Temple University’s football team has made it through its first five games with a 2-3 record. All three losses were by 10 points or fewer, including Saturday’s 45-35 defeat by Boston College.
With seven games left in Temple’s season, the Owls’ remaining schedule is a grueling conference slate. Temple will play Central Florida, which is currently ranked 12th in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll, and three other conference opponents that have received votes to be ranked since the preseason.
The Owls went 3-4 last season against the seven teams – East Carolina, Navy, Cincinnati, Central Florida, Houston, South Florida and Connecticut – left on their schedule. If Temple were to repeat that performance, they would finish with a 5-7 record, which would leave the Owls in danger of missing a bowl game for the first time since 2014.
“The first five games, our team has battled we’ve learned something new every single game,” coach Geoff Collins said on Monday’s American Athletic Conference media call. “The lessons that come from playing tough opponents and be put in tough critical situation help a program help a team for the future.”
“Our conference is really good,” Collins added. “We know the teams we got coming up, especially this week, are very talented are very well coached. We have to use those lessons we’ve learned in the first five games to play at a really high level.”
East Carolina (2-2) will come to Philadelphia on Saturday with a statistically improved offense and defense from last year.
The Pirates have gained 449 yards per game while limiting opposing offenses to 307.8 yards per game. The Owls’ offense averages 357.4 yards per game, while their defense allows 386.2 yards.
The Owls are difficult to defend because of the various formations they use on offense with senior running back Ryquell Armstead, graduate student wide receiver Ventell Bryant and junior wideout Isaiah Wright, East Carolina coach Scottie Montgomery said during Monday’s coaches’ media call.
The Owls’ red-zone defense ranks first in The American through five games this season. In 20 opponent possessions inside its 20-yard line, Temple has allowed 13 drives to come away with points.
Starting with East Carolina on Saturday, Oct. 6, Temple’s next five opponents – Navy, Cincinnati, and Central Florida – have recorded points on more than 86 percent of drives that reach their opponent’s 20-yard line.
“I love their linebackers, [junior Shaun] Bradley and [redshirt-junior Chapelle] Russell,” Montgomery said. “They provide a lot of pressure and stress in the run game also in the passing game. They are very active in their defensive secondary, and up front, they have a lot of size and a lot of skill.”
Temple enters Saturday with four touchdowns from special teams plays. The most recent came against Boston College when redshirt-senior fullback Rob Ritrovato forced a fumble on a kickoff and redshirt-sophomore linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley returned the ball 19 yards for a touchdown.
“On special teams, they just continually apply pressure,” Montgomery said. “Everything they do is about adding pressure. And that is not necessarily defensively by adding five or six, seven-man pressures. It’s just the people that are coming, they always pressure you in a lot of situations.”
Temple’s most challenging portion of the season awaits after its game on Saturday. The Owls will travel to Maryland to face Navy on Oct. 13, play Cincinnati at home, then have road games against Central Florida and Houston before facing South Florida at home for their last home game of the season on Nov 17.
Last season, Temple went 2-3 against those teams with losses of more than 25 points to South Florida and Central Florida.
Navy, Houston, Cincinnati, South Florida and Central Florida rank better than Temple in turnover differential, total yards per game and points per game. East Carolina and Connecticut also rank higher than Temple in total yards per game.
“Conference play is an exciting time,” redshirt-sophomore center Matt Hennessy told The Temple News on Sept. 18. “All these teams, we know each other from playing last year. …We may be different teams year to year, but we still know and remember each other. It’s conference play, so things begin to heat up.”