How much different was Temple’s 38-0 win over Stony Brook this weekend from its season-opening, 28-13 loss to Army?
For the Temple defense, there was 280 yards of difference – the difference between surrendering 329 yards rushing to Army’s triple-option attack, and limiting Stony Brook to 49 yards on 34 carries.
For the Temple offense, the difference wasn’t necessarily about advancing the ball or scoring points. On an even more basic level, it was about having the ball.
Against the Seawolves, the Owls had as many possessions in the first half (9) as they had in the entire game against the Black Knights.
And how much of a difference can field position make in a particular game?
On those nine possessions against Army, Temple started beyond its own 30-yard line just once. Against Stony Brook, all 12 Temple possessions in the first three quarters started beyond the 30 – including four that started in SBU territory.
Maybe that’s why Coach Matt Rhule nominated punter Alex Starzyk as the game’s MVP, since it was Starzyk’s 53-yard rugby punt that rolled to the 1-yard line and established the field position battle less than three minutes into the game. Before halftime, Starzyk had another punt downed at the 3.
Notably, of course, those were Starzyk’s only two punts before the fourth quarter, when Rhule pulled his starters.
The Owls put the ball in the end zone on four of their first six possessions, and had a 28-0 lead with nine minutes left in the second quarter.
On the way to that big lead, Rhule plugged numerous rookies into his offensive and defensive lineups – something he mostly avoided in the conservatively-called opener against Army.
No less than nine true freshmen saw action against the Seawolves, highlighted by all-purpose threat Isaiah Wright, who had four carries on Temple’s second TD drive and finished with seven carries for 42 yards.
Several redshirt rookies made an impact, too, starting with wide receiver Cortrelle Simpson, whose 36-yard gain on a misdirection pitch set up the first touchdown.
Here are some other notes from Temple’s second shutout win of Rhule’s tenure:
Besides Wright, the other true freshmen who got into the game were William Kwenkeu, Benny Walls, and Sam Franklin (each of whom played regularly on kickoff coverage), wide receivers Randle Jones and Freddie Johnson (neither of whom were targeted), and Karamo Dioubate, Linwood Crump, and Matt Hennessy (each of whom saw significant action in the second half).
Nearly everyone on the roster got into the game, except for the backup kicking specialists and the 16 scholarship rookies who figure to redshirt.
That doesn’t include the four injured starters who missed the game – Jahad Thomas, Ventell Bryant, Colin Thompson, and Jacob Martin. Notably, Thomas did dress for the game, while the others did not.
Rhule said afterward that Bryant is going to be “out for awhile” with an injury he suffered in practice on Tuesday. A source informed OwlsDaily that Bryant’s shoulder is injured.
Thompson and Martin could be back sooner, and according to Thomas’s roommate, quarterback Phillip Walker, Thomas will be back for this week’s game against Penn State.
Wide receiver Keith Kirkwood didn’t practice all week due to concussion precautions, but was cleared to play on Friday and caught two TD passes in the contest. He finished with four catches for 54 yards.
On the offensive line, Adrian Sullivan and Brian Carter continued to share playing time at guard. But unlike the opener, when they rotated every other series, Sullivan played two-thirds of the time on Saturday. Fellow starters Brendan McGowan, Jovahn Fair, Dion Dawkins, and Leon Johnson played every series until the reserves came en masse early in the fourth quarter.
At kickoff, redshirt junior Cole Boozer was wearing jersey number 87, and with Thompson unavailable, he gave the Owls some help at tight end. Boozer is a former tight end who made the switch to left tackle this offseason. And in the fourth quarter, Boozer changed to his new regular jersey number 79, and got in some work at tackle.
On defense, after struggling against Army’s cut-blocking schemes, the Temple front four dominated the line of scrimmage against the Seawolves. Through the first three quarters, only three of Stony Brook’s 21 running plays gained more than four yards. And quarterback Joe Carbone was sacked three times and hurried into throwing two interceptions and several other no-chance passes.
Redshirt freshman Chappelle Russell got the start at linebacker because the Owls opened with an eight-man front and three defensive backs after Starzyk buried Stony Brook on its own one-yard line. Cornerback Artrel Foster replaced Russell on the next play.
After sticking with Foster and fellow starters Nate Hairston, Sean Chandler, and Delvon Randall in the secondary from start to finish against Army, Rhule went much deeper this week – with Derrek Thomas and Kareem Ali seeing regular action at cornerback and several young players (along with senior Nate Smith) getting in at safety. Ali suffered a significant arm injury in the second half, according to Rhule, which gave more time to Cequan Jefferson and Crump.
Redshirt freshman Travon Williams, a walk-on making his collegiate debut, returned the opening kickoff for 26 yards.