It took some time, but Temple got its first win under coach Matt Rhule.
The Owls (1-6, 0-3 American Athletic Conference) beat Army (3-5) 33-14 to earn their first win of 2013 on homecoming weekend.
“The last 18 games we have been just looking around waiting for somebody to come in and bail us out,” Rhule said. “Today our football team, as I told them, it’s not the coaches, it’s not the players, it’s the attitude. We were going to have to go out and change what had happened.”
“It was a great day for our players,” Rhule added. “They won, but because in my opinion, they took control of something for once. They said, ‘You know what? We control whether we win or lose. We control at least how well we play.’ We can never control the opponent, but we control how we play and for the first time I felt the team not looking around.”
The team could be heard in the locker room singing “High Hopes” through the press room at Lincoln Financial Field after the game. Optimism was high after ending a six-game losing streak.
“Guys controlled how they played today and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Rhule said.
“It’s definitely a turning point,” junior running back Kenny Harper said. “I think all we need is to get our first win and keep the ship going. It’s kind of like you’re in the car going downhill, you need it going up in a positive path. We just needed to get that first win.”
Temple wasted no time getting started, scoring on its first two possessions.
The Owls scored on their first drive of the game, highlighted by a 45-yard pass by freshman quarterback P.J. Walker from Army’s 46-yard-line to junior wide receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick who was brought down at the one-yard-line.
Harper, who had 50 yards rushing, ran it in on the next play, pushing his way through the Army defenders and into the endzone.
After a seven play first drive that ended in a punt for Army, Temple’s offense went right back to work. However, the Owls had to start at their own one-yard line due to a well placed punt from Army sophomore Alex Tardieu.
The Owls put together a 10-play drive that took them 99 yards down the field, featuring another Walker to Fitzpatrick pass connection. This time it was for a 37-yard touchdown reception.
Already up 14-0 with just under four-and-a-half minutes left in the first quarter alone, the Owls continued to pile on the scoring.
Facing a third down conversion, Walker, who finished with 203 passing yards on the day, threw his second touchdown pass of the day to sophomore wider receiver John Christopher for a 39-yard reception with 3:43 left in the second quarter.
Freshman kicker Nick Visco’s extra point attempt deflected off the goal post, however, but Temple was still up on Army 20-0 by that point.
The defense even got in on the scoring with time winding down in the half.
Army sophomore quarterback Kelvin White lost control of the football on a backwards pass with 3:26 left and middle linebacker Nate D. Smith came up with it and ran in for the touchdown to put Temple up 26-0.
White subbed in for Army’s starting quarterback in junior Angel Santiago, who left the game after a four-yard run in the second quarter. He had to be assisted off the field and kept pressure off his left foot.
Rhule opted to go with a two-point conversion attempt, but sophomore halfback Jamie Gilmore couldn’t get control over a pass from Walker.
Freshman running back Zaire Williams kicked off the second half with a 15-yard touchdown run six minutes into the third quarter, after Temple recovered an Army fumble by freshman quarterback Tevin Long at the Black Knight 21.
Williams took a hard hit from a defender waiting at the goal-line and appeared to be shaken up walking back to the sideline, but he played the rest of the game and finished with 94 yards rushing.
“I was good,” Williams said. “I had an ace bandage around my stomach. I got hit and it aired me out. I couldn’t really breathe, but I’m good though.”
Army finally got on the board with 3:19 left in the third, when White capped off a 14-play, 78-yard drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Patrick Laird.
The Black Knights followed up with another scoring drive that ended early into the fourth quarter with a one-yard touchdown run by White for a seven-play, 67 yard possession.
With 9:57 remaining in the fourth, White threw a pass that intended for Laird, but floated right into the hands of sophomore cornerback Tavon Young at Temple’s 19, holding the score at 33-14.
White threw another interception later in the fourth quarter with 4:03 left, getting picked off by sophomore wide linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who tipped the pass in the air at first then caught it on his way down. Matakevich also led Temple in tackles Saturday with 13.
The Owls will travel to Dallas, Texas next Saturday to face the SMU Mustangs (2-4, 1-1 American) at 2 p.m. CT.
Nick Tricome can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @itssnick215.