Usually a trip down to a SEC school’s campus, if your team is not in a power five conference, means a fat paycheck and a dominating performance from the home team in a football game. Considering the Temple Owls finished 3-9 last year in their first year in the American Athletic Conference, almost everyone expected that notion to remain true.
Vanderbilt, a surprise contender in the SEC East, opened the year without arguably one of the best coaches in the nation in James Franklin, who bolted for Happy Valley to lead the Penn State Nittany Lions. Also gone was stud WR Jordan Matthews, drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round, who had a robust 1,477 receiving yards his senior year.
The Owls had a chance.
Lightning and heavy rain delayed the contest over 90 minutes but the wait didn’t faze the visitors.
The Cherry and White took the early advantage in the first with QB P.J. Walker hooking up with junior wideout Brandon Shippen on a 35 yard strike to go up seven.
Vandy’s QB carousel was on full display throughout the game, with starter Patton Robinette getting benched in the second in favor of senior Stephen Rivers.
In a pre-game interview, when asked about sticking with Robinette throughout the season, first year coach Derek Mason said,”That’s why we named him our starter. If something happens you, need to adapt and adjust.”
The Commodores got on the board on a Temple special teams blunder, resulting in P Alex Starzyk muffing the punt and Vandy recovering in the end zone.
With the game knotted at seven, Walker hit senior Jalen Fitzpatrick for 18 yards, finding the end zone and putting the Owls up once again.
Rivers had problems with the Temple pass rush all game. Driving into Owls’ territory, sophomore DL Avery Ellis stripped Rivers on a sack and fellow sophomore Averee Robinson scooped it up and rumbled 55 yards into the end zone, putting the Owls up 14.
After a missed 40-yard field goal by Vandy K Hayden Kekacz in the opening drive of the second half, the Owls responded with a field goal of their own from freshman Austin Jones.
Junior CB Tavon Young had a breakout game with two interceptions, and his first came off a Johnny McCrary pass to set up the Owls in Vandy territory. Walker entered the highlight reel once again, capping the drive off with a three-yard QB keeper. Owls up 31-7.
On the next Commodore drive, Young once again picked off McCrary, leading to another Jones field goal and putting the game out of reach for Vanderbilt. Junior kicker Tyler Mayes tacked on another field goal in the fourth with head coach Matt Rhule testing out his group in the opener.
The Owls took their 2014 opener 37-7 with their first victory over a SEC team in 76 years. Walker led the aerial attack for the Owls, going 23/34 for 207 yards and two TDs through the air. The scintillating sophomore threw no interceptions.
Vanderbilt couldn’t muster a TD on offense as the trio of Robinette, Rivers and McCrary combined to only throw 224 yards while being picked off three times.
The opener gives hope to fans thirsting for an exciting team with the Owls conquering one of their toughest games on the 2014 schedule. The Owls (1-0) host the triple option threat of Navy (0-1) in their home opener next Saturday 9/6 at 1:00 P.M.