What to watch out for ahead of Temple vs Central Florida

After two straight 20 point losses, the Owls will have to contain UCF quarterback Dillion Gabriel who leads the AAC in passing yards per game in order to win.

Redshirt-sophomore quarterback Re-al Mitchell fakes a handoff to graduate student wide receiver Willie Erdman during the Owls' game against Southern Methodist University at Lincoln Financial Field on Nov. 7. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple University football (1-4,1-4 The American Athletic Conference) looks to break a three game losing streak and get their second win of the season on the road against Central Florida (4-2, 3-2 The American) on Saturday night. 

Here are three key matchups for fans to watch. 

Owls’ quarterbacks vs Knights’ quarterbacks

Temple’s quarterback situation is still up in the air for this week’s game. 

Graduate-student Anthony Russo practiced on Tuesday after missing the team’s last two games but it is unclear whether he will play this week. Redshirt-sophomore Trad Beatty started in Russo’s place the past two weeks but suffered an undisclosed injury during last week’s game and won’t be available on Saturday, head coach Rod Carey said. 

This leaves redshirt sophomore Re-al Mitchell as the Owls’ starter if Russo isn’t able to play again. Mitchell has completed 55.17 percent of his passes this season for just 131 yards and one touchdown. 

Mitchell’s biggest strength is picking up yards on quarterback scrambles and designed quarterback runs. He’s recorded 103 rushing yards, which ranks third on the team for the season and second excluding former running back Re’Mahn Davis, who opted out of the season last week. 

If Mitchell does start on Saturday, it will be his first collegiate start. 

The Knights’ quarterback sophomore Dillion Gabriel will make his 18th start of his career on Saturday. 

Gabriel is completing 63.98 percent of his passes while recording 2,506 yards, 21 touchdowns and just two interceptions this season. He also averages 417.7 passing yards per game which ranks first in The American. 

Gabriel is also a threat to pick up yards with his legs as he’s rushed for 116 total yards this season and one touchdown. 

The Knight’s passing offense is difficult to stop because they utilize a fast tempo while challenging the defense to defend both vertical and horizontal passing concepts. 

This is similar to what the Owls defense faced last week against Southern Methodist (7-1, 4-1 The American) and their quarterback senior Shane Buechele. 

Owls’ cornerbacks vs Knights’ wide receivers 

Temple is allowing 223.4 passing yards per game this season, which ranks fifth in The American, but they rank last in pass defense efficiency with a rating of 167.8. The Owls are also tied for last in total interceptions with just two. 

Starting cornerback redshirt-junior Christian Braswell has recorded 20 total tackles, one interception and pass breakup this season. Graduate student cornerback Linwood Crump leads the team in pass breakups with four. 

The Knights’ top-two receivers, senior Marlon Williams and redshirt-sophomore Jaylon Robinson, lead The American in total receiving yards, receiving yards per game and all purpose yards per game. 

In total, Williams has recorded 59 catches, 840 yards and six touchdowns while Robinson has recorded 37 catches, 709 yards and four touchdowns. 

Temple’s cornerbacks must focus on stopping UCF’s receivers from making big plays. Williams averages 14.24 yards per catch, Robinson averages 19.16 yards per catch and sophomore wide receiver Ryan O’Keefe averages 25.43 yards per catch. 

The Owls’ leading wide receiver in yards per catch is graduate student Branden Mack with an average of 12.10. 

Owls’ running backs vs Knights’ linebackers 

Temple’s rushing offense is struggling this season. They rank 10th in The American in rushing yards per game with 131.8 and their leading rusher is redshirt-senior Tayvon Ruley who has just 168 yards and one touchdown this season. 

Ruley made his first start of the season last week against The Mustangs and recorded 66 rushing yards and one touchdown. 

Three other running backs saw minimal usage against The Mustangs last week.

Redshirt-freshman Onasis Neely had two carries for 13 yards, redshirt-freshman Edward Saydee had four carries for 11 yards and redshirt-sophomore Kyle Dobbins three carries for five yards. 

Redshirt-senior linebacker Eric Mitchell is no longer on the team after he and three other teammates were involved in a traffic stop where one player was arrested, The Orlando Sentinel reported. 

Mitchell was the Knights second leading tackler before he left the team. He recorded 40 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and one pass breakup this season. 

Junior linebacker Eriq Gilyard is third on the team in tackles with 36 total, and he’s recorded 5.5 tackles for loss which is second on the team. 

As a team, The Knights’ have allowed eight rushing touchdowns and 190.5 rushing yards per game which ranks sixth in The American. 

The Knights play a 4-2-5 defense meaning they have four defensive lineman, two linebackers and five defensive backs on the field during most plays. This defense is designed primarily to stop the passing game, meaning Temple might be able to improve their poor rushing numbers this week. 

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