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New look offense shines, defense dominates as Temple routs Bucknell

Outside one turnover that led to points, the Owls had their way in Rod Carey’s Temple debut.

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at Temple Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

New Temple Owls head coach Rod Carey preached all offseason that the Temple offense will be unlike anything we’ve seen in North Philadelphia.

After one game, there is no denying that.

The final numbers were off the charts for the Owls as they racked up 695 total yards of offense, 507 of which were through the air. Quarterback Anthony Russo threw for 409 yards and four touchdowns, Branden Mack and Jadan Blue each went over 100 yards receiving and the Owls defense did not allow a touchdown as Temple dominated Bucknell, 56-12, in convincing fashion.

Carey stressed that the offense will be more uptempo than in years past. He limited many players in spring practices and summer minicamp as he wanted to keep players healthy and fresh. While the opponent was arguably the weakest the Owls will play this season, Carey lived up to his word.

The new look offense was noticeable right from the start as Temple wasted little time in between plays. Russo came out slinging on the opening drive, completing five pass for 69 yards, capping the drive with a shovel pass to Blue for the first points of the season. It was the first career touchdown for Blue, who looks to be a integral piece of the offense.

It was more of the same fast-paced offense on the second drive, but it was a more balanced attack, and with one of Temple’s best defensive players playing on offense. Linebacker Shaun Bradley took some snaps at running back, carrying three times for nine yards. But it was Jager Gardner, whom many expect to be the lead back with Ryquell Armstead now in the NFL, who finished the drive with tough, 11-yard touchdown to make it 14-0 quickly.

The offensive onslaught continued on the third possession for the Owls with back-to-back big plays through the air. Blue took a short out pattern down the right sideline for 37 yards, and on the next play, Re’Mahn Davis rumbled for 27 yards as Russo dumped it off in the flat with the pocket collapsing. Gardner finished the drive with his second touchdown of the afternoon.

Meanwhile, the Bison could get nothing going on offense in the first quarter. They went three-and-out on their first two possessions, and despite picking up one first down, finished the quarter with zero yards of total offense, compared to 229 for the Owls.

The second quarter opened with another quick possession that led to points for the Owls. Russo connected with Isaiah Wright for 12-yard touchdown to make it 28-0 on a nine-play, 96-yard drive that took just over three minutes to find the end zone. Temple’s first four drives resulted in touchdowns.

Bucknell finally got on the board on Russo’s only mistake of the afternoon. Russo threw a quick pass into traffic when Bison cornerback Gavin Pringle stepped in front of the receiver and took the interception 36 yards for the touchdown. The Bison missed the ensuing extra point and it was a 28-6 game midway through the second quarter.

“He probably chose the wrong side of the field and then didn’t catch the right read and ended up throwing it to him,” Carey said in his post game press conference when asked about Russo’s performance. “But other than that decision, I liked all his decisions.”

The Bison finally got something going on their fifth offensive drive thanks to the great hands of Brandon Sanders. Sanders made a terrific catch on a pass thrown by John Chiarolanzio, who was the backup quarterback to start the game, for a 42-yard gain, and Bucknell’s first trip into the red zone. However, the drive would stall just a few plays later and the Bison settled for a field goal.

The Owls responded with another quick strike that ended with another short dump off to Davis, who found open space on the left sideline for a 51-yard receiving touchdown. It was the first touchdown of his career, and there could plenty more coming for the Owls as Davis looks to be the future at the running back position.

Temple would lead 35-9 after the first 30 minutes, and the first half numbers were what you expect at the end of a game, not through just two quarters.

Bucknell started the second half with another quarterback under center as Tarrin Earle led them to their best drive of the game. Earle completed five passes on the drive and the Owls defense got away with a missed pass interference that should have extended the drive for the Bison. Another successful field goal made it a 35-12 game, but with Earle as the signal caller, Bucknell finally had some confidence.

The Temple offense kept their foot on the gas on their first possession of the second half as Russo threw his fourth touchdown pass of the game. This one was to tight end Aaron Jarman, whose first career reception was also his first touchdown, and extended the Owls lead to 42-12.

Davis found the end zone once again on a seven-yard touchdown run to open up the fourth quarter, and that was it for much of the starters.

Todd Centeio took over the play calling duties for much of the fourth quarter as the Owls inserted many of their backups for the final period. After a fourth down stop deep in their own territory, Centeio found a wide open Travon Williams for an 89-yard touchdown reception that put an exclamation point on the Temple win.

Despite the big win, Carey acknowledged that there is a lot to learn moving forward.

“We gotta clean up some things. Certainly was not perfect and I don’t want to get up here and sound like it was. We’ve got a lot to get better at and learn from, but we don’t take winning for granted.”

Temple will have next week off before welcoming the Maryland Terrapins to Lincoln Financial Field on Sept. 14. The two programs squared off at Maryland last year, and the Owls came away with a 35-14 for their first win of the 2018 season. Kickoff is schedule for noon and the game can be seen on CBS Sports Network.