Temple Football entered the 2023 season striving for its first bowl game in four years, with some saying they could compete for an American Athletic Conference title. Eleven weeks later, Temple sits at 3-7 (1-5 AAC) with those hopes completely gone after its frustrating 27-23 loss to South Florida last weekend.
The Owls head to Birmingham, Alabama, to face UAB (3-7, 2-4 American Athletic Conference) Saturday, looking to rebound with their hopes of a bowl game seemingly out the window.
“We took it pretty hard,” said Temple head coach Stan Drayton. “A lot of it was self-induced. When it’s self-induced, you take it a lot harder. No discredit to South Florida, but it was self-inflicted things we couldn’t overcome.”
Drayton has not earned a road win as a collegiate head coach, sitting at an astonishing 0-9 in stadiums outside of Lincoln Financial Field. Temple’s last road conference win was four years ago when they defeated USF 17-7 at Raymond James Stadium.
The 2023 Owls will have one more opportunity to break their losing streak Saturday in Birmingham. Here is what you need to know before Temple’s matchup with the Blazers, which kicks off at 2 p.m.
NEED A HOT START
Temple needs to get off to a quick start against the Blazers to get back into the win column. The Owls have struggled to start a game on the right foot all season, finding themselves in early holes and playing from behind a majority of the time. They average less than four points in the opening quarter this season against FBS opponents, good for 104th in the nation. The Owls have allowed their opponents to score first in more than half of their games this season.
If the Owls find themselves down early, it may cause things to unravel. Now that they are ineligible to play in a bowl game, morale could be at a low point, and it could be hard for the Owls to climb back from a deficit.
If Temple wants any chance of rebounding from their frustrating loss to USF, they will need to jump the gun and get ahead early against UAB.
BALL SECURITY’S JOB SECURITY
The Owls turned the ball over four times Saturday, tying their season high. Quarterback E.J. Warner threw three interceptions, and tight end David Martin-Robinson gained 30 yards on a reception before fumbling in the fourth quarter.
“The one, he’s scrambling trying to prevent a safety,” Drayton said. “Baines did a phenomenal job trying to make that not a safety. The other, he anticipated really well. You have to give that to South Florida. The others, we need a better route and throw.”
The Owls have turned the ball over 22 times this season, with 14 interceptions and eight fumbles lost. The Owls rank dead last at 133 in the nation in turnover margin per game, averaging a -1.9 turnover margin against FBS opponents.
Safety Tywan Francis earned Temple’s fourth turnover of the season, picking off quarterback Byrum Brown in the second quarter. Francis has two of those turnovers, his first was in week one to seal Temple’s 24-21 win against Akron.
The Owls have struggled forcing turnovers, so they need to focus on limiting them this week to pull off the road victory.
UAB enters this weekend 3-7 with their fair share of struggles on the defensive side of the ball. The Blazers give up an average of more than 37 points per game, which is second-to-last in the AAC.
The Blazers’ defense succeeds at getting to the quarterback. UAB is sixth in the conference in sacks with 21. Outside linebacker Desmond Little and defensive lineman Kevin Penn lead the defense with four sacks each.
“Their front four, they bring it every single play,” Drayton said. “They have a lot of depth. A lot of hats around the ball. This is going to be a competitive football game.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the Blazers are in the middle of the pack of the AAC, averaging a little more than 28 points per game.
UAB’s top player is running back Jermaine Brown Jr., and the senior does just about everything for the Blazers offense. Brown Jr. leads UAB in all-purpose yards with 1,197, which is nearly double the next closest player. He also leads the Blazers in points scored and has double the number of touchdowns as the next closest player.
Brown Jr. is an explosive player who will be tough for the Owls to stop. Not only does he run the ball well, averaging just more than 53 rushing yards per game, but he is a focal point of the Blazers’ passing offense. Brown Jr. is third in receiving yards, averaging just under 35 per game.
Under center, the Blazers have one of the top quarterbacks in the conference in Jacob Zeno. The redshirt junior is second in the conference in passing yards per game, only behind Warner. Zeno is efficient with his passes, completing a conference best 74 percent of his throws.
“They play hard; this is a unique conference,” Drayton said. “They bring a skillset and a level of speed and good football in Alabama. You have a coach [Trent Dilfer] that won a Super Bowl and loves offense. You’ll get so many schemes, you just don’t know what you’ll see.”
Declan Landis, Sports Editor: “Temple’s defense showed up last week for what felt like the first time in a while and proved what they could do against talented skill players. If that momentum carries over, the Owls have a strong chance of winning. However, I haven’t seen enough to trust the unit fully, and I feel UAB may outplay Temple Saturday.”
UAB wins 28-21.
Johnny Zawislak, Assistant Sports Editor: “I think that Temple is going to come out to a slow start, and get themselves in a hole early that they just won’t be able to climb out of. I also think that Brown Jr. poses a serious threat for the Owls’ defense and will be a very difficult player to slow down.”
UAB wins 38-31.
Ryan Mack, Assistant Sports Editor: “I don’t know if the Owls will rebound from a loss like the one they had against USF. I think UAB will use Brown Jr. to exploit the holes the Owls have in the run game, and I don’t think the offense will be able to put it together to come out of Birmingham with a win.”
UAB wins 34-20.
Jaison Nieves, Sports Social Media Manager: “Temple constantly struggles in the early half of the game with starting efficiently and I think the Owls use the anger from last week to motivate them. Temple’s defense did show a lot of flashes last week, which will be huge in containing the run game and Brown Jr. to earn the Owls a win”
Temple wins 31-21.