Rhule, offense depending on physical style

The undefeated Owls relied on a physical running game and defense in a win against Charlotte Friday.

Coach Matt Rhule (right) and offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield walk on Chodoff Field during a recent practice. | Daniel Rainville TTN
Coach Matt Rhule (right) and offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield walk on Chodoff Field during a recent practice. | Daniel Rainville TTN

Like a boxer uses body punches to wear down an opponent, the Owls’ offense wears down opposing defenses with its rushing attack.

Through four games, Temple (4-0, 1-0 American Athletic Conference) has run the ball 161 times for 732 yards, and thrown the ball 113 times. The Owls have accumulated seven touchdowns on the ground compared to five through the air.

“It’s just the way we are playing,”coach Matt Rhule said. “We are running the football and being physical. You aren’t going to always come out and out physical people right away. It’s a cumulative effect .. you hope you can win in the fourth quarter.”

In the team’s 37-3 win against University of North Carolina at Charlotte Friday night at Jerry Richardson Stadium, the Owls rushed the ball 45 times for 206 yards and two touchdowns. It was the third time this season the Owls have rushed for more than 100 yards and the second time Temple rushed for more than 200 yards.

It was also the squad’s third time this season it scored three or fewer points in the first quarter and the third time this season the Owls failed to eclipse 10 points in the first half.

“We aren’t going to be a 70-7 team,” Rhule said. “That’s just not who we are. We are going to play tough, hard close games.”

The Owls have looked like a different team after halftime this season.

Rhule’s squad has outscored its opponents 54-6 in the third quarter and 79-26 after in second half. In the first half of games, Temple has been outscored 36-34.

“At halftime you have to keep reminding them that this was our plan,” Rhule said. “We are going out there to be physical and try to win the game in the fourth quarter. You see a very confident team come out of halftime.”

Rhule said a combination of the team’s persistence running the ball and the team’s defense has allowed the Owls to take control of games in the second half.

Temple, who is one of four undefeated team in The American and one of  20 undefeated teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, is first in The American in time of possession, averaging 34:21 minutes of possession per game and second in scoring defense, allowing 15.5 points per game.

“We are trying to play really good team football,” Rhule said. “Our whole team understands the plan. They understand the first thing we are going to do is play great defense and a part of that is running the football .. that is complementary football.”

With an emphasis on running the ball, the Owls’ passing attack has struggled in 2015.

Out of 12 teams in The American, the Owls’ passing offense ranks 10th in yards per game and 11th in passing efficiency. The Owls are tied for No. 99 out of 127 FBS team in passing offense and junior quarterback P.J. Walker is No. 94 in the FBS with 10.91 passing yard per completion.

Redshirt-junior defensive back Nate L. Smith said the team needs to continue to improve in all areas of play, despite the team’s first 4-0 start since 1974.

“It’s pretty good, but we have to work harder,” Smith said. “We have to keep pushing and striving for greatness. Right now, [Charlotte] is over and it’s time to focus on the next game.”

Michael Guise can be reached at michael.guise@temple.edu, 215.204.9537 or on Twitter @Michael_Guise.

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