Temple Owls

Temple, still without QB, gets set 'live' 2 weeks before Notre Dame

Temple, still without QB, gets set 'live' 2 weeks before Notre Dame

As far as Temple head coach Geoff Collins was concerned, Saturday was game day for he and his Owls.

They stayed at a hotel Friday night. They woke up Saturday morning and had a team breakfast. They went through team walkthroughs and drills before gearing up and stepping on to the turf. They went “live” with everything they did.

But the reality is that Saturday was only the Owls’ final intrasquad scrimmage before the end of camp and that the season opener at Notre Dame is still exactly two weeks away.

“It was just so that when we get ready to play a game, we’ve already done all of it,” Collins, Temple’s first-year leader, said after the scrimmage at historic and toasty Franklin Field. “And the young guys who’ve never made a trip for us, they were there. They got to go through the whole process, so it was an unbelievable day.”

But the reality also is that Temple still doesn’t have a starting quarterback just two weeks ahead of traveling to South Bend.

Three weeks of camp and an offseason of preparation have settled nothing in the four-pronged race for the starter’s crown. Redshirt junior Frank Nutile, redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi, redshirt freshman Anthony Russo and true freshman Todd Centeio again all split reps up and down the depth chart Saturday.

Collins just knew reporters couldn’t wait to ask the question.

“The big thing the last couple weeks is that every day one of the guys who’s pulled apart and then someone else has pulled apart,” Collins said of his team’s ongoing quarterback battle. “It’s going to be exciting watching the tape of this scrimmage because last scrimmage, it felt like there was a little separation with two guys. Today, I think it might have been a little bit more.”

So rather than waiting for reporters to ask the next logical question, Collins just went ahead unprompted and answered it for everyone with a recorder or phone or microphone or camera in sight.

“Hopefully by the end of this week, we’ll have some guys who we can say are above the line.”

“Above the line” is Collins-speak for the first team, second team and so on and so forth. He doesn’t believe in actual depth charts or the philosophies behind them.

And that “some guys” comment is interesting. With four players in fierce competition with one another and apparently not separating themselves enough, could a multi-QB system actually be realistic?

The QBs have different builds and styles. Nutile and Russo each check in at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and are certainly more pro-style, pocket passers. They can scamper if need be, but standing tall in the pocket and seeing the whole field is how they excel. Marchi and Centeio each check in at 6-foot. Centeio weighs in at 201 pounds while Marchi weighs in at 192 pounds. Both guys are known for their ability to scramble and create havoc when the pocket breaks down.

“I believe in the guys who are ready to play at a high level for a top-25 championship program,” Collins said.

The fact of the matter is that whoever grabs the brass starter’s ring(s) will be thrown into the nationally televised fire with bundles of inexperience or no experience at all.

Russo and Centeio have never even suited up for a college game. Nutile and Marchi have combined to go 5 for 9 for 69 yards and a touchdown since 2015. Of course, having prolific program record-breaker Phillip Walker ahead of them played a pretty big role in that.

But still, big shoes need to be filled on a big stage. And all that inexperience will have to evaporate quickly for the Owls to have a chance not only on Sept. 2 in South Bend but also moving forward.

And the Owls who’ve played with and against all four QBs every day this summer are confident that whoever has the ball in his hands can lead the way.

“Every quarterback is different,” said senior Adonis Jennings, who, along with senior Keith Kirkwood and junior Ventell Bryant make up a deep and talented wideout corps the QB(s) will be throwing to.

“So whatever style or type of offense we’re going to run, whoever fits that best is going to be the quarterback. I like all four of them and we’ll see what happens.”

“It’s good, honestly, because we’ve got guys who can run and we’ve got guys who can pocket pass and things like that,” senior safety Sean Chandler said of the QBs he goes up against every day in practice. “I feel like they’re all very precise and they make good decisions. Those are things that we need.”

Jennings admitted, though, there is work to do when it comes to preparing with four different quarterbacks.

“You just have to adjust to each quarterback’s playing style,” he said. “You have to build a connection with all four of them just to get things right with them so that they can know the offense and get connected with the receivers, the tight ends, the linemen, the running backs and the whole offense in general.”

Only two more weeks to adjust.
 
Special teams update
Temple also has a less-heralded battle going on at kicker between senior Austin Jones and sophomore Aaron Boumehri.

Jones started 2016 as the Owls’ kicker and went 10 for 12 before tearing his left ACL in a loss at Memphis on Oct. 6. Boumehri, a former walk-on, took over and impressed with a booming leg that connected on 15 of 17 attempts.

Now with Jones back healthy, the two are locked in a heated competition for kicking duties.

Collins noted both have excelled during camp and even said that strength coaches told him Jones’ leg is stronger now than it was before the injury.

Just like with the QB decision, two weeks left to make a final call.

Shizz Alston Jr., Quinton Rose lead Temple over St. Joe's in Big 5 battle

usa-shizz-alston-temple.jpg
USA Today Images

Shizz Alston Jr., Quinton Rose lead Temple over St. Joe's in Big 5 battle

BOX SCORE

With five minutes and 22 seconds left in the first half and Temple trailing St. Joe’s, 26-24, De’Vondre Perry took a three-pointer that hit the back iron and missed long.

Out of nowhere, Quinton Rose streaked down the center of the free throw lane, leaped above everyone on the floor, corralled the offensive rebound and completed the two-handed slam to tie the game, prompting an eruption from the Liacouras Center crowd.

“That’s just how [Quinton] plays,” Shizz Alston Jr. said. “When guys start jawing at him he just turns it up a notch. I think some of their players were talking to him and he just got juiced up off of that.”

The play energized the Owls after a slow start, highlighting a 17-3 run to end the half and leading to an 81-78 Temple victory (see observations). Alston Jr. led all scorers with 20 points, including five three-pointers, and Rose added a 15 point, 11 rebound double-double for the squad.

At the start of the game, St. Joe’s came out hot, hitting on three of their first five three-point attempts and jumping out to a 17-8 lead early in the game. After a Fran Dunphy timeout with just less than 13 minutes left in the half, the Owls seemed to tighten up defensively.

“He just told us we had to pick it up,” Rose said. “It’s simple as that.

"I think we had a lack of communication and the biggest thing is we don’t finish our possessions with rebounds. We give up a lot of second-chance points. We just have to straighten that up and I think we’ll be good.”

Obi Enechionyia and Rose came up with big blocks and Temple started forcing turnovers. This helped the offense get going, in particular, Alston, whose 15 first-half points kept Temple in the ball game despite the hot shooting start by St. Joe's.

Perry, a true freshman, provided a spark off the bench for the Owls, contributing nine points in the first half, including two threes and a tough finish at the rim.

“He showed a lot of toughness,” Rose said. “I mean he’s young, but he showed a lot of toughness on the defensive end and rebounding. He made some big shots for us too.”

Perry attributed a lot of the open looks he got to his teammates.

“My teammates opened it up for me,” Perry said. “Either driving or kicking or just doing what they do best by penetrating and giving me the ball.”

Temple’s star big man, Enechionyia, struggled throughout the game, going 1 for 8 from the field and finishing with four points while being limited to 23 minutes because of foul trouble. Center Ernest Aflakpui came up big in his absence, putting up 12 points on 5 for 6 from the field and adding six rebounds.

“If we can count on a dozen points from Ern every game, that would be spectacular,” Dunphy said. “It’s obviously not his forte, but he did a terrific job. I thought he was poised at the rim and didn’t rush himself.”

In the last five minutes, the Hawks rallied from 16 down and cut the lead to four, but five clutch free throws from fifth-year senior guard Josh Brown sealed Temple’s first Big 5 and Atlantic-10 win of the year.

“I thought Josh Brown saved us at the foul line,” head coach Fran Dunphy said. “I thought he played great again. He played great against Wisconsin and played great again. I’m very, very proud of him.”

The Owls, now 6-2 on the season, will host the No. 4-ranked Villanova Wildcats, who could jump to No. 1 in the country after Duke’s loss Saturday, in another Big 5 showdown this Wednesday at the Liacouras Center.

“It’s a really big opportunity,” Rose said. “I hope they are No. 1 so we can knock them off.”

Temple-St. Joe's observations: Owls hold off late rally

uspresswire-temple-fran-dunphy.jpg
USA Today Images

Temple-St. Joe's observations: Owls hold off late rally

BOX SCORE

Temple on Saturday afternoon nabbed its first win against a Big 5 team and an Atlantic 10 team with an 81-78 victory over St. Joe’s at the Liacouras Center.

With five clutch free throws from fifth-year senior guard Josh Brown, the Owls held off a late rally by the Hawks. Shizz Alston Jr. led the Owls with 20 points and four rebounds, while Quinton Rose added a double-double with 15 points and 11 boards.

Temple moves to 6-2 on the season with the victory.

• St. Joe’s was on fire early on, making three of its first five three-point attempts, en route to a 17-8 lead just over seven minutes into the game.

• After a Fran Dunphy timeout with 12:44 left in the first half, Temple turned up its effort on defense. Big blocks by Rose and Obi Enechionyia allowed Temple to take the lead, 18-17, with 9:30 left in the half. The Owls forced a total of eight turnovers in the first half.

• Alston, Jr. dominated the first half and really kept the Owls in the game during St. Joe’s early run. He went 5 for 8 from the field in the first half, including 4 of 5 from three-point range, for 15 points. The junior guard has developed tremendously since last season, coming into this contest averaging 16.9 points, which is up from 13.9 points per game last year in his sophomore campaign.

• Enechionyia struggled in the first half, going 1 for 6 from the field in 17 minutes of action. He missed multiple fadeaway jumpers on the baseline and didn’t make an impact in the post. He also picked up his third foul less than a minute into the second half and had to go to the bench. The senior power forward finished the afternoon with just four points and six rebounds.

• Junior center Ernest Aflakpui filled in tremendously with Enechionyia on the bench. He scored 12 points while shooting 83 percent from the field, added six rebounds and disrupted shots around the rim.

• De’Vondre Perry also played a big role for Temple, putting up nine points, 6.9 points more than his season average, in 21 minutes of action, which is up from his season average of 12.3 minutes per game. The true freshman did it in a variety of ways as well, driving and finishing at the basket, drawing fouls and adding two three-pointers. Perry was the only freshman to play in the game.

• Rose displayed his incredible athleticism with multiple big plays in the first half. The sophomore guard slashed through the lane and made a contested layup to put Temple up 18-17, and then followed a Perry missed three-pointer with a put-back dunk that caused the crowd to erupt. He also missed a few layups during the game, showing he still can refine his touch around the basket, but finished the game with 15 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block.

• The student section was involved throughout the game, bringing out big-head posters during opponents’ free throws, making noise after airballs and erupting after multiple big Rose dunks. In Temple’s second Big 5 game of the year, the Owls fans needed to out-do the St. Joe’s fans who traveled to North Philly, and they certainly did.

• The win marks Temple’s first Big 5 victory of the year, almost two weeks after its 87-83 road loss to La Salle. It was a physical matchup that seemed like it would get chippy. Rose got into a St. Joe’s player’s face after a layup in the first half. Enechionyia was elbowed in the face while going up for a rebound at the end of the first half. Temple was the more physical, scrappy team Saturday, but will need to be better this Wednesday against another Big 5 team, No. 4 Villanova.

The Hawks return to action next Sunday when they host Maine.