The rest and relaxation the players received this past weekend could be dangerous for Temple, especially since its next game will be played on the road against a nationally ranked opponent. But according to Wallace, after an off week, his players returned to practice focused and ready to play with passion.
“Usually when you take some time off, you come back and you’re sluggish,” Wallace said. “They came back with a lot of enthusiasm.”
The Owls (1-7, 0-3) are hoping all of the rest and enthusiasm will turn into a winning recipe as they face No. 12 West Virginia tomorrow in Morgantown, WV.
Before the bye week, Temple suffered a 45-31 loss at Connecticut, despite holding the first down and passing yards advantage over the Huskies. The Owls could not withstand two first-quarter touchdowns by the UConn offense and one by its special teams. UConn took a 21-0 lead out of the first quarter and never looked back.
In the loss, junior quarterback Walter Washington rushed for two touchdowns and threw for a pair as well. The two rushing touchdowns marked the fifth time this season Washington ran in for a score. He hooked up with eight different receivers for a third consecutive game.
“Defensively we’re struggling. We give up way too many yards,” Wallace said. UConn’s 518 total yards of offensive was evidence of a unit that has been struggling all season.
Despite having two of the top five tacklers in the Big East, the UConn loss marked the fifth time an opponent scored over 40 points on Temple.
Junior linebacker Rian Wallace and senior linebacker Troy Bennett left the UConn game early due to injuries. However, according to Wallace, they have had ample time to heal coming off the bye week.
“We just had to get healthy,” Wallace said.
The bye week could not have come at a better time for the Owls as they try to recuperate from a horrendous five-game losing streak. The Mountaineers (7-1, 3-0) are the first nationally-ranked Big East opponent and the third ranked team overall on Temple’s schedule. The Owls schedule is sixth in the country in terms of difficulty.
“You’ve got to get excited to play a top 20 team,” Wallace said.
West Virginia is cruising in the Big East, having won nine consecutive conference games. They managed a 35-30 victory at Rutgers last week in which senior quarterback Rasheed Marshall threw for two touchdowns and ran for another.
“We can’t give up big plays,” Wallace said. “We can’t afford to. We’re just not good enough for that.”
The Mountaineers are ranked in the top 25 for the 11th straight week.
Offensively, Wallace said the Owls ground attack will be the key factor this Saturday.
“The main thing is to be able to run the football a little bit,” Wallace said.
Junior running backs Tim Brown and Umar Ferguson each had 10 carries against UConn for a combined total of 83 yards. Washington was the leading rusher for Temple with 84 yards on 20 carries.
West Virginia is ranked third in rushing defense in the Big East, only giving up 3.0 yards a carry.
Time is expiring for the Owls. After West Virginia, they will return home for the final two games of the season. Wallace said his gameplan will remain the same as the season comes to an end.
“There’s not a whole lot of changing right now that I think we can afford to do,” he said.
However, with such a poor record, change might not be a bad idea.
Donnell Jackson can be reached at email@example.com.