By Matt Sugam
PHILADELPHIA – Kyle Flood walked into Rutgers’ locker room with his team down 10-0 on the road and gave a halftime talk with a simple message. Not one of those halftime speeches out of the movies. Still, the impact was made.
“He just said that every great team has a moment like that and a moment where they need to respond and a moment where they need to show why they were great,” cornerback Logan Ryan said. “And that was our moment and I think that we did a great job responding.”
With 35 unanswered points, stifling defense and solid special teams that included a partially blocked punt.
The defense gave up just 49 yards after giving up 142 in the first half. Gary Nova went 12 of 15 and threw four touchdowns after going 5 of 12 in the first half. 73 of Jawan Jamison’s 114 rushing yards came in the second half.
The reason for the Jekyll and Hyde wasn’t complicated. It was just execution, or lack thereof in the first half. And there was no bigger culprit than offense, which was inept, converting just one first down.
“The message was very simple and very clear from every coach on the staff,” Flood said. “That we need to execute better.”
And they did. Especially on offense.
It started with a Tim Wright touchdown down the left sideline after Gary Nova pump faked to his right. It was the play that sparked No. 15 Rutgers (7-0, 4-0 Big East) en route to their 35-10 win over Temple (3-3, 2-1 Big East).
While anyone watching the game would be surprised by the tale of two halves, Rutgers wasn’t. There was no worry or panic when they regrouped after the first 30 minutes.
“Just everybody take a deep breath, calm down, we’re fine,” linebacker Khaseem Greene said of the vibe in the locker room at halftime. “We’re going to win this game.”
It was a confidence that came from being in similar situations before. It was a familiar scenario four weeks ago down in Fayetteville, where Rutgers would rally from a 10 point first quarter deficit to beat Arkansas.
“We’ve been in this situation before,” safety Duron Harmon said. “And we knew exactly what we had to do to go back out there and get the win.”
Which was simply to execute better. Which they did. And play 60 minutes of football. Which they did.
“We took some punches, we threw some punches and we know that it’s not one punch that’s going to win a game,” Ryan said. “You have to keep on swinging and play four quarters.”