While Temple’s 25th ranked defense in the country has stolen the show this season, much of the team’s success has come from a revamped offense. Light deserves to be shined on the Owl’s young and prosperous running back corp led by junior Jahad Thomas.
No one in the American Athletic Conference has rushed for more yards, touchdowns and averaged more all purpose yards per game in 2015 than junior running back Jahad Thomas. Thomas’ 970 rush yards ranks 22nd in all of college football and only 5 rushers in the country have found their way into the endzone more times then he has. The last Temple halfback to rush for more touchdowns in a season was Super Bowl 47 champion Bernard Pierce, who crossed the pylon 27 times in 2011.
Thomas has maintained this remarkable success in part to a bulk of the load taken off from a trio of freshman halfbacks who have stepped up this season. Freshmen Ryquell Armstead, David Hood and Jager Gardner have combined for 336 rushing yards on just 70 carries and 3 touchdowns.
True freshman Jager Gardner burst onto the scene just last week against SMU. Breaking through a hole on the offense’s second play of the game, Gardner rushed for Temple’s longest play from scrimmage in history with a 94 yard touchdown run. Gardner finished the game with 110 rushing yards on 6 carries. Watch the video of his first quarter run below:
Another true freshman, Ryquell Armstead, has served as Jahad Thomas’ primary backup and has shown flashes of undeniable potential. Contrasting Thomas’ shifty running, Armstead is a bruiser, clocking in at 205 pounds. Armstead found the endzone twice in the homecoming win against Tulane, and he has tallied 41 attempts for 161 yards on the season. Armstead has served as an effective change of pace for Thomas, as he is second on the team in rush yards and touchdowns.
Following up right behind Armstead in the Owl’s depth chart is redshirt freshman David Hood. Hood received the bulk of his action this year in the second half of the 49-10 win against Tulane. Hood ran for 47 yards and caught a touchdown pass, displaying his versatility that can service the Owl’s in years to come.
With 1,306 yards coming from four active halfbacks through 9 games, the sky’s the limit for the Temple backfield in the remainder of the season and years to come. To put this in perspective, six halfbacks last season combined for 962 rushing yards in the entire season. All four current rushers will return next season, including Thomas, who will look to add to his stout career and tack on his third year in a row of leading Temple in rushing.
The Owl’s arsenal of backs will serve the team well when facing bigger opponents such as Memphis and Houston. The two top tier AAC West squads have allowed two of the three most rushing touchdowns in the conference, both trailing only Navy. Jahad Thomas and Temple’s backfield will look to capitalize on their breakout season when it matters most.