Compared to his two predecessors, Temple’s Rod Carey had a slightly easier debut.
While Matt Rhule and Geoff Collins opened their Temple coaching careers with loses at Notre Dame by a combined 77-22 score, Carey got to ease into it by facing Bucknell, a Football Championship Subdivision team coming off a 1-10 season.
It went smooth, as expected: The Owls routed Bucknell, 56-12, at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday in the opener for both teams.
Don’t tell Carey the win was “only” over an FCS team picked seventh in the seven-team Patriot League.
“You never underestimate winning in any way shape or form,” a dripping Carey said in his postgame press conference. “Today we went out and won.”
The coach was soggy because his team dumped the obligatory cooler on him afterwards. He said two of the culprits who dumped the bucket were quarterback Anthony Russo and defensive tackle Dan Archibong.
“It was cold, it was fun,” said Carey, who was 52-30 in the six seasons at Northern Illinois.
Among the positives was the play of Russo, who returned to practice on Monday after missing two weeks with a calf injury.
Russo led the Owls to touchdowns on their first four drives, ending any suspense. He completed 32 of 41 for 409 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
Russo seemed as if he had shaken off the rust from his unwanted two-week hiatus, but he says that isn’t the case.
“No, there is definitely still a little bit of rust,” he said. “I missed two open touchdowns in the first drive, one to Isaiah [Wright] and one to Jaden Blue. That just comes in timing, being out here on Saturdays, practice is one thing, but game speed is a little bit different.”
Russo’s biggest miscue was throwing a second-quarter pick-six. Bucknell’s Gavin Pringle jumped a route to tight end David Martin-Robinson, and returned the pick 36 yards, making it 28-6.
Russo threw a pick-six in his first collegiate start in last year’s 35-14 win at Maryland. If he can eliminate those mistakes, he has the arm and the leadership to among the elite college quarterbacks.
Among the other highlights was the play of two of the training camp sensations, true freshman running back Re’Mahn Davis and redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Ifeanyi Maijeh.
Davis rushed for 60 yards and a TD on nine carries and added two receptions for 78 yards and an electrifying 51-yard score on a screen pass.
“On the screen, I didn’t know he was that fast,” center Matt Hennessy said. “I thought the guy had the angle on him and he took it right up the sideline.”
In his first post-game interview, Davis sounded like a veteran.
“I am improving and happy, but I have a lot of things to work on,” he said.
Maijeh, who had just seven tackles last season, added five on Saturday. He had two tackles for loss, including one sack.
Another standout was the aforementioned Blue, who had 10 receptions for 117 yards and a score.
In light of all the positive news came a negative.
Cornerback Ty Mason was ejected in the fourth quarter for targeting. Unless he wins an appeal, he will miss the first half of the Owls next game, Sept. 14 against visiting Maryland.
That aside, this was Carey’s day and afterward he was presented with the game ball, something he said he will cherish.
Carey wasn’t delusional about the win. Like all coaches, Carey wasn’t able to gloat too long.
“Certainly, it was not perfect, and I don’t want to make it sound like it was,” he said. “We have a lot to get better at, but we don’t take winning for granted.”