Special teams helps Owls avoid history repeat

The Owls posted a modern-day school record with 49 points in the first half en route to blanking Delaware State 59-0 Saturday.

Jaime Gilmore celebrates his four-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter of Temple's 59-0 blowout win against Delaware State Saturday. | Hua Zong TTN
Jaime Gilmore celebrates his four-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter of Temple's 59-0 blowout win against Delaware State Saturday. | Hua Zong TTN

The Owls started their scoring Saturday in a similar fashion to Temple’s Sept. 6 bout with Navy.

This time, though, Temple won the game.

The Owls handily defeated Delaware State at Lincoln Financial Field, blanking the Hornets by a score of 59-0.

A long day started early for the Hornets. When Delaware State punted from its own 36-yard line, the attempt was blocked by Temple’s Samuel Benjamin and moments later, Artrel Foster jumped on the loose ball in the end zone to make it 6-0.

The first half only got worse for the Hornets, as Temple broke its single-half scoring at the Division I-A level, running the tally up to 49-0 by the second quarter’s conclusion.

The Owls accomplished this feat even though they ran nine less plays than Delaware State, and possessed the ball for nine fewer minutes.

Sophomore quarterback P.J. Walker had a mixed opening half, completing 10 of 14 passes for 127 yards and two touchdown passes, but also throwing two interceptions in the Hornets’ half of the field.

Coach Matt Rhule said he was especially disappointed with Walker’s first interception, which occurred with just more than a minute remaining in the first quarter.

“I got after [P.J.] on the first one,” Rhule said.  “Whenever we call a deep play action, we can’t just throw it up … He’s been coached on that enough, now it’s time for him to take the next step.”

But for all the mistakes the Owls seemed to make, Delaware State made several more.  The Hornets led off the second half by sending the kickoff out of bounds, continuing the special-teams problems they had in the first half.

Delaware State punter Jeremiah McGeough had a rough day at the office, recording punts as short of 19 and 10 yards during the course of the contest.

Long snapper Ernest Mengoni didn’t make life easier for the redshirt freshman out of Danville, Virginia, airmailing his second snap five yards over McGeough’s head, and one-hopping another one in the second quarter.

On the other side, Temple’s special teams clicked on all cylinders.

The unit’s solid performance was highlighted by Khalif Herbin’s 84-yard punt return for a touchdown with 6 minutes, 18 seconds left in the first quarter.

The score was the redshirt freshman’s first touchdown of his collegiate career. Herbin said that waiting until the third game to register his first touchdown helped him better appreciate the feeling.

“I’ve been working a lot harder than I have in previous years,” Herbin said.  “Just trusting my team, trusting my brain, I just went out there and played Temple football.”

Herbin added that not overthinking will be a key part in contributing to his team’s success going forward.

“[Rhule] always tells me, ‘I am who I am,’” Herbin said.  “Just be me, don’t try and be anything else but myself.”

A player that looked to make an impact prior to the season, junior running back Jamie Gilmore had nine carries for 43 yards, including a four-yard score with 2:57 remaining in the first quarter.

By that time, the score was 28-0. Gilmore admitted that staying focused is difficult when jumping out to a huge lead early on in a game.

“It’s hard … that’s what the coaches are always telling us, it’s [about] mental toughness,” Gilmore said.  “Every time we come out, it’s about staying focused in the game.”

This mental toughness is an aspect Temple lacked last season, particularly when the team lost to Fordham, a Football Championship Subdivision school like Delaware State.  The Owls dropped that contest, 30-29, in the closing seconds of the game when Rams quarterback Michael Nebrick hit Sam Ajala for a 29-yard score.

This year, coach Rhule said while the game may have served as motivation, it also was a learning tool for a team that struggled to a 2-10 finish last year.

“I didn’t really talk about it,” Rhule said.  “We have to learn to respect winning … We didn’t respect [it] last year against Fordham, and this week I thought our kids respected it this week.”

Temple begins play in the American Athletic Conference next Saturday at the University of Connecticut.  After leading 21-0 at halftime in last season’s matchup with the Huskies, Temple dropped the game, 28-21.

Walker said taking it one game at a time is important when looking ahead through the conference schedule.

“We aren’t just thinking about the conference,” Walker said.  “We have UConn coming up and we had a rough run with them last year.  It’s just another step for us to compete and give them our best game.”

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steven.bohnel@temple.edu or on Twitter @SteveSportsGuy1.

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