Owls secure victory over Memphis in conference opener

Temple University football defeated the University of Memphis 34-31 after a strong defensive showing.

Amad Anderson Jr., a redshirt sophomore wide reciever, scores a touchdown during Temple's homecoming game against the University of Memphis at Lincoln Financial Field on Oct. 2. | ALLIE IPPOLITO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

With two minutes and 53 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Temple University football forced an incompletion from University of Memphis freshman quarterback Seth Henigan on a key fourth and six. Owls redshirt-freshman quarterback D’Wan Mathis found redshirt-sophomore receiver Amad Anderson Jr. for a 53-yard catch and run touchdown three plays later. 

Temple football (3-2, 1-0 The American Athletic Conference) defeated the Memphis Tigers (3-2, 0-1 The American) 34-31 at Lincoln Financial Field in their homecoming game Saturday afternoon. 

Temple forced two turnovers on the game and 16 incompletions from Henigan, his most incompletions in a game this season. 

Temple’s first conference game of the season featured a big showing on the defensive side of the ball, who held the Tigers to their second-lowest scoring total all season. 

“Everything counts,” said junior cornerback Keyshawn Paul. “Every little thing counts.”

Heading into Saturday’s game, Temple’s defensive unit had allowed the fewest passing yards of any National Collegiate Athletic Association Football Bowl Subdivision team. Although Henigan threw for 305 yards, the Owls held redshirt-senior Calvin Austin III — the nation’s second-leading receiver entering the week — to 104 yards receiving, his second-fewest this season. 

“We felt good about matchups,” said head coach Rod Carey. “Sometimes we doubled him, we had to. I feel good about what we did there.”

With four minutes and 30 seconds left in the second quarter, Paul stripped Memphis redshirt-freshman running back Brandon Thomas of the ball, and recovered it himself. This was one of two fumbles the Owls recovered.

The Owls’ second recovery came in the fourth quarter as redshirt-freshman safety M.J. Griffin picked up a forced fumble by redshirt-freshman BUBO/linebacker Yvandy Rigby in Temple’s endzone.   

Rigby filled the stat sheet in one of his first games at the BUBO position, with six solo tackles, one sack and one tackle for loss on top of the forced fumble. 

Three plays after Paul’s fumble recovery, the Owls scored a 15-yard touchdown as redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Jose Barbon secured a fade pass from Mathis.

Mathis passed for 322 yards and three touchdowns. Two of his touchdowns came in the second quarter on passes to Barbon and redshirt-junior receiver Jadan Blue. Blue made an impressive one-handed grab, giving the Owls their first points of the game off of a 75-yard drive. 

Mathis also added 53 yards on the ground, most of which came from a read-option rush he took for 39 yards in the third quarter. 

“Mathis is an emotional player,” Carey said. “He used that emotion to his benefit today.”

The Owls finished the first half with 17 points unanswered after starting the game down 17-0. The Owls only gave up three first quarter points in the contest, their least allowed all season and the Tigers’ fewest scored all season. 

Temple had five defenders record more than five total tackles, with graduate student safety Amir Tyler recording eight total. Graduate student linebacker Will Kwenkeu had seven tackles of his own, with one sack and two tackles for loss as well. 

The Owls spread the ball around the field, with 11 receivers recording catches. This helped fill in the gap left by the injury to graduate student Randle Jones, the Owls’ leading receiver, entering the game. 

“We’re finally doing what we do in practice,” Mathis said. “We began to execute in the second half. You guys finally got to see it.”

The Tigers’ redshirt-junior cornerback Quindell Johnson recorded 15 total tackles while fifth-year linebacker J.J. Russell recorded 14 of his own. Memphis’ defense was unable to slow the Owls’ 17-point second half performance which came off of 75-yard, 71-yard and 57-yard scoring drives, respectively. Temple had 479 yards of total offense and 35 minutes of possession time during the contest.

Temple will hit the road to take on the University of Cincinnati (3-0, 0-0 The American) in a Friday night matchup on Oct. 8 at 8:00 p.m..

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