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Rutgers defense dominates Temple in 61-14 victory

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The Scarlet Knights opened the season in impressive fashion.

NCAA Football: Temple at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

In the first home game played in front of fans in two years, Rutgers came through with a dominant 61-14 victory over Temple on Saturday. The offense struggled early on, but overall the Scarlet Knights played clean football and physically dominated its opponent. RU forced the Owls into many more miscues on the day including five turnovers and was able to capitalize throughout the game. Special teams play was excellent as well.

The defense set the tone and was dominate in the first half as the Scarlet Knights jumped out to a commanding 26-0 lead. After Adam Korsak pinned Temple on its own 1 yard line in the first few minutes of the game, star linebacker Olakunle Fatukasi dropped quarterback D’Wan Mathis with an ankle tackle in the end zone for a safety. Tyshon Fogg and Drew Singleton were in on the play too but it was credited to O3 with the takedown. It was appropriate for Greg Schiano’s first home game with fans that the first points that Rutgers scored this season was from the defense.

After Aron Cruickshank ran the ensuing kickoff 57 yards, the Rutgers offense was unable to finish the drive. Valentino Ambrosio connected on his first field goal attempt of the season from 25 yards out.

Each team punted on their next two possessions before Tre Avery intercepted a Mathis pass and returned it 21 yards to the Temple 2. Johnny Langan then came in to run it in for a touchdown and Rutgers led 12-0 late first quarter.

On the kickoff, Jamier Wright-Collins forced a fumble and it was recovered Tyreek Maddox-Williams at the Temple 28 yard line.

A 14 yard rush from Cruickshank and a few carries got Rutgers down to the 1 yard line before Langan scored his second touchdown of the game. The lead was 19-0 less than a minute into the second quarter.

Temple turned it over a third time on its next drive, as Mathis was hit by Fatukasi and fumbled it away. Former Owl Ifyeani Maijeh scooped it up for the fumble recovery at the 22 yard line. Rutgers stuck to the ground as Isaih Pacheco ran it for 13 yards before backup Kyle Monangai took three carries for 9 yards, including the last rush a 1 yarder into the end zone for the first touchdown of his career.

With Rutgers having forced three turnovers in the first half, they had a huge 26-0 lead with 10:59 remaining in the second quarter. Temple was able to get on the board soon after with Edward Saydee’s 11 yard scamper around three Rutgers defenders for a touchdown.

The rest of the half highlighted the struggles of Noah Vedral, who was inaccurate and unable to put together a sustained drive. The score remained 26-7 at the half.

Temple came out of the half and scored on its opening drive as D’Wan Mathis ran it in from 3 yards out. Just like that the Owls made it 26-14 just three minutes into the third quarter.

Vedral connected with Bo Melton on the next possession on a short route and after one move, he took it 40 yards for the touchdown. It was a much needed score to stop Temple’s momentum and out Rutgers out in front 33-14 midway through the third quarter.

On the next Temple possession, brother Max Melton intercepted backup Justin Lynch and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown. After the visiting Owls cut the lead to two scores, the Melton’s put the game out of reach for good with back to back touchdowns. Rutgers led 40-14 and the issue no longer seemed in doubt.

Early in the fourth quarter, Rutgers put together a 12 play, 64 yard drive that Isaih Pacheco finished off with a 2 yard touchdown run. After Temple then punted on its next possession, Cruickshank returned it 45 yards to set the Scarlet Knights up once again with a short field. A completion from Vedral to Langan for 19 yards was followed by Aaron Young running it in from a yard out. Rutgers led 54-14 with over 11 minutes still on the clock.

The Scarlet Knights continued to wear down the Owls and followed with a 13 play, 62 yard drive that ended with Monangai running it in from 7 yards out for his second touchdown of the game. The game ended with a final score of 61-14

Overall, Rutgers outgained Temple in total yards by a margin of 365-261 but it was the +5 turnover margin that was the big difference. RU did average 4.5 yards per carry and finished with 220 rushing yards while holding a 21-12 advantage with first downs.

The two most impressive stats of the game were Rutgers only committing 1 penalty for 15 yards and having zero turnovers. That shows tremendous discipline in just the first contest of the 2021 campaign. Playing mistake free football is a major key to Rutgers improving on its 3-6 record from last season. While Vedral and the offense struggled at times, costly mistakes were avoided. This is a huge takeaway from the victory.

In the opening game of the 2021 season, Rutgers dominated an FBS opponent in a way they haven’t in years. It wasn’t a perfect performance, but it was a very good one especially considering the conditions of playing two days after it was originally scheduled. They came out with urgency and physically dominated on the field. It’s as good a start as could have been hoped for. However, it’s just one game. Now the key is to build off this victory and continue to build momentum on the season against Syracuse on the road next Saturday in the dome.

For all the highlights in the 61-14 win, click here.