Facing Massachusetts in 2016 was ‘absolute pain’ for Collins at Florida

Temple will try to get its rushing offense going against a University of Massachusetts defense allowing 210 rushing yards per game.

Junior safety Delvon Randall returns an interception in practice on Tuesday at Chodoff Field. | EVAN EASTERLING / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Geoff Collins has some familiarity with the University of Massachusetts, which Temple will host Friday at 7 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field. The coach went head-to-head with Massachusetts in the 2016 season opener while he was the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida.

The Gators won the game against Massachusetts 24-7 in Gainesville, Florida at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. They also held them to less than 200 yards of total offense. 

But Collins said the Minutemen’s offense still gave his then-Florida defense problems.

“It was an absolute pain,” Collins said of that game. “The formations, the shifts, the personnel groupings…it is a difficult offense to prepare for and, so I have a healthy respect for [coach Mark Whipple].”

The Minutemen enter the game against Temple 0-3 with losses to the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Coastal Carolina University and Old Dominion University.

Collins’ defense will be tasked with maintaining a Minutemen offense averaging 23.3 points per game led by redshirt-junior quarterback Andrew Ford.

Ford, a Virginia Tech and Lackawanna Community College transfer, has completed 65 percent of his passes this season for 827 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Temple’s defense is allowing 283 passing yards per game. They allowed 382 passing yards to Villanova last week.

“[Ford’s] a pretty good quarterback watching film on him,” sophomore cornerback Linwood Crump said. “I haven’t seen him run out the pocket as much but he has a pretty good arm. He’s pretty good, makes good decisions. He doesn’t throw any bad passes.”

Last week, senior tight end Ryan Bell hauled in six passes for 88 yards for Villanova. The Owls will also be challenged on Friday by another tight end in redshirt-senior Adam Breneman, the Minutemen’s leading receiver.

Breneman, a Penn State transfer, has 21 catches for 323 yards this season. Junior wide receiver Andy Isabella is second on the team in receiving with 16 catches for 246 yards and three touchdowns. They each rank in the top 20 of Division I in receiving yards.

“They’re athletic,” junior safety Delvon Randall said of the Minutemen’s wideouts. “They’re quick. We just got to come, watch, keep studying them and by the time Friday comes we should have a game plan.”

Offense hoping to establish running game against Massachusetts

While Temple was able to run the ball efficiently at times in its season opener against the University of Notre Dame, that wasn’t the case against Villanova. The Owls rushed the ball for 84 yards on 25 attempts and used five different ball carriers, excluding redshirt-sophomore quarterback Logan Marchi’s kneel at the end of the game.

Temple hopes that changes on Friday against the Minutemen, who have allowed 210 rushing yards per game this season.

“We’ve got to have the run game there,” Marchi said. “Villanova wasn’t where we wanted it to be. We’ve got a great running back, and we’ve got a great O-line, so we’ve got to make sure that we execute that running game. So we’re going to carry that over from Villanova into UMass.”

Junior running back Ryquell Armstead, who rushed for 919 yards last season, has 86 rushing yards through two games. He had 19 rushing yards against Villanova. The Wildcats loaded the box on Temple and showed them a unique three-stack defense, Collins said.

Collins said he was “banged up” after the opener. He didn’t get the start against Villanova last Saturday.

Armstead said he’s feeling “amazing” heading into week 3 after dealing with an injury last week. He added he’s not satisfied with his performance and that he’s hoping to correct it moving forward.

“[I’ve been] just going back to the drawing board, just watching more film coming back out here, doing extra running, extra conditioning and just making sure I’m ready to go,” Armstead said. “And I just trust in my line and read my keys more and just get ready.”

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