Temple football defeats Akron with strong defense

The Owls’ defense rebounds from sloppy start to give Temple a 45-24 win over Akron.

Temple's football defense lines up for a play during an Owl's game against the University of South Florida on Dec. 10, 2020. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / FILE

With five minutes and 24 seconds left in the second quarter, Temple University redshirt-sophomore defensive end Layton Jordan pulled down University of Akron redshirt-senior quarterback Kato Nelson from behind, forcing a fumble on the tackle. Graduate student linebacker William Kwenkeu scooped up the ball and took it 38 yards for the score. 

The Owls (1-1, 0-0 The American Athletic Conference) won 45-24 over the Akron Zips (0-2, 0-0 The Mid American Conference) on Saturday afternoon behind two key  turnovers by the Owls’ defense. 

Freshman Justin Lynch was the quarterback for the Owls after redshirt-freshman quarterback D’Wan Mathis suffered an injury in last week’s 61-14 loss to Rutgers University. Lynch went 19-23 for 245 yards today and threw two touchdowns, including several nice passes to graduate student wide receiver Randall Jones throughout the game. 

“I never had a doubt for Justin,” Jones said. “He puts the work in, he’s a workhorse.”

With two minutes and 26 seconds left in the first quarter, Lynch threw a forward pitch pass to Jones, who took it 75 yards for a touchdown. Jones had 170 receiving yards, 109 of those coming in the first half. 

“Having trust in your teammates is key,” Lynch said. “I had to get the ball in my receiver’s hands.”

Junior offensive lineman Adam Klein, a key piece to Temple’s offensive line protecting Lynch, was replaced today by redshirt-freshman lineman Wisdom Quarshie. Lynch looked composed with great pocket presence throughout the contest, even rushing for a score. 

Consistent play on both sides of the ball in the final three quarters helped guide the Owls to victory. 

After the scoop and score by Kwenkeu in the second quarter, graduate student defensive end Manny Walker scored a touchdown of his own after picking off a pass from Akron redshirt-sophomore quarterback D.J. Irons and taking it three yards for a score on the next drive. Irons entered the game after Nelson was injured during the play that gave the Owls their second score.

Akron’s sophomore receiver Michael Mathison caused some problems for the Temple defense, making eight catches for 101 yards. Irons couldn’t get the Akron offense moving throughout the second half, though, because he faced constant pressure from the Owls defense. Irons completed all 13 of his passes last week against Auburn, but went 12-of-22 today. 

After the first quarter, the Owls shook off their defensive rust. Poor tackling and a mishap in the secondary gave Akron their first two touchdowns. Irons scrambled nine yards for their initial score, and Nelson found wide open freshman receiver Tony Grimes Jr. for their second. 

“They executed at a higher level,” said head coach Rod Carey. “We dug ourselves out.”

The Zips scored only 10 more points during the rest of the game, a product of the improved play by defensive coordinator Jeff Knowles’ players. The Owls dominated the line of scrimmage and played well in the secondary with key breakups by redshirt-junior safety Jalen Ware and redshirt-junior cornerback  Cameron Ruiz. 

Late in the fourth, the running game took over for the Owls, with running backs redshirt-junior  Ra’von Bonner, graduate  Tayvon Ruley and redshirt-freshman Edward Saydee rushing for a combined 69 yards and one touchdown. 

Temple went on a 45-3 run over the last three quarters before Irons threw a touchdown pass to freshman receiver Konata Mumpfield with two minutes and 47 seconds remaining.

Temple will need to play like they did in the second half today when they take on Boston College next Saturday at noon in their home opener at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Eagles are 2-0 (0-0 The Atlantic Coast Conference), with a 51-0 win over Colgate University and a 45-28 win over University of Massachusetts Amherst. 

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