Temple defeats Akron in season opener despite first-half struggles

Temple scored 14 unanswered points in the second half to complete its comeback against Akron and start its season 1-0.

Temple running back Edward Saydee finished with five receptions, including this second half touchdown. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple Football (1-0, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) defeated Akron (0-1, 0-0 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference) 24-21 Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field. 

The Owls came into their season-opening matchup looking to set the tone early for their second season under head coach Stan Drayton. 

That did not happen. 

Instead, the Owls allowed a 77-yard touchdown reception from Akron running back Lorenzo Lingard on the second play of the game.  

The Owls were, however, able to rally in the second half after Drayton’s halftime pep talk, outscoring the Zips 14-0 to come out on top.

“I took it personal when I didn’t see [the energy the team talked about this offseason] in their play,” Drayton said. “I dug into them a little at halftime and told them, ‘If you say you’re going to do something, then we need to be a football team that does it.’”

The Owls struggled to get going offensively in the first half. They had just one drive where they gained at least 29 yards, which was an 89-yard drive capped off by a Quincy Patterson rushing touchdown.

The Owls had just 177 yards of offense in the first half compared to the Zips’ 238 yards, 156 of which came through the air. Akron was able to take a 21-10 lead into the locker room at the half. 

“It wasn’t pretty for the offense early on,” Drayton said. “I think the offense probably played a total of two good quarters of football. We’ve got to find a way to get some consistency there.”

However, Temple’s offense began to hit its stride coming out of halftime, scoring a touchdown on its opening drive. 

A major factor in the Owls’ offense clicking in the second half was the improved play from second-year quarterback E.J. Warner. 

After completing 16 of his 28 pass attempts for just 138 yards in the first half, Warner finished the second-half by completing 12 of his 21 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns.

Warner looked a lot more comfortable using his legs, extending plays and throwing on the run with more confidence than he did last season.  

“I’m always working on [being comfortable on the run], always trying to get more mobile and extend some plays a little bit more,” Warner said. “Just constantly when I’m getting bigger, stronger, faster throughout the offseason. That was a big thing to improve my game and hopefully, I continue to show it.”

While Temple running back Edward Saydee may not have had much success running the ball, rushing for just 18 yards, he was a huge factor in the passing game. Saydee finished with five receptions for 37 yards and two receiving touchdowns, which were the first receiving touchdowns of his collegiate career. 

The Owls were also able to shut out the Zips’ offense. Temple’s defense did not allow Akron’s offense to pass midfield in the second half and held them to just 41 total yards after halftime. 

Temple’s defense held the University of Akron to zero points in the second half of Saturday’s win. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple’s defense also did a better job of putting pressure on Akron quarterback DJ Irons, recording two sacks in the second half. One came from linebacker Layton Jordan, and the other came from a combination of Florida transfer Diwun Black and linebacker Corey Yeoman.

“It was amazing,” said Temple linebacker Yvandy Rigby about the defense’s second-half performance. “Going into the locker room after the second [quarter] we just had to establish that this work we’ve been putting in it’s not for no reason.”

Temple safety Tywan Francis, who transferred from Colorado State, wore one of the two honorary single-digits in his first game as an Owl.

Francis was a key factor in the victory, finishing with five total tackles, one tackle for loss, and the game-clinching interception with just more than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

“The single-digit was very very big for me,” Francis said. “Single digits mean so much to the culture, and to the football family. It was an honor for me to wear it tonight. I just had to go out there and do what I planned on doing throughout the week.”

The Owls will look to build off their successful second half as they take on Rutgers (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten Conference) on Sept. 9 at SHI Stadium. Temple will look to start 2-0 for the first time since 2019 when they opened the season with victories against Bucknell and Maryland.

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