Temple University football shouldn’t get too comfortable after their 45-24 win against the University of Akron on Sept. 11.
The Owls won because of two defensive touchdowns and Temple’s ability to execute on offense with true freshman quarterback Justin Lynch in the pocket, taking his first collegiate snap.
While Temple’s defense overcame a two-touchdown deficit, the Owls kicked off the first quarter with sloppy tackles and were incapable of picking up on the Zips’ run-pass option play calls.
“It was a mindset thing, pregame there wasn’t as much energy as we hoped,” said graduate student defensive end Manny Walker, who caught a pick-six against Akron. “Everybody was in their own head, there weren’t that many people in the stands, we had to bring our own juice.”
Walker felt the Owls pregame energy could have caused the team’s initial performance, but opponents like Boston College and the University of Memphis will use those weaknesses to their advantage and score more than just two touchdowns in the first quarter.
Akron came into Saturday’s game with one game under their belt, after losing 60-10 to Auburn University in their season opener, which should sound familiar to the Owls, who lost 61-14 against Rutgers University on Sept. 2.
Last year, Akron, who’s a part of the Mid-American Conference, didn’t start their six-game season until Nov. 4, 2020, and only won one game against Bowling Green University.
Although Temple faced similar challenges when looking at last season’s record, the American Athletic Conference has tough competitors, like the University of Cincinnati and the University of Central Florida, both of which have recently accepted invitations to leave the AAC for the Big 12 Conference.
Temple showed they have the capability to put up a 20 point lead, but there are still a number of corrections the program must make if they want to succeed against other conference opponents.
“We didn’t execute at a high level, then we changed some things around and dug ourselves out of it,” head coach Rod Carey said about the Akron game.
Immediate execution is one adjustment the Owls will need to address. Rutgers capitalized on the Owls’ delayed start and was in control for all four quarters.
Rutgers increased their lead to 12-0 late in the first quarter, and the Owls couldn’t find the end zone until redshirt-freshman Edward Saydee ran the ball in for an 11-yard touchdown.
At Akron, Temple’s first touchdown came off a jet sweep pass from Lynch to graduate student receiver Randle Jones who then ran it for a 70-yard touchdown. The Owls were still down until Temple’s defense conquered their 14 point deficit after picking up an Akron quarterback fumble and scored.
Lynch, who passed for 245 yards, opened up the game establishing the run but after realizing the pass-run option for short gains wouldn’t work against the Zips’ defense, he took a few snaps connecting with Jones on the outside.
Despite fumbling the ball and throwing an interception against Rutgers, the true freshman didn’t look like one against Akron.
It’s still unclear if starting redshirt-freshman quarterback D’Wan Mathis will be able to play against Boston College for the home opener on Sept. 18, since he was declared week-to-week after suffering a left leg injury against Rutgers, meaning Lynch could see another potential start against the Eagles.
Luckily, Lynch and Jones have been practicing their deep ball and run connection with one another in practice, which could come in handy against the Eagles’ veteran defensive line.
“We worked on it at practice, the jet sweep, we saw it on film and we could get at [Akron] with the jet sweeps,” Jones said. “It just came down to execution, everybody blocking and me running the ball.”
As for Temple’s defense, if the Owls can perform the way they did against Akron, with the defensive line dominating the line of scrimmage and the defensive secondary blocking passes from the immediate start of the game, Temple could be in a better playing position instead of overcoming a large deficit the whole game.
One advantage for the Owls is that Boston College freshman backup redshirt-senior quarterback Dennis Grosel could start after starting redshirt-junior quarterback Phil Jurkovec couldn’t play in their previous game against the University of Massachusett due to a wrist injury.
However, if Temple wants to dominate highly-ranked teams, they need to perform in the first quarter and not let their opponent dig Temple a hole they can’t get out of, like the Owls let Rutgers and almost let Akron do to them in their previous game.
“It’s a ton of hard work that goes into this nonstop and we haven’t gotten a lot of payouts,” Carey said. “Certainly we didn’t execute and play physically enough last week, we certainly came back, but we have a lot to correct, a ton to correct.”