Turnovers were the decisive statistical category in Temple’s 45-19 loss to Central Florida on Saturday.
Temple (5-6, 3-4 American Athletic Conference) committed three turnovers in the second quarter and five during the afternoon. The team is focusing on limiting their giveaways and getting more takeaways heading into Saturday’s game against Tulsa (2-9, 1-6 The American) in Oklahoma.
The Owls have 12 combined interceptions and fumble recoveries, which ranks 101st in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
“I think we’ve done a nice job stopping people,” coach Geoff Collins said. “I think we’ve done a decent job on third down, run defense against Army and Navy. So there’s been a lot of things that are really positive, but just creating the turnovers, obviously has been one of the things that we still need to improve on.”
If Temple wins its regular-season finale against the Golden Hurricane, it will clinch bowl eligibility for the fourth season in a row. The American has tie-ins to seven bowls. Memphis, Houston, Navy, Southern Methodist, Central Florida and South Florida are bowl eligible. Tulane can become bowl eligible if it beats Southern Methodist on Saturday.
ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura and David Hale project Temple to play in the Boca Raton Bowl on Dec. 19 against an opponent from the Conference USA. Temple has a 58.1 percent chance of winning the game, according to SportSource Analytics.
Temple has a 2-1 record when it wins the turnover battle. Getting more turnovers could be aided by building large leads to force teams to pass, Collins said.
Temple built a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter against Navy on Nov. 2 and intercepted a pass by junior quarterback Zach Abey, but it also allowed the backup quarterback to throw two touchdown passes.
Temple led East Carolina, 34-10, with 14:54 left in the final quarter, but it didn’t intercept any passes or force any fumbles in the final stretch.
Temple has six interceptions this season. Through 11 games last year, the Owls had eight before they finished the season with 12. Junior safety Delvon Randall has four of the team’s six interceptions in 2017.
Temple has forced 12 fumbles but just recovered half of them. The Owls’ negative 0.82 turnover margin per game ranks 117th out of 129 FBS teams.
The team opened conference play with a negative four turnover margin in its loss to South Florida and a negative two turnover margin in its seven-point home loss to Houston.
Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said the Owls’ defense does well at showing offenses different formations.
“They’re great tacklers,” Montgomery added. “They do a great job in space. They limit what you can do in the box, and so schematically, you’ve got to do a good job and your guys have to got to go make plays.”
Redshirt-sophomore offensive lineman Jovahn Fair, who started the first three games at left guard, returned to the field against Central Florida. He’d missed the previous seven games with an undisclosed injury he suffered against UMass on Sept. 15.
“It was overwhelming at first, being able to get back,” Fair said. “I got a little emotional putting the pads back on and putting the uniform on in the locker room. But it was an amazing feeling actually getting out there and playing with my O-line and actually performing again.”
Fair said he’ll be “ready to go” against the Golden Hurricane Saturday.
Collins said redshirt-senior offensive lineman Leon Johnson should be healthy for Saturday’s game. Johnson has played in all 11 games this season with seven starts, including Saturday against Central Florida, despite dealing with injuries.
Redshirt-freshman offensive lineman Vincent Picozzi is also healthy for Saturday’s game against Tulsa, Collins said. Picozzi has played in eight games this season and started the last three at left guard.
Redshirt-sophomore quarterback Logan Marchi took second-team reps during practice Tuesday, but he is still fighting through injury, Collins said. Marchi was available to play backup quarterback on Saturday against Central Florida, offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude told Owlscoop.com.
Redshirt-junior wide receiver Ventell Bryant had an MRI Monday, Collins said. He didn’t disclose the details of the lower-body injury Bryant sustained against Central Florida, but he hopes Bryant will play on Saturday.
There is a “slim” chance redshirt-freshman linebacker Isaiah Graham-Mobley plays against Tulsa, Collins said. Graham-Mobley left Temple’s game against Cincinnati on Nov. 10 and entered concussion protocol.
Senior kicker Austin Jones will redshirt the season, tight ends and special teams coach Ed Foley told Owlscoop.com. Jones hasn’t played since Sept. 21 against South Florida.
A source told WHIP Radio earlier in the season that Jones would miss the rest of the year with complications from the season-ending knee injury he sustained in 2016, but Collins would not confirm the report.