PHILADELPHIA — Shaquan Loyal’s 43-yard interception return for a touchdown was the turning point of the game as Rutgers improved to 3-0 with a 16-14 victory over Temple on Saturday and made Greg Schiano the winningest coach in program 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.”
The score by the sophomore defensive back was the only touchdown for the Scarlet Knights, who floundered offensively with just 201 total yards.
“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,” Schiano said. “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 Rutgers defense held on and survived a late scare from the Owls whose comeback attempt ended when freshman quarterback E.J. Warner — the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Kurt Warner — was rushed into an incomplete pass by the Scarlet Knights on a fourth-and-3 from the Temple 41 with 2:30 to play.
Trailing 7-3 midway through the second quarter, Loyal came 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.”
Jude McAtamney hit field goals of 45, 25 and 38 yards for the Scarlet Knights, who are now 3-0 for the second straight year.
“On a day when you are not throwing your fastball, you have to find a way to win,” Schiano said. “
Warner was 19-for-32 for 215 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Smith that brought the Owls (1-2) back within two points early in the fourth quarter.
“Obviously, there are things that we can do better to get a different result,” Temple’s first year coach Stan Drayton said. “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.”
The Scarlet Knights quarterback situation continues to cry out for Noah Vedral’s return from an undisclosed injury.
Vedral — a sixth-year starter who was injured during spring camp — took snaps this week in practice. Without Vedral and with a rotation of Evan Simon and Gavin Wimsatt, the passing game was limited to just 59 yards on 17 attempts.
Wimsatt left with an undisclosed injury later in the game and Vedral is questionable for next week. “We’re not going to risk someone for just one week,” Schiano said. “It’s a doctor’s decision.”