Forced fumbles by linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley (R-Jr.) and defensive tackle Ifeanyi Maijeh (R-So.), plus a career day from running back Re’Mahn Davis (Fr.), fueled Temple’s 24-2 victory over the visiting Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-3).
One could pinpoint Temple’s positive momentum turn when Graham-Mobley tackled the ball free from Georgia Tech quarterback Tobias Oliver’s (R-So.) grasp before the Yellow Jackets’ signal caller could cross the goal line early in the second quarter.
Graham-Mobley was covering in a zone on the other side of the field and grabbed Oliver on a sublime effort play. The redshirt junior finished with six tackles and two tackles for loss while linebacker Shaun Bradley (Sr.) paced the Owls with eight tackles. Graham-Mobley delved into the synergy he has with such a talented quartet of linebackers that includes Chapelle Russell (Grad.) and Sam Franklin (Sr.).
“It’s wonderful,” Graham-Mobley said. “We all work off of each other. Whenever Shaun and Pelle (Chapelle Russell) are in, I’m there right next to them getting ready, letting them know things I see that they may have not seen. We all work off each other, and it’s just one nice cohesive group.”
Another instance of incredible effort came in the third quarter. Maijeh stripped Oliver, after being pushed to the ground then having to recover and make a play, and safety Benny Walls (Sr.) scooped the ball then went 74 yards for a touchdown. Temple led 21-0 following that fumble, and their defense came up with timely stops to prevent the Yellow Jackets from cutting into the Owls’ lead.
After little experience last season, Maijeh has erupted in his sophomore campaign. He has 23 tackles and 2.5 sacks through four games. Walls was a ball hawk against the Yellow Jackets as he also picked off a pass in the end zone, in addition to his fumble recovery touchdown.
Walls felt that one particular aspect in practice applied to Saturday’s non-conference win for the 3-1 Owls. “Paying attention to detail,” Walls said. “We executed on defense throughout the game, the majority of the time. We always harp on running to the ball everyday in practice.”
Walls associated that mindset to what occurred on the recovery: running to the ball and the ball being in his lap.
Temple held Georgia Tech to 305 total yards and zero points generated from offensive drives. Georgia Tech head coach Geoff Collins, formerly Temple’s head coach last season, was without starting quarterback Lucas Johnson due to a shoulder injury. Johnson wasn’t lighting up teams with his arm (16-for-29 passing for 136 passing yards with one touchdown and one interception) or his legs (17 rushes for 42 yards) over the season, but Saturday required Oliver to heighten his role.
When Oliver was ineffective, redshirt freshman James Graham didn’t provide much support as the fill-in backup. Temple limited Oliver to 74 passing yards (4-for-11) and 68 rushing yards on 11 carries. Graham spelled Oliver and completed just 10 of his 24 passing attempts for 100 yards and a pick.
Georgia Tech running back Jordan Mason (R-So.) came into Saturday’s game with 249 rushing yards on 44 rushes, good for 5.7 yards per carry, and four rushing touchdowns. Temple held him to just eight rushing yards on five carries.
Georgia Tech also didn’t convert on the money down, going 2-for-16 (12.5 percent) on third-down conversions. For contextual purposes, Georgia Tech, on occasion, might’ve set themselves up for a more manageable fourth down with a run on third down. Georgia Tech went 2-of-4 on fourth down, but didn’t parlay those successful conversions into points.
Temple’s inability to remain on the field last week against Buffalo proved problematic, as they went 2-for-16 on third down, but their offense, conversely, was able to sustain drives. They converted seven third downs on 16 opportunities.
Temple scored twice on the ground in the second quarter, compliments of freshman running back Re’Mahn Davis. Davis started generating rhythm against the Yellow Jackets’ run defense, as Temple’s offensive line also played a part in the tailback’s success.
Carey mentioned the moment he spotted that rhythm evolving.
“I always gauge a running back’s rhythm by how we’re moving them up front, to be honest with you,” Carey said. “I saw the line of scrimmage move back, and I thought ‘we’re actually going to have a chance here’ because the line of scrimmage was moving. That was good to see.”
Davis has been a dynamo in the backfield for Temple and Saturday’s win marked his first career 100-yard rushing game. Davis ran for a career-high 135 yards and scored twice on the ground on 29 carries. Davis utilized his vision and ran through a perfectly paved hole, via left tackle Isaiah Moore’s (So.) and tight end David Martin-Robinson’s (R-Fr.) blocks, for a 18-yard touchdown on Temple’s first touchdown.
Davis bounced a run to the outside at the one-yard line, after congestion forced him to run north and south, and he found the end zone for his second score with 0:08 remaining in the second quarter. Davis was elated after his first 100-yard performance and also credited the five big guys up front for their efforts.
“It’s amazing,” Davis said. “I was hoping to get it at some point. Again, if it wasn’t for the O-line I would never have got it. Kudos to them. When I saw my phone and my dad texted me and said, ‘You know you got 100?’ It was exciting. My goal is to continue to have more and more success for getting 100 in games and our lineman to do what they do.”
Not a Perfect Performance
Between Davis and senior Jager Gardner, who had 18 rushes for 69 yards and complemented Davis, Temple was able to build two important second-quarter drives which led to touchdowns. Quarterback Anthony Russo (R-Jr.) started 4-of-14 passing but played a role in Temple’s two scoring drives. He finished just 9-for-22 passing and threw a bad interception as Temple neared the goal line in the first quarter. He finished with just 127 passing yards, as Temple chewed clock for the majority of the second half.
Russo finished 5-for-8 passing but looking at his performances over the past three weeks, there should be concern about his efficiency. He’s 54-for-110 (49.0 percent) passing over his last three games, throwing six touchdowns and five interceptions. He could’ve potentially had five interceptions in Temple’s loss to Buffalo and threw a pass into coverage for a pick on Saturday.
Temple’s defense has excelled through four games, but Russo is another major element towards Temple’s status as an AAC contender this season. He’ll only have five days until his next outing against East Carolina (3-2, 0-1) to pore over film and rebound. Jadan Blue (R-So.) led Temple with four receptions and 66 receiving yards.
Figuring Things Out
Special teams was anything but special over Temple’s prior two games, but they responded against Georgia Tech. Will Mobley made his lone field goal of the evening at 34 yards out, Temple didn’t have one botched snap and Jacob LaFree (Grad.) booted a touchback off a free kick at Temple’s 20-yard line.
Long snapper Ronald Gaines was pressed into duty against Buffalo, after Cole Lerch’s second botched snap in two weeks, and started for the first time this season on Saturday. Gaines started long snapping as a sophomore at famed Simeon Career Academy in Chicago, Illinois and wanted to start as the long snapper when he enrolled at Temple. He started at center for Simeon and his strong effort Saturday could have the 6’5″, 285-pound redshirt freshman fulfilling his goal as Temple’s LS.
One of Temple’s few major errors was a safety, as Davis took a handoff in the end zone after Georgia Tech punter Pressley Harvin III (Jr.) pinned Temple at their one-yard line and was tackled before crossing the goal line. LaFree kicked a rocket that bounced before entering the opposite end zone. Carey called it “big-time.” There was deliberation as to whether a Georgia Tech special teams player touched the ball, but it was ruled a touchback.
There wasn’t any deliberation as to what team dominated their adversary, as Temple heads into conference play.