Call it a growing pain that has been absorbed and is being analyzed.
Rutgers defeated Temple University 16-14 on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field. The victory ruined the Owls’ homecoming and soured the outing of first-year Temple head coach Stan Drayton.
“It’s something that we’ll remember,” said Drayton, whose Owls are now 1-2 this season. “I liked the way we went after them. I thought we did well there. Obviously, there are things that we can do better to get a different result but this is something we can build off of. No moral victories but there are a lot of great things that we can build off.”
Last year, the Scarlet Knights drilled the Owls 61-14. There wasn’t anything pretty from that contest. This season, the Owls were ahead briefly before Shaquan Loyal’s bold 43-yard interception return with 6:05 remaining the second quarter. Loyal’s score and Jude McAtamney’s PAT lifted Rutgers to a 10-7 advantage that would hold.
“I don’t know what happened on that play,” said Drayton. “It set us back for sure but it’s hard to talk about what went wrong on that play. “
Prior to that play, which occurred when Loyal got in front of an E.J. Warner pass attempt, the Owls were giving Rutgers everything that it could handle. Loyal came in on a corner blitz and tipped Warner’s pass into the air, grabbing it at the 43 and streaking untouched for the momentum shift.
“His eyes got really big and I knew that he was going to give me the liberty key,” Loyal said. “I put my hands up and made the play.”
Which decided the game.
“On a day when you are not throwing your fastball, you have to be good enough to find a way to win and that’s what we did today,” said Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano. “Defensively, we made some big stops. Offensively, we did what we had to do to end the game. Is it what we aspire to? No, but you can’t get worked up about one way or another way. We just have to keep working and getting better.”
The victory meant a lot to Schiano, who became the winningest coach in Rutgers’ history.
Schiano broke a tie for most wins with 79. He was tied with Frank Burns, who was the head coach from 1973 to 1983, including the undefeated 1976 team that was 11-0.
“We’re in the middle of building something special,” Schiano said. “I’m excited about those guys being a part of it with me. And I have the upmost respect for Coach Burns, who was a gentlemen, and I learned a lot from him for sure.”
Warner, the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, is a true freshman who has shown promise in the position.
“He understands the game and came in knowing our offense,” said Drayton. “He earned our trust early in fall camp.”
Warner was given the nod for his first career start after a strong showing in his first appearance against Lafayette. He completed 14 of 19 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns after relieving D’Wan Mathis in the second quarter.
Mathis, a Georgia transfer, and former Virginia Tech and North Dakota State quarterback, and Quincy Patterson had been considered the front-runners for the starting job in camp.
A 6-foot, 190-pounder, Warner has become a student in the film room. He constantly reviews film and analyzes report work on opponents.
“If you want to find him that’s where he’ll be, in the film room,” said wide receiver Adonicas Sanders. “He’s always in there working.”
That’s good because after Saturday’s game at the Linc against the University of Massachusetts, the Owls have a tough in-schedule meeting with some of the nation’s better teams.
If there is something the Owls can take away from its game with Rutgers is aggression. The Owls went for it a couple of times on fourth down. The moves showed how much confidence Drayton has in his team.
That’s good because they’ll be making a few more controversial fourth-down calls as the season lingers.