The Temple football team is usually not accustomed to filled stadiums. However, after playing their first two games in packed houses against Penn State and Cincinnati, the Owls were exposed to a drastic change of scenery on Saturday. Temple traveled to Foxboro, Massachusetts to take on the University of Massachusetts Minutemen.
The crowd barely topped 10,000, an atmosphere certainly unparalleled to their openers. Temple came into the game a heavy favorite, but UMass proved to be more than a formidable foe, as they took the Owls to the brink and almost spoiled their undefeated start.
Right from the start, both offenses couldn’t get the gears turning. Finally, with 2:05 left in the 1st quarter, Temple got on the board. P.J. Walker needed only two plays from the 50 to find the end zone. After hitting Jahad Thomas for a 27-yard gain, Walker found Adonis Jennings in the back of the end zone to put the Owls up 7-0. Walker finished 28 for 48 on the day, passing for 391 yards. Temple pushed the lead to 14-0 after recovering a UMass fumble. Jahad Thomas, who was kept in check most of the afternoon, burst through a hole and scampered into the endzone untouched. After two monsters games to start the season, Thomas came back to Earth, rushing for only 66 yards on 25 carries.
UMass got on the board as Rodney Mills beat Tyler Matakevich down the sideline on a 4th & 6 for a 48 yard score. After Walker threw his first interception of the year, the Minutemen eventually converted a 34 yard field goal to cut the lead to 14-10.
On the first play of the Owls ensuing drive, Walker found Robbie Anderson down the middle for a huge 53-yard pickup. However, the offense stalled and settled for a 33 yard field goal by Austin Jones to make it 17-10. However, a late Walker pick and a UMass touchdown made it 17 all going into halftime.
Opening up the 2nd half, Walker orchestrated a steady drive down to the UMass 20. But again, the offense stalled, and Temple settled for another field goal to make it a 20-17 ball game.
From there on out, it was a game of punting. Neither team could get moving on offense. Temple came through and intercepted Frohnapfel, but couldn’t make anything of it. Thomas coughed up the ball giving UMass possession with a chance to drive down and take the lead. Which is exactly what they did. UMass moved all the way into the redzone, where Jamal Wilson took a screen play 16 yards into the endzone giving UMass the lead for the first time all day, 23-20.
PATs usually don’t determine the outcome of the game but today they proved to be the deciding factor. Temple made the play of the day, as Praise Martin-Oguike got a hand on the kick, sending it bouncing backwards. It was scooped up by Stephaun Marshall, who pitched it to Will Hayes, who ran it all the way back. Instead of a 24-20 lead, the score was 23-22, and that made all the difference.
Walker, starting from his own 35, now only needed a field goal. Standing tall in the pocket, he marched the Owls down to the 15, completing two huge passes to John Christopher. That set up Austin Jones, who with the game on the line, split the uprights with a 32 yard field goal. Jones has yet to miss a field goal this year going 7-7 through three games. Remarkably, the Owls had conjured a 25-23 lead. That score would hold up and end up being the final on a wild day.
UMass couldn’t convert on a desperation hook and ladder, and Temple escaped with the victory, pushing their record to 3-0. It’s the first time since 2010 that Temple has won their first three games.
Coach Matt Rhule showed that he is willing to let Walker carry this team. Walker threw more passes against the Minutemen then he did in the first two games combined. While Walker displayed the good and the bad, the final drive was a sign of good things to come, especially for the wide receivers. The Owls had four receivers each total over 50 yards. Temple heads into their bye week which will allow Walker to rest his injured shoulder, and be ready to play Charlotte two weeks.