WRITTEN BY: TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin
PHILADELPHIA – Temple Football head coach Geoff Collins has not been one to make excuses for his team’s poor play this season. But sometimes excuses come in handy.
Following practice on Tuesday morning, Collins was asked if playing three games in a span of just 13 days took a toll on his players and staff, and although the first-year head coach denied the notion, he did not refrain from comment.
“I had a bunch of people bring that up to me, and I’m never going to use it as an excuse, but we had three games in 13 days. I’ve never been around it,” Collins said during his weekly press conference at Edberg-Olson Hall. “Hadn’t played on a Friday night in a long time. Hadn’t played on a Thursday since we [Mississippi State] won the Egg Bowl back in 2014 on Thanksgiving night. But we’ve got to learn from it. We’ve got another short week coming up during the season. The thing is, we’ve had five days now to recover and learn and regroup from the USF game.”
About that USF game (which was a 43-7 stinker for the Owls in Tampa last Thursday), Collins also refused to acknowledge the ugly loss as any sort of a “wake up call” for the team.
“I think every single thing that we do, we try to be the absolute best,” he said. “We go out there every single day, working the absolute hardest that we can, trying to learn from our mistakes – even in wins. You have to learn from your mistakes.”
Mistakes, Temple had a laundry list of them. Against USF, they rushed for minus-four yards on 33 attempts. They committed six turnovers – four by interception and two by fumble. In total offensive yards, they were outmatched, 408-85. The Owls’ three quarterbacks – Logan Marchi, Frank Nutile, and Todd Centeio – combined for just eight completions on 26 attempts. And it was the first time the Owls did not score a single point on offense since the 2007 season.
HOUSTON IS NO SLOUCH
Temple (2-2, 0-1) plays host to American Athletic Conference rival Houston (2-1, 0-0) on Saturday (Noon kickoff) at Lincoln Financial Field, a game that will not be an easy rebound for the Owls. In four games this season, the Cougars have averaged 27 points and 431.3 yards per game, both of which rank eighth in the AAC. More importantly, Houston’s defense is allowing just 15.3 points per game (second in AAC), which could create more problems for Temple’s jumbled offense.
“Last week’s in the past,” redshirt senior wide receiver Keith Kirkwood said. “We’re just focused on this week, preparing ourselves. Whether it’s extra ice, extra treatment, getting our bodies healthy and watching extra film to go 1-0 this week.”
According to Collins, either Marchi or Nutile will start at quarterback this weekend. Marchi, who’s started Temple’s first four games, threw three interceptions against USF.
“We’re not worried about their confidence,” Collins said of his quarterbacks. “We’re worried about who’s going to execute the offense, who’s going to make the right checks, who’s going to make the right reads, who’s going to throw the ball to the receivers – those kinds of things.”
TEMPLE’S DEFENSE LACKING TUFF-NESS… AGAIN
Temple allowed 43 points and 408 total yards of offense to USF, and the team’s only highlight came from senior defensive end Jacob Martin, who strip-sacked Bulls’ quarterback Quinton Flowers for a 44-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
The Owls’ defensive performance has not been reminiscent of the effort seen from its 2015 and 2016 units, as they’re allowing 31.5 points and 468.5 yards per game (both ranked eighth in AAC). Although there’s little evidence to suggest Temple can turn on the switch from the get-go, Martin and his teammates have not lost faith in their abilities.
“You either bounce back or submit to being 2-2,” Martin said. “It is uncomfortable, an uncomfortable situation, but we have to make the best of it. We can still accomplish what we want to accomplish, come out with an East championship and a conference championship.”
Sophomore linebacker Chapelle Russell agrees with Martin.
“Our confidence is still there,” said Russell, who recorded a career-high 13 tackles against USF. “We know what we can do, know the type of plays we can make when we are all locked in, when we are all doing what we have to do in handling our assignments.”
THE NEXT CHOSEN ‘1’
Russell will wear No. 1 this week for Temple, per Collins. Last week, the number belonged to senior wide receiver Adonis Jennings.
“For the coaches and teammates to respect me enough as a player to be in that No. 1 jersey, it means a lot,” Russell said. “It tells me that people are seeing all the work I’m putting in. Our best football is only going to keep coming, so I’m just looking forward to what’s coming up next.”
-Like Temple, Houston’s offense has used two quarterbacks this year: junior Kyle Allen and senior Kyle Potsma. In three games, Allen has completed 80-of-104 passes for 751 yards and four touchdowns, but he has also turned the ball over six times (four picks, two fumbles). Potsma, who saw time last week when Allen was benched for poor play, has completed 11-of-18 passes for 145 yards and a score.
-Houston’s leading rusher is junior halfback Duke Catalon, who has rushed for 150 yards and a touchdown on 38 carries this season. Behind Catalon is senior Dillon Birden, who has scored twice (111 YDS, 22 ATT). D’Eriq King, a hybrid offensive weapon, carried the ball four times and caught five passes against Texas Tech. He also scored once as a receiver.
-Wide receivers Linell Bonner (257 YDS, 26 REC, 9.9 AVG) and Steven Dunbar (212 YDS, 18 REC, 11.8 AVG) have combined for two touchdowns.
-The Cougars’ defense has a few playmakers to keep an eye out for. 2016 All-American defensive tackle Ed Oliver has forced two fumbles and recorded 22 tackles this season. Linebacker Matthew Adams recorded 15 tackles against Texas Tech (34 total) and safety Khalil Williams leads Houston with two sacks and six tackles for a loss.
-Temple has not faced Houston since the 2015 AAC Championship Game. Houston leads the all-time series, 5-0.
If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.
Michael is an award-winning radio host at WHIP Radio. He has been a staple host on WHIP’s Wake Up Call, and has recently occupied the role of Program Director for the station.