TEMPLE — He couldn’t pronounce it, but like his Knights, Mike Mullins let his legs do the talking for him.
Celebrating in the visiting locker room, the Harker Heights head coach showed off his best “Gangnam Style” moves after the Knights stormed into Wildcat Stadium and stunned Temple 42-7 on a brisk Friday night.
“I had to be careful not to pull a hamstring,” said the 52-year-old Mullins.
It was the Knights’ third straight victory and it gave them sole possession of second place in District 8-5A at 4-1 after starting the season with three consecutive losses in nondistrict matchups.
In a game pitting the Wildcats’ top-rated offense in District 8-5A against Heights’ No. 1 defense, the Knights’ (4-4) won the night, forcing Temple into seven turnovers — three lost fumbles, three turnover-on-downs and an interception.
“We’re not no punks,” Heights senior cornerback Milik Calip said. “We thought that if we came out and stopped them it would show everybody that we are the No. 1 defense. … We’re going to play hard every play and come and hit ’em in the mouth.”
And hit Temple (5-3, 3-2) they did, on both sides of the ball, rushing for a season-high 347 yards behind a career-best 183 from junior tailback Marcus Anderson II and three touchdown runs from fullback Tyler Brown.
“We just kept playing hard and running hard and (refused to) let up,” Anderson said.
Anderson, who missed the first six weeks of the season recovering from a broken left leg, made his second start and helped the once-beleaguered Knights offense move the ball with authority.
Choosing to take the ball first after winning the coin toss, Heights drove down the field on a 12-play series, capped by a 38-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Troy Smith to Terance Goodwin on third-and-17. The score ended an 81-yard drive that ate up 5:48 off the game clock before Temple got the ball.
“I wanted the ball quickly, I thought we could move it on them,” Mullins said. “Marcus ran hard, we blocked well and Terance made a great adjustment to catch a pass after we moved him out to wideout and it worked out for us.”
Averaging more than 555 yards of total offense per game so far this season, the Wildcats offense was limited to 304 yards as senior linebacker Naashon Hughes spent much of the night hunting the Temple quarterbacks. The pressure worked as Syracuse-committed Zach Allen fumbled twice before leaving the game on two separate occasions and sophomore backup Chad President was knocked out of the game at the end of the third quarter.
“They’re a big-play offense, so we took away the big plays,” Calip said.
The first turnover ended Temple’s first series as Hughes tackled Allen on a scramble and sophomore defensive tackle Justin Tillis fell on it at the Wildcats 35.
A Knights fumble three plays later would negate a first-and-goal opportunity, but Heights’ defense held on fourth-and-7 to end a 15-play second series for Temple.
Smith broke free for 31 yards on the next play, and Anderson split the Wildcats defense up the middle for a 41-yard touchdown to put Heights ahead 14-0 with 8:19 left in the second quarter.
The Knights offense barely had time to catch its breath, though, as Hughes forced another Allen fumble four plays later and Calip was there to jump on it at midfield.
“Naashon came out and he made a big play on the run ... and I jumped on top of it before anybody could get to it,” Calip said.
Brown punched it in from 9 yards out five plays later to go up 21-0 with 5:25 remaining in the first half.
The second half started much the same as Heights forced a three-and-out on Temple’s first series of the third quarter before Anderson found another crease up the center of the Wildcats’ defense for a 48-yard touchdown run two plays later.
An interception by Tyrel Stokes on the next Temple offensive play led to a 35-0 Knights lead following Brown’s second score with 7:51 left in the third.
“After a couple of losses we started putting the pieces together and then we just started clicking and rolling,” Calip said.
Contact Alex Byington at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7566