In a packed Lincoln Financial Field Saturday, the Temple Owls dramatically upset the Penn State Nittany Lions as the Cherry and White cruised to a 27-10 victory in front of a record and sold-out crowd.
The Owls started their season on offense with three consecutive three-and-outs and couldn't muster consistent drives or yardage against the stout PSU defense in the first quarter. Penn State knocked down a 34-yard field goal on their opening possession from freshman kicker Joey Julius after a 32-yard jet sweep from seldom used wideout Brandon Polk.
Quarterback Christian Hackenberg found sophomore Chris Godwin for a 18-yard completion the following possession after another Temple punt. Junior tailback Akeel Lynch found the hole, later in the drive, and hit pay dirt untouched for a 42 yard TD to put Penn State up 10-0.
Lynch was the lynchpin of last year's 258 yard rushing attack against the Owls and was the quintessential bell cow for head coach James Franklin Saturday. Temple countered with newly minted starter Jahad Thomas who broke free for a 31-yard scamper to the Penn State two-yard line and would later score on a pitch from Walker to cut the deficit to just three points.
The Owls got after junior QB Christian Hackenberg as the Owls recorded four sacks in the first half against a revamped Penn State O-Line, including edge rusher Haason Reddick who played over the injured Praise Martin-Oguike. Linebacker Tyler Matakevich surpassed his season sack total from last season (1.5) with three sacks on the 6'4, 220-pound quarterback. His constant firing of the crowd got the predominant Temple faithful back into the contest.
Down 10-7 heading into the half, the Owls defense controlled Penn State on their opening possession of the third quarter and forced the Nittany Lions to punt. A 40-yard field goal from sophomore Austin Jones, who went just 13-22 his freshman year, tied the game up at 10 apiece.
Hackenberg's opening game struggles persisted into the second half as junior defensive lineman Sharif Finch picked off the junior and returned it to Penn State's two-yard line before a P.J. Walker keeper put the Owls up 17-10 before the closing of the third quarter.
The Temple pressure affected Hackenberg in the opening possession of the fourth quarter as converted defensive end Nate D. Smith beat the left tackle and wrapped up the hulking quarterback to force fourth down. Temple capitalized as Thomas once again cut swiftly en route to a 24-yard touchdown run to put Temple up 24-10.
Austin Jones would later nail his third field goal of the contest as the Owls cruised to a come-from-behind 27-10 victory against Penn State.
Temple's feasted in the backfield totaling 10 sacks as Hackenberg mightily struggled to find his targets (11-for-25 for just 103 yards) and stay poised in the pocket.
Temple featured both Ventell Bryant and Kip Patton in the passing attack despite starting Robby Anderson and Adonis Jennings on the outside. Bryant hauled in two catches for a team-high 41 yards and Patton accumulated 29 yards from Walker. Walker talked about his developing poise in the pocket last week, and it showed Saturday going 15-for-20 through the air with 143 yards and no interceptions.
Temple (1-0, 0-0) travels to Cincinnati next Saturday in a pivotal AAC East matchup pitting two of the division's favorites against each other early in the season.