Preparation for Temple’s 38-0 win against Stony Brook University on Saturday started eight days earlier, at the team’s practice facility late on a Friday night.
After a 28-13 loss to the United States Military Academy where the Owls’ defense was chewed up and the Temple offense was shut down, the team was searching for answers.
Senior quarterback Phillip Walker sat in the Owls’ locker room at Edberg-Olson Hall going over the missed plays he could have made. Redshirt-senior linebacker Avery Williams found a spot on Chodoff Field to sit alone and process what had just happened.
“This can’t happen again this season,” Williams said was the message that he relayed to the team. “We’re too good of a team and we worked too hard.”
The Owls’ reboot from the Army loss started on Sunday when the entire team watched the game film together instead of breaking off into position groups to critique the performance.
The team then practiced on Monday, which coach Matt Rhule said was the best practice he has seen in the past three seasons.
“You really don’t get that [loss] out of your system until after that first day of pads,” redshirt-senior linebacker Stephaun Marshall said. “You watch the film, see the corrections and then you gotta move on.”
The tone of Monday’s practice continued throughout the week, as the Owls had an unusually tough stretch of practices, which featured back-to-back days of live scrimmaging.
Rhule gave the team a day off on Wednesday when the team groomed its competitive spirits with a ping-pong tournament.
“We were not a fresh team out there, we worked this week,” Rhule said. “But I hope you saw a team with a lot of energy, a lot of juice and did enough to win the football game.”
The on-field result on Saturday looked much better. Temple held Stony Brook to 133 total yards on its way to a shutout. Stony Brook ran for 49 yards after Temple gave up 329 yards rushing to the Black Knights on Sept. 2.
On offense, Temple’s rushing attack, led by sophomore running back Ryquell Armstead, ran for 177 yards and two touchdowns. The Owls also won the turnover battle 4-1.
“I feel like the old us,” Walker said. “I think that last week was a minor setback of who we are.”
While there is rarely much to complain about in a 38-point shutout win, the reality is that Stony Brook is a Football Championship Subdivision team. Temple will really see if it has overcome the problems of its week-one loss when it travels to State College to face Big Ten Conference member Penn State this weekend.
There are still problems Temple needs to fix before it plays the Nittany Lions, who lost to the University of Pittsburgh this weekend.
One week after Walker was sacked four times, he was sacked two more by Stony Brook and pressured on several other throws. Walker also completed less than half of his passes for the second straight game.
Dropped passes have also been a problem. For the second straight game, a dropped pass led to an interception by the opposing team.
The Owls beat Penn State for the first time since 1941 at Lincoln Financial Field last season. On Saturday, they’ll try to beat their in-state rival at Beaver Stadium for the first time.
“Obviously they’re a tremendous team, a Big Ten team and it’s always a challenge to play,” said Rhule, who played with the Nittany Lions from 1994-97. “Especially when we play there.”
Owen McCue can be reached at email@example.com.