What to watch out for ahead of Temple vs East Carolina

Temple will start their fourth different quarterback of the season against East Carolina on Saturday.

Redshirt-junior wide receiver Jadan Blue falls to the ground during the Owls' game against Southern Methodist University at Lincoln Financial Field on Nov. 7. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple University football (1-5, 1-5 The American Athletic Conference) will try to snap a four-game losing streak when they match up with East Carolina (1-6, 1-5 The American) at home on Saturday. 

Here are three matchups for fans to watch. 

The Owls’ quarterbacks vs the Pirates’ quarterbacks 

Owls freshman quarterback Matt Duncan will make his first start of his career on Saturday, making him the fourth different quarterback to start a game for the Owls this season. 

Redshirt-sophomore quarterbacks Re-al Micthell and Trad Beatty are both unavailable for play due to undisclosed injuries while graduate student quarterback Anthony Russo is out due to COVID-19 protocols, head coach Rod Carey said. 

Duncan did play a couple of series last week against Central Florida where he completed zero pass on two attempts while running the ball for five yards on four attempts. 

The Pirates’ starting quarterback, junior Holton Ahlers, averages 240.2 passing yards per game, which ranks sixth in The American. In total, Ahlers has thrown 1,441 yards, 12 touchdown passes and eight interceptions. 

Unlike Duncan, Ahlers has prior starting experience at quarterback. He played in 10 games as a freshman, 12 as a sophomore and six this season. 

Ahlers is a good athlete who can hurt opposing defenses with his running ability, although he’s only recorded 38 net rushing yards this season. 

Temple’s passing defense has struggled to stop opposing quarterbacks this season. They rank last in The American in passing defense passing efficiency.  

The Owls’ receivers vs the Pirates’ cornerbacks 

The Owls’ receivers ability to consistently create separation from the defense with their route running is vital to making life easier on Duncan in his first ever start. 

Redshirt-junior receiver Jadan Blue leads the team with 381 yards this season and has also recorded 41 catches and five touchdowns. Graduate student receiver Randle Jones is second on the team with 370 yards this season but it is unclear if he will play on Saturday, Carey said. 

Two receivers who could step up in Jones’ absence are redshirt-sophomore Jose Barbon and redshirt-freshman De’Von Fox. Barbon has recorded just six catches for 54 yards this season while Fox has recorded five catches for 46 yards. 

Like Temple’s passing defense, the Pirates also rank towards the bottom of the conference in passing efficiency. However, they are tied for fifth in interceptions with six.  

Senior defensive back Warren Saba is tied for the team lead with two interceptions, one of which he ran back for a touchdown. In total, Saba has recorded 30 tackles, one sack and one pass breakup this season. 

Sophomore cornerback Ja’Quan McMillian also has two interceptions for the Pirates. In total, he’s recorded 25 tackles and two pass breakups this season. 

Owls’ offensive line vs the Pirates’ defensive line

Offensive line is yet another position where Temple is dealing with extensive injuries. Backup redshirt-freshmen David Nwaogwugwu and Wisdom Quarsihe were both forced into action last week due to injury. 

Despite using multiple lineups throughout the season, the Owls have only given up 12 sacks this season, which is tied for third fewest in The American. 

However, Temple is struggling to run the ball this season. They average only 3.6 yards per carry and their 140.3 rushing yards per game ranks 10th in The American. 

Temple’s offensive line might be able to create more running lanes against the Pirates’ defensive line as East Carolina is giving up 228.9 rushing yards per game, which is the second most in The American. 

Temple’s offensive line should have a favorable matchup when pass blocking as the Pirates have only recorded 12 total sacks this season, which ranks seventh in The American. 

The Pirates’ leader in sacks is a linebacker instead of a defensive lineman. Sophomore Jireh Wilson leads the team with three sacks this season. 

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