Old trends follow Temple into 2022 season during Drayton’s debut

Temple sports fans received a reminder after Friday’s loss that rebuilding the football team is going to be a long process.

Temple University football suffered a 30-0 loss to Duke on Sept. 2. | NICK DAVIS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

With a 30-0 loss at Duke, Temple’s 2022 season began much like its 2021 season ended. The game marked Duke’s first shutout victory over an FBS opponent since a 41-0 victory over their archrival, the University of North Carolina, in 1989. 

Friday’s game was Stan Drayton’s first game as a head coach and the first chance for him to see his team in action outside of practice. At the very least, Temple’s returning starters were supposed to look improved from 2021, but the Owls looked very much like a team that wasn’t ready for its first game. Temple was also expected to be more technically sound, but two penalties by sophomore transfer cornerback Dominick Hill and repeated busted coverages in the secondary didn’t give much hope to that notion.  

While it was the season opener and no team plays its best football before conference play, the Owls looked sloppy and fumbled the ball four times. 

Temple was outmatched from the first drive of the game, giving up a five-play, 75-yard touchdown sequence that only took two minutes and three seconds. All night long, Kevin Johns, Duke’s first-year offensive coordinator, attacked Temple with the same no-huddle offense that he utilized during his 2018-20 tenure at the  University of Memphis. 

Duke sophomore quarterback Riley Leonard started the game with 15 consecutive completions for 239 yards and two touchdowns, one completion shy of the Blue Devils’ record. He finished the game as his team’s passing and rushing yards leader with 328 yards and 64 yards, respectively.  

“[Leonard] was on point,” Drayton said. “There were some breakdowns on defense, a lot of explosive plays that shouldn’t happen.” 

Temple’s run defense didn’t give up the 220 yards that it averaged last season, but the Blue Devils still picked up 164 yards and a touchdown on the ground, averaging just less than 5.3 yards per carry.  

Sticking to a consistent theme from 2021, the Owls lost Friday’s time of possession battle 35:24-24:36. Last season, Temple averaged five minutes and 18 seconds fewer of possession than their opponents. Without a run-stuffing nose tackle or offensive line that can impose its will on defenses, Temple may struggle with possession for another full season.  

Offensively, Temple couldn’t get anything going, totaling just 179 yards from scrimmage. Second-year redshirt-sophomore quarterback D’Wan Mathis completed just less than half of his passes and only threw for 83 yards. Mathis also fumbled twice, losing one of them.  

While this was Mathis’s first game with his third offensive coordinator in three seasons, a starting quarterback that isn’t in a triple-option system passing for less than 150 yards won’t do much to help the Owls.  

With Mathis struggling to generate offense for the Owls, Drayton opted to substitute North Dakota State University transfer redshirt-junior Quincy Patterson into the game during the fourth quarter to see how he could impact the game. Patterson completed three of his eight passes for 31 yards and a fumbled the ball. 

Redshirt-junior wide receiver Amad Anderson Jr. also struggled and lost a fumble. Anderson ran for nine yards on three carries, caught one ball for five yards and struggled as the kick returner all night, including taking a ball out of the endzone and only reaching the five-yard line on the second half kickoff.  

Luckily for Anderson, Temple managed to reach its 49-yard line on the drive. However, the Owls, who trailed 24-0 at that point, still decided to punt the ball. Temple had nothing to lose and, although a 15-yard facemask penalty helped, it was Temple’s most productive drive of the night.  

There wasn’t much to criticize about the decisions that Drayton and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf made on Friday night as Temple went deeper into its playbook, one more complex than what had been in place, than it has in at least two seasons. However, the decision punt on that drive was a headscratcher and Drayton admitted in the postgame press conference that it wasn’t his best call of the night. 

“There’s a little bit of an emotional call right there,” Drayton said. “I just didn’t feel the momentum after that third down. That’s on me.” 

Graduate wide receiver Jose Barbon and transfer redshirt senior Adonicas Sanders averaged nine and 9.8 yards per reception respectively on Friday night. However, they didn’t receive many accurate passes, a reason fans shouldn’t expect a massive increase in offensive production when redshirt-junior tight end David Martin-Robinson returns from a shoulder injury.  

The Blue Devils confirmed that Temple’s defense allowing 177.92 passing yards per game in 2021 was a misleading statistic as teams didn’t feel the need to pass against Temple, considering the Owls’ poor run defense. 

This season will be the first of a long rebuild at Temple with results that won’t be immediately visible. Players, coaches and administration will need to be patient before Temple returns to being a perennial bowl team at the very least.  

“You obviously want to win them all” Drayton said. “I have my work cut out for me and I’m not shying away from that.” 

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