By KEVIN COONEY
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Benny Walls didn’t take time to look at his former head coach as he raced down the Georgia Tech sideline. Instead, the Temple senior safety saw something that was far more attractive.
“All I saw was grass in front of me then,” Walls said. “And it had been a long time since I had scored.”
Walls provided the signature moment — a 74-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half — as the Temple defense forced three turnovers during a 24-2 victory over Georgia Tech on Saturday.
Temple (3-1) spoiled the return of former head coach Geoff Collins, who posted a 15-10 record over two years as Owls coach before agreeing to take the head coaching job at Georgia Tech in December 2018. Collins was replaced by former Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey, who is 3-1 in his first four games at Temple.
“Obviously, the loss hurts really bad and you multiply by how personal it was,” Collins said. “But it was good to hear them come up after the game and talk about how we impacted their lives. And they certainly made a big impact on our lives as well.”
Temple’s defense had a huge impact in critical moments. All three turnovers came when Georgia Tech was driving for scores inside the Temple 35.
“When the defense goes out and pitches a shutout, you really don’t have to say any more than that,” Carey said.
They forced two fumbles by Yellow Jackets quarterback Tobias Oliver. One came in the second quarter at the goal line when linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley tapped the ball out of Oliver’s hands just as he was ready to score. The other was the third quarter opening drive when Ifeanyi Maijeh’s strip of Oliver bounced up into the hands of Walls, who ran untouched the rest of the way for the score.
“Defense wins championships,” Walls said. “Whenever you hold a team off the scoreboard, you know that you have a chance. And I think we’ve been able to show that we have a really good defense.”
“They have a great defense and they were able to be effective in the red zone,” Collins said.
The Owls also generated 198 yards on the ground thanks in large part to Re’Mahn Davis, who had 29 carries for 135 yards and two touchdowns.
“The offensive line was able to execute all game like they did during the week,” Davis said. “When they are able to do what they can do, I know that I’m going to have a successful day.”
Georgia Tech (1-3) got its only score on a third quarter safety on a tackle of Davis following a 1-yard loss in the end zone.
Georgia Tech: Three different Georgia Tech quarterbacks have seen action this year for Collins and all three have struggled. On Saturday, Oliver and Graham both saw action at the position with an injury keeping Lucas Johnson from his starting spot. Oliver rushed for 68 yards, but his two fumbles proved costly. Graham’s interception late in the fourth would prove to end the final hope for a comeback.
Temple: Davis has already established himself as the best threat for the Temple offensive attack. Teamed with Jager Gardner, Davis is averaging 5.6 yards per carry and 350 yards through the Owls first four games of the season.
The win on Saturday gave Temple its first pair of nonconference victories against power five teams since the Owls joined the Big East Conference for football in 1991. Temple defeated Maryland 20-17 on Sept. 14 at Lincoln Financial Field. The Owls are now 3-2 over the power five in the last two seasons, including a win over Maryland and a loss to Boston College last year.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets head back into the ACC next Saturday for the first time since their opening night loss to Clemson when they host North Carolina — fresh off a scare of No. 1 Clemson Saturday. Georgia Tech has won the last two meetings between the schools, including a 38-28 victory in Chapel Hill last season.
Temple: The Owls have a short week before traveling to East Carolina on Thursday night for their American Athletic Conference opener. Temple defeated the Pirates 49-6 in 2018 and has won the last five contests in the series.