By: Ari Glazier
Momentum in football is a funny thing. With all the intense preparation and skill that goes into preparing for each week, something totally arbitrary can rear its head and completely alter a game.
In Temple’s 39-37 win over South Florida on Saturday afternoon, redshirt junior defensive end Arnold Ebiketie got one of those freak occurrences to go in his favor, when a miscommunication between the USF quarterback and halfback landed the ball on the grass for him on him on a silver platter. All Ebiketie had to do was run unopposed to the football and carry it 11 yards for a touchdown that put the Owls up one.
Temple went on to hold the Bulls to a three-and-out on the next series, and the offense pitched in with a touchdown drive on the next possession that gave them an eight point lead that would prove decisive.
“When your defense can come up with turnovers, that’s the biggest thing that can help our offense,” redshirt junior receiver Jaden Blue said. “It gives us extra motivation to go out there and do what we need to do, which is putting the ball in the endzone.”
Quarterback Anthony Russo pointed out that such a momentum swing is doubly important in a game with near empty stands. The team has to create its own energy and feed off of each other.
Ebiketie was the victim of another random incident earlier in the game, when the sun got into his eyes during a kickoff, leading to him allowing a recovery by the kicking team.
“When the ball got kicked, and I was looking up, I couldn’t see anything,” Ebiketie said. “The sun was in my eyes, so I couldn’t figure out where the ball was. It was hard at first, but we always have that mentality of next play.”
The kickoff miscue and fumble notwithstanding, Ebikitie came up huge in Temple’s narrow win. The quick, but bruising edge rusher tallied six tackles, including a game high three-and-a-half tackles for a loss, as well as a strip sack in the first quarter that led to a Temple field goal. He also had a key role in sealing off the running lane on the edge in the game winning two point conversion.
Ebiketie built on another strong performance last week against Navy, when he came up with ten tackles, a number that is somewhat misleading thanks to the Midshipmen’s run dominant scheme, but still impressive.
Temple coach Rod Carey believes the Owls may have found their next big time contributor on the edge, after the losses of Quincy Roche, Zack Mesday, and Dana Levine.
“I think he can be a very very good player like we’ve had here for a long time up front,” Carey said of Ebiketie. “Is he there yet? No. But he’s improving.”