Temple football coach Rod Carey went to his inner Doug Pederson, which meant having a strong emphasis on the run.
Like Pederson’s Eagles, who rushed for 176 yards in Thursday’s 34-27 win over Green Bay, Carey employed the same strategy with similar results during Saturday’s 24-2 win over Georgia Tech at Lincoln Financial Field.
For the first time since joining the American Athletic Conference in 2013, Temple (3-1) has secured two wins over Power Five schools, having previously defeated Big Ten school Maryland, 20-17.
Against Georgia Tech, out of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Owls rushed for 195 yards and two scores on 49 carries, while quarterback Anthony Russo attempted just 22 passes.
“Offensively, we did exactly what we wanted to do,” Carey said. “We wanted to come out and run the ball.”
A week after attempting 51 passes in a 38-22 loss at Buffalo, Carey wanted to go ground-and-pound for good reason.
Georgia Tech (1-3) entered the game 129th among Football Bowl Subdivision schools in rushing defense, allowing 274.3 yards per contest. There are only 130 FBS schools so that showed where the Yellow Jackets stood.
By the second quarter, the Temple running game really got into gear.
Temple took over on its 42-yard line with 10 minutes, 22 seconds left in the first half in what was still a scoreless game.
The Owls then went nine plays and 58 yards, with freshman Re’Mahn Davis finishing matters on an 18-yard run that he burst outside. On the drive, Temple ran the ball on seven of nine plays.
The next series, the Owls went 73 yards in 13 plays (11 rushes), with Davis scoring from 1 yard out with eight seconds left, giving the Owls a 14-0 lead.
Davis finished with 29 carries for 135 yards and a touchdown.
Entering the game, Davis had 31 carries, but he had been productive, averaging 6.8 yards. Carey said Davis got a little extra work because redshirt senior Jager Gardner (18 carries, 69 yards) got a little dinged up toward the end of the game.
“My role is getting bigger as the week goes on and I am trying to be able to handle it and not make too many mistakes,” Davis said.
Another key was that Temple won the turnover battle, 3-1, and held Georgia Tech to 2-for-14 on third-down conversions.
Senior safety Benny Walls had a field day leading the defense. He scored on a 74-yard fumble return after defensive tackle Ifeanyi Maijeh had stripped quarterback Tobias Oliver in the third quarter. It gave Temple a 21-0 lead and the way the Yellow Jackets’ offense was struggling, it was more than enough.
“I saw Ifeanyi Maijeh hit him, saw the ball bounce out,” Walls said. “I wasn’t going to fall on it; I saw grass in front of me and was going to score.”
Walls also had an interception, in the end zone, and a 65-yard return to the Georgia Tech 35 in the fourth quarter.
Another huge defensive play came early in the second quarter when Georgia Tech appeared ready to score. Oliver scrambled away from a heavy pass rush and darted toward the end zone. He gained 8 yards, but right before crossing the goal line, Temple linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley forced a fumble that Christian Braswell recovered.
The news wasn’t all positive for Temple. In the fourth quarter, defensive tackle Dan Archibong was ejected for targeting quarterback James Graham. So Archibong will be ineligible to play in the first half of Thursday’s American Athletic Conference opener at East Carolina.
It also was a difficult homecoming for Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins, who guided Temple the previous two seasons.
“We played hard against one of the best front sevens in college football,” Collins said. “The offensive line is really good. Credit them, the Temple University players.”