for a Temple-record 227 yards on seven returns.
That gave Temple the fast start it wanted, but the Owls couldn't stop Louisville. And in the second half, the Cardinals shut down the Owls.
"They were able to run the ball effectively in the first half," Strong said. "Then you watch the second half and we come out and it's a totally different defense."
Still, Addazio thinks he has the players to turn things around.
"There are no talent issues," Addazio said. "Those are young-guy mistakes that we've got to find a way to alleviate."
AP freelancer Josh Abner contributed to this report.