Temple must improve red zone offense against Memphis

Temple scored eight red zone touchdowns this season but still needs to be more efficient.

Sophomore running back Re’Mahn Davis is tackled during the Owls' game against the University of South Florida at Lincoln Financial Field on Oct. 17. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

After losing its first game on a two-point conversion, Temple University football won their second game of the season 39-37 after stopping South Florida on a two-point conversion attempt to tie the game late in the fourth quarter.

It shouldn’t have been that close. 

“Games come down to four or five plays,” said head coach Rod Carey. “We were on the wrong end of that last weekend. This week we were certainly on the right end of that.” 

If Temple (1-1, 1-1 The American Athletic Conference) wants to defeat Memphis (2-1, 1-1 The American) on Oct. 24, they will need to improve red zone scoring. 

The Owls scored on 11-of-13 red zone attempts this season, which seems good, but they have only scored eight touchdowns in the red zone and are consistently missing key chances to score more touchdowns. 

On their opening drive of the second half on Saturday, Temple’s offense drove 66 yards down the field and found themselves in the red zone. Their next three plays were an overthrow of a wide open receiver, a dropped snap and an overthrow of a covered receiver. This led to a converted field goal attempt. 

Although graduate student quarterback Anthony Russo is responsible for the sequence against the Bulls, the Owls’ red zone play-calling needs to improve. 

“This year, Anthony is way more composed,” said redshirt-junior wide receiver Jadan Blue. 

Calling more slant routes or rub routes near the goal line should be a point of emphasis during practice this week for the coaching staff. 

The offensive coaching staff will frequently call a goal line fade to graduate student wide receiver Branden Mack, which hasn’t yielded good results this season. 

In fact, the route only had a 13.5 percent success rate during the 2019 NFL season, ESPN reported. 

If NFL players are having trouble executing the goal line fade, then Temple shouldn’t do it either. 

Temple would also benefit from running the football more efficiently in the red zone. Starting sophomore running back Re’Mahn Davis is only averaging 3.8 yards per carry this season and has just one touchdown. 

The Owls’ offensive line isn’t creating enough holes for Davis to run through. He’s getting contacted too early during plays, forcing him to do a lot of running for minimal gain. 

Temple should consider giving more carries to redshirt-senior running back Tayvon Ruley, who’s averaging  7.7 yards per carry this season, despite only receiving 11 carries. 

Ruley recorded the longest run on the team this season, and he looks like the most dynamic runner on the team through two weeks. 

Carey was unhappy with the way Davis tried to create big plays on his own instead of taking the “tough yards,” he said. 

“Ruley did a nice job of getting those tough yards and being explosive, so we will look to get him in there too,” he added.

The Owls squeaked out a two-point win against the Bulls, who averaged 14.5 points per game before playing Temple. But Memphis, who averages 38 points per game, poses a much bigger challenge. 

Kicking field goals, inefficient play-calling and poor execution from Russo in the red zone will lose them the game. 

“I think there have been key moments where we would like to be better,” Carey said. “But certainly in that game it was better than it was in the first game.”

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