After tossing an incomplete pass to freshman wide receiver Randle Jones, senior quarterback Phillip Walker was lying down on the field about 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
Walker got off the field on his own power but sat out for one play.
In his first play back under center, Walker faked a handoff to senior running back Jahad Thomas and tossed a 51-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Adonis Jennings to put the Owls up 10-7 in the second quarter.
Walker’s pass to Jennings started a run of 28 unanswered points by Temple that led the team to a 48-20 victory against the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to improve to 2-2 on the season.
“We knew going in they were going to pack the box,” coach Matt Rhule said. “So we were able to hit some big plays on them. Even the [naked bootlegs] can be big plays, and as a result I thought it was good to see us get the I [formation] run game going. … But I think obviously the play action and guys being able to protect it and then him being able to go get the ball there. That was a great job by Adonis.”
Walker exited the game early in the third quarter, but he connected with seven different targets by completing 15-of-26 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns. It’s the second time Walker has thrown for more than 250 yards this season.
Four drives after the Jennings touchdown, Walker rolled out to his right and linked up with redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Brodrick Yancy on a 40-yard touchdown pass to make it 24-7 Owls with 4:26 left in the second quarter.
“Brodrick is someone who has played as a freshman,” Walker said. “Sophomore year he got hurt and redshirted. I think that this year he put it together and is starting to become that leader for that group.”
Yancy led all Temple receivers with four catches for 70 yards and a touchdown in Temple’s homecoming victory.
Redshirt-junior wide receiver Keith Kirkwood hauled in two catches for 45 yards and redshirt-senior tight end Romond Deloatch caught three passes for 40 yards.
Yancy said the Owls’ deep group of receivers brings out their best skills on the field.
“We all make each other better,” Yancy said. “We push each other every day in practice. One guy makes a play, we all look at each other like, it’s a brotherhood for us.”
Yancy, who entered this season only having eight catches for 46 yards, has already surpassed his career totals.
He only played four games last season after suffering an injury on special teams against Cincinnati on Sept. 12.
Through four games this season, Yancy is tied with two other players for second on the team in receptions and tied for first on the team in receiving touchdowns.
“It helped me,” Yancy said about being out with an injury. “I was able to study the playbook more and know what every position got as a receiver, and it helped me get more stronger in the weight room and faster in my ability.”
In Temple’s past two games, the team has moved the ball for 554 yards through the air without one of Walker’s top wideouts, redshirt sophomore Ventell Bryant.
Bryant suffered an injury in practice and hasn’t played since the Owls’ loss in their home opener against Army on Sept. 2.
Rhule said in his press conference last week that he expects Bryant to miss another two to three weeks.
Bryant’s 39 receptions last season ranked second best on the team. He also had 579 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
“I think [Walker] is hitting stride, we’re getting him in rhythm, he’s got some guys who can get open,” Rhule said. “You know Ventell still isn’t out there. He’s probably our most accomplished wideout. But he’s developing some nice weapons, he’s doing a nice job.”
The Owls start American Athletic Conference play against Southern Methodist this Saturday at noon at Lincoln Financial Field.
Last season, Walker threw the ball for 268 yards and four touchdowns against the Mustangs in a 60-40 victory.
In four games this season, Southern Methodist has the worst passing defense in the American, allowing 301.8 yards per game.
“I think the record should be different but there are learning curves to this game,” Walker said. “We just have to keep going out there and building as a team. That was the first four games and now we have a whole new season to play. We are 0-0 and now it’s conference play.”
Tom Ignudo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.