COLLEGE STATION — Temple certainly was not the better football team at Cougar Field in Friday evening’s scrimmage against not-long-ago district rival College Station. But if the learning experience makes the Wildcats a better team in the long run, it will have been well worth the trip.
Temple’s young, inexperienced defense had difficulty containing College Station’s balanced, well-executing attack in both the controlled portion of the scrimmage and then two timed quarters of live action, and the Wildcats’ offense struggled to find its rhythm as star receiver Quentin Johnston and speedy running back Anthony Jackson played only sparingly.
The Cougars scored three touchdowns — two by their second-team offense against Temple’s backup defense — to none for the Wildcats in the controlled part of the action, then College Station outscored Temple 28-13 in the two timed quarters to leave the Wildcats with lots of questions to answer entering their season opener next Friday night at Round Rock Cedar Ridge.
“You can practice all you want, but let’s be honest. College Station is still in the shadow of winning a state championship (in 2017). Scrimmaging a team that well-coached and that executes at that high a level is invaluable for us,” Temple coach Scott Stewart said.
“They’re a physical football team, and we got what we needed out of tonight. We’ve got to come back tomorrow and be very critical of ourselves. We’ve got to evaluate every step these guys take.”
In a pair of tight District 18-5A championship games in 2016 and ’17, the Cougars edged the Wildcats 17-16 and 26-20 in overtime, respectively.
The Wildcats’ touchdowns in the scrimmage came on a 45-yard pass from new starting quarterback Vance Willis to fellow senior Jaiden Crosby midway through the first timed period and on a 45-yard interception return by senior cornerback Roman Jackson — the defense’s only returning starter — with 4½ minutes remaining in the second.
Stewart was cautious with Temple’s usage of Johnston and Jackson, who scored a combined 31 touchdowns last season. Only one Willis pass went Johnston’s way and sailed incomplete.
Temple senior right offensive tackle Blake Perez, a first-year starter, suffered a serious knee injury as College Station returned an interception during the first live quarter. Stewart said Temple’s medical staff thinks Perez has a torn ACL.
Wildcats sophomore Samari Howard registered several big gains at running back and also got some snaps at quarterback along with junior backup Luke Allen. Promising freshmen Mikal Harrison-Pilot and Taurean York got significant playing time at safety and linebacker, respectively.
College Station’s combination of mobile quarterback Austin Sosa and powerful running back Roderick Brown gave Temple’s defense trouble throughout. Brown had TD runs of 14 and 5 yards during the timed quarters, when Sosa added a 5-yard score to the 34-yard TD scramble he had during the controlled portion.
“We didn’t make them punt but other than the QB option runs, I was decently pleased with how we fit in the running game,” Stewart said of his defense.
The Cougars’ other touchdown came when a low snap on Aaron Wagaman’s 46-yard field goal attempt led to a blocked kick that was returned 70 yards.
Temple will unveil Wildcat Stadium’s new lights in its home opener Sept. 6 against Mexican opponent Universidad Autonoma de Nuevo Leon.
College Station begins its season against Richmond Foster on Thursday night at Katy’s Legacy Stadium.