Temple blanks Akron for its second-straight shutout this season.
For the second week in a row, the football team held its opponent scoreless as the Owls defeated Akron, 30-0.
The performance marked the first time the Owls held consecutive opponents scoreless since 1971. The Owls haven’t allowed a point since Oct. 16, when they defeated Bowling Green, 28-27.
Early on, the game appeared to be much closer than most anticipated. The Zips, who fell to 0-9 with the loss, held Temple’s offense to a mere six points in the first half.
The Zips had an opportunity to take a lead heading into halftime when, with one minute, 33 seconds remaining in the first half, redshirt-sophomore quarterback Mike Gerardi fumbled the ball deep in his own territory. Fortunately for Temple, the defense forced Akron to attempt a field goal, which the Owls blocked.
“The defense making that stop before halftime [helped change the momentum],” coach Al Golden said. “Having that kind of poise, and then blocking that field goal [changed things].”
Temple’s offense played much better in the second half, scoring on its first two drives of the third quarter to go up, 13-0. Touchdown runs by junior wide receiver Rod Streater and sophomore running back Bernard Pierce in the fourth quarter would produce the final score.
The team’s shutout streak comes after the Owls allowed 31 points to Northern Illinois on Oct. 9 and 27 points to Bowling Green on Oct. 16. The Owls have come into their own since then, defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said.
“This team has matured,” D’Onofrio said. “They come to work every day. They’re focused and locked in, and want to get better every day. They’re not worried about the opponent.”
“It’s just [a result of] playing as a team, getting back to the fundamentals and playing as a team,” sophomore defensive back Maurice Jones added.
On offense, Gerardi completed 15-of-22 passes for a career-high 209 yards. Gerardi, who made just the second start of his career, also threw a touchdown pass. As Gerardi’s playing time has increased, so has his comfort level, he said.
“Before these last couple of games, I hadn’t been on the field for the last two-and-a-half years,” Gerardi said. “Being out there, the speed and everything is so much different, and I am just getting used to the speed and getting back to playing.”
Pierce rushed for 83 yards with a touchdown on 19 carries, while he caught two passes for 24 yards. Sophomore running back Matt Brown rushed for 69 yards on 13 carries.
Streater caught five passes for 35 yards and rushed three times for 46 yards and one touchdown. Senior wide receiver Michael Campbell, who caught three passes for 96 yards, now holds a career-high 432 receiving yards on the season.
As a team, Temple rushed for 190 yards in the win. The Zips, meanwhile, managed a mere 20 rushing yards on 28 attempts. Overall, Temple outgained Akron, 399-154.
Jones finished the game with six tackles, including two sacks. Freshman defensive end Sean Daniels had a career-high two sacks in the game. Junior safety Kevin Kroboth grabbed an interception.
With the win, the Owls have now won 10-straight games at Lincoln Financial Field, which ties the program record. Being able to win consistently at home is crucial to success, Golden said.
“It’s hard to be a really good or championship team if you can’t defend the home,” Golden said. “Our guys like playing here, and they play with energy.”
The Owls improved to 7-2 and 4-1 in the Mid-American Conference. With three games remaining, Temple has placed itself in position to possibly compete for its first MAC championship. To do so, the Owls will likely need to win out as two of their opponents, Ohio and Miami-Ohio, are tied for the MAC East division lead at 4-1. Because of this, the Owls must shift their focus to the upcoming weeks, D’Onofrio said.
“I think they’re tired of me telling them about my memories,” said D’Onofrio, who played linebacker at Penn State before he was drafted by the Green Bay Packers. “They have an opportunity to build their own memories. No one can take away what they did the last two weeks, but at the same time, that’s not our ultimate goal. Our ultimate goal is to get better and win a championship.”
Kyle Gauss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.