skip navigation

College Football: Temple Completes Second Half Comeback Against Akron in Season Opener

By Jeremy Goode Photos: Jahmir Dunbar, 09/07/23, 9:45AM EDT


David Martin Robinson converts on 2-point conversion - PSD Photo by Jahmir Dunbar

Photos: Jahmir Dunbar

By: Jeremy Goode

PHILADELPHIA - After a slow start, Temple University was able to erase an 11-point halftime deficit, outscoring Akron 14-0 and giving the Owls a 24-21 season opener win thanks to quarterback EJ Warner’s arm, Edward Saydee’s pass catching out of the backfield, and clutch defensive plays in the forth quarter.

“The first half was a gut check,” Temple head coach Stan Drayton said. “We had way more in the tank than what we were giving. We can’t pick and choose when we give the maximum effort that it takes to win football games.”

The Owls dug themselves into a hole from the very beginning. Akron’s quarterback DJ Irons threw a 10-yard touch pass over Temple’s safeties, and running back Lorenzo Lingard bolted 67 yards for a 77-yard touchdown 51 seconds into the contest.  

Edward Saydee carries the ball for the Owl's in the first half - PSD Photo by Jahmir Dunbar

Temple would struggle on their next four possessions, punting three times and turning it over on downs once. The Owls during the same period buckled down defensively, forcing Akron to punt on four consecutive possessions after scoring a touchdown on their second play of the game.

After Temple forced an Akron punt towards the end of the first quarter, Warner was able to put forth a strong drive, ending in a Quincy Patterson 1-yard touchdown run to tie the game at seven early in the second quarter. After starting the game 4/9 for 23 yards passing, Warner drove the Owls down the field in eight plays, recording 89 yards in 3:34 seconds.

With Temple putting pressure on the Zips after tying up the game, Akron responded with their own methodical 10-play drive that resulted in a 2-yard touchdown run by mobile quarterback Tahj Bullock with 6:16 remaining in the first half.

Temple sophomore quarterback EJ Warner #3 - PSD Photo by Jahmir Dunbar

The seven-point lead quickly turned to 14. Temple went three and out, and Akron was able to take advantage, orchestrating a five minute drive, as Irons capped it off with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Myles Walker with 1:32 remaining in the first half.

Warner and the offense were able to buckle down a bit during the final 92 seconds of the second quarter, and Camden Price drilled a 40-yard field goal as time expired, capping off an 11-play, 60-yard drive.

“I dug into them a little bit at halftime and told them if you’re going to do something, you need to be a football team that does it,” Drayton said. “We can’t just be about talk; talk with your pads, talk with your actions, talk with your effort, attitude, and toughness.”

The Owls took note.

Warner lead the team on the first possession in the second half with an 8 play, 77 yard touchdown pass to Saydee from 7-yards to cut the Zips lead to five.

“Coming out the second half, that first drive, we just had a bunch of big plays, critical third down conversions…” Warner said. “That was kind of the moment where we were going to come back and we are going to finish this game.”

EJ Warner and Edward Saydee Interview

Temple would not look back. The Owls forced a quick punt following their second half opening touchdown. Warner was able to move the ball 73 yards on the following possession. While the drive did not amount to points, Temple’s offensive presence seemed there to stay.

Another three and out by Akron allowed Warner to follow up with a touchdown pass to Saydee to kick off the fourth quarter to go up one. The Owls were able to convert on the two-point conversion, as Warner hit David Martin Robinson across the middle to give the Owls a 24-21 led.

Akron’s last three drives resulted in two punts thanks to sacks from Layton Jordan, Diwun Black, and Corey Yeoman.  Temple also enjoyed a game clinching interception by Tywan Francis, who wore an honorary single digit jersey for the Akron game.

“We practice these calls week in and week out,” Francis said. “We tried to go into this game with a cool head, keep my guys cool as well, and perform.”

After giving up three touchdowns in the first half, the Owls held the Zips scoreless in the second half. Further, Akron was only able to record 41 yards in the final 30 minutes.

In reference to adjustments Temple made defensively, Drayton explained that they did not change much schematically.

“We did not change a play,” Drayton said. “Once we figured out what was going on on defense after the first quarter and settled in, we knew what plays we were going to put our players in the best position to make plays.”

Stan Drayton Postgame Interview

Defensively, Yvandy Rigby led the team with 14 tackles. Colorado State wide receiver transfer Dante Wright led the Owls with seven catches for 71 yards. Warner finished the game throwing 28 for 49, and a respectable 292 yards and two touchdowns.

The Owls move to 1-0 on the season and travel to New Brunswick to face Rutgers in the American-Big10 bout. Temple is looking to end a two-game losing streak against Rutgers. They lost their most recent matchup last year in Philadelphia 16-14.

While Drayton is grateful to get out of the Akron game with a win, he acknowledged that there is still more work to be done and mistakes to clean up.

“I know the success was there, but it should have showed up a lot earlier and I expect that out of this unit,” Drayton said. “It is good to come off with a win knowing that you can get better.”

Looking Ahead: Temple will head on a short road trip to play Rutgers this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The game will air on the Big 10 Network. The Owls return home on Saturday, Sept. 16 against Norfolk State at 2 p.m.