Temple upsets mistake-prone Vanderbilt 37-7
Updated: Friday, August 29 2014, 12:41 PM CDT
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Temple showed how much it's changed since last year.
In the process, the Owls also exposed how different things are for Vanderbilt in the post-James Franklin era.
P.J. Walker threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third score as Temple forced seven turnovers to upset Vanderbilt 37-7 in a lightning-delayed game that ended Friday at 1:14 a.m. Central time.
Temple earned its first win over a Southeastern Conference team since beating Florida in 1938. The Owls spoiled the head coaching debut of Vanderbilt's Derek Mason, the former Stanford defensive coordinator hired after Franklin left for Penn State.
"They learned that if you prepare and put your heart and soul on the line and go out and play hard, good things will happen," Temple coach Matt Rhule said. "I'm really happy for them."
Vanderbilt's turnovers made the difference.
Temple had 13 takeaways all of last year while going 2-10, but the Owls continually forced Vanderbilt into mistakes in the season opener for both teams. The Owls also picked off three passes to match the Temple defense's 2013 interception total. All but 10 of Temple's 37 points came off turnovers.
That included a game-changing play in the final minute of the first half. Vanderbilt trailed 14-7 and was seeking a game-tying score when Avery Ellis sacked Stephen Rivers and forced a fumble that Averee Robinson returned 73 yards for a Temple touchdown.
"Our main thing coming into the game was to get turnovers," said Temple cornerback Tavon Young, who had two interceptions. "We knew they were an SEC team, they were smart, so we knew we'd have to make plays to win the game."
The night couldn't have gone much worse for Vanderbilt, which was trying to maintain the momentum it established during Franklin's three-year tenure.
Franklin went 9-4 and led Vanderbilt to a Top 25 finish each of his last two seasons and also brought a new attitude with his brash personality.
That spark was missing against Temple as the Commodores made mistake after mistake.
"I put it on my shoulders," Mason said. "Just not a very good job of executing tonight. Offensively, (we) just couldn't sustain any drives. Too many penalties. Just couldn't find rhythm."
The oddities in this game started long before the opening kickoff.
Repeated lightning strikes prevented the game from starting until 9:52 p.m. Central time. Fans couldn't enter the stadium and the teams didn't start warming up until 35 minutes before the opening kickoff. The long wait occurred while an NFL game between the Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings just 2 ½ miles away went on without delays.
"We were running to the store, buying food, coming back and feeding the guys," Rhule said. "I thought our team had a tremendous, tremendous attitude about it. They were like, 'Let's play whenever.'"
Vanderbilt introduced new uniforms that almost resulted in a loss of timeouts. The Commodores had their team slogan, "Anchor Down" written on the back of their jerseys, where a player's name usually appears. Early in the second quarter, officials said the presence of the slogan made the jerseys impermissible and that Vanderbilt would be charged a timeout each quarter they were worn. Later that quarter, the officials said Vanderbilt wouldn't be penalized at all. Vanderbilt athletic department spokesman Larry Leathers said the jerseys were approved by the Southeastern Conference.
The Commodores were doing themselves enough damage, no matter what they wore.
Mason used three different quarterbacks — Patton Robinette, Rivers and Johnny McCrary — in an attempt to spark his struggling offense. Vanderbilt's offense didn't produce any points all night long.
"We just didn't play well all the way around," Mason said. "When you look at it, I'm not going to excuse it away. We'll find a way to be better."
Vanderbilt's touchdown came in the second quarter when Temple's punter Alex Starzyk couldn't handle a snap and Oren Burks pounced on the loose ball in the end zone. That score briefly tied the game at 7.
While Vanderbilt could do nothing right, Temple couldn't do much wrong.
Walker found Brandon Shippen for a 35-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-5 play to open the scoring. Temple converted on fourth-and-8 in its second touchdown drive.
Temple's helmets included patches that said "Lew" to honor longtime Board of Trustees member Lewis Katz, who died May 31 in a plane crash.
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