PHILADELPHIA – It was a moment long awaited by Rutgers fans. At some point, the undefeated Scarlet Knights had to come back down to earth with the type of heart-breaking loss for which they are known.
Not this time.
Instead of caving when down 10 at the half like past devastating losses, Rutgers opened the floodgates for 21 third-quarter points and a 35-10 victory over Temple.
“I think in the second half, we were able to execute offensively,” said head coach Kyle Flood. “I don’t think it was any more than that. I wish I could tell you that there was a magical halftime speech that you give to a team. The message was very simple and very clear. … We need to execute.”
Many veterans had words in the locker room at halftime, but the message was the same – this isn’t us.
“I didn’t really have to say much,” said senior linebacker Khaseem Greene. “… Everybody just stepped up and we knew what time it was.”
Rutgers (7-0, 4-0) took Temple’s best shot on the chin, but emerged with the best quarter of the season, and, most important, now have a two-win lead in the Big East standings.
Dead to rights in the first half, it only took two minutes in the third quarter for Rutgers to win the momentum swing.
Wide receiver Tim Wright inspired hope with a 32-yard touchdown catch to cut the lead, before Jamison quckly followed suit with 32-yard touchdown reception of his own.
Rutgers separated entirely at the end if the quarter when senior Mark Harrison reeled in quarterback Gary Nova’s third touchdown pass of the game.
“There’s no point when you get worried and there’s so much time on the clock,” Harrison said. “… We just went out at halftime, got our stuff together and went out there and executed.”
Nova regressed in terms of ball security, losing a fumble and throwing an interceptions, but finished with a greatly improved second half. The sophomore finished with four touchdowns and 232 passing yards.
Temple (3-3, 2-1) outmatched Rutgers’ energy in the first half, but left its edge in the locker room for the second half. The Owls looked much more like the worst defense in the conference in the second half.
Rutgers totaled 261 second-half yards and threw for four touchdowns.
The Scarlet Knights also rebounded as a defense with a series of adjustments. It was a bad start against Chris Coyer and the Temple option attack. But after surrendering 69 rushing yards in the first quarter, Temple recorded just 76 yards the rest of the game.
Cornerback Logan Ryan intercepted a pass, playing 15 miles from his hometown, but Greene stole the show with a fumble return for a touchdown.
“In [bad losses], we were playing to not lose instead of playing to win and that’s where it really gets you,” said senior linebacker Steve Beauharnais. “You kind of just play cautious. … You have to play on the edge every time because this is the Big East.”