In the beginning of the week, as Temple began its preparations for Friday’s game against UMass, Quincy Roche had an inkling this was his chance to break out. That after watching Haason Reddick and Praise Martin-Oguike torture quarterbacks last season, he was ready to introduce himself as the next potential great Temple pass rusher.
Roche didn’t keep quiet, either, about his intentions. As the redshirt freshman became more acclimated, he assured junior safety Delvon Randall that this was his week.
“He told me that they weren’t going to be able to block him,” Randall said, “and he came out and proved it. … He came out, he was balling. He was a different breed today.”
On Friday night, Roche announced his presence to the Minutemen with a commanding performance as the Owls escaped Lincoln Financial Field with a sometimes sloppy 29-21 win (see observations). It was Temple’s second straight win and second of the Geoff Collins era.
Roche didn’t waste any time tormenting UMass quarterback Andrew Ford. He sacked Ford twice and recorded three tackles for loss in the first quarter. That alone was impressive, but the night had just started for the Randallstown, Maryland, native.
After the Owls regained the lead at 10-7 with 1:04 remaining in the second quarter, Roche blew up the UMass offensive line, strip-sacked Ford and then recovered his own fumble. That turnover sprung the Owls to another quick touchdown before halftime.
When Roche went into the locker room at halftime, he had three sacks and four tackles for loss but no single play had a bigger impact on the outcome than the forced fumble.
“That was huge for us,” Collins said of Roche’s strip-sack. “That sparked the offense right before the first half [ended] and gave us some life going into halftime.”
With his three sacks Friday, Roche became the first Temple player since Tyler Matakevich against Cincinnati in 2015 to have a three-sack game. He finished with eight tackles and four tackles for loss, one shy of the American Athletic Conference record.
Collins described Roche as a “dynamic pass rusher,” and believes Roche is developing into an every-down player. While the sacks will put Roche on the map, it was the defensive end’s play on first and second down, Collins said, that impressed him most.
One play, in particular, stood out to Collins, when Roche broke up a UMass jet sweep, which the first-year head coach said was just as big of a play as the strip-sack.
Temple prepared for UMass to throw, Roche said, and the Minutemen did. Ford tossed 37 passes against the Temple secondary, which allowed 382 yards to Villanova last week, and came away with 377 yards, but the Owls’ pressure proved too much.
While Roche led the charge, the Owls sacked Ford nine times. Sharif Finch and Sam Franklin each had two, while Jacob Martin and Isaiah Graham-Mobley each had one.
“Quincy is a tremendous player but that performance today,” Temple cornerback Mike Jones said, “it shocked me. He makes a lot of plays in practice, but that was a big-time stage for him and for him to make all those players, that was tremendous.
“It helped us a lot. But I think the D-backs, the secondary, we were holding onto our coverages. We were both helping each other out.”
The Owls introduced a few new wrinkles into the offensive game plan, as true freshman Todd Centeio saw his first collegiate action on the first drive of the second quarter. Centeio replaced redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi, who made his third start and injected life into an offense that had another slow start.
Centeio completed two passes for 20 yards and picked up a first down, but as the Owls reached the red zone, Marchi came back in. Temple failed to convert on a 3rd-and-3, and then had a 43-yard field goal attempt blocked. Collins said they had a specific package for Centeio, but they exhausted it by the time they reached the red zone.
“We knew all along that Toddy was going to get in this week,” Collins said, “and we were prepping him and we finally felt he was game-ready and he provided a spark.”
Marchi had a stagnant start against UMass, but he eventually settled in. He heated up in the second quarter and finished the first half on a high note. He hit Adonis Jennings for a 30-yard touchdown with a well-placed ball after rolling out right, and then an 11-yarder to Keith Kirkwood with 10 seconds left in the half. He finished the game 22 of 37 for 248 yards and three touchdowns. Marchi has yet to throw an interception, and through three games, Temple’s offense, which has looked inept at times, has just one fumble lost.
With Marchi, Temple began to showcase his athleticism more than it did in the first two games. The Owls ran several options with Marchi under center and he ran the ball seven times for 13 yards. While the options didn't hit paydirt, it wasn't something the Owls previously showed.
“We talked about all week using the quarterback run game a little bit more,” Collins said, “because Logan is ridiculously athletic. We want to make sure we use those things, use that package, use that skill set. He made some really nice plays on the run.”
Temple has another short week ahead, but perhaps its stiffest challenge of the season lies ahead Thursday night in Tampa against conference favorite, No. 22 South Florida, which has scored at least 30 points in its last 20 games, the longest streak in the nation.
The nine-sack performance against UMass was a result of Temple being able to rotate, Collins said, and going forward, it’ll be key as the Owls enter conference play.
“We have to continue that going forward,” Collins said, “especially as we get in our league with the dynamic offenses that we are going to have to face each week.
"Especially the one coming up here on Thursday night on ESPN. We have to be ready to rotate those guys and keep them fresh.”