After a three-year hiatus, Temple University football Cherry & White spring game returned to campus on April 9 at Edberg-Olson Hall, ending the team’s 15-day spring practice season.
With almost 2,000 fans in attendance, not even hail could stop them from coming to the game. Temple students, alumni and community members had the chance to watch newly-hired head coach Stan Drayton run his team.
“We had all kinds of people here trying to see what direction we’re heading,” Drayton said. “I really appreciate that support and I encourage them to stay with us.”
To kick off the event, students, alumni and community members gathered for hot dogs and burgers along with other pregame festivities at the corner of 12th and Diamond streets starting at 1 p.m.
The spring game functioned differently than a normal matchup, pitting the offense, who wore white, against the defense, who wore cherry. In the end, the defense overpowered the offense, securing the 64-54 win, but the offense showed its ability to fight and generate scoring plays despite tough coverage.
Here’s a rundown of players’ performance and what former players thought of the experience.
OFFENSE VS DEFENSE
Fans filled out the stands to watch the Owls’ offense go head-to-head with the defense.
A point system was used to award points to the defense for big plays, like stops, interceptions and fumble recoveries, and rewarded the offense with points for traditional scoring plays.
Both sides of the ball were split into two groups, which rotated every drive. Redshirt-sophomore quarterback D’Wan Mathis led the first offense and redshirt-sophomore quarterback Mariano Valenti led the second.
The first offense competed against the second defense. The defense dominated, forcing them into two back-to-back three and outs and two tackles for losses before groups switched.
Valenti led his group to a first down in his first drive of the game but followed up with a three and out with a sack by redshirt-sophomore linebacker Yvandy Rigby.
The defense continued to pressure, with redshirt-junior safety Chauncey Moore recording an interception and redshirt-senior cornerback Keyshawn Paul recovering an offensive fumble.
“Our first defense continues to get better,” Drayton said. “Not only that, you see our second defense go out there and have a pretty good day, which means that we’re starting to build some depth and that’s critical.”
Down the stretch, the offense showed some life, after a deep ball to redshirt-junior wide receiver Jose Barbon started the momentum that led to the first touchdown of the day by redshirt-sophomore wide receiver De’Von Fox.
“Offense typically takes a little longer,” Drayton said. “We’ve got some key pieces that are out with injury, but to see those guys handle adversity the way they did today that was not always the case during the course of the spring.”
Both sides of the ball went back and forth, with the defense recording a sack at the start of the second half and redshirt-junior tight end Jordan Smith completing a 30-yard touchdown for the offense.
“We’re definitely headed in the right direction,” Drayton said. “I just can’t get enough of the atmosphere that was out there today.”
The event also brought together former Temple football players and teammates like Philadelphia Eagles Shaun Bradley and Haason Reddick. Former NFL running back Brian Westbrook and Kurt Warner, an NFL Hall of Famer and father of Temple signee quarterback Elijah Warner, were also in attendance.
Temple Hall of Famer Steve Conjar, a former linebacker and 1981 graduate, is no stranger to Temple’s annual Cherry & White games and was glad to be back on campus. He tailgated with his former teammates, like former right tackle Phil Prohaska.
“I’m very enthusiastic about the new coach,” Conjar said. “I think he’s gonna do well here and I’m looking forward to a better season than what we’ve had in the last couple years.”
Conjar thinks Drayton has the Owls moving in the right direction and with the team trusting in Drayton’s ability, he has high expectations for the team going into the season, he said.
Prohaska is glad to have a coach that’s energetic and brings people together. As far as the team, he hopes they go out and earn their spot on the field, he said.
Former Temple running back Paul Palmer, who was a 1986 Heisman Trophy runner-up, felt welcomed, compared to previous years, with the new coaching staff onboard. He was excited to return and see the younger generation play, Palmer said.
“It’s 100 percent a different vibe,” Palmer said. “The past couple of years have been kind of dreary. It hasn’t felt very welcoming to a lot of us older ball players, so this is a pleasant change for the better.”
Palmer believes Drayton was the right choice to bring Temple back to becoming a winning team. He’s seen a lack of energy and effort from players the last couple of years and hopes the team will be motivated to win some games during the rebuilding process, he said.
“It’ll be interesting for me to just watch the development and see where it goes from here,” Palmer said.