In the continuing story of the improving Temple football team, the Owls traveled to New Brunswick, N.J., to do some things they haven’t done in a long time.
Temple hadn’t won a Big East conference road game in two years and a game at Rutgers in twelve. Temple went into its contest with Rutgers last Saturday with a 2-7 record against the Scarlet Knights since the inception of the Big East in 1991.
The next chapter of the improvement story was written as Temple bowled over Rutgers, 48-14.
It was Temple’s (4-3 overall, 1-2 Big East) first conference road win since 1998 when they beat Pittsburgh 34-33. The Owls’ 34-point margin of victory was the largest on the road since a 55-14 win over Louisville in 1982.
The Owls exploited Rutgers’ (2-4, 0-4) defense with a potent rushing spearheaded by sophomore tailback Tanardo Sharps. Sharps ran for 168 yards and three touchdowns on 32 attempts.
“We came in confident and we knew we had to get the job done in getting a winning season,” Sharps said. “We were pretty much prepared.”
It was a different story than the week before, when Temple, limited to minus-15 yards on the ground, lost to Virginia Tech.
“After rushing the ball for -15 yards last week we had a point to prove,” coach Bobby Wallace said. “It hurts your feelings when you rush for no yardage. We wanted to get the running game going.”
Temple had some problems on defense, their strong suit this season, missing tackles and allowing a 96-yard Rutgers drive for a touchdown in the first quarter.
The Scarlet Knights held a 7-3 lead after the first quarter, their only lead of the game.
“We had some real silly mistakes in the game,” Wallace said. “I didn’t think we tackled with much intensity and they got some runs on us. I think they had more running at halftime than they averaged for the year.”
After the first points of the game, a Cap Poklemba 22-yard field goal, Rutgers quarterback Mike McMahon threw an interception to Temple’s Chonn Lacey. Unfortunately for the Owls, the play was called back on a holding call.
Rutgers was unable to do anything with the ball after that, but two possessions later, the Scarlet Knights found the end zone on a 39-yard Jason Ohene touchdown run. The 96-yard drive was the longest of the season for Rutgers.
“We knew it was going to be tough,” Temple cornerback Terrance Lefwitch said. “They spread out in a lot of formations, we just wanted to sit on them on any out routes. Unfortunately, (McMahon) came out pretty well on the scheme.”
Lefwitch came up with an interception in the third quarter. It was the first of the sophomore’s career.
Another storyline for the book of 2000 Owls’ football is the quarterback situation. Wallace has been rotating the starting job between juniors Mike Frost and Devin Scott. Frost started against Rutgers, but as Wallace has been doing, Scott came in on the Owls’ third possession of the game and the two rotated throughout.
Frost had a tough time against Rutgers, throwing for only 65 yards on 6-of-15 passing. He also threw an interception.
“I don’t know if I like playing two quarterbacks or not,” Wallace said. “They’ve got a great attitude; they’re pulling for each other.”
Scott had an easier time against the Scarlet Knights, throwing for 150 yards on 14-of-16 passing. The two signal callers — along with receiver Greg Muckerson, who threw a 39-yard pass – combined for 254 yards through the air. Rutgers’ McMahon threw for 243 yards on Temple’s defense.
In the second quarter, after Frost and Scott had both quarterbacked two drives apiece, Frost came in and led the Owls to their first touchdown of the game.
Fullback Jason McKie scored on a seven-yard run and gave Temple a 10-7 lead. Temple regained the football on the next possession after Ohene fumbled a reception after a 25-yard gain. Temple recovered at its own 10-yard line and drove the length of the field on eight plays — the longest drive of the season for Temple.
Sharps scored his first of three touchdowns with an eight-yard run to the outside.
Later. Sharps ended the half’s scoring with a five-yard touchdown run to give Temple a 24-7 lead.
Temple had a chance for a field goal before the half, but Poklemba hit the right upright on a 26-yard attempt.
On the other side of the break, Poklemba started the second-half scoring with a 37-yard field goal.
Then Temple got the ball on the Rutgers’ 2-yard line after Jamal Wallace returned a Rutgers fumble. Another Sharps touchdown run gave the Owls a 34-7 lead.
At Frost interception, a Rutgers fumble and a Temple recovery made the Owls’ next drive interesting, but it ended the way many of them did on Saturday: with a touchdown. Frost scored on a two-yard sneak. It was his first rushing touchdown, giving Temple a 41-7 lead.
The Owls’ Lester Trammer scored from seven yards out to end Temple’s scoring and give the Owls a 48-7 lead. Rutgers’ McMahon threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to David Stringer to make the score 48-14, where it ended.
“I was very scared of this game, but it turned out better than I thought it would,” coach Wallace said. “I thought this was a critical game because we have made improvements, but had we not won tonight we’re back to really zero with an image throughout the country.”
Temple will celebrate Homecoming on Saturday at Veterans Stadium with a noon kickoff against No. 4 Miami.