Temple Owls

Temple spring game: Potent, experienced run game a glimpse of Geoff Collins' plans?

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Temple spring game: Potent, experienced run game a glimpse of Geoff Collins' plans?

Let's be honest with ourselves -- it's early into the Geoff Collins era at Temple. Very early.
And Saturday's annual Cherry and White spring game was a big scoop of vanilla on a wet, dreary April Saturday afternoon, just over four months until the start of training camp and just over five months until the Sept. 2 season opener at Notre Dame.
But while Saturday was just the scantest of glimmers into what Collins and offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude have in store for the new-fangled Temple offense, it was still hard to deny what may have been a glimpse of the backbone of the Owls' offensive plans -- a power running game led by two experienced upperclassmen in Ryquell Armstead and Jager Gardner.
Both junior backs left their marks Saturday in White's 17-14 win over Cherry in a game that was straight-up offense (Cherry) vs. defense (White).
"We established the run today," Collins, who spent time as defensive coordinator at both Florida and Mississippi State before coming to Temple, said after the annual exhibition.
"The big thing for us offensively is that we want to be able to impose our will whenever we want to. And that means being physical, being tough and really getting after people. … But Rock (Armstead) and Jags (Gardner), those are guys who create their own holes.
"I thought Jager had a great day today. He looked like a PlayStation 4 character out there, juking and hurdling people. He was phenomenal."
The speedy Gardner, a 6-foot-2, 214-pound slasher, was the star Saturday with nine carries for 67 yards and a touchdown. On one of those carries, he completely hurdled a helpless linebacker in the middle of the field en route to a 23-yard gain. Gardner also made a tough back-shoulder grab down the sideline on a long pass play.
Armstead, the 5-foot-11, 205-pound lead horse of the Owls' running back core, didn't see as many touches and had just 10 yards on four carries. But considering the sloppy conditions and the Owls' need to keep him healthy, it's easy to see why he was limited.
But both in recent years have proven they can achieve success on the field, even with the success of Jahad Thomas, who racked up 2,599 yards and 38 touchdowns on the ground over the last two seasons before graduating.

Armstead rushed for 919 yards and a team-high 14 scores last season. As the third back last year, Gardner ran for just 111 yards and two scores. But he does hold the school record with a 94-yard TD scamper at SMU in 2015 and coaches will tell you all about the electric style he can bring. Now he has an opportunity to show it.
And the Owls will undoubtedly lean on both Armstead and Gardner even more this season offensively as they break in a new starting quarterback. Four-year starter Phillip Walker, who re-wrote the program record books with 10,669 passing yards and 74 TD passes, has also graduated.
Does that add more pressure onto the shoulders of Armstead and Gardner?
"I enjoy being an upperclassman and know I have to be a leader in the room," Armstead said. "I know the offense like the back of my hand. I've got to make sure my guys are up to par with the offense.
"I still believe we have to balance. We have to run the ball when we have to and we have to pass the ball when we have to. So just being balanced, going fast when we have to and slowing it down when we need to will help any quarterback that's in."
"I don't feel any added pressure," Gardner said. "I've been here since my freshman year. I didn't redshirt. So I feel that me and [Armstead] work off each other. We just build off each other. We're going to take it one day at a time and get better, each of us. So there's not going to be anything new for us.
"It's not going to get any harder or any easier. We're just going to change a little bit of the things up. Just have to get used to some stuff we haven't done before. It won't get any harder. We just have to focus on the stuff we have to do now."
As for that tricky quarterback situation …
Many pundits have pegged redshirt freshman Anthony Russo as the leader in the clubhouse. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Russo, an Archbishop Wood grad who originally committed to Rutgers before decomitting and then receiving heavy interest from Les Miles and LSU before inking with Temple in 2015, has all the physical tools of a pro-style quarterback.
He took the opening snap Saturday, and was efficient, albeit not spectacular, going 7 for 11 for 70 yards. Again, the ugly, rainy conditions likely played a hand there. His prettiest completion of the day came on the back-shoulder throw down the sideline to Gardner.
The QB who stuck out the most Saturday was true freshman Todd Centeio. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, native went 9 of 13 for 110 yards and lovely fade to the corner of the end zone to wideout Marshall Ellick for an 18-yard score. He hit Ellick for 43 yards down the sideline earlier in the day. More than that, his calmness was on display with smart checkdowns and scrambles.
After the game. Collins was predictably tight-lipped about the QB battle.
"That's a great question and I knew I was going to get that," Collins said when asked who would start at QB if the Notre Dame game were Sunday.
"They were all out there competing today. I think Todd Centeio did a good job out there. Russo was putting some nice balls out there, too. … There are plenty of reps to go around.
"It was clean, the optics were good today and we got to see the guys really spin it out there."
Collins has a few more months to see the quarterbacks spin it some more before the most important decision his infantile collegiate head coaching career is due.

Temple put back on its heels in AAC tourney ouster

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Temple put back on its heels in AAC tourney ouster


ORLANDO, Fla. -- No. 11 Wichita State has advanced to the semifinals of American Athletic Conference tournament.


Landry Shamet scored 24 points, Rashard Kelly had 16 and the Shockers held off pesky Temple for an 89-81 victory on Friday night.

Wichita State (25-6) also got a strong performance from its reserves, including 13 points from Austin Reaves. Next up is the winner of the Houston-Central Florida game.

The Shockers won two of three against the Owls this season, and the outcome was in doubt every time.

"We certainly do bring out the best in them," Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. "The bottom line is that they make a lot of shots against us, but we usually do get great contributions from our bench. We go 10 or 11 deep and that's a good thing."

Wichita State led 78-75 with 2:23 left and closed it out with 11 foul shots.

Temple stayed close with its perimeter shooting. The Owls went 11 of 24 from 3-pointg range and shot 50.9 percent from the field overall.

Quinton Rose led Temple (17-15) with 25 points. Shizz Alston and Josh Brown each had 15 points for the Owls, who didn't have enough depth to keep pace with Wichita State in the final minutes.

"I loved our fight, I loved how we were hanging with them each and every moment," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "I think late we just needed another basket, another stop, but they're a really good basketball team. They made some veteran plays at the right time."

The Shockers were clinging to a 63-61 lead with eight minutes to play when Reaves, fellow reserve Markis McDuffie and Kelly powered a key 13-3 run. The three combined for 11 points in the surge and helped cool off Rose while leading Wichita State to a 76-64 advantage with just over four minutes remaining.

Shaquille Morris made two foul shots to put the Shockers up 55-45 early in the second half, but the Owls rallied behind Rose. The sophomore guard scored 12 of his team's next 14 points to cut the deficit to 61-59 with 9:10 left.

"Quinton did a great job in that stretch and got us where we needed to be," Dunphy said. "But again, we needed a little better effort at the defensive end and just be a little smarter."

Big picture
Temple: The Owls had some nice early season wins -- Wisconsin, Clemson, Auburn, South Carolina -- but need to take the next step in the conference season. The Owls were only 8-10 in AAC play.

Wichita State: The Shockers are aching for a rematch with top-seeded Cincinnati, but first they'll have to get past the winner of the Houston-UCF game and they've struggled with both. Houston handed Wichita State its worst loss of the season, and UCF took the Shockers to overtime before losing in the second-to-last game of the regular season. Wichita State will need another good night from its reserves to reach the finals.

Temple narrowly avoids disaster

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Temple narrowly avoids disaster


ORLANDO, Fla. -- Shizz Alston Jr. hit three free throws in the final minute and Temple avoided being upset by a lower seed in the first round of the American Athletic Conference Tournament for the second year in a row, holding off Tulane 82-77 Thursday night.

Temple, the No. 7 seed, advances to face second-seeded Wichita State on Friday in the tourney quarterfinals.

Last year the eighth-seeded Owls were upset by No. 9 seed ECU.

Nate Pierre-Louis made a free throw with 1:01 left to give Temple a 77-71 lead, but the 10th-seeded Green Wave roared back behind two Cameron Reynolds 3-pointers sandwiched around an Alston free throw to make it 78-77 with :37 remaining. Alston was fouled with :16 left and hit both free throws to make it 80-77, and Caleb Daniels missed a 3 with :05 left that would have tied the game. Josh Brown added two free throws with a second left to set the final score.

Obi Enechionyia led the Owls (17-14) with 19 points. Alston added 17 points and dished eight assists and Brown added 15 points, six boards, three assists and two steals.

Reynolds hit 3 of 7 from distance and paced Tulane (14-17) with 22 points. Melvin Frazier added 15 points and Samir Sehic and Ray Ona Embo added 11 and 10 points, respectively.