The Rutgers Scarlet Knights (RU) defeated the Temple Owls (TU) 36-7 to improve to a 2-0 record on Saturday night. Despite the final score, Rutgers struggled to hold off Temple. The Owls would cut the Scarlet Knights’ lead to 13-7 with a touchdown in the beginning of the fourth quarter. However, Rutgers quickly responded with a touchdown drive of their own, and two interceptions by the Knights’ defense led to more scores. This secured a comfortable victory for RU.
Photo Cred: 247 Sports (Ja’Shon Benjamin)
The game’s first three quarters were characterized by offensive struggles for both teams. Both defenses stepped up, preventing each offense from gaining much ground. On the game’s first drive, RU drove deep into Temple territory. However, the Owls forced a fumble, resulting in an empty possession for the Scarlet Knights. However, TU failed to capitalize on the ensuing possession, turning the game into a battle for field position. Rutgers managed to advance the football, thanks in large part to a running game led by Kyle Monangai and a few passing plays by quarterback Gavin Wimsatt.
Photo Cred: Rutgers Wire (#5 Kyle Monangai)
Meanwhile, Temple was having a hard time getting first downs due to the outstanding Scarlet Knights defense. Consequently, Rutgers often regained possession near their 40-yard line, while TU consistently started deep in their territory around the 10-yard line. RU punter Flynn Appleby played a key role in pinning the Owls back. Towards the end of the first quarter, the Scarlet Knights finally got on the scoreboard. Wimsatt connected with freshman running back Ja’Shon Benjamin on a screen pass, resulting in a 33-yard touchdown. Sophomore placekicker Jai Patel added the extra point to give Rutgers a 7-0 lead.
Photo Cred: Yahoo Sports (Jai Patel)
In the second quarter, Patel kicked an impressive 51-yard field goal, extending RU’s lead to 10-0. On the next Rutgers possession, Wimsatt threw a career-high 61-yard pass to JaQuae Jackson. Jackson made the catch in stride around midfield and got tackled near the Temple 30-yard line. The drive did stall in Owls territory, but Patel hit another field goal from 43 yards. This gave the Scarlet Knights a 13-0 lead, one they took into the third quarter. TU quarterback E.J. Warner made some tough throws to spark the Owls’ offense late in the second quarter. Rutgers defensive back Desmond Igbinosun sacked Warner on a corner blitz near midfield, forcing the Owls to punt and lose the yards they had gained on the drive.
Photo Cred: Philadelphia Inquirer (E.J. Warner)
In the third quarter, Temple benefitted from some questionable calls that propelled them toward the Rutgers end zone. RU safety Flip Dixon made two crucial plays to prevent the Owls from scoring. He thwarted a run on third-and-goal and later broke up a pass on fourth-and-goal. Both offenses stalled for the rest of the quarter until Temple made another push toward the Knights’ end zone right at the end of the third quarter.
Photo Cred: NY Post
Early in the fourth quarter, TU capitalized on another red zone trip, with Warner finding Dante Wright in the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown pass. Temple got on the scoreboard, making it a one-possession game and trailing the Scarlet Knights 13-7. The RU offense went to work quickly, with Monangai carrying the football six straight times. This included a one-yard rushing touchdown that extended Rutgers’ lead at 19-7 about three minutes into the third quarter. On the Owls’ next offensive possession, Warner took a deep shot but it was intercepted. RU DB Shaquan Loyal returned it to the Temple 10-yard line.
Photo Cred: YouTube- American Athletic Conference
Patel added a 29-yard field goal to extend the Rutgers lead to 22-7 with under ten minutes left to play. The Knights’ defense, known as the “Dark Side”, forced the Owls’ offense off the field. Four-star running back Samuel Brown V scored on the Scarlet Knights’ next possession, increasing the lead to 29-7. RU defensive lineman Jordan Thompson had the team’s second interception of the day. Al-Shadee Salaam ran in a touchdown of his own, his sixth carry of the drive. What was once a 13-7 game finished as a dominant 36-7 win for Rutgers, although most of the scoring did occur the fourth quarter.
Photo Cred: The Scarlet Faithful
Both the RU offense and defense performed well in this contest. On offense, Wimsatt went 10/21 and had 198 yards, a touchdown, and no interceptions. Monangai had a career-best day on the ground, rushing for 165 yards and a touchdown. There was a specific drive where he carried the team with 57 rushing yards and the score. Salaam and Brown had rushing touchdowns of their own, while Benjamin had 36 rushing yards to go with his 33-yard receiving TD.
Photo Cred: Deadspin (#26 Al-Shadee Salaam)
In the passing game, Jackson had four receptions for 95 yards, including the 61-yard pass from Wimsatt. Defense is where the Scarlet Knights truly excelled, and the “Dark Side” certainly showed up in this game! They had 13 pass break-ups, two interceptions, and two forced fumbles, only allowing 7 points for the second straight week. Loyal and Thompson both had pivotal picks that led to Rutgers touchdowns, and the defensive line batted many of Warner’s passes down at the line of scrimmage.
Photo Cred: thescarletfaithful.com
They kept the Temple offense off the field and allowed for some early stumbles by the Scarlet Knights offense. This provided Wimsatt and the running game some time to get things going for themselves. On special teams, Patel was perfect on the night, making all three of his extra points and field goals. He had taken over the starting placekicker job from current kickoff specialist Jude McAtamney. Patel connected on 51, 43, and 23-yard field goals. Appleby had three punts, averaging 42.3 yards per punt, and pinned the Owls deep in their own territory. All in all, RU overcame a shaky offensive start to comfortably dispatch the Temple Owls and improve to 2-0.
Photo Cred: Rutgers Wire – USA Today
Looking ahead to this weekend, the Scarlet Knights face a tougher opponent in the Virginia Tech Hokies (VT) this Saturday at 3:30 PM. The game will take place at SHI Stadium, and Rutgers is currently a three-point favorite. VT enters the game with a 1-1 record, taking down Old Dominion 36-17 before losing to Purdue 24-17. That last game was delayed for hours due to thunderstorms on the East Coast in the afternoon. The hope is that Rutgers improves to 3-0, as they have in recent seasons. They need to continue this win streak in order to qualify for a bowl game in December. A tough test at Michigan is followed by a much easier opponent in FCS team Wagner. RU will then return to the road to take on Wisconsin. From there, they have two pivotal divisional games, hosting Michigan State and traveling to Indiana.
Photo Cred: Rutgers Athletics
The Scarlet Knights should aim for a 6-2 record and a secured bowl bid locked up by then. The November schedule doesn’t do them any favors… Rutgers will battle Ohio State, Iowa, Penn State, and Maryland to conclude the 2023 season. Each of those opponents has finished with a winning record in recent years and has been stronger than the Scarlet Knights. With the way RU has played in the first two games, they may be able to steal one or two of those games. However, a projection of at least six wins is looking more likely after two dominant victories over Northwestern and Temple. Let’s hope the Scarlet Knights keep chopping and improve to 3-0 next weekend!
Photo Cred: Rutgers Athletics