Owl’s Biggest Test Looms

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The Temple Owls won their second-straight game following their victory against the Cincinnati Bearcats. This marks the second victory in as many starts for quarterback Frank Nutile. After defeating both Navy and Cincinnati, Temple fans once again have hope their school will be selected for a bowl game. However, for the Owls to get there they will need to get through their biggest obstacle yet.

On Saturday, Temple will be playing against their AAC rival University of Central Florida. Currently, the Knights are the best team in the conference, and one of the best teams in the nation. The team is ranked 14th in the AP Top 25 and 12th in the Coaches Poll due to their 9-0 record.

This in large part has to do with the play of their head coach Scott Frost. After inheriting an rough 0-12 team, he has been able to rally his team and create one of the most well-rounded offenses in college football.

Frost has been generating national attention as he has turned a zero win team in 2015, to an undefeated team this year (College Football News)

One of the biggest standouts of this offense is quarterback McKenzie Milton. Milton has been great for the Knights with both his legs and his arm. So far this season he has thrown for 2,720 yards, 22 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions, while rushing for 350 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Milton is aided by his great receiver Tre’Quan Smith. The 6’1 junior has hauled in 40 catches for 761 yards and 10 TDs which ranks 7th in the country.

Mix this with their well-balanced rushing attack that features 6 players who have ran for over 100 yards and TDs on the season and you can understand why they are so highly rated.

Luckily, they do have a small weakness. While UCF may be ranked as the 40th overall defense in college football they have some flaws. First off, they allow nearly 150 rushing yards per game. With the recent emergence of David Hood, the Owls should look to continue his momentum in this game.

The second and more notable weakness of this defense is their pass defense. Currently, they rank 69th in the NCAA for most passing yards allowed. That is higher than Cincinnati who ranks 50th and who Nutile played well against.

If Nutile continues to distribute the ball to his wealth of receivers it seems likely that he leads the offense to another high scoring game.

For the Owls to beat UCF on Saturday, they will need to take advantage of the Knights’ subpar defense, while limiting their explosive offense.   

Can Frank Nutile Maintain Success?

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Frank Nutile has been great for the Owls this season. After nearly stealing a win from Army, Nutile lead Temple past a solid Navy team. This comes as a surprise to many as few expected the Owls to beat the Midshipmen. Still, Nutile was able to get the job done.

In the game he threw for 289 yards and 4 touchdowns completing 73% of his passes. With the exception of one garbage-time interception, the redshirt-junior played flawless football. However, this much early success forces me to wonder if Nutile can maintain this success.

Nutile has thrown six touchdowns to just one interception in his first tow career starts

As I stated earlier, “Frankie Juice” has been playing mistake-free since becoming the starter. In those two starts Nutile has thrown for 579 yards, 5 touchdowns and is completing an average of 71% of his passes. Most importantly, he’s spreading the ball around. After several weeks with Isaiah Wright being the heartbeat of the team’s passing attack, Nutile is giving other receivers a chance. Against Navy, Wright registered 3 catches for 35 yards, Keith Kirkwood had 7 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown, and Adonis Jennings lead the team with 127 yards and 2 touchdowns on 5 receptions.

Previously, the team was very one-dimensional in their passing attack, but now it appears they are using more of their weapons.

This success should translate against the Cincinnati Bearcats. They are currently 3-6, with a conference record of 1-4. They also give up 211 passing yards per game, which ranks 53rd in the country. This is far worse than Army’s defense giving up an average of 191 passing yards and Nutile was able to almost eclipse 300 against them. I would fully expect Nutile to continue his success against the Bearcats.

It’s also important to note that of Temple’s next three opponents, Cincinnati gives up the fewest passing yards per game. So, if Nutile does play well against the Bearcats it’s reasonable to believe it will be smooth sailing for the rest of the way.

Whatever the case, it will be interesting to see if Nutile can maintain his success going forward.

Will Frank Nutile Be the Starter for the Remainder of the Season?

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The Temple Owls may have found their starting quarterback going forward. During the team’s game against Army, Coach Collins elected to start Frank Nutile over Logan Marchi. In recent weeks, Marchi had been struggling mightily. After starting the first 3 games of the season without an interception, he has thrown 8 in the last 4 games. Marchi seemed to be getting his footing following an impressive showing against East Carolina, but after falling to a previously winless Uconn team and an apparent “lower extremity” injury, Coach Collins made the change.

Insert Frank Nutile. Nutile received his first career start against the Army Black Knights on October 21st. In a game few thought Temple would compete in, Nutile carried the team to a photo finish. The junior QB was solid throughout the entirety of the game. He threw for 290, 1 touchdown and put up an impressive 164.3 rating. He also completed 69% of his passes missing on just 9 throws. The best part of Nutile’s game was his 0 interceptions, which the team has not seen since week 3. Unfortunately, the Owls were unable to secure a victory despite Nutile’s efforts.

Nutile didn’t turn the ball over in his first career start

Now the question becomes, will Nutile be the starter from here on out? Offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude is still unsure. Tom Ignudo of Temple News caught up with Patenaude to ask about the quarterback position.

“You can’t have an honest evaluation on it until you get in there and watch the tape and make an evaluation of where he is and where Logan’s health is.”

Despite what Patenaude says, it seems like it would be wise to roll with Nutile for at least one more game. The Owls will be facing the Midshipmen of Navy next week. Navy is similarly ranked to that of Army with both teams giving up over 350 yards a game. However, Navy is ranked 62nd overall in passing yards allowed. This is a considerable drop-off from Army’s 48th ranking, which could be the making of the perfect storm for Nutile. If he does get the start, he has the opportunity of cashing in on an average pass defense to cement his claim as starting quarterback.

No matter who steps out as starting quarterback this Thursday, they need to ensure Temple does not lose their 3rd consecutive game.

Who’s To Blame For Temple Football Struggles?

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To put this piece into more context, Temple football dropped their homecoming matchup to UConn 28-24 on Saturday 10/14 and Brian Steinmetz was at the game. Read his recap piece here, and watch highlights and a breakdown of the game from Vince Coll and Brian in the SportsDesk postgame report.

Week after week it seems I write about the same topic and there never seems to be a change. Disclaimer: Yes the offense reached 473 total yards and scored three touchdowns so you know the unit is able to produce- but week after week, whether it’s turnovers, missed opportunities, blown calls, etc. it’s no secret that they need to find answers. After Saturday’s loss to UConn, the team’s woes have never been more apparent.

Where to put the majority of the blame is the biggest question. Is it the offensive line? The quarterback play? Questionable play calling? Or a culmination of all of these things?

One thing’s for sure, losing to UConn is inexcusable for a team coming off an AAC Championship. 

Sure, there’s a lot of moving parts to this Owls football team. Obviously, there is a new coaching staff, quarterback and overall a different feel to this team. Still, you can’t help but feel like Temple let this game slip away.

The most difficult part of this loss is the number of opportunities the team was given. After a slow start, the Owls’ defense was able to stand strong allowing one score in the third quarter, and the rest of the game.

However, a costly pick-six put the Owls’ comeback aspirations on hold for another quarter. Here, Temple made a strong push for a comeback victory. The Owls moved the ball down the field with ease on numerous occasions as their stout defense continued to make stops.

On the team’s final drive, they were unable to get the go-ahead touchdown.

The biggest question here would be the coaching staff’s decision to not kick a 34-yard field goal on 4th and 7 with 4:40 left on the clock. If converted, the kick would put the Owls within one point and give them the option of kicking a field goal to win the game, rather than going for a touchdown. Considering the defense had been dominating UConn and the Owls had two timeouts, this decision left many confused.

As this season has proven, these errors are exactly what have plagued the Owls this season.//Temple will need to hash out these offensive missteps as they travel to take on Army next Saturday.

Temple Offense Looks To Keep Momentum Rolling

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Logan Marchi had his way with a poor ECU defense on Saturday and will look to carry the momentum into the Owls’ remaining match ups. // Credit: Zamani Feelings

Logan Marchi and the rest of the Owls offense began to figure things out on Saturday against a woeful 1-5 East Carolina team. Marchi came into the game with questions and did his best to answer them. Following 7 interceptions and a combined QBR of just 8 in the past two games (0-2 in that span), many were wondering if Marchi should still be the starter under center. The beginning of the ECU game saw similar questions.

The offense started slowly against the conference’s worst total defense, not just conference, but a bottom-ten defense in the country. After the Pirates went ahead 3-0 in the first quarter, Marchi threw a bad interception. This gave many a queasy feeling of deja vu. The first quarter was the only quarter this season ECU’s defense shut out any team. Luckily, the Owls bounced back and played surprisingly well.//Marchi did not commit a turnover for the remainder of the game. In fact, he threw for 2 touchdowns and over 300 yards, while putting up a QBR of 85.7. He was able to get 10 different receivers involved in this game with sophomore standout, Isaiah Wright leading the way with 6 rec, 91 yards, and 1 TD.

While Marchi’s breakthrough is significant to cover, it’s also interesting to follow another storyline. No bigger storyline may be that of the emergence of David Hood.

David Hood rushed for his first 100-yard performance of his career vs. ECU. // Credit: Zamani Feelings

 

Armstead has been the top back throughout the first few games, but a recent injury to his foot has opened the door for David Hood. One week ago, Hood received some valuable snaps as Armstead was being medically attended to. In that time he ran for 53 yards on 8 carries, while also catching a touchdown. This Saturday, Hood was given the start. Needless to say, he capitalized. On 20 carries, the running back ran for 106 yards and a touchdown. For the season, Hood has rushed for 214 yards on 31 fewer carries than Armstead. When Armstead returns from injury, it will be interesting to see how the carries are split between the backs.

If the running game and Marchi can continue to click, the Owls may be poised for a run. Not that this team has shown the promise of the 2016 AAC championship team, but they were 3-3 through six games last year as well.

 

Post Game Report: Temple vs Houston

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Too little, too late for the Temple Owls. After the team mounted a strong comeback effort, they came up just short in the closing minutes of the game.

When the game began, Temple came out to a slow start. Houston was able to get up on the Owls 13-0, as the two teams went into the half. This isn’t to say that Temple didn’t have their chances early on. The Owls started on the 50, and 47 yard line in their first two possessions. Unfortunately, the Owls were not able to capitalize on either of these opportunities. Later in the first half, safety Dalvon Randall intercepted Houston quarterback Kyle Postma. The team looked to be capturing momentum, but once again, they could not capitalize as Logan Marchi was then intercepted.

Credit: Philly.com

The second half was a closer battle. Houston came out strong scoring on their first drive and making the score 20-0. After that, Temple showed signs of life following Ryquell Armstead’s 17 yard run. The Owls were then able to get on the board as Austin Jones hit a 41 yard field goal. The Temple defense then forced a 3rd down stop, allowing Logan Marchi to connect with David Hood for a 1 yard touchdown pass.

With the score now 20-10, the Owls were finally showing signs of life which was jolted by a big hit from Chapelle Russell on Houston’s Kyle Postma. Temple was once again able to get on the board as Jones nailed another field goal making the score 20-13.

The game seemed within reach as the Owls were able to stop the Cougars and get one more shot at scoring. Unfortunately, they were not able to do so. Following a questionable play call and an errant 4th down pass, Temple fell short short of victory.

Once again, there will be several adjustments to be made following the game. Look for Coach Collins and the Owls to correct these mistakes and earn a bounce-back win against next week against East Carolina University.

Quarterback Questions Plaguing Owls Offense

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Temple football put forth a number of interesting plot lines following their loss against the University of Southern Florida. The most noticeable of these has been a recurring question throughout the season — who should be Temple’s starting quarterback.

Following the team’s previous win against the University of Massachusetts, the Owls seemed to be set with their quarterback. Logan Marchi finally seemed to becoming acclimated with his receivers and the offense. Then, against USF, he took a massive step backwards. After a poor start highlighted by 2 early interceptions, head coach Geoff Collins elected to replace Marchi with redshirt-senior Frank Nutile. Then, after a so-so start from Nutile, the team elected rotate quarterbacks regularly not allowing either to get into the swing of the game.

Marchi struggled to start the game, and throughout the rotation role added another interception and fumble to his mounting turnover list. The stat line at the end of the game was forgettable- completing 3 of 13 passes for 32 yards and 3 interceptions. Nutile also struggled throwing for 57 yards on 5 of 13 attempts with 1 interception.

Russo is the only of the four quarterbacks to not play against USF (Cred://Temple Football Forever)

Now the question becomes, who will be the quarterback of the future for Owls? Obviously Temple could go back to Marchi, but one must question his confidence following his benching. Still, Marchi has the most experience of all the quarterbacks. Nutile is another candidate due to his comfortability when thrown into the game. If Collins decides to make a long-term move he may decide to start either Anthony Russo or Todd Centeio. Both are freshmen (Russo is a redshirt) and offer different, high-upside playing styles. By starting either of these quarterbacks, the coaching staff could establish the starter of the future. At the end of the day, the Owls will most likely start Marchi with a short-leash going forward.

Whoever the quarterback may be, the Owls need to bounce-back with the Houston Cougars coming to town this Saturday at 12 PM.

 

Owls Pass Defense Needs Work Before USF

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As Temple football sits at 2-1 through three games, that’s where most fans had the team before a week 4 matchup at South Florida. It seems Owl fans are still uneasy. The unit has struggled in each of their first three games, including the most lopsided loss in the last nine seasons to Notre Dame in the opener. This past week, Temple took on the University of Massachusetts- an 0-3 team fresh out of an ugly loss against FCS school Old Dominion. To be blunt, UMass is not a good football team and Temple was only able to beat them by 8 points.

As I wrote in my previous article, there are many things contributing to the Owls lack of production. After the game against UMass, quarterback problems can be ruled out. Logan Marchi finally looked to be comfortable in the pocket passing for 248 yards and 2 touchdowns. Sure, there were some moments he would like to have back, but it’s encouraging to see his improvement, and he was never necessarily a detriment to the offense.

The Owls secondary came into this season with high expectations and have disappointed so far. Safeties Sean Chandler (left) and Delvon Randall (right) face a big test on Thursday. // Credit: USA Today

If the Owls have any hope of winning going forward, they will need to improve their pass defense. It’s been ugly for a Temple secondary laden with NFL talent so far this year. Quarterbacks have had their way with the team’s secondary. Through 3 games, these are the stats opposing QB’s have been able to put up: UMass- Andrew Ford 377 yards, 2 TD’s; Villanova- Zack Bednarczyk 382 yards, 1 TD; Notre Dame, Brian Wimbush 184 yards, 2 TD’s.

Obviously, it hasn’t been pretty. If the Owls can’t shape up ASAP they will be in for an unpleasant Week 4 against USF. The Bulls is ranked 22nd in the nation. One of the big reasons for that is their QB, Quinton Flowers.

Flowers is well-known throughout the nation as a Heisman sleeper. So far, he’s proven he deserves to be considered. Through 3 games Flowers has lead his offense to average 40 points per game. He’s thrown for 616 yards, 8 TD’s and ran for 243 yards with 2 scores.

Bleacher Report released this pre season top-10 Heisman watch article, listing Flowers at #10 on the list.

For the Owls to contain him, they will need their secondary to step up. If they can take away either his ability to run or to pass, the chance of pulling an upset drastically increases.

Hopefully the Temple football team can steal a win in Florida this Tuesday night.

Offensive Woes Need Answers Moving Forward

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Temple’s only offensive touchdown on Saturday came via a 1-yard Nick Sharga run. // Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Temple Owls football team earned their first win on Saturday, clawing their way to a 16-13 point victory over Villanova. For other teams this could be a positive, but not for Temple. Whenever an FCS unit takes on a recent top-25 football team, you should expect the latter to win by a large margin. Looking around the NCAA (especially so far this season) that isn’t always the case, but for Temple football fans, a bar has been set- and a lot more convincing needs to be done this season.

After 2 games, there are several problems with the Owls group. The biggest of their problems lie within the offense.

The first offensive struggle is with the run game. Ryquell Armstead is an above-average running back, but the offensive line is rendering him useless. The big guys up-front have been struggling to get an push off the line, and Armstead has gathered a mere 86 yards on 31 carries through the team’s first 2 games. That’s just 2.7 yards per carry for the returning 900-yard rusher. Just like years past, If the Owls intend on seriously contending, they will need the help of their running game.

Anther offensive struggle has been well documented since the spring game — the passing game. Logan Marchi won the Owls quarterback battle this offseason and hasn’t exactly played good, but he hasn’t been bad either.

In Marchi’s defense, as well as the offense as a whole, many have questioned the decision making in terms of play calls by new Offensive Coordinator Dave Patenaude. In addition, Marchi has yet to turn the ball over through his first two games under center (69 pass attempts).

Logan Marchi will look to take control of a productive offense this week vs. 0-3 UMass // Credit: USA Today Sports

However, he hasn’t necessarily made plays for the Owls. He’s made risky decisions that, luckily, have not come back to bite him. On top of that, he’s struggled to connect with several of his receivers. This was on full display last week when he missed a wide-open Brodrick Yancy early in the second half on Saturday. Marchi’s QBR ratings of 29.9 Week 1 and 66.6 Week 2 highlight his struggles to get on the same page as his receivers.

The unit has several crucial games in the near future where they need their offense to click on all cylinders. It may not be this Friday against a struggling UMass team who dropped all 3 of their games so far this season, but conference play opens with a bang at South Florida the following week.

Editor’s Note, Week of 9/11: Starting this week, a recap from Tuesday football practices will be brought to you by Brian Steinmetz. Our weekly profile (Wed.) from Chris Zeigler will look at DE Sharif Finch. Temple vs. UMass game preview on Thursday, kickoff from Lincoln Financial Field is Friday night (9/15) at 7 p.m.. Follow @TU_Sportsdesk on Twitter for updates all week.

Owls Offensive Line Set For Week 2 Rebound

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Last weekend the Temple Owls took on Notre Dame. Unfortunately, the Owls were no match for the Irish as they fell to the score of 49-16.

Credit: Indiana Sports Coverage

There were many parts of the Temple football units that seemed to contribute to their loss, but the offensive line noticeably struggled. Throughout the game, the fighting Irish was able to put constant pressure on quarterback Logan Marchi. Marchi was able to avoid some of the pressure, but was still sacked 3 times for a total loss of 20 yards. This constant pressure resulted in missed opportunities for the Owls’ offense — most notably the inability to fully capitalize on Mike Jones’ interception in the 3rd quarter.

Credit: CSN Philly

The offensive line’s struggles came to a head in the rushing game. Even with a proven running back in Ryquell Armstead, they were only able to muster 85 total rushing yards. Armstead accounted for 67 of those yards on 19 attempts averaging 3.5 yards per carry. The next highest rusher was Jager Garner with a mere 19 yards. The Owls’ line struggled to get an initial push at the line of scrimmage which resulting in this lack of production. The only Temple football player who was an effective blocker was Nick Sharga. Sharga routinely made good blocks setting up running lanes for Armstead.

Credit: WBZW

Temple should fare better against Villanova. Nova scarcely beat Lehigh 38-35 this past weekend. While the Wildcats played great against the run (78 yards allowed, 2.7 ypc), the team barely blitzed. This will result in less pressure on Marchi and allow him to play within the offense. It is important to note that Nova’s defense is built to produced without constant pressure on the quarterback. Instead they play within the system, put their “No Fly Zone” defensive backs on an island and putting a massive amount of trust in their linebacking core.

Expect the Owls to fix their mistakes against Villanova this Saturday at 3:30.