After a bizarre sequence of events, the Temple Owls football continued their undefeated 2015 season Saturday defeating the UMass Minutemen 25-23 in Foxborough. The Owls were viewed a major favorites heading into the contest, but Coach Mark Whipple adequately prepared his unit for their toughest task of the season.
Temple jumped out to a 14-0 lead early after the Owls defense once again was a potent force in the first quarter. However, UMass QB Blake Frohnapfel eventually found a chink in the iron-clad armor of the Owls. Finding wideout Rodney Mills twice on TD pass hookups inevitably tied up the score at 17 heading into the half. Temple locked down on the defensive end in the second half by picking off Frohnapfel twice and forcing a couple of three-and-outs which stalled the home team's momentum.
However, the Owls also couldn't pull away. Frohnapfel got the Minutemen the lead 23-20 late on a screen pass to running back Jamal Wilson which led to a 16-yard completion and score. As UMass was about to go up by four points, Temple blocked the ensuing extra point and Will Hayes eventually took it to the house, via a lateral, to cut the lead to just one point.
Walker formulated a poised and calculated 50-yard drive to set up sophomore kicker Austin Jones. From the left hash mark, Jones drilled the game-winning 32-yard field goal. It was the prototypical result for Owls' head coach Matt Rhule who talked about winning close games rather than shootouts Tuesday.
The Owls also needed another solid outing from signal caller P.J. Walker and the junior delivered, albeit with a couple of mistakes. The Minutemen picked off Walker twice in the first half, but couldn't convert their positive results into points.
Walker once again has the propensity to divvy up targets as he connected with eight different Owls in the game. Marcus Satterfield evidently opened up the playbook for Walker as Temple's offensive leader who attempted 48 passes while completing 28 of them for 391 yards. Jahad Thomas also added another TD on the ground but deja vu struck as he coughed up the ball for the second-straight week in the fourth quarter.
While Walker was having another promising outing, the defense once again created havoc by forcing a fumble in the first half while both Sean Chandler and Stephaun Marshall picked off Frohnapfel in the second half. What was the most essential aspect, however, was the timely stops and coverage ability in the second half.
Both Mills and Tajae Sharpe, who had most of his 156 yards in the first half, were able to beat the Owls' secondary on many routes. This is the third-straight week Temple has arguably faced NFL talent at the wide receiver position. Frohnapfel finished with 393 yards on 29 completions from the senior.
While Temple's defense was expected to play an important role in the game, few would have predicted that sophomore Austin Jones would be the key contributor to the Owls victory. Now a perfect 7-for-7, Jones has established himself as a reliable presence.
Temple (3-0, 1-0) has a bye week next season and travels to Charlotte Oct. 2 to face the 49ers. Maybe the Owls will be ranked at the time.