Coming off a 35-3 loss against an underrated Oregon St. team is tough, but following that game with a showdown against reigning national champion and current top-ranked Miami Hurricanes is an unenviable task Temple (1-1,0-0) has indeed.
Head coach Larry Coker and his Canes’ are 2-0 and feeling aplomb after their 41-16 drubbing of Florida, led by a vaunted defense that shutdown Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Rex Grossman.
With incredible odds against them, Temple head coach Bobby Wallace, knows that his team will not back down and let Miami treat them as a mere formality.
“You prepare for them just like any other game,” Wallace said. “With the attitude that you’re going to execute, you’re going to fight them and play as hard as you can.
“It’s exciting to play the number one team in the nation, and anyone who can’t get excited about that … then I think they should get the hell out of college football.”
Through the first two games, sophomore quarterback Mike McGann has struggled with the nuances of offensive coordinator Dave Brock’s spread offense.
McGann has completed only 48 percent of his passes and has already thrown six interceptions. While the young quarterback benefits from every game with experience,Miami will surely be looking to frustrate McGann with an array of swarming blitzes, coupled by their unmatched speed.
“He’s a young quarterback and we got to teach him to read defenses better,” Wallace said.
“From a physical standpoint it will be a little tougher, because he’s going to get hit a bunch and we’ve got to protect him.”
Despite a pass-happy offense, Temple is heavily reliant on senior running back Tanardo Sharps. Already in mid-season form, Sharps makes the offense run with more fluidity.
However, his lack of touchdown production is more than transparent (one touchdown in his last 12 games).
Sharps will surely be a marked man as Miami’s defensive unit, led by linebacker
D.J. Williams and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, can cover all parameters with their athleticism.
Miami is one of the fastest teams in the nation, Wallace said, which possess outstanding players at every position.
Finding a way to slow them down will be imperative, and Wallace, who admitted that his secondary had one of its worst games against Oregon St, believes that his players can bounce back.
Senior quarterback Ken Dorsey runs the talented Miami offense with high degrees of success.
A career record of 28-1 as a starter and a current 24 game-winning streak, Dorsey distributes the ball to a heralded group of speed demons capable of stretching defenses.
Coker is more than aware of the comparative advantage of his team’s speed.
“We knew we had some fast players back, and we recruited some fast players,” Coker said.
“Our defensive backs and these other young players that are playing, they don’t have the football experience yet…so hopefully we can teach them what to do.”
In the last three meetings, Miami has outscored Temple 138-17, so trying to contain their explosive offensive will be a team effort.
Fortunately, senior All-American Dan Klecko is healthy after missing the season-opener versus Richmond.
However, Wallace said that senior nose tackle Robert Sack will miss this week’s game due to injury, and that further maladies to interior lineman Tyrone Ditzel and Dominique Veney limiting their playing time.
Due to Miami’s ability to mix it up offensively, Wallace stressed the importance of controlling their ground game.
Coker’s two-prong attack of running backs James Geathers and Willis McGahee has produced 200-yard rushing performances from both.
Both are atop the Big East Conference in rushing, and Geathers is dangerous outside the backfield as a receiver.
Wallace’s approach gives his squad the best chance at success, since Dorsey has thrown four interceptions in the first two games.
Keeping him disconcerted could have a trickle-down effect on the offense, thus limiting their astronomical potential.
Wallace stressed that stopping the run was a top priority.
“We’re going to do everything we can to stop their running attack, first,” Wallace said. “With the pass game you can always hope for pressure, a dropped pass, or an interception.”
The operative word being “hope” in that last sentence. For Temple to win, many improbable things must happen, and all of them rest on a lot of hope.
Jason Haslan can be reached at Jasonhaslam@yahoo.com