Written By: Ajay Patel
Photo Courtesy of: OwlSports.com
Homecoming festivities and parents weekend created an atmosphere unlike any other that Temple has seen this season, as the Owls open their conference schedule with a 34-31 win against the previously undefeated Memphis Tigers.
“We didn’t start as fast as we wanted to, but we started faster than we did all of the last four weeks, and it wasn’t what we wanted, but it was an improvement,” offensive lineman C.J. Perez said. “If we keep building on that, I have full confidence in every single position.”
A slow start can be justified by the fact that momentum was not on the side of the Owls, especially in the fourth-down conversion department. Temple came out of the gate playing aggressive football, attempting five fourth-down conversions, and only converting on one opportunity.
Though Coach Carey attempted to make a statement in the team’s first conference game of the year, play calling, especially early on, dug Temple in an early deficit.
Carey attempted to move the chains when Temple was on their own 35 but ended up handing it to Memphis, who scored one play later.
“It was 10 rip, we have to be able to get a yard, and we didn’t. That was disappointing, a couple of things that didn’t quite go well there,” Carey said “So we got over it and corrected them, then actually came back and ran that play again on fourth down again, and it worked.”
Jadan Blue’s one-yard catch on fourth and goal, the play Carey is referring to, was the highlight of the season thus far for the Owls. “I was hype, I wanted to tackle him,” said wide receiver Amad Anderson.
Once Temple was finally able to convert successfully, the game became manageable for the Owls. Temple ended up scoring 17 unanswered points, tying the game.
The Owls turned the ball over a lot on fourth down, but the defensive unit held their ground, picking up some timely fumble recoveries. Keyshawn Paul, in particular, recorded two fumbles that later got capitalized on.
“Our first touchdown, followed by the moment of the fumble,” Carey said, “those moments I think really kinda changed our attitude.”
Even on special teams, Paul made his presence known, in game-defining situations. Blocking a Joe Doyle PAT that ultimately led to Temple gaining their first 24-23 lead on the Tigers.
Point production by the Owls came from D’Wan Mathis’ increasing comfortability. In warm-ups, it was evident that Mathis was progressing as a player, throwing with ease and displaying consistent footwork, which was used as scrutiny of his performances earlier in the season. Also indicating that his ankle injury earlier on in the season is moving in the right direction.
Against the Tigers, the coaching staff trusted his judgment, as he threw the ball 49 times, completing 35 passes, for 322 yards and three TDs.
Mathis found 11 different receivers on the day, spreading the wealth to a plethora of his teammates.
When asked about how much game planning went into the distribution of touches, Anderson said, “D’Wan is a great quarterback and he has great leadership. So a little bit of both happened (spreading out the ball/ game plan).”
Mathis’ leadership and maturity showed in his adjustment to the game plan early in the game. Memphis forced Mathis to throw the ball toward the sidelines on bigger yardage plays, after Mathis was successful on longer plays just outside the hash marks, a week ago.
Facing the hardest opponent of their season next week, Mathis looks to lead the Owls to a road win against the nationally-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats.