P.J. Walker threw two touchdown passes and ran for a third score as Temple forced seven turnovers to upset Vanderbilt 37-7 in a lightning-delayed game that ended Friday at 1:14 a.m. Central time.
Temple earned its first win over a Southeastern Conference team since beating Florida in 1938. The Owls spoiled the head coaching debut of Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason, the former Stanford defensive coordinator hired after James Franklin left for Penn State.
Temple had 13 takeaways all of last season while going 2-10, but the Owls continually forced Vanderbilt into miscues. All but 10 of Temple’s points came off turnovers. Temple picked off three passes to match its interception total from a year ago.
That included a game-changing play in the final minute of the first half. Vanderbilt trailed 14-7 and was seeking a game-tying touchdown when Avery Ellis sacked Stephen Rivers and forced a fumble that Averee Robinson returned 55 yards for a Temple touchdown.
The night couldn’t have gone much worse for Vanderbilt, which was trying to maintain the momentum it established during Franklin’s three-year tenure. Franklin went 9-4 and led Vanderbilt to a Top 25 finish each of his last two seasons and also brought a new attitude with his brash personality.
That spark was missing against Temple as the Commodores made mistake after mistake. The oddities started long before the opening kickoff.
Repeated lightning strikes prevented the game from starting until 9:52 p.m. Central time. Fans couldn’t enter the stadium and the teams didn’t start warming up until 35 minutes before the opening kickoff. The long wait occurred while an NFL game between the Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings just 2 miles away went on without delays.
Vanderbilt introduced new uniforms that almost resulted in a loss of timeouts. The Commodores had their team slogan, "Anchor Down" written on the back of their jerseys, where a player’s name usually appears. Early in the second quarter, officials said the presence of the slogan made the jerseys impermissible and that Vanderbilt would be charged a timeout each quarter they were worn. Later that quarter, the officials said Vanderbilt wouldn’t be penalized at all. Vanderbilt athletic department spokesman Larry Leathers said the jerseys were approved by the Southeastern Conference.
The Commodores were doing themselves enough damage no matter what they wore.
Mason used three different quarterbacks — Patton Robinette, Rivers and Johnny McCrary — in an attempt to spark his struggling offense. Vanderbilt’s offense didn’t produce any points all night long.
Vanderbilt’s touchdown came in the second quarter when Temple punter Alex Starzyk couldn’t handle a snap and Oren Burks pounced on the loose ball in the end zone. That score briefly tied the game at 7.
While Vanderbilt could do nothing right, Temple couldn’t do much wrong.
Walker found Brandon Shippen for a 35-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-5 play to open the scoring. Temple converted on fourth-and-8 in its second touchdown drive.
Temple’s helmets included patches that said "Lew" to honor longtime Board of Trustees member Lewis Katz, who died May 31 in a plane crash.