Its season was spinning away and Temple clearly needed a lift. Finally healthy, Quincy Roche has saved a season that still contains championship aspirations for the Owls.
A week after recording 3.5 sacks and six tackles in a 17-7 win at South Florida, Roche left a bigger imprint during Saturday’s 29-21 win over Tulane in an American Athletic Conference matchup at Lincoln Financial Field.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound redshirt junior had 12 tackles, including six tackles for loss and three sacks as the Owls improved to 7-3 and 4-2 in the AAC. In addition, he forced a fumble on a sack and recovered the ball, setting up Temple’s first field goal.
The win ensured that next week’s game at Cincinnati will be meaningful. The Bearcats took an 8-1, 5-0 mark into Saturday evening’s game at South Florida. Central Florida (7-3, 4-2) also remains in the AAC East Division race.
Temple had lost is previous two games by 66 points before last week’s win at USF. Roche has been the catalyst in both wins.
As the Green Wave was making a last-ditch effort tie the game, Roche had two sacks on the final drive.
“They seemed to be keeping us off balance, running the ball, passing, jet sweeps, screens, draws but toward the end, that was the only part of the game they were straight dropping back to pass and it was mano vs mano,” Roche said.
He was the better mano in those matchups.
The toughest part for Roche was deciding which game was better, against USF or Tulane.
“Probably last game, no probably this game,” Roche said changing course quickly. “I missed so many sacks last game. I am having fun with my guys.”
Roche hasn’t missed a game this season, but he was banged up and used Temple’s bye week before USF to heal.
“He is back healthy,” Temple coach Rod Carey said. “You can tell, can’t you?”
Another significant player on Saturday was redshirt junior tight end Kenny Yeboah. The 6-foot-5 and 240-pound former high school wide receiver has great speed and is physical against smaller defensive backs.
Yeboah entered the game with 12 receptions for 101 yards and two scores. Against Tulane he had five receptions for 63 yards and two touchdowns. Those were single-game career highs for receptions and touchdowns and only 10 yards shy of his best receiving yards game.
For the second week in a row, Yeboah caught a touchdown from backup Todd Centeio, who has earned a role the past six games, coming in for at least two series per contest.
Yeboah also caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from starter Anthony Russo that gave the Owls a seemingly comfortable 22-7 lead with 1 minute and 40 seconds left in the third quarter.
“I have been waiting for the opportunity the past 3-4 years here and got it today and I was happy to be able to seize the opportunity,” Yeboah said.
Russo completed 22-of-38 for 221 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, while Centeio was 4 of 6 for 76 yards and a score.
When Temple’s Jadan Blue (12 receptions, 131 yards, one TD) took a shovel pass from Russo and darted in for a 16-yard score, the Owls extended their lead to 29-14 with 9:56 left.
It looked comfortable, but Tulane made it 29-21 with 6:48 left on Cameron Carroll’s one-yard run. Tulane (6-4, 3-3) would still have two more possessions.
On both of those possessions, the Green Wave reached Temple territory, but Roche led the effort with a seven-yard tackle for loss on third down of the first possession and the aforementioned two sacks on the final one.
Quarterback Justin McMillan hurt the Owls with his scrambling ability, but completed just 11 of 27 passes for 103 yards and an interception.
Temple was strong in coverage and benefited greatly from the return of safety Benny Walls, who missed the previous four games with an upper body injury.
The Owls caused three turnovers while committing just one, but they were hurt by penalties with nine for 106 yards.
Still, the Owls are entering their 11th game playing meaningful football after a resurgence the past two weeks that has been spearheaded by Roche, their suddenly unblockable defensive end.