Temple’s running back situation was in question coming into the 2019 season after productive RB Ryquell Armstead was drafted by Jacksonville in the 2019 draft. With strong efforts from freshman RB Re’Mahn Davis and redshirt senior RB Jager Gardner, head coach Rod Carey can feel more comfortable with the running game to complement the passing attack from quarterback Anthony Russo.

Running Wild

Gardner bounced off Bucknell tacklers and extended to the end zone on a 11-yard touchdown run while also rumbling into the end zone from one yard out. Gardner’s one-yard touchdown pushed the Owls’ lead to 21-0 and they’d cruise, 56-12. He finished with 10 rushes for 54 yards and two scores. Gardner was Temple’s receiving threat last season out of the backfield, but Davis assumed that role today.

Davis took a swing pass and went the distance for a 51-yard touchdown reception while showing some burst alongside the sideline. Davis finished with two receptions for 78 yards.

Having two talents at running back who can double as receivers in a pinch provides sought after versatility and opens up more offensive designs. Davis paced the Owls with 60 yards rushing on nine carries and exploded through holes when available. Both Davis and Gardner have functional power. 

Temple will face a more stout defense in Maryland in two weeks, but they have to feel highly optimistic about their running game after opening week. The Owls might roll with a committee approach again, but Davis emerging at the position was one of today’s important storylines moving forward. 

Aerial Attack

Russo picked apart the Bison’s defense to the tune of 402 passing yards and four touchdowns through the air. Russo opened his stellar performance with a 23-yard completion on 3rd-and-15 and led Temple into Bucknell’s red zone via the air game. Redshirt freshman Jose Barbon only recorded one reception, but he eluded two Bucknell defenders to pick up the first down on 3rd-and-8 in Bucknell territory on Temple’s opening possession.

Russo shoveled the ball to redshirt junior Jadan Blue, who received a sensational pull block from right guard Vincent Picozzi (R-Jr.) en route to an eight-yard receiving touchdown to conclude Temple’s first offensive possession. Temple’s offensive line paved openings for Davis and Gardner, plus they kept Russo upright in the passing game.

Blue was seldom used last season, with just three catches for 39 yards, but the 6’0″, 185-pound wideout ran a pivot route for a 37-yard gain on his longest reception of the day and showcased his quickness. He recorded a team-high 10 catches for 117 yards and looked like a potential weapon in space that Russo can rely upon.

Redshirt junior Branden Mack led the Owls in receiving last season and didn’t miss a beat in Temple’s opener. He leveraged his massive 6’5″ frame against Bucknell’s secondary and was a focal point today. Mack’s versatility and size screams WR1 in Temple’s offense moving forward. He paced the Owls with 130 receiving yards on nine receptions and should be a problem against AAC corners in his junior season.

Russo completed 27 passes between Blue, Mack, and senior Isaiah Wright, who hauled in eight catches for 61 yards and one receiving touchdown. Russo had a blemish when Gavin Pringle jumped a route for a pick-six and missed some opportunities for touchdowns on throws, but he really shined with his intermediate game today. The redshirt junior quarterback finished 32-of-41 with 409 passing yards and four touchdowns to one interception.

Russo’s availability for Saturday’s opener was in question prior to Wednesday’s practice due to a calf injury, but Russo was healthy to start and eviscerated Bucknell’s defense through the air. Even Todd Centeio joined the passing touchdown club when he located an open Travon Williams, who darted for an 89-yard touchdown. Temple amassed a staggering 695 total yards of offense.

Getting Defensive

On the defensive end, redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Ifeanyi Maijeh was a play wrecker in the inside on the Owls’ defensive line, and he finished with five tackles (two tackles for loss). He tallied a sack and played stout run defense. Temple held Bucknell to just 21 yards rushing, and the Bison never established the ground game to keep the Owls pressured.

Bucknell cycled through quarterbacks while Temple didn’t allow Bucknell’s receivers to damage them in the vertical game. Temple allowed just 190 yards passing while Bucknell’s quarterbacks were 20-for-42 on passes.

Senior linebacker Shaun Bradley came up with two tackles while also doubling as a running back in the first half. The dynamic Bradley should be a defensive presence all season, along with the quick senior linebacker Sam Franklin, who had three tackles.

Redshirt sophomore kicker Will Mobley went a perfect 8-for-8 on extra points.

Temple (1-0) will face a dynamic offense when Maryland (1-0) travels to Lincoln Financial Field on September 14 at 12:00 p.m.