Temple’s First Quarter Report Card
The Temple Owls entered this season with feelings of both optimism and uncertainty. After all, the Owls made the switch to the Big East Conference after departing from it in 2004.
The past few seasons under former head coach Al Golden and current head coach Steve Addazio have been filled with excitement, with two bowl games appearances and numerous players sent to the National Football League. Slowly but surely, Temple is proving that there is more to be hyped up about in its neck of the woods besides just hard-nosed, competitive, NCAA tournament caliber basketball teams.
Prior to the season, Temple wasn’t given any respect by college football experts. No matter where you looked, Temple was picked to finish last in its first year back in the Big East. After week one’s superb showing against Villanova, observers suddenly became more curious.
Were the Owls being under-valued? Was this team better than what people anticipated? Were the days of being the cellar-dwellers in a power conference finally coming to an end? However, a question still lingered in the back of all our minds — what can we really take out of a victory over a Division I-AA team?
We are still searching for answers to those questions after four weeks of this 2012-2013 college football campaign. With three games already played, those preseason doubts have come back to surface and questions about a consistent passing game, roster depth, and youth have risen yet again.
Let’s put some things in perspective first. As announced by Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey via Twitter, out of all the FBS teams across the nation, Temple is one of the least experienced units. The Owls have 15 first-time starters, ranking second nationally behind Air Force. Throughout the whole Big East Conference, nine total freshmen have appeared in the starting lineup for their respective teams. Temple has accounted for five of those nine youngsters. Has the youth and immaturity shown? Without a doubt, but this transition is about the future and that is what head coach Steve Addazio seems to be planning for.
#TUFB is one of the least experienced FBS teams. The Owls have 15 first-time starters, which ranks second nationally behind Air Force (17).
— Keith Pompey (@pompeysgridlock) September 26, 2012
— Keith Pompey (@pompeysgridlock) September 26, 2012
The weaknesses have been clear. Through three games, quarterback Chris Coyer has yet to put together an impressive display through the air. Coyer is 25-55 for 363 yards, throwing four touchdowns and one interception. That is good for a 45.5 completion percentage, a statistic that must improve for the Owls to experience any type of success and progress on the offensive side of the ball.
A bright spot is the Owls ground attack. Their offense is a run-happy scheme, as they have pounded the rock on the ground 114 times, good for an astounding 38 rush attempts per game. We will most likely see that number decrease, but the Owls, led by senior running back Matt Brown, are averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Temple has also made nine trips to the red zone so far this season, scoring eight times, but only have four touchdowns to show for.
It is vital for Temple to balance out the attack on offense in order to keep defenses guessing. If progress can be made through the air, we will see more and more bright spots on offense as the weeks go by.
The defensive unit must improve. Opponents have converted 64 total first downs (Temple has only converted 37) and have out-thrown Temple by nearly 300 yards. Temple has also given up 37 second quarter points through three games, thanks in part to giving up crucial 3rd and 4th down conversions that have ultimately been the back breaker for this defense.
Temple has struggled mightily in pass coverage, but what else can you expect when 14 of the 17 defensive backs listed on the roster are underclassmen? Temple’s front seven has been impressive, putting up 8 sacks through the first three weeks of the season, but failed to sack Matt McGloin as he put together a career day passing for 318 yards.
Unfortunately, Temple’s best player so far this season has been punter/kicker Brandon McManus. The senior is one of eight players throughout the country to handle all kicking duties. McManus is 6 for 7 in field goal opportunities, with his only miss being blocked. He is also averaging a tremendous 47.1 yards per punt.
McManus is second on Temple’s all-time scoring list behind current Baltimore Ravens running back Bernard Pierce. NFL scouts have been raving about the special teamer as of late, so keep your eye on him as the season continues.
All in all, Temple now sits at 1-2 on the young season and will not play again until October 6th, when it hosts the University of South Florida at Lincoln Financial Field in what will be this years “Homecoming Game.” The game will be shown on ABC.
There have been many bright spots on the field, but the team must get better in certain areas, including the offensive passing game and pass defense. Additionally, the play-calling must improve to become less predictable and more dynamic.
Through three games, I have to give Temple a C grade. The Owls have been mediocre in virtually every aspect of the game against two formidable opponents in Penn State and Maryland. I expected the Owls to come out with much more fire in Happy Valley this past weekend, but they started sluggish and struggled to get any type of offensive rhythm going for the second game in a row.
The Owls have an off week to work out the kinks and we can only expect this young team to progress on both sides of the ball, getting better with every in-game rep. Stay tuned for coverage of Temple’s Homecoming Week game against South Florida next week.