The Owls needed a palette cleanser following their 30-0 loss at Duke last Friday. They got that on Saturday, but they didn’t have the smoothest ride to the finish line.
From the first of couple minutes in the afternoon contest, it felt as if the Owls were going to run the Leopards right out of the Linc. On the opening kickoff, the Owls swarmed Lafayette’s return man, downing him at the 10. The Owls defense parlayed that into a 3 and out, with the Leopards punting out the their endzone. The offense would take advantage of their prime field position with a four play drive, capped by a 3 yard touchdown run from Darvon Hubbard.
Great kickoff coverage? Check. Three and out? Check. Bad punt? Check. Quick score? Check. And then the turnovers happen…
On the second drive of the day for the Owls, starting quarterback D’Wan Mathis fumbled in Lafayette territory. This lead to a Julius Young touchdown reception for the Leopards. Following a second fumble from Mathis and another empty possession for the offense, his day would be done.
In the second quarter, Elijah (or EJ) Warner checked in for Mathis. Warner is the son of Super Bowl champion and NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner.
On Warner’s first series in the cherry & white, he would complete his first two passes, and cap the drive with a 15 yard touchdown pass to WR Ian Stewart. Warner would ultimately finish his first collegiate performance with a line of 14/19 passing, with 173 yards and two touchdowns.
Temple Football Head Coach Stan Drayton following his first win as the Owls’ bench boss, explains his decision to call in EJ Warner:
“I just felt that two balls on the ground, is something that you think about. And you know, those are tough decisions when it’s your quarterback. I just thought that two balls on the ground was probably something that forced me to that decision.”
That decision gave the game a new identity. With the momentum back on the Owls’ side, they would begin to pull away before the end of the half. A De’Von Fox punt block (he would go on to have three!) set the Owls up in prime field position. The offense wouldn’t waste it as Redshirt sophomore Edward Saydee cashed in from 9 yards to make it a 21-7 ballgame.
The Owls are now ahead by two scores, with possession to open the second half. They had an opportunity to put away Lafayette, but did the complete opposite. After just scoring before halftime, Edward Saydee gives the Leopards an apology gift: a fumble in their territory.
The Owls’ third turnover of the game lead to Lafayette’s second touchdown of the day, making the score 21-14. Fans started to become restless at the Linc, but luckily for them, that would be the end of Lafayette’s scoring for the day.
An EJ Warner to Jordan Smith connection from 17 yards out for a much needed insurance touchdown made the score 28-14 early in the 4th quarter. A Lafayette safety following the third of De’Von Fox’s 3 blocked punts gave us our final score of 30-14.
The defense for the Owls impressed on Saturday. The two touchdowns given up can be forgiven, considering the Leopards began in Temple territory following a fumble on each scoring drive. Outside of that, the defense was lights out, recording eight sacks.
The sack attack was lead by junior linebacker Layton Jordan, with 2.5 sacks to his name. Six other Owls would contribute to the sack column, including Jordan Magee. The sophomore linebacker led the cherry & white with eight total tackles, five of the solo variety, and three for loss.
“I give the praise to our front seven, I thought we played very good. I give the praise to the secondary too. They didn’t let up too many passing yards. We played as one defense, we played as a whole.”Temple Linebacker Jordan Magee
The rushing attack for the Owls was quite efficient, at least in the first half. In a committee effort, the Owls rushed for a combined 146 yards on 40 carries. 123 of those yards came in the first half. Darvon Hubbard and Edward Saydee led the way with 59 and 55 yards respectively, to go with their touchdown each.
Jose Barbon quietly had himself an impressive day. The speed threat wideout led all receivers in the contest with 118 yards on 8 catches.
De’Von Fox doesn’t just block punts, the sophomore wideout can return them as well. Fox finished with 32 return yards on two returns, including a 22 yard return.
When asked about the QB position moving forward, Coach Drayton gave no definitive answer as to who will start next week and moving forward. Drayton stated that Mathis and Warner, as well as everyone on the depth chart, will have to earn their starting positions each day. Since day one, Drayton has stressed that he wants to upkeep competition throughout the team, and that no starting positions are guaranteed.
Next week, the Owls host the Big 10’s Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Last season, the Owls began their season on the road at Rutgers, falling embarrassingly, 61-14. The Owls surely haven’t forgotten last year’s loss and would love to avenge last year to cap off Homecoming Week 2022 for Temple.