Preview: Keys to Temple vs. SMU

The Owls have lost three games in a row. Can they pull off the upset at home? Here’s what you need to know.

After a disappointing start to the season, the Owls will need to turn things around in order to compete against the SMU Mustangs. | JOSHUA CRELLIN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

With every passing week, Temple Football’s chances of a bowl game slip further away.

The Owls sit at 2-5 (0-3 American Athletic Conference) needing to finish the season 4-1 to make their first bowl game since 2019. To do that, they’ll have to go through Southern Methodist (4-2, 2-0 AAC), the second-best team in the conference.

Temple will likely be without starting quarterback E.J. Warner for the second week in a row. Quincy Patterson is expected to make the start, said Temple head coach Stan Drayton. Though the offense struggled in Temple’s 45-14 loss to North Texas last weekend, the defensive miscues stood out.

“They flash that they can be a decent defense,” Drayton said. “We just haven’t been able to put it all together.”

Temple will need to “put it all together” to beat SMU. Here is what you need to know before Temple’s matchup with the Mustangs, which kicks off at Lincoln Financial Field Friday at 7 p.m.


The run defense has plagued the Owls all season. Temple’s defense is ranked 11th in the AAC against the run, allowing 206 yards per game. Two defensive linemen, Miami transfer Allan Haye and projected-starter Demerick Morris, suffered season-ending injuries and have been sorely missed. 

With these injuries, the Owls depth at the line has been depleted and forced players like true freshman Conlan Greene to see significant snaps. Opposing teams have taken advantage of the inexperienced defensive line up the middle.

Temple is coming off a game where they allowed 220 rushing yards against North Texas, paired with 21 missed tackles. Drayton knows the defense has not played up to its standard and will need to step up against SMU.

“We missed 21 tackles in this last ball game,” Drayton said. “We can sit here and talk about injuries, but it is what it is. We got guys that are trying to play, and trying to execute the way we were asking them to execute. I think fundamentally we can be much better.”

While it’s easier said than done, the Owls will need to find a way to limit a Mustangs’ rushing offense that is ranked fifth in the American, averaging 157 yards per game.

SMU’s backfield is led by running back Jaylen Knighton, who averages 71 yards per game this season. It will be a tough task, but the Owls will need to find a way to slow the Mustangs’ ground attack if they want any chance at a win.


Temple’s offense took a massive step back last week with Patterson filling in at quarterback. The Owls offense, which had been averaging 268 passing yards and threw for 472 yards against UTSA, was limited to just 105 last weekend.

Patterson struggled throwing the ball, having three interceptions and more rushing yards than passing yards. Drayton still saw positives from Patterson’s performance despite his struggles, he said.

“We played into Quincy’s strengths as an offense, and he played well,” Drayton said. “I thought the kid put out a good effort, made good decisions early, played with his feet really well.”

The Owls need to play into Patterson’s strengths again to have success against the Mustangs. 

SMU ranks first in pass defense, allowing just less than 185 passing yards per game. The Owls’ lone bright spot last week was the rushing game, totaling 242 as a team, led by Patterson’s 113 and running back Darvon Hubbard’s 69 yards.

If the Owls can get the run game going early like last week, they might be able to keep themselves within striking distance to pull off the upset.

There’s just one problem with that strategy: SMU has a top-three rush defense in the AAC, allowing 127 yards a game. Their play puts the chance for Temple to produce any sustainable offense in doubt.


Temple will have its hands full Friday against an SMU team ranked third in the AAC in scoring offense and first in scoring defense. The Owls, on the other hand, are toward the bottom in both.

SMU is 4-2 on the season, and its two losses were both on the road against Big 12 opponents, falling to now-No. 6 Oklahoma 28-11 and TCU 34-17. The Mustangs have faced two of the bottom teams in the AAC in Charlotte and East Carolina, winning by a combined score of 65-26. 

On offense, quarterback Preston Stone is having a solid year, completing more than 57 percent of his passes for nearly 1,500 yards, 14 touchdowns and five interceptions. Between him and Knightdon, the Mustangs have a balanced attack that could be hard to defend.

“[Stone] throws the ball really well,” Drayton said. “He’s got receivers that can go get it. He’s got [Knighton] who really hits the seams and has a fifth gear that’s different than what we’ve seen so far.”

The Mustangs challenge the Owls at nearly every level, and Temple will need a lot to go right to pull out a victory.


Declan Landis, Sports Editor: “SMU has played good football this year. With their only two losses coming against strong opponents, the Mustangs have advantages all over the field. I don’t think the Owls have what it takes to pull out a win Friday unless Warner is good to go and can lead a shootout.”

SMU wins 42-10.

Johnny Zawislak, Assistant Sports Editor: “The Owls have yet to play a complete game this year on the offensive or defensive side of the ball, I do not think they’ll be able to play one Friday against SMU. I don’t think the Owls defense has what it takes to stop the Mustangs.”

SMU wins 38-14.

Ryan Mack, Assistant Sports Editor: “The Owls have played inconsistent football all season and facing one of the best teams in the conference without your starting quarterback feels like a recipe for disaster. I don’t think the Owls will be able to get the run game going at all to keep this game competitive.”

SMU wins 52-13.

Jaison Nieves, Sports Social Media Manager: “I think that Temple will surprise SMU with a strong gameplan and relying on their run game to stay close. But in the end I think that SMU is too strong right now for the Owls.”

SMU wins 42-28.

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