The Owls had their chance at an upset.
A year ago, the team had a seven-point lead on nationally ranked Central Florida, only to see the Knights score 10 unanswered points and win 39-36 on their way to a Fiesta Bowl victory.
This season, No. 21 East Carolina comes to Philadelphia and the Owls have a great opportunity to get back on track after two blowout losses on the road against Houston and Central Florida.
“I hope we’re significantly more prepared,” coach Matt Rhule said after Saturday’s game. “I expect us to go out and challenge East Carolina because if you don’t, I said to our players, ‘Why else did you come here except to play Top 20 teams?’”
For the players, it’s just a matter of execution in order to give themselves a chance against East Carolina.
“The coaches have prepared us the best that we possibly can be,” junior linebacker Tyler Matakevitch said. “On Saturdays it’s just all us.”
Matakevitch said the team is looking forward to its first game against a nationally-ranked opponent since last season’s matchup with No. 7 Louisville, a game in which the Owls dropped, 30-7.
“We’re excited,” he said. “We can’t wait to come back out here at home and get a shot to go play a nationally-ranked team.”
Defensively, Temple will be tested by an East Carolina team that ran 100 plays and had the ball for over 35 minutes a week ago in a 31-21 win against Connecticut.
Offense aims for rebound
Having scored just 24 points the last two games, the Owls have focused on righting the offensive ship. In addition to the lack of production, the team has eight turnovers through the last two games.
“[Scoring] is very important,” Walker said. “That’s what’s been hurting us. Not putting up any points when we get inside the red zone.”
Walker was lifted in the third quarter against Central Florida as Temple was unable to get anything going offensively for the second week in a row. The sophomore quarterback said Rhule kept the message simple after making the switch to redshirt-senior Connor Reilly.
“[Rhule told me] to relax,” Walker said. “[Sitting out] was basically a clear my head sort of thing.”
For Temple, running the ball has been a trying task, as the Owls totaled just 130 rushing yards the last two weeks.
“I put a lot of the blame on the offensive line up front,” junior center Kyle Friend said.
Additionally, Temple was just 5 for 24 on third down the last two weeks and the struggle to move the chains certainly limited Temple’s ability to string together long drives.
“We put ourselves in a bad position on first and second down and that puts us in third and long where it’s really hard for a coach to manage us in a third-and-long,” Friend said.
After being held out of Saturday’s game against Central Florida, sophomore offensive lineman Dion Dawkins returned to practice on Tuesday.
Dawkins, who regained his starting spot after suffering a foot injury midway through last season, has been an operative part of a young offensive front during the beginning of the season.
“Dion’s one of our best players,” Rhule said. “I was proud of the guys that tried to go in and fill in for him on Saturday, but when Dion’s out there he’s sort of an anchor for us … He practiced today and I’m hopeful he’ll go Saturday.”
Greg Frank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @g_frank6.