Gridlock on the gridiron

Temple’s defense must stop Toledo’s No. 10-ranked offensive attack.

Temple’s defense must stop Toledo’s No. 10-ranked offensive attack.

Last weekend, the Owls accomplished something they haven’t done in 14 years. With a 27-13 win against Army at Homecoming, the Owls won their fourth consecutive game for the first time since 1985. Do they dare go for five straight this Saturday at Toledo? Here are three things to watch from each team Saturday night in Ohio:

Going streaking: The last time the Owls opened the season at 4-2 before this year was 1986. The Owls sit atop the Mid-American Conference East Division at 3-0 with Ohio. A win this weekend would improve them to 4-0 in the conference and would guarantee another week atop the standings.

Who will run the ball?: Freshman Bernard Pierce’s left shoulder injury last weekend is a huge blow to the Owls offense, which has scored 37, 24, 24 and 27 points, respectively, the past four games. If Pierce is unable to go, it will force sophomore Kee-ayre Griffin and senior Lamar McPherson to carry the load. The two combined for 57 yards on 18 carries last weekend.

A heavyweight challenge: The defense did its job again on Homecoming by recording two sacks and recovering a fumble that set up a 1-yard run by Griffin to seal the victory. The unit has a tough test this weekend when it goes up against the top-ranked team in the MAC in total offense. If the Owls and their top-ranked defense can slow down the Rockets offense and take advantage of their weak defensive unit, Temple could sit at three games over .500 entering the Oct. 31 game against Navy.

New face, new place: The Owls are in the midst of playing four consecutive games against teams with new coaches. This week, it’s Toledo and coach Tim Beckman, who became the 25th coach in Toledo history last December. Before coming to Toledo, Beckman coached for two years as a defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State. In his first head coaching gig, he has the Rockets off to a 4-3 start.

Double trouble: A pair of wide receivers, freshman Eric Page and senior Stephen Williams, lead Toledo’s explosive offense. Page and Williams rank second and fourth in the MAC in receiving yards and have combined to catch all of senior quarterback Aaron Opelt’s 11 touchdown passes.

The good and bad: It’s safe to say the Rockets put up numbers on the scoreboard – for themselves and their opponent. Toledo, which ranks first in the MAC in total offense, has scored more than 26 points in five games this season. On the other hand, the defense, which ranks last in the conference, has allowed more than 30 points six times this season.

Pete Dorchak can be reached at

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