The Owls are ranked 25th in the USA Today coaches poll, and the defense deserves the credit.
On Sept. 24, I wrote that Temple was not ready for the national spotlight after losing to the University of Buffalo. After the last three weeks, I’m convinced the defense deserves to be in the spotlight.
The Owls (5-1, 2-0 The American Athletic Conference) forced four turnovers in their 30-28 defeat of Memphis (5-1, 1-1 The AAC) at home on Saturday. Temple forced three fumbles and one interception.
The Owls gave up 492 yards, but when Temple needed a stop at the end of the game, the defense came through and sealed the game.
Late in the fourth quarter, redshirt-sophomore defensive lineman Ifeanyi Maijeh pressured Memphis redshirt-junior quarterback Brady White, forcing him to throw an incomplete pass on fourth down allowing Temple to hold on and win.
The definition of a good defense is stepping up when the team needs it most, and Temple does that.
Through six games, the Owls’ defense has only allowed 19 points per game, ranking them first in The American. Temple is holding opponents to a 28.7 percent conversion rate on third down which ranks 12th in the entire country.
The Owls are successful on defense because they have three versatile linebackers who serve different roles and complement each other.
Senior Shaun Bradley and graduate student Chapelle Russell play on the inside of the defense and are terrific run defenders. Combined, the two have 62 tackles and eight tackles for loss this season.
Senior Sam Franklin is more effective in defending the pass than his counterparts. Franklin plays most of his snaps as a “slot corner” covering receivers.
With Franklin locking down the slot, Bradley and Russell can play to their strengths and focus on the running game.
Temple’s linebackers don’t have to worry about creating pressure because the defensive line has played well this year.
The Owls’ four defensive linemen — junior Daniel Archibong, graduate student Zack Mesday, redshirt-junior Quincy Roche and Maijeh — consistently disrupt opposing quarterbacks.
Because the Owls can pressure the quarterback with four defensive linemen, they do not have to bring extra rushers from other positions on the field, allowing more players to defend against the passing game.
Temple’s secondary has recorded four interceptions and 19 pass breakups this season. While the secondary deserves plenty of credit, the defensive line helps put them in situations to succeed by creating pressure.
Maijeh is tied for first place in the conference with six sacks and Roche is tied for fifth with three sacks.
The Owls defense will face their toughest test so far this season in their next game on the road against Southern Methodist (6-0, 2-0 The AAC) on Oct. 19.
The Mustangs are averaging 44.17 points per game and have scored under 40 points only once this season when they scored 37 against Arkansas State on Aug. 31.
If the Owls can keep the Mustangs’ offense in check then there should be no argument against them being one of the best defenses in the country.