WEST POINT, N.Y. – It may not be the sexiest position, it may not be the most interesting, and there rarely is any highlight reel material to speak of.
But that doesn’t take away from the importance of the offensive line.
Despite clearing paths for sophomore running back Jason Harper to rush for 88 yards, the Owls young unit gave up a season-high six sacks last week against Bowling Green. So entering Saturday’s game against Army, it was fairly obvious the offensive line had to find some consistency.
The results, were decisively mixed during the Owls’ 37-21 loss to Army at Michie Stadium.
With open holes and some room to maneuver, Harper was able to rush for 71 yards on 24 carries, despite fumbling the ball two times. In addition, red-shirt junior quarterback DiMichele was sacked just once as the Owls (0-5, 0-2 in the Mid-American Conference) finally find a way to protect their quarterback.
Needless to say, this was an improved performance from a group that desperately needed something to be happy about.
“I thought we ran the ball early in the first half well,” DiMichele said. “Second half we went to the two-minute drill pretty early, I got hit a few times, but they’re progressing.”
However, the line’s performance was far from perfect, as DiMichele narrowly evaded numerous sacks and the line was called for several critical penalties that either negated big plays or stalled drives.
In short, there is still work to be done, but this was a good start.
“I would say [the running game] improved,” red-shirt junior tackle Jabari Ferguson said. “We stay on our blocks long, but we have to stay on our blocks longer. We have a lot of zone plays, and [they] take time.”
The top football teams in the country, all have one thing in common: Continuity along the offensive line, as the same five guys start day in and day out.
This isn’t the case for the Owls, as the young team continues to search for the right combination of players.
Even though they have started the same group of guys for the past three weeks, coach Al Golden still insists that nobody has won any job.
“I think there’s still a lot of competition there,” he said. “It looks so much better than it did the first couple of games, but we obviously have some work to do there.”
In fact, he laid out a fairly steep warning to some unnamed players.
“Some of those guys have to grow up, they’re running out of time,” Golden said.
In the end, turnovers could wind up hurting the team in more ways the one. Three fumbles and two interceptions against Army stopped drives and prevented the coaches from getting a sense for how the offensive line did as a unit.
And for a young team still trying to figure out who they want play in certain positions, it just piles on to the garbage bag full of frustrations.
“The couple of penalties we had were awful, they came at bad times,” Golden explained. “But it’s going to be really hard to evaluate those guys because we didn’t get the chance to finish three drives.”
GOLDEN RECRUIT DAZZLES
Al Golden recruited senior wide receiver Jeremy Trimble when he was at Virginia, and Tremble showed Golden what he was missing by returning a punt for a touchdown in the third quarter.
“On punter returns, everything has to be perfect,” he said. “I got a good kick. It was short, and I got a good run on it. I had to make one guy miss and the defense took care of the rest. It was easy from there.”
Golden, meanwhile, looked at it on the bright side.
“I’m glad [Trimble]’s graduating,” he said.
CAREER HIGH FOR FRANCIS
Junior wide receiver Bruce Francis has caught a TD in three consecutive games, and Saturday marked the second straight game that Jason Harper carried the ball 24 times.
The Owls return home next week to battle MAC rival Northern Illinois. It will be Temple’s Homecoming game.
The Owls defeated Bowling Green, 28-14, on Oct. 28 in last year’s Homecoming game at Lincoln Financial Field. It was the Owls only win of the 2006 season.
Todd Orodenker can be reached at Todd.Orodenker@temple.edu.