Temple will host one of its most difficult opponents of the season when No. 12 Virginia Tech struts into Lincoln Financial Field this Saturday. Last week Syracuse handed the Owls their fourth straight loss in a 41-17 debacle at the Carrier Dome. Temple (1-8, 0-4) is winless at home this season, dropping games to Villanova, Boston College and Rutgers by a combined score of 91-47.
The Hokies (7-2, 3-2) also suffered a tough loss last week at the hands of No. 16 Pittsburgh, eliminating any national title hopes.
Owls junior quarterback Mike McGann will miss another start because of torn tendons in his right elbow. Sophomore Walter Washington will replace McGann, getting his second start of the season.
Last year Virginia Tech defeated Temple in Blacksburg, Va., 20-10, extending its series lead to 13-3 all-time, including a 5-2 record in Philadelphia. Temple’s last victory against the Hokies was a monster upset in 1998, during Owls coach Bobby Wallace’s first season at the helm.
The Hokies struggled on the road with a dismal 1-2 mark. In the Hokies are ranked No. 9 nationally in rushing offense, scoring offense and punt returns. Tech also has the top rushing defense in the Big East.
Three Keys to the Game:
Stop RB Kevin Jones and the Hokies rushing attack – Junior running back Kevin Jones, a native of Chester, Pa., broke the school record for rushing yards in a game last week with 241 yards and four touchdowns against Pittsburgh. Jones leads the Big East in rushing and is No. 7 in the nation with 122 yards per game. As a team, the Hokies average 222 yards a game. For Temple to have any chance against the Hokies they must neutralize Jones by stacking the line.
Force Hokies QB Bryan Randall to win through the air – Temple has not had many bright spots this season, but one of those has been the pass rush. Temple is currently tied for first in the Big East with 20 sacks. Randall has nine TD passes this season and seven interceptions. Virginia Tech is a run-first team and has passed for less than 200 yards in its last three games.
Owls must go for the long ball – The Hokies have the best rush defense in the conference allowing 117 yards per game. This coupled with a struggling Temple ground attack will be difficult for the Owls to overcome. Big play receivers Zamir Cobb and Phil Goodman are the only players capable of opening the field. A big game by them could do wonders. The Owls must begin to throw downfield for big gains in order to return Cobb and Goodman and the passing game to its former self.
Three match ups to watch:
Virginia Tech PR DeAngelo Hall vs. Temple special team – Hall does almost anything and everything well. He plays cornerback, receiver and punt returner. He is averaging 14.1 yards per punt return with 2 returned for TDs. Because of inconsistency, Wallace began to split time between senior incumbent Garvin Ringwelski and junior Mike McLaughlin. As a team, Temple punters are only averaging 36.9 yards. Hall will run circles around the Owls if the punting game flounders.
Virginia Tech RB Kevin Jones vs. Temple’s LB Rian Wallace – Jones is one of the top rushers in the nation with quick moves and exceptional cut back ability. Last week against Pittsburgh, Jones carried the ball 30 times and set a new school rushing mark. Rian Wallace is Temple’s top tackler averaging close to 13 tackles a game. For the second straight week Wallace and the Temple front six will have to face another Doak Walker Award Candidate, given to the top running back in the nation.
Temple’s QB Walter Washington vs. Hokies Defense – Temple’s quarterback of the future has been the Owls’ top rusher for the past two weeks totaling 19 rushes for 90 yards. He squares off against a stingy Virginia Tech defense, which is not only first in the conference in rush defense but is also tied with the Owls’ 20 team sacks.
David Cargin can be reached at email@example.com.