The time has come.
All the practice, preparation, internal battles, decision making, two-a-days in torrential rain, all of it leads up to this.
As the Owls open up their 110th season of football tomorrow night at Michie Stadium in West Point, N.Y., they will do so with unusually high expectations and under the leadership of redshirt senior quarterback Adam DiMichele, who will see his first action after fracturing his left tibia against Miami (OH) on Oct. 20.
Here’s what coach Al Golden’s squad has in store for them as they battle the Black Knights on Friday:
The strength of Temple’s offense lies on the legs and arms of DiMichele, who ran for 43 yards and threw for 314 yards and two scores in the Owls’ loss to Army last season. What hurt DiMichele that day was two interceptions, but the front seven of Black Knights, though a year older, is one of the weakest parts of their team. That should wind up giving the redshirt senior ample time in the pocket to find open receivers, and some room for him to maneuver around behind the line of scrimmage.
Speaking of open receivers, a heated battle for the starting spot at X-Wide Receiver is still ongoing between sophomore Michael Campbell and senior Bruce Francis, who caught six balls for 133 yards and a touchdown against Army last season. While we won’t know who is starting won’t until game time, the fact that Campbell is pushing the incumbent Francis this hard is nothing but a good sign.
Overall, the Owls have plenty of weapons and enough depth at running back with sophomore Marquise Liverpool and redshirt freshman Joe Jones to mix and match with the Black Knights. The key will be DiMichele, as he will have to shake off a years worth of rust and eliminate the turnovers in order to give his team a chance to win the game.
Army is lead by junior quarterback Carson Williams, a traditional drop-back passer who will spend much of his time handing the ball off to senior running backs Tony Dace and Wesley McMahand. With the likes of wide receiver Jeremy Trimble moving on, the Black Knights have changed their offense formation to the wishbone to further highlight their running game.
And while they did lose a couple of key players on the offense live, Army still manages to boast a line full of juniors and seniors. That shifts the focus of the Owls defense to their front four, leader by junior nose tackle Andre Neblett and junior defense end Brian Sanford. They, along with the likes of senior defensive tackle Terrance Knighton and junior defense end Junior Galette, will simply have to buckle down and win the battle upfront.
The only senior projected to start for the Owls is field corner Evan Cooper, so he will be looked upon for leadership and guidance when the Cherry and White are on defense. Though, with Army’s new offensive formation, the passing game will take a step back in importance. But, the fact that starting wide outs junior Damion Hunter and senior Mike Wright are question marks can only give confidence the improving Temple secondary.
This is the area that killed the Owls in last season’s game against Army, giving up an 88 yard kickoff return to Corey Anderson and an 85 yard punt return to Trimble en route to their 37-21 defeat. Obviously, they can’t let that happen again.
Additionally, freshman Patrick Campbell has given redshirt junior Jake Brownell a lengthy battle for the kicking job, one that has yet to be determined. That could be a problem for the Owls, as leaving any kind of points on the field could easily cost them the game.
However, the Owls still have an electrifying kickoff returner in redshirt senior Travis Shelton, the cousin of Chicago Bears wide receiver Devin Hester, so any time the ball is in his hands with room to move, things could happen.
It’s the home opener for Army, and they have plenty of tradition in their program, so that could easily fire them up. However, the fact that this will be their first game in a new offensive formation with questionable talent can’t be ignored.
For the Owls, who finished last season 4-3 after an 0-5 start, getting back onto the field behind their leader in DiMichele has to feel good. It’s a new season, they’ve played and competed in this exact situation before, so there should be no intimidation despite the fact that they are playing on the road.
Temple has the better team, but Army is playing at home and has a roster chock full of upperclassmen who limit mistakes.
But then again, the Black Knights just have too many questions to answer.
Temple 27, Army 20