Ryquell Armstead

Temple abandons identity against UConn, now searching for how to become bowl eligible

Temple abandons identity against UConn, now searching for how to become bowl eligible

BOX SCORE

This was personal for Logan Marchi.

After all, Temple’s starting quarterback wouldn’t even be sporting cherry and white Saturday afternoons if his original plan went as scheduled.

Marchi, a Bristol, Connecticut, native, was set to attend UConn after high school. That is, until his scholarship offer was pulled by the Huskies shortly before national signing day.

Temple ultimately came back around and reoffered to Marchi, who signed on the spot.

All of that added a little spice to Saturday’s matchup between Temple and Connecticut at Lincoln Financial Field. Certainly, Marchi would want to put on a show. He just didn’t realize it would be a personal show.

Marchi dropped back for a career-high 54 pass attempts as Temple’s lopsided offense couldn’t help pull off a comeback in a 28-24 homecoming loss to UConn (see observations).

“I think any time you go into any game you want to try and be as balanced as you possibly can,” Temple offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said. “They did a good job early on in the first half of blitzing us and being aggressive in the run game. They also came in with a fairly porous pass defense, so we knew going in we felt like we would be able to throw it.”

Oh, they threw it all right. The Owls (3-4, 1-3 American Athletic Conference) threw when they were ahead early. They went to the air when things were tight during the middle of the game. And they tossed the ball around, even more, when they were trailing late.

It made for a nice day in the stat books for Marchi (career-best 356 yards, one touchdown and one interception). But, more importantly, it threw Temple’s offense out of whack as the team attempted 55 total passes (one spike to stop the clock not charged to Marchi) compared to 29 runs in the program’s first homecoming defeat since 2008.

“I would never imagine wanting to throw it 55 times,” Patenaude said. “We’re not like a Texas Tech type of group that wants to do that over and over again. You always want to be more balanced.”

Patenaude is exactly right. No one will ever mistake Temple’s offense for the Air Raid attack used by the Red Raiders. And that’s a good thing. TU has moved its way up the college football ranks the old-fashioned way: dominating the run game and playing stingy defense.

That commitment to the run is what allowed Bernard Pierce, Montel Harris and Jahad Thomas to all eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark in recent Temple history.

Despite being banged up, Ryquell Armstead, David Hood and the rest of the team’s running backs are waiting for their chance to be able to join that list. They showed flashes against the Huskies as the rushing attack went over the century mark for a third straight game (117 yards) and produced just the second and third scores on the ground from tailbacks this season.

But that quest to have a run-first mentality wasn’t going to get started on this Saturday. The Owls were focused on putting on an aerial show right from the start vs. UConn (2-4, 1-3 AAC), which worked for a while against the AAC’s worst pass defense.

Marchi was on target early. He connected with his receivers downfield when those opportunities presented themselves. However, with the Huskies playing deep coverage, a lot of Marchi’s work came underneath. He found his backs time and again for checkdowns (Hood finished with a team-high eight catches for 91 yards).

That was fine until the Owls’ defense stumbled a bit and the team began trying to play catch-up. Then the wideouts endured a case of the drops and the redshirt sophomore QB threw a critical pick-six near the end of the third quarter to put Temple back down by 14 points.

“We’ve got to execute. We didn’t execute out there today,” Marchi said. “We’ve got to catch passes. We’ve got to make the throws that are there and move the ball better. I thought we did that well coming out in the second half, moving down the field. We’ve just got to make the plays that are there.”

“I thought Logan had some nice balls. We’ve challenged them for the last couple weeks. We’ve got to make those catches,” Temple head coach Geoff Collins said of the dropped passes. “I thought vs. ECU, we were making those catches. We were making the hard catches and we were making the routine catches. There were sometimes out there today, even some of the routine catches, we weren’t pulling down. We’ve got to make sure we do that. 

“It’s been a point of emphasis and we’ll just keep stressing it because in games like this every single time that you drop a pass or there’s an incompletion on a makeable catch, that sets you back. It hurts the momentum, it hurts the tempo. When we were clicking, we were hitting on all cylinders. We were moving the ball up and down the field. Then one drop or one missed target is going to not be good for us.”

True, Temple’s offense was clicking on all cylinders most of the day against UConn. TU won a majority of the battles on the stat sheet, particularly in total yardage (473-244).

Still, the Owls were the ones that walked away back under the .500 mark and searching for answers to how they can make it to bowl eligibility.

“There are obviously some hurt kids in there,” Collins said of the mood in the locker room.

Temple is better off when it's the one hurting opponents on the field, primarily on the ground.

Temple-Houston observations: Owls' offense gets off to sluggish start in loss

Temple-Houston observations: Owls' offense gets off to sluggish start in loss

BOX SCORE

In the end, it was just too little, too late for Temple.

Despite a second-half surge, a 20-point hole was too deep to dig out of for Geoff Collins’ Owls as Houston quarterback Kyle Postma went 25 of 36 for 226 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 81 more yards as the Cougars left Lincoln Financial Field Saturday afternoon with a 20-13 victory.

Temple dropped to 2-3 on the season and 0-2 in AAC conference play. Houston improved to 3-1 on the year and 1-0 in the conference.

The Temple offense was sluggish yet again, especially early on, which played a big role in the 20-point deficit they faced. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Logan Marchi had another uneven showing, going 20 for 41 for 182 yards, a touchdown and a three picks. And he could have thrown more picks if tipped balls went other directions.

Ryquell Armstead led the charge on the ground with 63 yards on 14 carries.

But still, with all the issues, the Owls were in a position to strike late and tie the game in the waning minutes after a second-half comeback that included a pair of Aaron Boumerhi field goals and a 1-yard David Hood TD reception on 4th-and-goal.

Temple took over at its own 8-yard line with 5:15 left and slowly but surely pushed the ball to midfield and faced a 3rd-and-10 with just under two minutes left. A very questionable pitch call that went nowhere left Temple with 4th-and-10 and the game on the line. Marchi’s pass sailed over the head of Armstead and so, too, did Temple’s chance at pulling the victory cheese away from the Cougars’ claws.

• Let’s get this straight: Could Marchi be better? Yeah, a lot better. But this Temple offense woefully lacks an identity right now. Is it power running up the gut? Is it stretching the field horizontally with jet sweeps and screens? Is it throwing it down the field? Is it uptempo? There’s no answer, and that’s not a good thing. It’s all over the place. Stick to something, at least for a little bit and let your team know what it is. While Marchi could be better, he isn’t necessarily being put in a position to succeed and he’s not getting much help. That said, the running game started to establish itself some in the second half, which led to digging out of the 20-point hole.

• The opening drive of the game was a microcosm of everything that ails the Temple offense right now. It’s all so disjointed. Forward movement washed away unforced mistakes. Marchi hit Isaiah Wright for 17 yards on an out route to get the Owls in business at the Houston 7-yard line. A stuffed run for a five-yard loss, an incomplete pass and a completely unnecessary intentional grounding where Marchi had all the time in the world to throw the ball away later and the Owls were out of field-goal range at the Houston 36. Let’s break this down: 1st-and-goal at the 7-yard-line to a 4th-and-goal punt at the Houston 36. One step forward, so many steps backward. It’s the theme that anchors this Temple offense.

• Ten penalties for 83 yards for Temple sure as heck isn’t helping the cause, now is it?

• I get the point behind college football’s targeting rule. And, for the most part, do I think it’s a rule that works? Yes, I do. But I’m not sold at all on the one called at the end of the first quarter on Temple LB Shaun Bradley, who entered the game with four sacks and 23 tackles on the year, fourth-most on the team. Houston WR Linell Bonner crouched down across the middle to catch a low pass from Postma. As he crouched and dropped the ball, Bradley came across and hit him high in that split second. Yes, it was a high hit. No doubt. But Bradley came in for a form tackle and it was impossible for him to shift his body in that split second. Thus the high hit. There was no intentional target and the hit was high because of the positioning of the receiver. Tough call that cost the Owls one of their leading tacklers for the rest of the afternoon.

• Two series of plays perfectly illustrated just how tough a day at the office it was for Temple. In the first, Owls corner Mike Jones picked off a Postma past in the end zone, giving Temple a touchback and the ball. But not so fast as he was flagged for a very ticky-tack pass interference call where both players were jockeying for the ball and position. On the next play, Houston’s D’Eriq King took a reverse 13 yards for the game’s opening TD. Momentum taken away and sent the other way. In the second, Temple’s Keith Kirkwood made a great adjustment and hauled in a 30-yard pass while falling down near the sideline at the Houston 6-yard line. After a review, it was ruled Kirkwood’s knee was on the sideline as he caught the ball and thus the pass was ruled incomplete. On the next play, Marchi was obliterated on a blitz while throwing and the ball was picked by Houston’s Garrett Davis. More momentum was taken away and sent the other way. But, hey, the good teams make and earn their own breaks, right?

• Shame we didn’t get to see much of Houston superstar All-American defensive tackle Ed Oliver on Saturday. The 6-foot-3, 290-pound sophomore left the game in the first quarter with an injury and did not return to the contest. He was seen on the Houston sideline with ice wrapped around his left knee. Get used to hearing that guy’s name in the coming year. Hello, top of the 2019 NFL draft.

• Temple returns to the unfriendly road next week for a noon kickoff at East Carolina. The Pirates are not a great team, but the same can be said right now for Temple, which obviously still has plenty of knots to unravel in the coming week.

Temple at No. 21 USF: Owls look to defend AAC title vs. this season's favorite

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CSN

Temple at No. 21 USF: Owls look to defend AAC title vs. this season's favorite

Temple (2-1, 0-0 AAC) vs. No. 21 South Florida (3-0, 0-0 AAC)
Raymond James Stadium – Tampa, Florida
Thursday, 7:30 p.m., ESPN

It was another disjointed effort last week for Geoff Collins’ Temple team, but, when the horn sounded, it was another notch in the win column.

Things got hairy again for the Owls —  just as they did the prior week vs. Villanova — and Temple had to fend off an underwhelming UMass team for a 29-21 victory last week at the Linc.

But the mood is about to change.

That’s because the Owls on Thursday have a date in Tampa vs. AAC heavyweight No. 21 South Florida.

Head coach Charlie Strong —  formerly of Texas — and the Bulls, the preseason AAC champion pick and the “Group of Six” darling among many pundits, are 3-0 on the season and are coming off a 47-23 romp over Illinois last week.

The Bulls are an offensive juggernaut, having scored 120 points over their first three games. They’ve also scored at least 30 points in their last 20 games, the longest such streak in the nation.

Needless to say, the Owls are in for a stern test.

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup.

Scouting Temple
Even though true freshman Todd Centeio took a handful of snaps and helped move the ball last week, redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi is still the guy for Temple at the QB spot. Last week vs. UMass, Marchi had his best showing to date, going 22 for 37 with 248 yards and three touchdown tosses. Starts to games haven’t necessarily been the best for Marchi as taking time to settle in has been a prevalent theme throughout his first three contests. A sound start for Marchi will be imperative in a hostile environment on Thursday. On the season, Marchi has thrown for 767 yards and five TDs.

Marchi has spread the ball around this season, as the Owls have four wideouts with over 100 yards receiving — Keith Kirkwood (185), Isaiah Wright (180), Adonis Jennings (146) and Ventell Bryant (107). Bryant’s numbers come in just two games as he missed the opener vs. Notre Dame with a hamstring injury. While Wright led the way last week with four grabs for 69 yards andaa TD, Kirkwood has been Marchi’s favorite target. The 6-foot-3 senior has 12 grabs and two TDs on the season.

The Owls’ running game has yet to get our of its early-season funk. Junior Ryquell Armstead broke off a 56-yarder last week, but still just finished with 35 yards on his other 16 carries.  He’s Temple’s leading rusher this year with 177 yards. The Owls have just 283 yards (113th in the nation) on the ground through two games and just a single rushing touchdown — a 1-yard dive by fullback Nick Sharga.

To say the Temple defense has been inconsistent this year would be an understatement. After the Owls were scorched on the ground by Notre Dame in the opener to the tune of 422 yards and 5 TDs, the last two games have seen the Owls get carved up through the air. Through three games, Temple is 119th in the land with 488.7 yards allowed per game. The Owls are 116th in the nation with 1466 total yards allowed and 120th with 943 passing yards allowed. Needless to say, there better be some improvement this week or things could get ugly … fast.

Scouting South Florida
South Florida’s prolific offense, which is averaging 40 points per game over the first three contests of the season, is lead by star senior QB Quinton Flowers, just as it has been for the last several seasons. Flowers is the Bulls’ motor that can send them into overdrive at the blink of an eye. This season, the shifty Flowers has thrown for 678 yards and eight TDs. A steady threat with his legs, Flowers has also rushed for 243 yards and two TDs. He’s got a history of being a thorn in the Owls’ side. In South Florida’s 2015 win over Temple, Flowers threw for 230 yards and two TDs while rushing for 90 yards and another score. Last season, he threw for two more scores while rushing for 90 more yards and a touchdown.

Flowers is a legit rushing threat to the point where Temple deployed Haason Reddick as the QB spy when the teams met last season. But Flowers is only the second leading rusher on the Bulls. The top spot belongs to senior Darius Tice, who’s finally getting a chance to be a lead back as Marlon Mack has moved on to the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts. This season, Tice has 256 yards and four scores on the ground

On the outside, senior wideout Marquez Valdes-Scantling is the Bulls’ leading receiver with 202 total yards and two TDs. Last week vs. Illinois, he had four grabs for 96 yards and a TD. Temple’s secondary needs to be wary.

There are points to be had on South Florida’s defense, which allows a smidge under 21 points per game. The Bulls are known to let up yardage through the air as they give up 234 per game, in the bottom tier of the nation. It adds to why Temple needs to get Marchi into a rhythm early Thursday night. If the Temple passing game gets going early, Kirkwood, Jennings, Bryant and crew could find favorable matchups and do some damage. On the other hand, Thursday may not be the best time for Armstead and the rushing game to scoot out of the rut they’ve been stuck in. The Bulls’ rushing defense is stout, giving up just 89.3 yards per game, good for 14th in the nation during the young season.

History
Thursday evening will mark the fourth all-time meeting between Temple and South Florida in a series that dates back to 2012. The Owls hold a 2-1 series advantage, including a win in the last meeting — a 46-30 decision last October in Philadelphia.

Storyline to watch: Can Temple slow a speedy QB?
In recent years under Matt Rhule and former defensive coordinator Phil Snow, the Owls had stingy defenses, but those stingy defenses would have their struggles, sometimes mighty struggles, against QBs who were adept at using their legs.

While the core group of those players have moved on, there is still evidence that the same issue sticks within these Owls. In the season opener, Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush burnt the Owls for 106 yards and a TD on the ground.

While things have settled some with Temple’s rushing defense over the past two weeks, the unit hasn’t faced a mobile QB during that time. Flowers is an entirely different animal who can change a game with his legs in the blink of an eye. It’s almost like pick your poison. Is Temple going to let Flowers attempt to beat them with his arm or legs? It can’t be both, because he can use both with the best of them.

What’s at stake: AAC East supremacy
South Florida is the AAC darling this season, but the fact of the matter is that Temple, while flush with brand new faces, is still the defending conference champ and the two-time division champ.

The Owls can stake their claim to being a legit threat and make a statement in the AAC. Or they can have a statement made at their expense.

Prediction
With the way South Florida has been steamrolling teams and the experience edge, especially at quarterback, the Bulls just have too much talent and will assert dominance in this one. They will just overwhelm the young Owls.

South Florida 38, Temple 23