Despite a decline in production in the past four games, redshirt-junior quarterback Chris Coyer still gives Temple (3–5, 2–3) its best chance to win, coach Steve Addazio told reporters after the football team’s 45–17 loss to No. 11 Louisville on Nov. 3.
Addazio played Coyer and junior quarterbacks Clinton “Juice” Granger and Kevin Newsome in the loss, the third consecutive game that Coyer was pulled. Coyer went 2-for-8 passing for 20 yards and lost two fumbles against Louisville before Granger came in for the first drive of the fourth quarter.
Addazio will continue to evaluate quarterbacks this week and didn’t name a starter for Saturday’s game against Cincinnati (6–2, 2–1), he said during a Big East Conference teleconference yesterday, Nov. 5.
“I’m trying to look at the body of work,” Addazio said. “I thought [Coyer] played really well in that game until he turned it over. I don’t want to minimize that, but up to that point he had probably played one of his best games. I liked his leadership and his energy.”
In the team’s first four games, three of which came against unranked, out-of-conference opponents, Coyer had an average passer rating of 134.7. He completed 55 percent of his passes, averaged 117 yards per game and threw five touchdowns.
In the past four games against Big East Conference opponents, Coyer has had an average passer rating of 91.7. His completion percentage is down, his average passing per game has dropped to 90 yards and he has passed for three touchdowns.
Coyer has also turned the ball over at a much higher rate recently. In his first four games, he threw two interceptions and lost one fumble. However, Coyer threw interceptions in back-to-back games against Connecticut and Rutgers and has lost four fumbles in his last four games.
“I can’t stand for turnovers,” Addazio said. “They’ve creeped up on us, but I have to look at the body of work and see who gives the team the best opportunity to win, and that’s really what it’s all about. We’re working, [Coyer], [Granger] and [Newsome] are developing and we’ll see how that plays out on Saturday.”
Cincinnati is undergoing a similar controversy at quarterback after Bearcats’ junior quarterback Munchie Legaux was benched during the team’s most recent game against Syracuse on Nov. 3. Senior quarterback Brendon Kay came off the bench in the third quarter and led Cincinnati to a come-from-behind victory.
Addazio said the team’s preparation won’t change despite its opponent’s uncertainty at quarterback.
“I think you prepare just like you’re going to prepare,” Addazio said. “My guess is they might play [multiple quarterbacks]. But they’re going to do what they do, and what they do is pretty darn good. They’re a fast-playing, hard-firing team.”
Cincinnati is ranked No. 1 in the Big East in scoring offense and No. 2 in total offense, while Temple is ranked last in the conference in total defense and scoring defense. Cincinnati has the No. 1 Big East rushing offense, averaging 226 yards per game on the ground. Temple gives up an average of 162 rushing yards per game, ranked last in the conference.
Addazio said the team’s defensive struggles are due to a combination of a lack of depth on the defensive line and inexperience.
“We started the season with depth on the defensive front, but that’s widdled down for various reasons,” Addazio said. “We need to get better pass rush. Our freshman linebackers make some great plays for us, but they make some mistakes in underneath coverage.”
“We’ve played as many young guys as we can,” Addazio added. “I think we’re going to continue to play young guys. We’re going to continue to do whatever we can schematically to generate more pass rush. I like the young guys, but up front that can really show.”
On Oct. 20, Temple had a chance to be in sole possession of first place in the Big East with a win against Rutgers, but the Owls blew their halftime lead. The Owls allowed 35 unanswered points in the second half, the beginning of their three-game losing streak that now places Temple at fifth in the conference.
Addazio said team mistakes at inopportune times have cost Temple in its past three games and have contributed to the Owls’ inconsistency.
“What’s happening is we’re playing explosive teams and we’re exchanging blows with those teams,” Addazio said. “It’s more about teaching guys how fragile it is. It might not seem like it, but when you go back and watch the tape, it’s a handful of plays, three on offense, three on defense, and all of a sudden the complexity of the game is different. We have to learn how to strain long enough to make those plays.”
“It has a lot to do with depth and inexperienced guys getting a lot of playing time, but I think we’re on schedule,” Addazio added. “I don’t think we’re really far off. Losing three in a row, it’s not that I thought it couldn’t happen, of course I thought it could happen. But as a competitor, you don’t want to lose one let alone three in a row. Think big, focus small. That’s where I’m at right now. We have to focus small.”
Temple’s game against Cincinnati is scheduled to kickoff at noon at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday. With the team’s current 11-game schedule, the Owls will have to win out in order to become bowl eligible.
Joey Cranney can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @joey_cranney.