Temple (2-3, 0-1 American Athletic Conference) entered last week looking to kick off conference play with a big win on the road against Tulsa. However, that was not the case, as the Owls fell 48-26 in an uninspiring blowout loss.
The game was riddled with miscues and missed assignments on the defensive side of the ball, but head coach Stan Drayton took part of the blame for the miscommunication.
“We’ve just got to make sure that our players are understanding what we are asking them to do,” Drayton said. “You can sit here and talk about missed assignments, that’s not all on the player. We have to make sure we’re putting our players in the proper positions to make plays.”
The Owls will need to sharpen their play on both sides of the ball Saturday, as they host UTSA (1-3, 0-0 AAC) for their homecoming game.
Can the Owls defeat their new conference foe? Here is everything you need to know ahead of Temple’s week 6 matchup against UTSA.
STAYING ON SCHEDULE
Temple is currently ninth out of 14 teams in the AAC on first down conversions, averaging just 19 per game.
The Owls have struggled this season on both first and second down, repeatedly putting themselves in long third and fourth down situations. Temple is ninth in third down conversions, succeeding on just 37.8 percent of its attempts, and tenth on fourth down conversions, making 52.6 percent.
“Our first and second down efficiency on offense has continued to struggle,” Drayton said. “We’re having to convert on tough third down situations and tough fourth down situations. You don’t want to have to live that way, and that’s kind of how we’re built right now.”
STRUGGLES ON THE LINES CONTINUE
A recurring theme for Temple this season has been its struggle to stay healthy and play well in the trenches. That continued to be a problem last week.
The Owls have been unable to effectively run the ball since their monster 290-yard performance against FCS opponent Norfolk State. Since that game, the Owls have totaled just 55 rushing yards in their following two games.
A major reason for the Owls’ struggles has been the lack of gaps for their running backs to run through.
“It’s just not good enough,” Drayton said. “We just got to get better in the respect, we’re just young upfront”
On the defensive side of the ball, the line has been plagued with injuries all season, including a season-ending injury to starter Demerick Morris in the offseason. The unit hasn’t found any consistency, which has led to a lack of pressure and its struggle to stop the run game. The Owls are 10th in sacks in the AAC with just six, and 13th in the conference against the run, allowing 214 rushing yards per game.
“There’s other ways to get pressure up front,” Drayton said. “Again, we’ve been beat up, and we’ve had some young guys. I’d like to see some more come out of our interior in some respects. But we can do better in that area, we just need to find creative ways to. If we can’t get it from the defensive line then we need to get it from the secondary and the linebackers.”
Temple enters week six with a multitude of injuries on both sides of the ball, forcing young and inexperienced players to play significant snaps.
Most recently, the Owls lost starting defensive lineman Allan Haye, who transferred from Miami in the offseason, for the rest of the season. There are also multiple players listed as day-to-day, including wide receivers Amad Anderson Jr. and Dante Wright, as well as single-digit linebacker Yvandy Rigby, who hasn’t played since week two.
The shorthanded Owls will need their young players to step up in the absence of key pieces on both sides of the ball in order to get back on track with a win.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM UTSA
While the Roadrunners enter Saturday at 1-3, they have also had injury issues, specifically at the quarterback position. Quarterback Frank Harris has missed the last two games for UTSA with a toe injury.
Harris combined for 423 yards and two touchdowns in the first two games of the season. The redshirt senior is now considered a game-time decision ahead of Saturday’s matchup, said UTSA head coach Jeff Traylor.
“When [Harris] puts it down and uses his legs, he’s probably the fastest quarterback we have faced,” Drayton said. “He can really roll, he is a dual threat for real. He can make you miss in space, he is tough on contact and he brings a lot of promise to the table.”
If Harris can’t play, Eddie Lee Marburger and Owen McCown are possible fill-ins. Marburger has 300 yards and three touchdowns this season, while McCown replaced Marburger in the second half of the Roadrunners’ loss to No. 20 Tennessee. McCown completed 18-20 pass attempts for 170 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Roadrunners have one of the better younger linebackers in the country, Trey Moore, who has four sacks this season. Moore brings speed and agility, and is constantly making plays around the ball, leading the Roadrunners in tackles with 19.
Declan Landis, Sports Editor: “UTSA is much better talent wise than on paper. I think a healthy Frank Harris is too much of a dual threat to stop. The Owls will need to step up on defense in a big way to keep this game within reach.”
UTSA wins 31-21.
Johnny Zawislak, Assistant Sports Editor: “I think that both UTSA and Temple have struggled so far this year, however UTSA has shown they are capable of playing at a high level in the past. I also think Frank Harris’ dual threat ability and Trey Moore’s defensive threat will be too much for the Owls.”
UTSA wins 28-24.
Ryan Mack, Assistant Sports Editor: “I think the huge factor is if Frank Harris is able to play. Temple struggled last week to contain Tulsa’s Cardell Williams Jr., and if Harris plays, I expect much of the same. If Temple can get the run game going against UTSA, who also has problems stopping the run, then Temple could pull it out, but the talent favors UTSA.”
UTSA wins 24-20.
Jaison Nieves, Sports Social Media Manager: “UTSA poses challenges for Temple in all of their weak points, but I think Stan Drayton has worked to address the run game and they will be more prepared and successful coming into this game. I’m expecting a big game from E.J. Warner and a Temple upset.”
Temple wins 27-21.