WRITTEN BY TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin
PHILADELPHIA, Pa.- Jahad Thomas and Ryquell Armstead stole the spotlight for the Owls on Saturday, as two touchdowns apiece from the running backs helped Temple seal a 49-10 blowout victory over Tulane.
It is the first time that the Owls have started the season 5-0 since the 1974 campaign, in which Temple finished the year 8-2 under head coach Wayne Hardin.
Currently at the helm, head coach Matt Rhule was pleased with his team’s collective performance, and thrilled that most men had an opportunity to take the field.
“That was a great win for us in that every kid that could get into the game was not injured or redshirted,” said Rhule. “That’s really important to our team to get all those kids a chance to play in front of our home crowd.”
Temple opened the afternoon on offense, and on the third play of the game, Armstead fumbled the ball in the backfield, which was recovered by Tulane inside the Owls’ 30 yard line. On the ensuing drive, Tulane drew first blood on a 27-yard field goal by Andrew DiRocco, leading 3-0 with 9:07 left in the first.
The next Owls’ drive consisted of another fumble, but was fortunately recovered by receiver John Christopher, forcing Temple’s first punt at the five minute mark.
Following Tulane’s first punt, Temple’s initial offensive surge was led by receiver Robby Anderson, who caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from quarterback P.J. Walker to help put the Owls ahead 7-3 with less than a minute left in the quarter. The reception was one of three on the drive for Anderson, who tallied 60 yards in the Owls’ third trip.
The second quarter began with a Green Wave punt that was accidentally touched by Owls’ Artrel Foster, as the ball was a live fumble recovered by Tulane for their second red zone trip. With the ball placed inside Temple’s 10 –yard line, Tulane quarterback Tanner Lee connected with Teddy Veal for a 9-yard touchdown pass, placing the Green Wave back on top 10-7 with 13:32 remaining in the half.
On the ensuing drive, the Owls immediately marched down field, and capped off a 7 play, 90 yard drive with a 10-yard rushing touchdown by Jahad Thomas to make the score 10-7 midway through the second. It was the third scoring change of the quarter.
With less than six minutes left in the half, Tulane punter Zachary Block fumbled the snap and was dropped in the backfield by Sam Benjamin for a sack and turnover on downs, forming the Owls’ second red zone trip. On a second down at Tulane’s 14, Walker dumped the ball off to Thomas, who shook two defenders for his second touchdown of the game. Thomas’ second score gave Temple their largest lead of the game at halftime, 21-10.
The second half began with three consecutive punts, but on the fourth drive of the quarter, Temple’s offense clicked, and freshman halfback Ryquell Armstead scored his first career touchdown to increase the Owl lead to 28-10 at the 6:42 mark.
On Tulane’s ensuing drive, the Owls opened the flood gates, as a third down pass by Lee was deflected and intercepted by defensive back Sean Chandler, who returned it to the house for a 22-yard touchdown to make it 35-10. Chandler’s pick was the Owls’ first defensive touchdown of the season.
The following drive was the same song and dance, as Lee was once again picked off but this time by Avery Williams. On the second play from scrimmage at Tulane’s 16, Armstead found the endzone once more for his second rushing score, making it five unanswered touchdowns for the Owls at 42-10.
The fourth quarter showed a change in Temple’s personnel, as backup quarterback Frank Nutile replaced Walker, and found freshman David Hood for a 10-yard touchdown pass, the first score of their young careers. It was the seventh touchdown for the Owls, making the score 49-10 with 11 minutes remaining in regulation.
The clock would expire with the same score, as Temple tallied 345 total yards on 64 plays. A large chunk of the yardage came from ground game, as halfbacks Thomas, Armstead, and Hood combined for 156 yards on 36 carries with five touchdowns. Thomas was impressed with Armstead’s contributions, and believes that his efforts will only make the team’s strength even stronger.
“[Ryquell] played well, and you’ve got to have that ‘next play’ mentality,” said Thomas. “It’s great to see that a young guy can come in and take a load off me. It’s going to make him better, and going to make us better as a team.”
Placing the offensive performance aside, Temple’s defensive line dominated in the trenches, and did not allow Tulane to earn positive rushing yards, as the Green Wave finished the game with -11 yards on the ground. Seniors Matt Ioannidis and Nate D. Smith combined for three sacks, while Praise Martin-Oguike also earned one.
“Our defensive line dominated the game, and we can do that,” said Defensive Coordinator Phil Snow. “I don’t think that we got off against Charlotte like we did today. They just took over the game.”
The Owls’ leader on defense was linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who earned seven total tackles, finishing one tackle shy of 400 as a career milestone.
Tulane finished the game with a measly 91 total yards, and dropped to 2-3 on the season.
“As good as we played today, you know we’ll be in that meeting room and know there’s so many things we did wrong,” said Matakevich. “What makes us a great team is that you have guys that want to come in and want to get better.”
With the victory, Temple remains atop the American Athletic Conference standings at 5-0, and play the latter game of a brief two-game homestand next Saturday evening against the winless Central Florida Knights.