Temple falls to Rutgers after fourth quarter collapse

Despite making it a one possession game in the fourth quarter, the Owls couldn’t stop the run down the stretch and lost 36-7.

Temple Football allowed 23 fourth quarter points in its 36-7 loss to Rutgers on Saturday night. | ROBERT JOSEPH CRUZ / THE TEMPLE NEWS

After beating Akron in their season opener last week, head coach Stan Drayton said the Owls still failed to play a complete game of football despite the win.

Temple Football (1-1, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) lost to Rutgers (2-0, 1-0 Big Ten) 36-7 Saturday night at SHI Stadium. Despite multiple promising drives, Drayton and the Owls are still searching for a full four quarters of quality play.

“We never caught rhythm at all,” Drayton said. “I never felt that we had rhythm over the course of the game. On offense, this is game two where we really spit and spat.”

The offense couldn’t find a rhythm in the first 30 minutes of play, especially in the passing game. Multiple open passes resulted in incompletions as quarterback E.J. Warner and his receiving core had recurring communication issues, leading to big play opportunities being squandered.

The Owls finished the first half with just 95 passing yards and 113 total yards, with most coming on one drive. The running game also struggled to get going, as Temple only recorded 18 yards on the ground in the first half.

Temple’s defense did what they could to keep the score within reach in the first half, but surrendered the game’s opening points after Scarlet Knights’ quarterback Gavin Wimsatt found Ja’shon Benjamin on a wheel route for a 33-yard touchdown pass to put Rutgers up 7-0.

Like last week, Temple found themselves entering halftime on the wrong side of the scoreboard, this time down 13-0. Offensive mistakes and the inability to capitalize on key opportunities, like a forced fumble from cornerback Ben Osueka or a drive where Warner completed three straight passes but fizzled because of penalties, were key in the defeat. 

“Just starting slow, that’s killing us in the end,” Warner said. “We definitely gotta get better coming fast straight out of the locker room to start the game.”

Coming out of halftime, Temple’s offense seemed refreshed, putting together a 13-play, 84-yard drive, but they continued to suffer self-inflicted wounds. The drive stalled at the Rutgers three yard line and Temple turned the ball over on downs.

The Owls nearly blew another strong scoring chance in the red zone but were able to capitalize and get on the board after Warner found wide receiver Dante Wright on a fourth down conversion to make it a one possession game in the fourth quarter. It was Wright’s first touchdown as an Owl.

After it seemed like the Owls were in position to make a comeback, the defense, which had been the reason Temple remained within striking distance for much of the contest, began to break down. The defensive unit let up 23 fourth quarter points, including rushing touchdowns from running backs Kyle Monangai, Samuel Brown V and Al-Shadee Salaam.

Monangai, who served as the Scarlet Knights’ feature back, finished the contest with a career-best 176 rushing yards on 28 attempts, good for almost six yards per carry.

“Undisciplined on the defensive side, getting out of our gaps just creating open holes,” said linebacker Jordan Magee. “[Monangai] is a good [running] back so he’s gonna hit them and that’s what he did.”

The Owls offense provided no favors for the defense, with Warner throwing two interceptions in the fourth quarter and only completing 45 percent of his passes, which gave Rutgers excellent starting field position leading to the fourth quarter rout.

“We’ll really find out who we are,” Drayton said. “I’ll bet on us. We’re gonna pull together, we’re gonna learn from this. Everything we put out for us is still there.”

Temple will look to bounce back next week when they return to Philadelphia to play Norfolk State (1-1, 0-0 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) on Sept. 16 at 2 p.m.

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