Football working to ‘establish the run game’

The Owls are averaging fewer than three yards per carry through their first two games.

Redshirt-junior running back David Hood sprints upfield during the Owls’ 16-13 victory against Villanova at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday. | SYDNEY SCHAEFER / THE TEMPLE NEWS

He only had one second to spare.

Redshirt-senior fullback Nick Sharga plowed ahead for a 1-yard touchdown run at the end of the first half to give Temple a 10-point lead after the subsequent extra point.

Sharga’s run was Temple’s only touchdown in Saturday’s 16-13 win against Villanova. But the running attack didn’t provide much consistency.

Temple carried the ball 25 times for 84 yards, excluding a 3-yard loss on a sack and a kneel to run down time at the end of the game. The team had six negative rushing plays, excluding the kneel, and converted two of its six rushing attempts on third down.

Offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said the team didn’t get much of a rhythm, and the offensive line didn’t move Villanova’s defensive linemen off the line of scrimmage as well as he anticipated.

“They really ganged up against the run, and I’m really disappointed in how we ran the ball, but the short passing had to kind of replace some of that stuff,” Patenaude said. “They were all packed in the box and tried to overload us in the run, and when they do that, you have to have some answers.”

Junior running back Ryquell Armstead entered Saturday’s game “banged up” after last week’s contest against the University of Notre Dame, coach Geoff Collins said.

Armstead didn’t play until the Owls’ second offensive series. On second-and-goal from the 5-yard line in the first quarter, Armstead carried the ball on back-to-back plays but didn’t gain any net yardage.

Temple turned to Armstead again as it drove downfield in the fourth quarter with the score tied at 13. The Owls gave him the ball on second-and-8 from Villanova’s 37-yard line and on the next play, needing four yards for a first down. Armstead gained one yard on third down before sophomore kicker Aaron Boumerhi stepped onto the field to hit the game-winning 49-yard field goal.

Nursing an injury that Collins declined to disclose, Armstead carried the ball seven fewer times on Saturday than he did against Notre Dame. He finished with 12 carries for 19 yards.

Redshirt-junior tailback David Hood started the game and had all four of his carries on the first drive. He led the team with 21 yards. Sharga and junior running back Jager Gardner each averaged more than four yards per carry on four attempts.

When Temple needed a third-down conversion on its first drive of the third quarter, redshirt-sophomore quarterback Logan Marchi didn’t hand the ball to one of his running backs. Instead, sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Wright took the ball on a sweep for a 9-yard gain.

At times, the team used short passes as a substitute for the running attack because  Villanova’s defense often rushed three men at Marchi and dropped eight into coverage. Temple passed on four of its five first-down plays in the third quarter and four of its seven first-down plays in the fourth quarter excluding the kneel.

The Wildcats’ zone coverage had holes where Temple could complete passes, Patenaude said.

“Any time you have that, they’re going to play the routes very well,” Marchi said. “So you’ve got to go through your read progression, and things weren’t there so I did have to get through two or three reads and either take off or complete that ball if the open pass was there.”

“I thought Logan had some really good patience, just taking what they were giving us, and then when we were able to take our shots, based on the coverage, he was making some good throws,” Collins said.

Temple rushed for 260 yards in its first two games last season without Jahad Thomas, 2015’s leading rusher and a 2016 American Athletic Conference second-team selection. This season, the Owls have 164 rushing yards and are averaging 2.6 yards per carry.

Marchi has negative 24 yards rushing so far, but only one yard of that wasn’t on a sack. The team will consider getting him more involved in the running attack, Patenaude said.

“When you look across college football, teams that can only throw the ball are only so successful,” Patenaude said. “So we have to be able to establish the run game. We’ve got to be able to find different ways to run it, different formations.”

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