football Edit

Defense steps up and delivers Rutgers a win at Temple

The Rutgers football team did just enough to squeak past Temple, 16-14, on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Rutgers is 3-0 for the second straight season, and it won against Temple thanks to a superb effort defensively.

“On a day when you’re not throwing your good fastball, you have to be good enough to find a way to win. That’s what we did,” Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano said. “Defensively we made some huge stops. Offensively we did what we had to do at the end. Can’t get too worked up about one way or another. These guys will get better. I’m proud of our guys. …It wasn’t pretty, but we found a way.”


Rutgers made three key fourth-down stops in the contest -- one in the second quarter, one in the third quarter, both running plays, and another with time winding down in the fourth. Temple was driving late in the game and got down to its own 41-yard line when the Scarlet Knights put pressure on Owls quarterback EJ Warner and forced an incomplete pass over the middle.


Down 7-3 in the first quarter, Shaquan Loyal, a sophomore defensive back, intercepted a pass and returned it into the end zone for a pick-six.

“We had three fourth-down stops and a pick-six that really ignited our team,” Schiano said. “We worked very hard in practice and thought they were focused. Temple had some nice double-moves that they dropped, and if not they were likely touchdowns. There’s plenty of stuff to work on.”

Loyal came on a blitz on the right side from the perspective of the offense, jumped and tipped a pass that Warner threw, and caught the ball in the air and returned it 43 yards to the house to put Rutgers ahead 10-7.

“The QB was staring me down. I saw his eyes get very big so I knew he was going to throw,” Loyal said. “I got my hands up and made the play. I deflected it and made the play happen. It felt great. I saw the crowd and everything. It was great.”

“That was perfect,” fellow cornerback Max Melton said of Loyal’s play. “I was about 30 yards the other way. I saw the ball up in the air. I didn’t know he tipped it. He grabbed it and took it to the crib. We expect a lot out of Shaquan.”

Warner, who was making his first career start, threw for 215 yards, but he completed just 19-of-32 passes. Rutgers had seven pass breakups led by Melton’s two. Christian Izien, Deion Jennings, Avery Young, Tyreem Powell, and Robert Longerbeam, who always had a pick-six himself on the first play from scrimmage, all deflected away passes too.

Melton also made four tackles including three solo. He stayed down in the second half, but told TKR after the game he is OK. He came back and finished the game with no apparent pain.

“It really all came together. We work as a machine” Melton said. “All the guys were on the same page. That made us had a great outcome.”

Schiano challenged Melton this week saying he can play better than he did the first two games. Melton did just that with easily his best game of the year so far.

“It was great. I really bought in this week and chopped every play,”Melton said. “I just stayed in the moment and that helped.”

The defense has been stout all season long, and Melton doesn’t see that stopping any time soon.

“I’m impressed, but I can’t say I’m surprised,” he said. “Ever since coach (Joe) Harasymiak came we all bought into him all spring, all summer workouts, and all camp. I’m impressed, but not surprised.”

Another defender who stepped up in a big way was defensive end Aaron Lewis. Lewis tallied a career-high 11 tackles (five solo) with two tackles for loss and a forced fumble.

“I didn’t want to let the man down next to me,” Lewis told TKR. “It was a great vibe out there. I saw all the fans. I just wanted to give 110% and that’s what I did. It was a productive day.

Lewis said he and the defense were ready for what Temple might call on the fourth down plays that the Scarlet Knights stuffed.

“One thing we talk about a lot is preparation,” Lewis said. “We feel like we knew what they might do. When it comes to the time whether it’s fourth down or a two-minute drill, we’re prepared and confident. It’s big for us to make those stops.”

Hailing from less than a half hour away in Williamstown, N.J., Lewis had a bunch of family and friends to see his big day.

“I had a pretty big turn out from South Jersey,” Lewis said. “We’re always going to represent.”

The defense stepped up on a day the offense didn’t couldn’t move the ball very much. Had Rutgers not played as well as it did on that side of the ball, the Scarlet Knights likely don’t win the game.

“We have a defense that works well together,” Lewis said. “We have great chemistry. When (stuff) hits the fan, I feel like the defense likes to step up. We just want to keep building. We didn't play our best though.”

It wasn’t perfect, the team will never be in the eyes of the coaches, but Temple did have opportunities where receivers got open on double moves. The defense features a slew of underclassmen, and they’ll learn as the season goes along and they get more reps.

Rutgers has its first Big Ten game of the year next week at 7:00 p.m. at home versus Iowa.

“We had some missed opportunities. Games take on their own personality. We had some young guys make mistakes. We’re going to get better. No matter how many times your mom tells you not to touch the stove you touch the stove. Do we all have to touch the stove or can we learn from each other? You make the mistakes and you learn. That’s why experience accounts for something.”

Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisNalwasky.


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