WRITTEN BY TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin
In the first two weeks of season play, the Temple Football Owls dominated their opponents with commanding efforts, winners of two upset contests against Penn State and Cincinnati. As Week 3 is set to begin this Saturday afternoon, the Owls continue their road trip at Gillette Stadium to face the Massachusetts Minutemen in Foxboro.
It is the first time that Temple has ever faced Massachusetts in program history, and the first time since 2001 that the Owls are playing in the New England state (at Boston College).
Temple (2-0) are coming off of a thrilling 34-26 victory of American Athletic Conference favorite Cincinnati, and has scored 61 points in their first two games. The Owls are also in search of claiming wins in their first three games, a feat that has not been reached since the 2010 season as members of the Mid-American Conference.
Owls’ running back Jahad Thomas was the star on offense for the second consecutive game, eclipsing 300 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns against the Bearcats. On the defensive end, interceptions ruled the night, as Bearcats’ quarterback Gunner Kiel surrendered two picks apiece to Owls’ Alex Wells and Tyler Matakevich, one of which sealed Temple’s victory with 13 seconds left in regulation.
The Minutemen (0-1) did not have much luck last week, as they were defeated by the Colorado Buffaloes 48-14 in their first game of the 2015 campaign. Massachusetts’ offense is led by senior quarterback Blake Frohnapfel, who tallied 225 yards with one touchdown and interception against Colorado. Frohnapfel transfered from Marshall in 2013, and in his first year as a Minuteman last season, he threw for 3,345 yards, including 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Frohnapfel also average 311.8 passing yards per game in 2014, which ranked 10th among all NCAA Division I FBS teams.
Senior halfback Jamal Wilson will lead the ground game, but he earned only 21 yards on five carries last week. The offensive wide-out for Massachusetts is senior Tajae Sharpe, who tallied 138 yards on 11 receptions versus Colorado. Sharpe totaled seven touchdowns on 1,281 yards in 2014, and is considered Massachusetts’ most valuable receiver.
Owls’ senior Tyler Matakevich has recognized his team’s early success, but the focus remains on the next game at hand.
“It is nice to be 2-0, but those games are behind us,” he said. “We have UMass now and they are a good team and we will have our hands full.”
Temple has managed to deflect attention from the fans and media, and safety Alex Wells has bought in to the Owls’ preparation.
“If you constantly hear you are great and you are doing well, it is hard to ignore,” said Wells. “But I think we prepped for this moment.”
Temple head coach Matt Rhule believes in his team’s growth in maturity, and when it comes to his players, leading rusher Jahad Thomas insists that his teammates are level headed, largely in credit to the Owls’ veteran roster.
“We all have the right mind-set,” said Thomas. “Nobody is getting big-headed or cocky or taking wins for granted.”
Temple enters Week 3 ranked 26th in the AP Top 25 poll, 10 points behind 25th-ranked Oklahoma State. A convincing victory against the Minutemen would be the ‘shot heard ’round the world’ for the Owls.
WEEK 3: TEMPLE (2-0) at MASSACHUSETTS (0-1), SEPTEMBER 19, 2015
GILLETTE STADIUM, FOXBORO, MA
TV: 3:00PM ON ESPN3, WATCH ESPN
RADIO: WHIP TEMPLE RADIO (PREGAME AT 2:30), 97.5 THE FANATIC
ODDS: TEM -10.5, O/U 55