Owls shut out in season-opening loss to Blue Devils

Temple University football looked stagnant on both sides of the ball in a 30-0 blowout loss to Duke University on Friday night.

DURHAM, NC - SEPTEMBER 02: Duke Blue Devils wide receiver Eli Pancol (6) leaps for extra yards during the college football game between the Duke Blue Devils and the Temple Owls on September 2, 2022, in Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, NC. (Photo by Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As the sun set over Brooks Field at Wallace Wade Stadium, Duke sophomore quarterback Riley Leonard trotted out onto the field and accomplished what most were able to do against the Owls last season— a quick and easy score, with this one coming off of a five-play 75-yard drive.

It took the Blue Devils just over two minutes to put to rest the eager anticipation that Owls fans had entering the game. 

Some may call it first-game jitters, but the mishaps on offense and broken down defensive drives have been a trend stemming from the 2021 season. 

Temple University football (0-1, 0-0 The American Athletic Conference) was defeated by Duke University (1-0, 0-0 The Atlantic Coast Conference) 30-0 after Leonard passed for 328 yards Friday night in Durham, NC. 

“We were trying to establish a clean operation,” said Temple head coach Stan Drayton. “We were just inconsistent in that respect.”

With an entire offseason of coaching changes and incoming transfers to establish this operation, the Owls still looked like the same team that finished last in The AAC in 2021. Temple lost their final seven games last season by margins similar to today’s game.

Leonard, who only gained 554 total yards last season, looked like a Heisman candidate against the Temple defense. He completed 24 of 30 passes, including his first 15 that went for 239 yards and two touchdowns alone. He also rushed for another 77 in the game. 

Leonard was the backup quarterback for a Duke team who won zero conference games last season. Meanwhile, Duke sophomore backup quarterback Jordan Moore had more receiving and rushing yards combined than Temple redshirt-sophomore quarterback D’Wan Mathis had passing in the first half. 

The Owls came out flat against a Duke offense that was able to move the ball every time they were on the field, punting only one time in the first half and scoring 24 points. Whether it was missed tackles or missed assignments in the secondary, Temple defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot’s defense could not stop Duke early on. 

With seven minutes and eight seconds remaining in the second quarter, Leonard dropped back and found sophomore wide receiver Sahmir Hagans streaking for a score down the right sideline that encapsulated Temple’s performance in this game. Leonard had little pressure on him, and Hagans simply beat redshirt-junior cornerback Elijah Clark. 

Duke was able to control both lines of scrimmage and gave Leonard both time and space while Temple’s offense had none of both. 

Mathis was under pressure consistently, and while he was not throwing very accurately with time, a crowded backfield on every snap did not allow any momentum in the first half. 

“It was critical mistakes on our own part,” said graduate student offensive lineman Adam Klein.  “A lot of it was self-mistakes we’ll clean up.”

Temple redshirt-junior running back Jakari Norwood and redshirt-sophomore Darvon Hubbard got some touches early, but with Duke head coach Mike Elko’s defense bringing the aggression we saw his defenses have at Texas A&M, there was not much room for progression. 

The ballgame was at a lopsided 24-0 score in Duke’s favor at the half. Leonard had 58 yards on the ground, while Temple’s entire offense had -6 as a team. 

For Temple’s defense, one bright spot was redshirt-junior outside-linebacker Layton Jordan who finished with eight tackles, including two for loss.  A single-digit redshirt-senior wide receiver Adonicas Sanders, a transfer from Georgia Tech University, gave the offense some life with four catches for 39 yards.

The key difference between Duke and Temple’s play was discipline. Duke’s receivers stuck to their routes and trusted their quarterback while the offensive line created space. Temple’s defense, meanwhile, fell behind on routes, several of which sophomore transfer cornerback Dominick Hill was called for penalties during the first half.

Mathis had two fumbles during tonight’s matchup, losing one in the fourth quarter, leading to redshirt-junior quarterback Quincy Patterson entering the contest. For the Blue Devils, it would be a clean game with no turnovers. 

This is Duke’s first shutout victory over an FBS opponent since 1989. 

The Owls may not have given up 61 points like in the opener at Rutgers University last season, but there is lots left to be desired from this program heading into their first home game against the University of Lafayette at Lincoln Financial Field. Lafayette plays their first game against Sacred Heart University on Saturday. 

“Obviously, we have a lot of work to do,” Drayton said. “I knew I had my work cut out for me, and I’m not shying away from that.”

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