Temple by the numbers, part 1: Owls not the same champions as last year
After a sobering loss against Texas Tech on Saturday, the Cougars are back to the drawing board. Houston turned over the ball four times, making Saturday Kyle Allen’s second game with two interceptions this season, leading head coach Major Applewhite to bring in backup QB Kyle Postma.
The Cougars’ next opponent, the Temple Owls, have turmoil of their own at the signal-caller position. Here are some interesting things about the Owls to keep in mind before game time.
Uncertainty at QB
Temple’s starting QB last season, P.J. Walker, was a middle-of-the-road passer and an unwilling runner. Nevertheless, the 5-foot-11-inch senior played virtually every snap in 2016, providing stability and continuity for the Owls offense.
This year’s starter, Logan Marchi, hadn’t seen much college action prior to 2017, and it shows.
The inexperienced sophomore has completed 53.8 percent of his passes for five scores and three interceptions, while not posing a running threat, either.
To be fair to the Bristol native, his stats are skewed by the nightmare outing against the South Florida defense, which leads the nation in pass takeaways and is second in rushing yards allowed.
After Marchi completed an abysmal 23 percent of his passes and threw three picks on just 13 throws, backup QB Frank Nutile was summoned from the bench. The 6-foot-4-inch junior didn’t do much better, completing just 39 percent of his passes and throwing an interception of his own. The mist of uncertainty remains over the Owls’ signal-caller position.
Veteran wide receiver corps
Returning for the Temple offense are most of their weapons at wide receiver: seniors Adonis Jennings and Keith Kirkwood, and junior Ventell Bryant, all standing at 6-feet-3-inches tall. The trio combined for over 2,000 receiving yards and four scores each.
This year, Kirkwood leads the way with 12 catches for 185 yards and two touchdowns. Jennings is not far behind with 11 grabs for 179 yards and a score, while Bryant is yet to find the end zone in 2017.
Having played running back last season, Isaiah Wright is emerging as a prolific pass-catcher after making a switch to wide receiver. The 6-foot-2-inch sophomore already caught 10 passes for 194 yards and a touchdown this season, ranking among the top-40 wide receivers in the FBS with 19.4 yards per catch.
Spark in the running game is gone
Temple lost their primary ball-handler at the running back position from last year in Jahad Thomas. The 5-foot-10-inch senior was by far their best offensive weapon, accumulating 1,371 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns. Thomas was a top-50 back in rushing scores, while also placing at number two in touchdown receptions per game and averaging 12.7 yards per catch.
Returning from 2016 is the 5-foot-11-inch Ryquell Armstead. Having accumulated 919 rushing yards for 14 scores last season, the junior is off to a rocky start in 2017. Armstead averages an underwhelming 3.1 yards per rush and is yet to find the end zone, albeit getting 59 touches as the primary ball carrier.
It is the whole Temple backfield — not just Armsetad — that struggles in the aftermath of Jahad Thomas’ departure. Their grand total of 281 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown over four games places the Owls’ running game among the nation’s worst.
Defense suffers losses
It is safe to say that the biggest factor that propelled Temple to their 10-4 record last year was their stout defensive unit, spearheaded by the 6-foot-1-inch Haason Reddick. Senior linebacker wreaked havoc on opposing offenses with 22.5 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks, alongside three forced fumbles, three pass breakups and a pick.
Other senior difference-makers in 2016 were linebackers Avery Williams and Praise Martin-Oguike. The duo combined for 120 tackles, 9.5 sacks and five forced fumbles.
With the aforementioned trio graduating, 5-foot-11-inch Delvon Randall, 6-foot-4-inch freshman Quincy Roche and 6-foot-5-inch senior Sharif Finch are trying to pick up the torch.
Junior defensive back Randall is coming off a four interception season, having delivered 65 tackles and five pass breakups in the process. Randall already has 35 total tackles in 2017, with three of those for loss, and a sack.
The upcoming Saturday game at Temple will feature two teams still searching for their identities on offense, with both having to juggle quarterbacks in the last game. Meanwhile, Houston possesses way more defensive prowess compared to Temple’s 2017 unit, which suffered multiple losses from last year.
The game being at Temple evens out the chances in a contest that will come down to which offense executes and takes care of the ball better.