When a team is struggling to find its groove, call Rutgers.
On an eventful homecoming day Temple Football (2-3, 1-1 in Big East) defeated the Rutgers (1-5, 0-4), 30-5 on Saturday at Veterans’ Stadium.
Behind a breakout game from junior running back Tanardo Sharps, who rushed for 149 yards on 18 carries, along with a tenacious defense that forced six turnovers, Temple made the Scarlet Knights look like they didn’t belong on the field.
“Overall we made progress, got Tarnardo lose running the football a bit, good to see that,” coach Bobby Wallace said after the game.
Big runs, which the slumping offense had been looking for, set up the first two scores for Temple. Sharps scampered for an 18-yard run followed by a 17-yard burst by senior fullback Harold Jackson that set up a 38-yard field goal by Cap Poklemba.
Later in the first quarter a 38-yard rush by Sharps set up another field goal by Poklemba. The 6-0 lead at the end of the first quarter was the first for the team since an opening game win over Navy.
Big plays can make or break a game, and on this day Temple seemed to make all the big plays in the second quarter. On Rutgers’ first possession in the second quarter, newly anointed Owl Back Jairo Almonte intercepted a pass and returned it 70-yards for a touchdown and a 13-0 lead for the Owls.
Sharps, who started the season on the injured list with a pulled groin, had his second straight decent game.
“It was nice to break one,” Sharps said. “I wish I could of got in the end zone, but it was good, I credit it to my O-line.”
That set up a touchdown pass from freshman Mike McGann to receiver Greg Muckerson, and a 20-0 lead. McGann finished the game 10-for-23 passing with two touchdowns and one interception.
After a Rutgers field goal, Temple’s offense had one more big play left in them to put this bad team away.
McGann dropped back and aired a post route to speedster Sean Dillard who caught the ball in perfect stride for a 45-yard score and a 27-3 halftime lead.
Both teams played a pretty solid defensive second half, with only a Poklemba 24-yard field goal, and a safety by Rutgers late on a high snap over punter Jace Amore’s head, finishing out the score at 30-5.
Temple’s defense can not be over looked. They forced six turnovers and sacked Rutgers’ freshman quarterback Ryan Cubit five times. The defensive front four were in his face all game.
Lost in all that was the quiet return of linebacker Taylor Suman who recorded 10 tackles but looked a little rusty in his first game back since being suspended for breaking unspecified team policies.
In bad news for the already un-healthy offensive line, Vincent Gabriele broke his leg and is out for the season.
Temple travels to Syracuse next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. for another important Big East game.