Owls on life support

Temple will square off against Big East foe Syracuse this Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at the Carrier Dome, where the Owls will look for their first conference win. Both teams are coming off a bye

Temple will square off against Big East foe Syracuse this Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at the Carrier Dome, where the Owls will look for their first conference win.

Both teams are coming off a bye week after much needed rest. In its previous game, Temple (1-7, 0-3) lost to Rutgers 30-14. Syracuse (4-3, 1-2) dropped a 34-14 decision to Pittsburgh after a second half collapse.

The Owls offense may have a new look at quarterback since starter Mike McGann suffered torn tendons in his throwing elbow. Coach Bobby Wallace said McGann won’t practice this week and will be a game-time decision at Syracuse. Sophomore JUCO transfer Walter Washington will get his first career start if McGann is unable to play. Receiver Terrence Stubbs, offensive lineman Elliot Seifert, and defensive lineman Justin Johnson are out for this week with injuries as well.

In their previous meeting a year ago, Temple edged out Syracuse in a 17-16 homecoming win and snapped a 16-game losing streak to the Orangemen. The win became Temple’s highlight of the season with 14-second half points to take a late seven-point lead. With little time remaining, Syracuse drove downfield to score the game-tying touchdown toward the end of regulation, but could not convert its point after touchdown attempt.

Three Keys to the Game:

Temple defense must clamp down – The Owls defense has seen better days. After being ranked nationally in the top 20 in defense, the Owls are 107th. Currently they are last in the Big East in rushing, passing and total yards. Finally it ranks last in the conference in points allowed at 31.6 per game. For Temple to have any success the defense must stop being a doormat for opponents.

The re-emergence of the passing game – During the last four games the Owls’ passing attack has been nonexistent. Wallace is befuddled by it all, especially since his quarterbacks did so well in the first four games of the season. The Owls had been passing for almost 300 yards a game. In the last four games the team averaged under 200 yards. The drastic decline in passing numbers neutralizes big play receivers Zamir Cobb and Phil Goodman. Whether it’s McGann or Washington under center, for the offensive to be successful they must get Cobb and Goodman the ball.

Third down conversions – Temple has only been able to convert just 29 of 116 of its third downs this season, last in the conference. Third down numbers like this keep the offense from sustaining drives and forcing the defense to get less rest. If Temple can convert third downs with regularity against a mediocre Syracuse defense, points should not be hard to come by. The Orangemen defense has been less than stellar, allowing 396 total yards and 28.1 points per game.

Three match ups to watch:

Temple LB Rian Wallace vs. Syracuse RB Walter Reyes. Wallace is having an all-American type season. He’s averaging close to 13 tackles a game, ranking him fourth nationally. Reyes is sixth in the nation in rushing, averaging 124 yards per game. Reyes is also a candidate for the 2003 Doak Walker award, given to the top running back in the nation. Rian Wallace and the Owls’ front six will be burdened with containing one of the top rushers in the nation.

Temple RB Makonnen Fenton vs. Syracuse LB Rich Scanlon. Over the past several games, Fenton has seen a decline in carries since returning from injury. Coach Wallace said he was going to work Fenton more this week. Scanlon, who is the Orangemen’s top run stopper, is averaging 11 tackles per game.

Syracuse DT Louis Gachelin vs. Temple offensive line. Gachelin has at least one sack in three straight games. Last season Gachelin recorded 8.5 sacks and proved to be a handful for opponents. He is a candidate for the Outland and Lombardi awards, given to the top defensive players. The Owls offensive line has some injuries and has allowed a conference worst 21 sacks this year.

David Cargin can be reached at ghostryter81@yahoo.com.

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