PHILADELPHIA, PA. 9/5/2015 – With a dominating defense performance the Temple Owls ended a long losing streak defeating the Penn State Nittany Lions 27 – 10 on the gridiron at the Linc in an historic win in front of a record crowd of 69,176. It was the first time a Temple team defeated Penn State since 1941. In the game the Owls registered an American Conference record 10 sacks en route to the victory. Senior linebacker Tyler Matakevich led the Cherry and White with 3 sacks in the game, fellow senior Nate D. Smith added 2 sacks.
“The reason we won is that our players focused on themselves, not on Penn State,” Temple Coach Matt Rhule said. “We focused on us and the players bought into that. It’s not the fact that we beat Penn State, it’s the fact that we won.”
Penn State started the game quickly when wide receiver Brandon Polk ran for 33 yards on a sweep that led to an opening drive 34-yard field goal by Joey Julius. Running back Akeem Lynch finished the second drive scoring on a 42-yard touchdown run that gave the Lions a 10 – 0 lead.
Then, the Temple defense began to assert themselves. Penn State did not score again and was forced to punt on their next seven possessions, and the eighth was stopped by an interception.
“Down 10 – 0 and it looked like it was going the other way, we came back and just kept fighting and fighting and fighting,” said Rhule.
Early in the second quarter Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg was sacked twice in a series. That sequence seemed to destabilize the Lions offense.
“We just kept attacking,” said Smith. “We saw weaknesses in the offensive line.”
“We knew what we had to do and that was get the ball back in the hands of the offense to get some points up.”
Then it was up to the Temple offense to get rolling. The Owls finally got on the scoreboard when junior running back Jahad Thomas snared a pitch out to cross the goal line from one-yard away with just over two minutes remaining in the half capping a 12 play, 93 yard drive in 6:40. The teams went to the locker room with Penn State holding a 10 – 7 lead.
Midway through the third quarter the Cherry and White put together a 7 play drive using some big plays and trickery. Junior quarterback P.J. Walker had two completions of over 10 yards. He was on the receiving end of a 25-yard pass from wide receiver Robby Anderson who got the ball on a pitch by Thomas. Temple completed the drive when sophomore kicker Austin Jones was good on a 40-yard field goal attempt. Jones connected for two field goals, the other late from 30-yards.
The game would turn in the direction of the host late third quarter on an interception by junior defensive lineman Sharif Finch who jumped in front of a short pass by Hackenberg at the Penn State 28 yard line with just under a minute and a half remaining in the third quarter. Finch returned the ball to the 2 yard line setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by Walker that gave the Owls a 17 – 10 lead.
The fourth quarter the Cherry and White defense kept the offense of the Blue and White in check. The Temple offense turned to the ground game featuring Thomas who ran the ball for 63 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown in the final quarter. For the game Thomas ran for 135 yards. The running game appeared to get stronger as the game progressed.
“I just took it one play at a time and just keep going, keep going, repeat every play, then look at the scoreboard at the end of the game.” Thomas said.
The Owls out-gained the Nittany Lions on the ground by a 149 – 77 margin. Lynch led the Blue and White with 78 rushing yards.
Hackenberg was limited to 103 passing yards completing 11 of 25 attempts. Penn State lost 64 yards on Temple sacks.
“We challenged our defense to get to forty sacks, and we got to ten against a talented team,” Rhule said.
Walker was 15 of 20 for 143 yards and ran for 11 yards on 7 seven carries. He completed passes to 8 players while not being intercepted.
The next game is another difficult on for the Owls as they travel to Cincinnati for their conference opener. The Penn State win is significant, but the Cherry and White need to build on this victory and not to make it the highlight of the season.
“We’ve got to get ready for the next one and move forward,” Rhule said.
But tonight they can celebrate.
Written By: Glenn Papazian