Temple plays their final home game this Saturday against No. 21 Pittsburgh. It is also Senior Day as 17 players will suit up for the last time in front of the home crowd. The Owls (1-9, 0-5) almost pulled off a major upset last week against Virginia Tech, but that was killed when senior kicker Jared Davis missed an extra point attempt in a 24-23 overtime loss. The Panthers (7-3, 4-1) also lost last week, losing at West Virginia 52-31.
3 Keys to the Game for Temple:
Contain Heisman Trophy Candidate Larry Fitzgerald: The Owls secondary will have its hands full trying to limit the record-breaking wide receiver. However, no team in the country has been able to contain him yet. Fitzgerald is a likely finalist for the Heisman Trophy. He is tied with 19 touchdown receptions in the nation, and leads the nation in receiving yards with 1,467. Temple’s passing defense has given up a conference worst 248.6 yards per game and 16 touchdowns. Last season senior safety Yazid Jackson held Fitzgerald to just three receptions for 36 yards and one touchdown. In 16 straight games Fitzgerald has scored a touchdown, a NCAA record. He has also has four games with 150 receiving yards or more and two with 200 yards or more.
Walter, Walter and Walter: Last week against a solid defense Owls sophomore quarterback Walter Washington showed everyone what type of destruction he can do to opposing defenses. Washington totaled 307 yards of offense, throwing two touchdowns, and rushing for a career-high 151 yards against Virginia Tech. It was the first time in Temple football history a quarterback has ran for 100 yards. For the Owls to pull off this upset the athletic Washington will have to carry the offense on his back, the same way he carried Virginia Tech defenders last week.
Limit turnovers: Last week the Owls stayed in the game by not committing any turnovers. In six of the last eight games between these two teams the outcome has been decided by seven points or less. Temple lost last season 29-22 at Pittsburgh, a game they committed four turnovers and one blocked punt. This season the Owls have lost three games in OT, and if they want to pull out the upset, they must stay turnover-free for the second consecutive game.
3 Match ups to watch:
Pittsburgh’s QB Rod Rutherford vs. Temple’s secondary: The guy throwing the ball to Fitzgerald is not half bad himself. He ranks sixth nationally in passing efficiency and first in the Big East in total offense with 320.4 yards per game. The Owls secondary has struggled all season long.
Temple’s blitz package vs. Pittsburgh’s offensive line: Temple’s defense has surprised many with 20 sacks. A quick breakdown shows the defensive line has eight and a half of them, the linebackers four and a half, and the secondary seven. Temple defensive coordinator Ray Monica will have people coming from all angles against a team that has given up a conference-high 28 sacks, tied with Temple.
Temple punter Mike McLaughlin vs. Pittsburgh’s punter Andy Lee: Lee has averaged 44.2 yards per punt with precision laying 19 inside the 20. Field position has helped the struggling Pittsburgh defense. McLaughlin has done a nice job taking over for senior Garvin Ringwelski. Last week he was constantly pinning the Hokies in tough field position. He has averaged 39.9 yards per punt, and landed 9 inside the 20. Field position will be important in this game for the Owls if it turns into the same game as last year.
Matt Sitkoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.