Owls Defeat the Tigers 34 – 31 on Homecoming Day, Mathis Ties Program Record
October 2, 2021 –
On Homecoming Day and the league opener the Temple Owls fell behind early but erased all the leads by the Memphis Tigers to win 34 – 31 at the Linc. The game showed the resiliency of the Temple team and gave a glimpse of the promise of quarterback D’Wan Mathis, a freshman transfer from Georgia. Mathis completed 35 passes which tied the program record for most completions in a single game. The Cherry and White have a winning record (3 – 2) and sit 1 – 0 in the American.
Mathis led Temple throwing for 322 yards and 3 touchdowns. The 35 completions tied the school record set by John Waller in a game against Buffalo in 1968. Mathis was second in rushing yards for the Cherry and White gaining 53 yards, 39 came on a single burst in the third quarter. The scoring strikes were to wide receiver Jadan Blue for the first touchdown. Mathis found Jose Barbon for 15-yards for the second touchdown. His pop-pass and run to Amad Anderson, Jr. of 53-yards provided the winning points. The Owls had 479 yards of offense on 83 plays. For the quarterback it was a matter of doing his job.
“Every week we get a game plan and it’s up to me to figure out what coverages they’re going to run based on our pass plays, and being in the right position and trusting our guys out there,” Mathis said.
It did not look like it would be that way early. Memphis got out to a 17 – 0 lead early in the second quarter. After a Memphis field goal, Temple wanted to set an aggressive tone, but gave the ball back to the visitors on downs at the 27 yard line. The Tigers took advantage when running back Rodrigues Clark scored on a 6-yard run. Again, Temple went for the first down on fourth down from their own 36 yard line. Temple running back Edward Saydee was stopped for a loss. Memphis scored on the next play when quarterback Seth Henigan threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Javon Ivory for a 17 – 0 lead at the 12:38 mark of the second quarter.
On the ensuing possession Temple was faced with a 4th and 1 at the Memphis 30. Not shying away and trying a field goal the Owls went for it. Running back Ra’Von Bonner got the needed yard, and the successful fourth down conversion seemed to spark the team. Driving to the Memphis one-yard line and facing another fourth down try, Mathis threw to a wide open Blue who made a one-handed catch for the first touchdown. The scoring drive saw two fourth down conversions.
“We took advantage of it,” wide receiver Amad Anderson, Jr. said. “I was telling the guys we got to continue to execute and play tough. We have to win these downs, and when we started winning them, said we got to get a yard and fight. And we got stronger as the game went on.”
Memphis turned it over on the next drive when Temple defensive back Keyshawn Paul ripped the ball away from Tigers running back Brandon Thomas and recovered at the Memphis 17-yard line. Three plays later Mathis and Barbon connected and after a successful kick by Rory Bell the game was tied.
“I knew we had to have moments,” said Temple Coach Rod Carey. “Our first touchdown followed by the fumble, and then us stopping them and getting the field goal before halftime. Those moments changed our attitude.”
Memphis regained the lead in the third quarter on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Henigan to Sean Dykes, but Alex Odom came up big and blocked the extra point attempt. It paid dividends. Mathis engineered a 13-play, 75-yard drive in 6:01 capped by a one-yard scoring rush by Tayvon Ruley. The key plays in the drive were a 19-yard pass from Mathis to Blue and a 21-yarder to Anderson which got the ball 8 yards away form the goal line. Rory Bell converted the extra point and the Owls had the lead at 24 – 23. In that critical drive Mathis completed 6 of 7 for 55 yards.
Early in the fourth quarter Memphis drove to the Temple 3-yard line. Watkins fumbled the ball into the endzone where Owls safety M.J. Griffin fell on it to turn the Tigers away.
Temple further responded. With under 10 minutes to play Bell was good on a 32-yard field goal and a 27 – 23 lead. A 38-yard run by Saydee on which Memphis committed a face mask penalty set up the field goal. Mathis and Anderson sealed it was a 53-yard catch and run up the left sideline and a 34 – 23 lead.
It turned out to be important as Memphis scored again when Henigan and Ivory connected on a 9-yard touchdown pass. The successful two-point conversion got the visitors to within 34 – 31. Barbon recovered the onsides kick, and Temple celebrated win number three.
“This is exactly what we needed,” said Mathis. “We started slow a lot. We’re still figuring out how to start fast. Once we figure that out, we’ll be a good team.”
Anderson led the Owls with 108 yards receiving. Blue caught 8 passes for 37 yards while Barbon snagged 7 for 51 yards. Saydee ran for 62 yards.
For Memphis Henigan was 24 of 40 for 305 yards and 3 touchdowns. Clark ran for 92 yards. Receiver Calvin Austin III had a game-high 104 yards snaring 8 passes.
Temple can enjoy the win on Homecoming, then prepare for a Friday night game at nationally-ranked and preseason favorite Cincinnati.
“It’s amazing, coming out beating a team like this, it’s a conference game, Homecoming, it’s amazing,” said Temple linebacker Yvandy Rigby. “Get the confidence up and take it along with us.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian