Three reasons Rutgers football blew out Temple: Defense, Kyle Monangai lead the way
PISCATAWAY – There was no doubt this time around.
Rutgers football barely escaped Lincoln Financial Field last season with a narrow, two-point victory over Temple, a game that coach Greg Schiano said earlier this week his team probably should’ve lost.
The Scarlet Knights scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter while their defense turned in another strong showing in a 36-7 win over the Owls before a crowd of 45,317 at SHI Stadium Saturday night.
Rutgers improved to 2-0 with the victory.
Rutgers answered back after Temple's lone touchdown in the fourth quarter with 23 unanswered points to put the game away.
"I feel like there were several times in the first half that we could have blown the game wide open and for whatever reasons, it didn't happen," Schiano said. "Then we hit some as adversity, and I thought that's an improvement, that things could have gotten away. It could have slid down and really been a nail-biter, and instead they said, 'No, this is what's going to happen.' Took the ball away twice."
Quarterback Gavin Wimsatt finished 10-of-21 passing for 198 yards with one touchdown, a 33-yard pass to Ja’shon Benjamin on a wheel route in the first quarter. He also delivered a perfect 61-yard pass to JaQuae Jackson in the second quarter.
"The one ball he threw to JaQuae Jackson was beautiful," Schiano said.
Wimsatt ran for 24 yards on eight carries, including a 17-yard gain on third-and-3 from the 50 to set up his TD throw to Benjamin.
Scarlet Knights running back Kyle Monangai ran for a career-high 165 yards on 28 carries (5.9 yards per carry) to power the ground attack. It was part of a 254-yard rushing performance for Rutgers.
Here are three reasons Rutgers beat Temple:
Defense stands tall most of the night
Rutgers’ defense continued its strong start to the season with a solid showing against Temple, and perhaps no sequence reflected than the one that took place midway through the third quarter.
Temple had its best drive of the game going and got to the Rutgers 25 when E.J. Warner delivered a 21-yard pass to the right sideline for Zae Baines.
On third-and-goal from the 2, Rutgers safety Flip Dixon took Quincy Patterson, who took the direct snap, down for a one-yard loss.
The Owls went for it on fourth down, but Dixon again came through, breaking up a pass in the end zone for a turnover on downs.
"It felt good," Dixon said. "The environment, all of that felt good, celebrating with my teammates. It was a college football environment. It felt really good."
It was two of several big defensive plays the Scarlet Knights made. Safety Desmond Igbinosun sacked Warner for a loss of 15 yards when Temple had second-and-22 from the Rutgers 33 late in the second quarter, killing the drive.
Then on the first play of a Temple drive in the fourth quarter, Shaquan Loyal, who had a pick six against Temple last season, intercepted a Warner pass at the Temple 47 and returned it to the 10, helping set up a field goal by Jai Patel to essentially put the game away.
"It's always great when a defense can help like that," Wimsatt said. "They're a big help, huge help. It's just nice to see those guys play and get those turnovers."
The defense did allow a touchdown in the fourth quarter – Warner hit Dante Wright for a nine-yard score that cut Temple’s deficit to six points – but it was a rare moment of vulnerability.
Temple finished with just 63 rushing yards and 277 total yards of offense.
The Scarlet Knights’ offense has shown progress, but Joe Harasymiak’s unit is what’s going to keep them in games.
"I think they are playing well," Schiano said. "I think there's still a lot more that they can do. I think they are just scratching the surface, but I think they are playing well. I think they have a great bond. I think the defensive staff has a great bond. I think the defensive players have a great bond with the staff and with each other. It's neat to watch."
Monangai’s most important yards came in early in the fourth quarter after Temple’s touchdown.
"I thought we responded very well," Monangai said. "We've been through adversity here. If anybody knows it, we do. I was really happy with the way we responded, there was no doubt in anybody's mind. You could see on the sideline, the energy was still there. We were focused on winning that game. There was no shadow of a doubt we were going to go do it."
Rutgers put together a 75-yard scoring drive with Monangai rushing for 57 of them. The Don Bosco product capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown run that put Rutgers up 19-7 (the Scarlet Knights went for two points but couldn’t convert).
The Scarlet Knights’ offense made some big plays, but it was Monangai who powered Rutgers when it needed it most.
"Just needed a spark," Monangai said. "We knew we were going to run the ball. I've got to give kudos to the guys up front, they were able to move those guys for that long drive. It gets tiring being out there running the ball every play, and they were able to make those guys move. They started to wear them out, and just reading my keys, trying to find an open hole, trying to make an explosive play."
The second-year kicker nailed field goals of 51, 43 yards and 23 in the first half to help give Rutgers a 13-0 lead at halftime.
The 43-yard kick came after Wimsatt's deep pass to Jackson on second-and-20 from the Rutgers 9 for a 61-yard gain. Rutgers couldn’t fully capitalize on it with a touchdown, but Patel got the Scarlet Knights three points.
Schiano during training camp named Patel the starter over Jude McAtamney, and the South Brunswick product delivered Saturday night.
"He won the job in the spring," Schiano said. "He was very consistent in the spring and then in the summer just continued to do that."