Entering the second half with a 10-0 lead against No. 17 Rutgers was something not many could have expected from Temple. A second half in which Temple allowed 35 unanswered points was something that neither coach Steve Addazio nor his team could have seen coming after taking the early 10-0 lead.
In front of a crowd of 35,145, the third largest Temple football crowd while playing at Lincoln Financial Field, the Owls fell to Rutgers 35-10.
Entering the game, Owls’ redshirt-senior free safety Vaughn Carraway was suspended one game for a flagrant foul during last week’s game at Connecticut. Addazio replaced Carraway with sophomore safety Chris Hutton after learning of the suspension on Monday, Oct. 15.
After deferring to receive in the second half, Temple opened the game by driving down the field until a quarterback draw lead to a fumble by redshirt-junior quarterback Chris Coyer on Rutgers’ 26-yard line.
“I never really had a great handle on it and that’s on me,” Coyer said.
Back to back three and outs by the Scarlet Knight’s offense lead to an eight play, 46 yard scoring drive that put the Owls on top 7-0. Junior tight end Cody Booth grabbed his second touchdown of the season on a four yard pass from Coyer, resulting in touchdown.
The pass was intended for sophomore running back Kenneth Harper, but Coyer said the ball got away from him as he threw it high. Standing behind Harper, Booth dove after the ball in the end zone to receive the tipped Coyer pass.
In the first quarter, Coyer was 4-for-4 in passing attempts, throwing for 41 yards and one touchdown pass. Sophomore wide receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick led Temple with two catches for 21 yards, while Booth recorded one catch for four yards and one touchdown. Senior running back Montel Harris led the Owls in the first quarter with 44 yards on 10 carries, while Coyer ran for 28 yards on seven carries.
The second quarter resulted in timely defense by the Owls just as they did in the first quarter. It was not until five minutes into the second quarter that Rutgers converted a first down, a drive that eventually led to a stop by the Temple defense on fourth and one on the Temple 18-yard line. After a missed 48-yard field goal attempt with 11 minutes, 38 seconds left in the second quarter, senior placekicker Brandon McManus responded with a 49-yard field goal that put the Owls on top 10-0 with 1:10 left in the first half.
At the end of the first half, Temple led Rutgers in total offense with 142 yards to Rutgers’ total of 110 yards. Temple controlled the ball for 18:30 of the first half, as Rutgers had 11:30 of possession time. In the first half, Coyer was 6-for-8 with 61 passing yards and 31 rushing yards on 11 rushes.
Rutgers’ offense was 1-for-5 on third down in the first half, and failed to convert on a fourth down conversion in the first half. Offensively, Temple converted four of nine third down opportunities. In the first half, each team lost one fumble, while Rutgers sophomore quarterback Gary Nova threw for one interception to Owl’s freshman defensive back Tavon Young. At the end of the first half, the Owls lead Rutgers 10-0.
Rutgers opened the second half with a six play, 75 yard drive capped by a 32-yard touchdown reception by senior wide receiver Timothy Wright. The 2:17 drive gave the Scarlet Knights momentum after a first half in which nothing went right offensively for Rutgers. With 5:09 left in the third quarter, the Rutgers offense struck once again. Rutgers’ sophomore running back Jawan Jamison put the Scarlet Knights on top 14-10 with a 32-yard touchdown reception from Nova, a lead Rutgers would hold for the remainder of the game.
“I think we did the same thing in the first half and the second half, they just changed their game plan and starting running a couple of different plays,” senior defensive end John Youboty said.
After 14 unanswered points by the Rutgers’ offense, the Scarlet Knights struck once more, scoring their third touchdown of the third quarter in a 7 play, 49-yard drive that lasted 3:18. Senior wide receiver Mark Harrison caught the five yard pass from Nova, his third passing touchdown of the quarter.
“I’d say it’s one of the worst third quarters I’ve seen in a long time,” Addazio said.
Entering the fourth quarter, Rutgers carried over its third quarter momentum, as a punt by McManus was blocked by Rutgers’ freshman wide receiver Leonte Carroo, giving the Scarlet Knight offense the ball on Temple’s 26-yard line. The Scarlet Knight’s converted with a five play, 26-yard drive that led to a 10-yard touchdown reception by senior tight end D.C. Jefferson. The fourth touchdown of the second half gave Rutgers the 28-10 lead with 11:41 left in the fourth quarter.
With 10:51 left in the fourth quarter, the Rutgers’ defense put six points of their own on the board. Senior defensive lineman Jamil Merrell forced a Coyer fumble, which was picked up by senior linebacker Khaseem Greene and returned 20 yards for a touchdown, giving Rutgers the 35-10 lead over the Owls.
“We didn’t have the same fire, especially on offense and that reflected back on me,” Coyer said.
Junior quarterback Clinton “Juice” Granger replaced quarterback Chris Coyer with 10:43 left in the fourth quarter. Granger finished the game 1-3 in passing attempts with seven yards. Granger also had two rushing attempts which totaled for a loss of four yards.
“The best players will play,” Addazio said. “In that situation I wanted to see Juice play so I put him in to play.”
“Juice has earned playing time,” Coyer said. “I didn’t play well and they put Juice in there. I know he is fully capable going in there and winning a game and he wasn’t necessarily in a position to do that, but he is a good player.”
Overall, the Owls and Scarlet Knights played two completely different second halves. In six drives in the second half for Temple, the Owls averaged seven yards on each drive and recorded three first downs. Temple threw for 11 total yards between Coyer and Granger, and rushed for a total of 38 yards in the second half.
“We looked fatigued,” Addazio said. “We looked like we kind of ran out of gas.
In the second half, Rutgers responded with 261 total offensive yards, 223 coming in the third quarter alone. Rutgers’ Nova threw for 176 yards in the second half, and 232 yards in the game.
Four different Scarlet Knights recorded receiving touchdowns, including Jamison, who also ran for 114 yards on 19 carries.
With the loss, the Owls were handed their first loss in Big East Conference play, falling to 3-3 on the season (2-1 in Big East) and fourth in the Big East standings behind Cincinnati, while Rutgers remained unbeaten on the season, improving to 7-0 (4-0 in Big East). The loss is the third consecutive that the Scarlet Knights have handed to the Owls dating back to 2003.
John Murrow can be reached at email@example.com.