Going up against a Florida A&M team that averaged 300.5 passing yards per game before Saturday, Temple coach Bobby Wallace knew his squad would have to keep the ball out of the Rattlers’ hands. Tim Brown, the Owls’ starting running back, was to be a big part of that game plan.
Instead, junior Umar Ferguson got the start and had a career day, with 118 yards rushing on 25 carries, both career highs. He also had two touchdowns, tying a personal best. It was Ferguson’s first 100-yard rushing effort of his career.
“We knew we were going to be running the football, and all of the sudden we lose our starting running back,” Wallace said. “Umar Ferguson stepped up to the plate and did a great job.”
Running out of a single-back set nearly the entire game, Ferguson provided an additional target for quarterback Walter Washington.
He added to his yardage total by hauling in two passes for 20 yards, both resulting in first downs.
With or without Brown, the Owls’ backfield was likely to be successful. FAMU, a Division I-AA program, had surrendered an average of 265 rushing yards in its first two contests.
This Saturday, Temple will take on Toledo, a MAC program known for its explosive offense.
“I’m going to try to do the same thing next week,” Ferguson said. “I see myself getting in [the end zone] twice again.”
Washington finished 2003 averaging 315 yards of total offense against three nationally ranked opponents.
In his first two starts this season, he amassed 432 total yards but had minimal production in the first half. His slow starts were part of what kept the Owls off the scoreboard in the first halves of those games.
Against FAMU, Washington started the game with five straight completions and carried that accuracy through the first half, connecting on 11-of-17 passes for 157 yards before halftime. He finished the game 16-of-26 for 222 yards and a touchdown.
Washington attributed the stronger start to his frame of mind.
“I’ve been more calm and more confident,” he said. “I now believe I can get the job done.”
Saturday’s win was the Owls’ first at Lincoln Financial Field since they began playing home games there last season. They are now 1-6 at the Linc.
The win was also the first victory of the 2004 campaign and the 100th of Wallace’s career. The team lost nine games between Wallace’s 99th and 100th wins.
Seven years into his tenure at Temple, Wallace is now 18-53. By contrast, the Owls had suffered their 18th loss under Wallace by the end of his second year in 1999.
With time winding down in the first quarter, junior kicker Ryan Lux hit his first career field goal as an Owl, a 35-yarder into a stiff 21-mph wind.