Lincoln Financial Field will host the two top-ranked defensive units in the Mid-American Conference this weekend.
Points will be hard to come by when Temple faces Kent State (3-7 overall, 1-5 MAC) Saturday at noon in the Owls’ final home game of the season.
The Owls (3-7, 3-3) lead the MAC in total defense, allowing 380 yards per game. The Golden Flashes are ranked No. 2 in the conference, giving up only 6.8 more yards per contest than the Owls.
The roles are reversed in the category of rushing defense, however.
The Golden Flashes surrender only 165 yards per game on the ground to lead the MAC in rushing defense, while the Owls are ranked fourth, allowing 176.7 yards per game.
Penn State running back Rodney Kinlaw burned the Owls for 180 yards on 27 rushing attempts last week. The senior also scored a touchdown as the Owls lost, 31-0, to the No. 25 Nittany Lions in front of more than 69,000 at the Linc Saturday. It was the largest crowd to ever watch a home Temple football game.
This week, Kent State sophomore running back Eugene Jarvis will undoubtedly receive a lot of attention
rushing, has scored nine touchdowns and gained 1,429 yards on the ground. He broke the previous Kent State single season rushing record of 1,325 yards with a 170 yard performance in a 27-20 loss to Northern Illinois last week.
Thanks to Jarvis, the Golden Flashes are the No. 2-ranked rushing team in the MAC. Kent State averages 213 rushing yards per game.
The Owls can only hope to produce that much yardage on the ground.
An anemic rushing attack has contributed to the Owls’ offensive futility in the last two games.
The Owls rushed for 48 yards against Ohio two weeks ago and only gained four yards on the ground against Penn State Saturday. The team rushed for more than 100 yards in each of their three wins this season, but since their last victory against Miami (Ohio) on Oct. 20, the Owls haven’t gotten close to reaching the century mark.
The lack of a running game has put the burden on sophomore quarterback Vaughn Charlton, who has thrown 68 passes in the two games he has started since red-shirt junior Adam DiMichele suffered a season-ending injury to his left tibia in the second quarter against Miami last month. Charlton completed a combined 43-of-68 passes for 399 yards and one touchdown against Ohio and Penn State.
Furthermore, The Owls have had trouble finding the end zone in the last two games.
The Owls have been held scoreless for the last six quarters and haven’t put a point on the board since the second quarter of their 23-7 loss to Ohio. Temple ranks No. 12 in the 13-team MAC in red zone offensive efficiency, converting only 65 percent of their attempts from within the 20-yard line.
To get into the end zone the Owls will have to penetrate the Golden Flashes’ defense, led by junior defensive back Jack Williams and junior linebacker Derek Burrell. Williams leads the team with 86 tackles, while Burrell ranks right behind him with 85 tackles.
On offense, the Golden Flashes prefer to keep the ball on the ground, but Jarvis isn’t the only rushing option in backfield.
Junior quarterback Julian Edelman also has the ability to run with the football, gaining 455 yards and scoring two touchdowns on the ground this season. Edelman rushed for 78 yards when the Golden Flashes defeated Temple, 28-17, at Lincoln Financial Field last October.
In the air, Edelman has completed 98-of-189 passes for 1,318 yards and seven touchdowns against nine interceptions this season.
Although the Golden Flashes are below .500 in the conference, Temple coach Al Golden said this game is more significant than last week’s highly-anticipated matchup with Penn State.
If the Owls manage to secure a victory Saturday, it would give the program its first four-win season since 2001.
Tyson McCloud can be reached at email@example.com.