One fourth-quarter play left Tulsa redshirt-sophomore quarterback Luke Skipper face down on the ground.
With about seven minutes left on Thursday at Lincoln Financial Field, Skipper scrambled to his right, but Temple University junior linebacker Sam Franklin chased him down from behind to force a sack fumble. Redshirt-junior linebacker Chapelle Russell recovered the fumble to end the Golden Hurricane’s drive at the Owls’ 24-yard line and their chance to pull within one score.
The Owls’ defense forced Skipper to commit five turnovers on two fumbles and three interceptions in Temple’s (2-2, 1-0 American Athletic Conference) 31-17 win against Tulsa (1-3, 0-1 The American).
Temple returned two of Skipper’s turnovers for touchdowns, including redshirt-freshman cornerback Ty Mason’s 36-yard interception return that opened the scoring. Mason also had two pass breakups with one of them coming on a Tulsa third down.
“The big thing [defensive coordinator Andrew] Thacker preaches all the time is we wanna get the ball,” coach Geoff Collins said. “It’s all about the ball and it’s been really nice to see the last couple of weeks of us creating turnovers, causing fumbles, getting picks and then scoring. It was good to see those guys being smart once we do get those turnovers and then having playmakers like Ty Mason, [junior defensive tackle] Karamo Dioubate that can take it to the house.”
With 11 minutes remaining in the third quarter, redshirt-sophomore defensive end Quincy Roche sacked Skipper for a loss of 7 yards. Skipper lost the football, and Dioubate recovered it for a 50 yard scoop and score.
Dioubate said he had “a little something in the tank” that helped him outrun Tulsa’s tacklers.
Junior linebacker Sam Franklin’s versatility impressed Roche. Franklin had two sacks to go along with his eight tackles, 2.5 of of which were for a loss.
“I’m amazed.” Roche said. “He’s playing defensive end, nickel, he can play anything. There’s nothing he can’t really play. I’ve never really seen that before.”
Temple University’s defense clicked on all cylinders on Thursday night, even if they had to defend against 107 Tulsa offensive plays.
The Owls have only allowed two offensive touchdowns in their past two games after conceding five in their loss to the University at Buffalo on Sept. 8.
But nothing has changed schematically for the defense, Thacker said.
“It’s not one thing.” Thacker said. “I would say every week we go in with the mindset to improve. Obviously we had to own some mistakes, own some losses early on in the season, but we didn’t shy away from that. We had our back against the wall, but just coming in and improving everything every week.”
Roche had a day to remember, while fighting through injury. He ended with a statline comparable to Franklin’s with had eight tackles, two tackles for a loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles. One of his forced fumbles led to Dioubate’s 50-yard scoop and score.
“[Roche] has been incredibly resilient, and even with being banged up, he practiced all week as well,” Thacker said. “I am very proud of his effort and the way he’s fought through his injuries.”
The Owls followed up their seven-sack game against the University of Maryland on Saturday with six against Tulsa. To add to Roche and Franklin’s two sacks a piece, graduate student defensive tackle Jimmy Hogan had a sack and even senior running back Ryquell Armstead added a sack. Armstead played snaps at defensive end, just like he did against Buffalo.
Armstead had a career day and achieved three milestones. He surpassed 2,000 career yards rushing and became the first Owl since Bernard Pierce in 2011 to record three consecutive games with 100 or more yards rushing. But the sack may have been the most impressive part of his historic day.
“I’m proud of him,” Roche said. “Everybody gets to eat around here.”