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Saturday, December 4, 2021

Football

Temple by the numbers, part 2: Owls flightless on offense and defense


Owls

The Owls lost a lot of last year’s roster; they do not look like the same championship team. | File photo/The Cougar

Saturday’s game between UH and Temple will be an interesting one to say the least.

Not only are both looking for a conference win, but they are still desperately trying to find their teams’ identities. Despite their offensive woes, the Cougars have a solid defense that should be able to withstand the running attack of the Owls. Temple may be struggling now, but it should still be taken seriously after winning the 2016 American Athletic Conference championship.

Having outlined all the crucial characters on Temple’s roster in my piece earlier this week, I will now focus on the overall features of the team.

Offense dips from average to bad

The Owls’ offense last season wasn’t much to write home about.

Their most notable numbers of 2016 came from the running game on a per-play basis. They were top 35 in touchdowns and top 20 in ball security. This is now gone with the graduation of standout running back Jahad Thomas, and that’s just the beginning.

Temple’s offense is literally scrambling for points in 2017 after also losing its quarterback from last year. The Owls rank at the bottom with 17 points, 288 yards and 1.6 touchdowns scored per game.

They also don’t demonstrate much discipline, ranking around 100th out of 128 major-conference schools in turnovers and penalties per play.

Temple’s passing game is not a pretty sight with an inexperienced QB at the helm. The worst part is that their running game is simply beyond all repair. The Owls’ rushing attack is among the nation’s worst, picking up only 70 yards a game and scoring just once this season.

Their team is probably best defined by their dead-last ranking, with 2.13 yards per carry.

Defense failing to pick up the pieces

Defense might have been the sole reason Temple was able to post a 10-4 record last season. The Owls’ defensive unit ranked alongside the nation’s best, allowing just 282 yards, 18.4 points and two touchdowns a game, while also posting two opponent shutouts on the road in the process.

The Temple defensive unit showed prowess in producing takeaways and placed in the top 15 nationally in forced fumbles and turnovers per play. After losing most of the enforcers and playmakers from 2016, Temple’s defense went tumbling down the ladder.

The Owls currently rank outside the top 100, giving up 31 points, 468 yards and nearly four scores a game.

Though producing only one interception this season, the Owls’ defensive front makes up for it by ripping the ball away and ranking in the nation’s top 40 with one forced fumble per game. This nature comes at a cost of over 200 rushing yards and 2.5 scores given up per game. Both categories put Temple in the nation’s bottom-20 teams.

Temple in 2017

The Owls have played four games this season, winning both of their home matches while getting hammered twice on the road. One can’t read too much into Temple’s blowout road losses. Those games happened to be against South Florida, the nation’s second-best defense in turnovers and rushing yards allowed, and a respectable Fighting Irish squad.

Another important aspect is that South Florida and Notre Dame possess prolific rushing offenses. These units rank in the top 10 with nearly 300 rushing yards per game. On the other hand, both of their home games came against below-par opponents, such as a non-major conference Villanova team and the winless UMass.

Even though the Minutemen have solid passing numbers, averaging more than eight yards per play and ranking seventh with just one interception over five games, their defense ranks outside the top 80 in most categories. Albeit an underwhelming opposition, Temple barely edged both teams by an average of 5.5 points at home.

The Cougars will be taking on Temple in Philadelphia, with kickoff scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday.

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