WRITTEN BY TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin
PHILADELPHIA – Senior halfback Jahad Thomas has neither a motive nor a solution for Temple’s habitual slow starts and doesn’t know if they will ever disappear.
But the Owls’ dire search for some momentum on Saturday afternoon lasted only 15 minutes before the floodgates opened.
Trailing 7-3 after a quarter of play, Temple ignited a 28-point outburst in the second quarter, cumulating 262 total yards of first half offense en route to a 48-20 victory over the Charlotte 49ers before a homecoming crowd of 27,786 at Lincoln Financial Field.
Thomas, who finished with two touchdowns on 15 carries for 68 yards, finished the game tied for fourth place on Temple’s all-time scoring list, while second-string halfback Ryquell Armstead also rushed for two goal line scores.
“When you’re as versatile as our offense is, anybody can go off on any given day at any given time,” Thomas said. “I’m never one of those selfish guys. I really take pride in not being selfish. I don’t care if I get the ball four times a game. As long as we’re winning and I’m just doing anything I can when I get the ball and while I’m out there, that’s all I really care about.”
Temple quarterback Phillip Walker also made upward strides, completing 15-of-26 passes for 268 total yards with two passing touchdowns to receivers Adonis Jennings and Brodrick Yancy.
“We’ve got so many weapons on offense and so many guys that can make a lot of plays,” Walker said. “Just the depth we have as a unit, we just have to go out there and keep competing at a high-level and I think that’s the best thing about our running backs and receivers. They know so much that they’re going to bring their A-game every day.”
Leading by 31 points midway through the third quarter, head coach Matt Rhule began to empty his bench, as a handful of younger players saw considerable time on the field.
“Whoever goes into the game for us has to play well,” Rhule said. “That was an opportunity for a lot of guys to get in the game and play.”
“The good thing is even if you put the second or third group in and maybe a play gets out, there’s a lot of guys when you watch the film you’ll say, ‘Boy, this guy can really play, we’ve got to play this guy more.’ So you have a chance to see some guys. Even if it’s not always the result you want, you have the chance to see other guys play and so that was the purpose of that.”
Charlotte quarterback Kevin Olsen finished with 17 completions on 42 attempts for 198 yards, while halfback Kalif Phillips gained 118 yards on 16 carries, including a 66-yard touchdown rush early in the third quarter.
“We knew going in that Kalif, their tailback, was a special kid,” Rhule said. “Two years in a row he’s battled us, and he’s probably won the battle. He’s really physical back.”
With four non-conference games in the books, Temple (2-2) begins its slate of American Athletic Conference games next Saturday at home against Southern Methodist. The Mustangs, who already average 75 plays per-game, will bring challenges to an Owls’ defense that has found difficulty in adjusting to up-tempo offenses.
“Tempo got to us, which means as we get ready for SMU, we can be in a lot of trouble if we’re not going to be able to handle the no-huddle,” Rhule said. “My gut would be, we’re still not strong enough inside versus the run. The pass rush was not where it needed to be. Little things that we need to correct if we want to win conference games.”
While Temple’s highs and lows in September weren’t planned, Walker has washed his hands of the team’s blunders, hoping that his team will double its efforts during conference play.
“We’ve got a whole new season to play right here,” Walker said. “We’re 0-0, and that’s in conference play.”