Freshman running back Ryquell Armstead grew up fast in the first start of his career.
After fumbling on the third play of the game, the Millville, New Jersey native ran for his first two career touchdowns and 40 yards in the third quarter, propelling the Owls to a 49-10 win Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.
“I thought those runs by Ryquell were really confident runs,” coach Matt Rhule said. “Ryquell’s got great speed. We have three backs we feel really confident with. I thought all those guys made big runs in that type of game.”
Temple (5-0, 2-0 American Athletic Conference) is one win away from matching its best start in school history, which was set in 1974. The Owls’ 49 points were the most scored by Temple in a homecoming game and the team’s highest point total this season.
The Owls held the Green Wave to eight rushing yards on 27 attempts—Tulane’s worst running game of the year. It was the fewest total rushing yards Temple’s defense has given up since holding Delaware State University to 26 rushing yards in a 56-0 win Sept. 20, 2014. In 2015, the Owls have not allowed more than 125 rushing yards.
“I thought just that pressure and stopping the run made them one-dimension, which was good for us,” Rhule said.
Junior running back Jahad Thomas ran for 65 yards and a touchdown and added a 16-yard touchdown reception. Junior quarterback P.J. Walker threw for 183 yards and two touchdowns.
Redshirt-senior wide receiver Robby Anderson caught four passes for 73 yards, including a 22-yard catch on the Owls’ third drive of the game to put the team up 7-3.
Earlier on the touchdown drive, Anderson hauled in a 23-yard catch near the sideline over two defenders for a third-down conversion.
“One of my advantages is to take the ball from defenders,” Anderson said. “I was determined to catch the ball. I feel way more comfortable. I feel really like myself. I’m not trying to do things, I’m just letting things come.”
Sophomore defensive back Sean Chandler and junior linebacker Avery Williams both grabbed interceptions for the Owls, bringing the team’s season total to nine. Chandler’s interception led to Temple’s first defensive touchdown of the season, as he returned the ball 22 yards to put the Owls up 34-10 with 5:34 left in the third quarter.
In the third quarter, Temple’s defense forced three straight three-and-outs and held Tulane scoreless, increasing its third quarter scoring margin against opponents to 75-6 this season.
“We had a big emphasis this week of getting off and getting pressure on the quarterback, so our safeties and corners can hold down the receivers,” said redshirt-senior Nate D. Smith, who had 1.5 sacks. “We’re just a hell of a defense. We’re all over the field.”
Temple fumbled the ball six times, losing two, and had seven penalties for 55 yards. Two of the fumbles came in the first quarter. It was the fifth consecutive game the Owls did not score more than seven points in the first quarter.
“I’m really disappointed with our play early,” Rhule said. “That goes on me. If the team come out and we’re going to put the ball on the ground five times in the first half, you can’t look around, you have to look at yourself. Obviously I’m not doing a good enough job right now getting us starting at the level we want. We are playing for four four quarters.”
Temple will host winless Central Florida Oct. 17 with an opportunity to clinch bowl eligibility.
Mark McCormick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Markjmccormick.