SportsDesk Preview: No. 14 UCF vs Temple

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After knocking off division foe Cincinnati last week 35-24, for the team’s first back-to-back conference victories of the season, Temple looks to keep the ball rolling this Saturday afternoon when they face their toughest test yet.

With bowl eligibility on the line, the Owls (5-5, 3-3) are turning their focus to the undefeated division leader No. 14 UCF Golden Knights (9-0, 6-0).

Saturday will also be Senior Day for the Owls’ senior class. They will play at Lincoln Financial Field one last time as Temple Owls, as they try to earn their 32nd win as a class, which would make them the winningest class in program history. Putting this senior class one win over the senior class of 2011.

“I never really thought this day would come, the time has really flown. I’ve enjoyed my time here at Temple with the guys and being a part of this culture, being a part of this program, being a part of this university and be able to represent this university on a weekly basis, it’s exciting. It’s kind of sad, but I don’t think I have any regrets,” senior DE Jacob Martin said. “As a senior that’s what you want, to not have any regrets, and I don’t have any here at Temple. I’m truly thankful for the opportunity to play at this university and be a part of such a great environment and culture.” 

Players have been preaching for the last few weeks on how all they want to do is win out for the seniors and get them to a bowl game. Here is how the senior class stacks up for the Owls:

DB Sean Chandler, Cequan Jefferson, Artrel Foster, Mike Jones
OL Leon Johnson, Brian Carter, Adrian Sullivan, Cole Boozer
DL Jacob Martin, Sharif Finch, Jullian Taylor, Greg Webb
ST Austin Jones, Alex Starzyk, Corey Lerch, Josh Lang
WR Adonis Jennings, Keith Kirkwood
FB Nick Sharga
LB Chris Smith

Key players

 

Temple

  • After the injury to early season starter Logan Marchi, Frank Nutile has made the most of every opportunity given. Over his last three games since taking over in the battle against Navy, Nutile has thrown for on average a total of 268 yards with 3 touchdowns a game to go driving the Owls to a 2-1 record over that span.

 

  • One of Temple’s only other consistent bright spots on the season is created by the efforts of Sophomore Isaiah Wright. Wright has been all over the field this season, being the only player on his team with a rushing, receiving, and returning touchdown this season.

UCF

 

 

  • UCF’s offense looks to keep their onslaught on a roll defeating teams by well over 3 touchdowns a game on the winding down season.

 

 

 

  • Having one of the best years of his career, Mckenzie Milton looks to come into Philly and prove as to why he is one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Throwing for over 2000 yards and 20 touchdowns, Milton looks to challenge the touch defense recently of the owls .

 

 

  • Posted in the backfield with Milton is Adrian Killins Jr. who has been an impressive compliment to his quarterback thus far on the year. Killins jr. has proven his worth this season rushing for 8 touchdowns on the year showing his capabilities of having big games with his best one coming two weeks ago against tulane when he let loose for 145 yards.

When Temple is on Offense 

Last week against Cincinnati, the Owls were clicking on all cylinders. A very balanced attack offensively, QB Frank Nutile led the way through the air throwing for 224 yards and 1 TD. On the ground, it was David Hood with the best game of his collegiate career, rushing for 108 yards and 1 TD. Hood’s 108 yards made up most of what was part of a 205-yard day rushing for the Temple offense. RB Rob Ritrovato and Ryquell Armstead combined for 72 yards, and Nutile himself added 28 yards and one touchdown.

The trio of Ventell Bryant, Keith Kirkwood (TD catch) and Isaiah Wright combined for 141 of Nutile’s 224 yards.

The defense looked just as complete as the offense in the victory. The Owls shut out the Bearcats in the first half, though Cincinnati came out in the second half and traded TD’s with the Owls on their first few drives. S Sean Chandler led the team in tackles with 11 and one fumble recovery. The defense had to overcome a big loss in LB Chapelle Russell, the teams leading tackler. Russell was ruled out for the remainder of the season after a knee injury prior to the game.

And on special teams, Isaiah Wright earned himself Conference Special Teams Player of the Week after a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the third quarter, just when Cincinnati had pulled to within 6.

The Owls look to keep that same mentality and drive, as they face off against the highest scoring offense in the nation.

For the UCF Golden Knights, they enter the game 9-0 for the first time in program history. The Knights are in the Top 25 for the first time since 2013 and for good reason.

The UCF offense leads the nation in scoring offense with 48.6 points per game. They are one of just 11 teams in the nation to be in the top 30 in both scoring offense and scoring defense.

The Knights are most recently coming off a 49-24 victory over UConn. The team gained 519 yards of total offense, which makes it the sixth time they’ve eclipsed 500 yards of total offense this season. UCF scored on four of their first five drives, while the defense forced a pair of turnovers in form of a fumble recovery and an interception. The defense also recorded 3 sacks and 5 tackles for loss.

In 2015, UCF was a winless team. The school then hired Scott Frost, who turned the team around to go 6-7 and earned a bowl game in 2016. Now, the Golden Knights are off to the best start in program history at 9-0.

When Temple is on Defense 

The nation’s highest-scoring offense is led by sophomore QB McKenzie Milton. Milton has thrown 22 touchdowns this season, and he is second in the nation in passing efficiency (184.6) and third in completion percentage (69.6%). On the season, Milton has completed 176 of 253 passing attempts totaling 2720 yards and 5 interceptions to go along with his 22 TD passes.

Milton is also the teams second leading rusher. He’s rushed 65 times for a total of 350 yards and 4 touchdowns. The team’s leading rusher is sophomore RB Adrian Killins Jr., who has rushed 74 times for 599 yards and 8 touchdowns. Killins is averaging 8.1 yards per carry, his career-best day was at SMU two weeks ago when he rushed for 145 yards. Sharing the backfield with Killins is junior RB Taj McGowan, who has rushed 64 times for 229 yards and tied with Killins for touchdowns on the season with 8.

 

Milton has thrown 22 TD passes this season and has run for 4.

On the receiving end of things, leading the pack is Milton’s favorite receiver junior Tre’Quan Smith. Smith has hauled in 40 catches totaling 761 yards and a team-high 10 touchdowns. He is seventh all-time at UCF with 19 career touchdown catches and fourth in the nation currently with his 10 TD catches this season. Also getting catches is sophomore Dredrick Snelson who has 28 catches for 429 yards and 3 touchdowns and senior TE Jordan Akins has 22 catches for 351 yards and 3 touchdowns.

 

“Keep watching film and execute our plays. They execute their plays very well, they run and pass very well, they’re very talented and that’s why they get off the way they do. We just have to execute our defenses, our coaches will have us in the right call and we’ll have to execute and play our game,” junior S Delvon Randall said on how to slow down the UCF offense.

Defensively, junior LB Pat Jasinski leads the team in tackles with 69, he’s also got one sack, one pass broken up, a forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Leading the team in sacks is senior LB Shaquem Griffin with 3, 6 quarterback hits, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Last season, Griffin was named AAC Defensive Player of the Year, he also leads the team in tackles for loss with 6.5.

Leading the team in interceptions are juniors CB Mike Hughes, and S Kyle Gibson, each with 3. Gibson’s 3 INT’s are to go along with 40 tackles, 4 passes broken up, and two fumble recoveries. Mike Hughes is 17th in the nation with 1.3 passes defended per game.

UCF has been dominant this season, though Temple has had some recent success against ranked opponents. Since 2014, Temple has served as one of the conference’s top teams when facing a ranked opponent, compiling one win each of the past three seasons for an even 3-3 record all-time.

Temple will need all aspects of their game to be on point as they head into battle this weekend if they want to keep their winning streak alive, become bowl eligible, and take down an undefeated division opponent, all on the seniors last game on their home field.

The game is set to kickoff from Lincoln Financial Field at noon this Saturday afternoon. It will be broadcasted live on ESPNU and you can listen in on 97.5 The Fanatic.

Follow @TU_SportsDesk for all gameday coverage.

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