Related: See the Owls’ Football Schedule
With questions about the future of the Temple football team hanging in the balance, this is the most important season to the program. The season has been labeled ‘The Mission.’
The mission is to get better. It’s to remain in the Big East (the conference has voted to kick Temple out after the season). It’s the mission to go to the team’s first bowl game since 1979.
Temple crushed Navy 45-26 in the home opener last Thursday, is this a sign of things to come?
Temple hosts Toledo, a 10-1 bowl snubbed team last year, Saturday at 4 p.m. at Franklin Field. Toledo, with Heisman candidate running back Chester Taylor, beat Minnesota 38-7 last Thursday.
“They’re a great football team, we have our hands full,” said Temple coach Bobby Wallace, “but to be a good team we have to beat good teams.”
Wallace, in his fourth year, is looking for the team to achieve their biggest goal, a season ending with a bowl game.
“The three things you need to be a winning football team is talent, coaching and intangibles, such as character, leadership and closeness,” Wallace said.
Temple has all of those attributes lined up this season. Nineteen starters return from a year that saw them finish a disappointing 4-7 and 1-6 in the Big East. Three of the losses were by a touchdown or less.
Ten starters return to a defense that was ranked No. 33 nationally last year and is led by the front four of fifth-year senior Raheem Brock, senior Russell Newman, junior Dan Klecko, and senior Akeiff Staples.
Staples and receiver Greg Muckerson missed the game against Navy, but Wallace said progress has been made to make them eligible for Saturday’s game.
Brock was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Week last week for his two sack, four tackle-for-a-loss performance against Navy.
The defensive backfield is filled with speed and playmakers and there is depth and skill at linebacker.
Senior linebackers Chonn Lacey and Taylor Sumann can both single handily change a game.
“We are just looking to grow as a team, be the best we possible can be,” Lacey said.
The main part of the team that needed improvement form last year was the offense. Working in offensive coordinator Charlie Fischer’s pro-style offense for the second consecutive year will help senior quarterback Devin Scott.
“I want to keep getting better, limit our mistakes, keep going uphill,” Scott said.
Anointed the full time starter earlier in the pre-season by Wallace, Scott will look to pad his stats that already have him ranked in the top 10 in 16 passing categories in Temple’s record books.
He will be handing the ball over to deadly weapons in the backfield led by 1,000-yard rusher Tarnado Sharps. Sharps missed the Navy game, with a groin injury, but the feature back will play Saturday.
Sharps’ backups, Lester Trammer and freshman Mekonnen Fenton, filled in nicely and should provide depth in the backfield. Joining them is senior fullback Jason Mckie, who rushed for 123 yards in the opener, including an 80-yard touchdown run, the third longest rush from scrimmage in school history.
Receiving is still a question, but Temple found out against Navy that Zamir Abdul-Hakim Cobb, who converted to Muslim and changed his name from Charles since last season, will be a go-to-guy.
Cobb ran all over the field against Navy, returning a punt for a touchdown and catching a touchdown pass from backup quarterback Mac DeVito.
Muckerson is the leading returning receiver. Look for speedster Sean Dillard to catch some deep balls. The loss of sophomore Ikey Chuku for the season with a torn patella tendon will hurt, but Temple does have a receiving threat in Lacey, who caught a touchdown in the Navy game.
The offensive line has improved greatly over last season with the addition of some junior college transfers.
Improvement is the key to the season. If none is made, Temple may have to look for a new conference to play in next year.
|AUG. 30||NAVY (Franklin Field)||W, 45-26|
|Sep. 8||TOLEDO (Franklin Field) 4 p.m.|
|Sep. 15||CONNECTICUT (Franklin Field) Noon|
|Sep. 22||at Bowling Green (Bowling Green, OH) 6 p.m.|
|Oct. 6||at Boston College* (Chestnut Hill, MA) 3:30 p.m.|
|Oct. 13||RUTGERS* (Veterans Stadium)
(HOMECOMING!) 4 p.m.
|Oct. 20||at Syracuse* (Syracuse, NY) 1:30 p.m.|
|Oct. 27||PITTSBURGH* (Veterans Stadium) Noon|
|Nov. 3||at Miami* (Miami, FL) 4 p.m.|
|Nov. 10||VIRGINIA TECH* (Veterans Stadium) Noon|
|Nov. 17||at West Virginia* (Morgantown, WV) 1 p.m.|