Temple faces perennial loser Rutgers Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field. The Scarlet Knights (3-4, 0-3) have only won four Big East games in the last eight years and lost 25 consecutive conference games. Rutgers’ three wins have come against teams with a combined record of 5-17. The Owls (1-6, 0-2) are coming off a 52-14 drubbing at Miami. They’re looking for their first Big East win of the year as well as their first home win.
3 Keys to the Game for Temple:
Contain Rutgers’ special teams: Rutgers has legitimate scoring threats on special teams. One of the Scarlet Knights’ top returners, Tres Moses, is injured and will miss the game. He has averaged 13.2 yards per return with one touchdown. Moses’ absence just means the Owls will see more of kick returner Nate Jones, the co-Big East Special Teams Player of the Year last season. He’s averaging 23.0 yards per return this season and is a scoring threat. Temple punter Mike McLaughlin had a big day against Miami, averaging 46 yards a punt, including a 61-yarder.
It’s time to refocus: With only five games to go, the Owls need to forget about their horrendous start. They can forget about that elusive bowl game and try to avoid their worst finish in four years. Temple needs to look forward and build on the positives it has seen this season. On the defensive side of the ball, the Owls have been getting to the quarterback and registering 16 sacks, tied for first in the Big East. The Miami game notwithstanding, Temple has thrown the bal well against some of the best teams in the country, passing for 238.0 yards per game.
Don’t overlook the Scarlet Knights: With a 1-6 record, Temple is in no position to overlook anyone at this point.
3 Match ups to watch:
Temple QB’s Mike McGann and Walter Washington vs. Rutgers’ secondary: Temple’s quarterback duo will have to bounce back after amassing a season-low 21 passing yards against Miami’s vaunted secondary.
Rutgers’ passing game vs. Temple’s passing defense: Temple’s cornerbacks have had problems all season long with the worst pass defense in the conference. Owls’ coach Bobby Wallace realizes his secondary is inexperienced and conceded senior safety Yazid Jackson is carrying the load for the defensive backs. Rutgers QB Ryan Hart can depend on receiver Shawn Tucker, who leads the squad with 507 receiving yards. Hart has slowly developed into one of the conference’s top passers and is coming off his first 300-yard passing game last week at Pittsburgh.
Temple’s 3rd down conversions vs. Rutgers’ nickel and dime packages: Rutgers has been effective in stopping third down conversions. Led by defensive end Raheem Orr, who has 11.5 tackles for a loss and 5.5 sacks, the Scarlet Knights have only allowed opponents to convert on third down just 34 percent of the time. Besides struggling with penalties and unimaginative play calling, part of the Owls’ failure to execute is an inability to convert on third down. They are last in the conference, completing only 27 of 104 third down attempts.
Matt Sitkoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.