SportsDesk Preview: Temple vs. ECU

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A 2-3 record through its first five games, and an 0-2 start in conference play is certainly not the first quarter of the season that Geoff Collins has in mind, but he still believes he has a good football team. The Owls will head to East Carolina this saturday to take on the Pirates in what has become a must win game.

Matchups

Saturday turned into another shaky outing for quarterback Marchi as he followed his three interception game against USF, will another three picks tossed against Houston, although the last came on a hail mary at the end of the game.

After a promising start to the season, throwing five touchdowns and no interceptions through his first three games, the season has quickly gone downhill for the redshirt sophomore quarterback. The Owls rank last in the conference in total offense, and scoring offense. But there are some positives, specifically the second half against Houston.

“The temple of the offense in the second half, the run game looked good,” said Marchi after practice Tuesday. “Anytime we can run the ball like that, we have a great chance of winning the game.”

It was a sort of coming out party for the rushing offense against Houston, as the Owls, who are ranked last in the conference in rush offense, rushed for 142 yards as a team, on 37 carries. Ryquell Armstead and David Hood led the way rushing for 63, and 53 yards respectively.

A major blow to the run game has been the loss of starting left guard Jovahn Fair, who has missed the last two games due to injury. Redshirt senior Adrian Sullivan, and redshirt freshman Vincent Picozzi have shared reps in his place.

Another major question mark of the offense has been the play calling of offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude. No play has been more evident of the questions on offense than the decision to run a toss on 3rd and 10 with under two minutes to play, which resulted in minimal yardage, and a 4th down turnover for the Owls.

Patenaude coached his first game from the press box on the season, and while the offense did show some life in the second half, still only mustered 13 points. The offense as a whole is averaging just over 16 points a game, which ranks last in the conference.

“Dave is a passionate competitive guy,” said Collins in his press conference last week. “We just have to come together, work together, and play great football as a team.”

One of the biggest plays of the game came on the first drive, as the Owls were facing a third and goal inside the 15 yard line. Marchi dropped back to pass, scrambled backwards, and proceeded to take an intentional grounding penalty resulting in a 24 yard loss, and forcing the Owls to have a rare fourth and goal punt.

“It’s just a bad play on my part, I didn’t have the throw I wanted,” said Marchi of the play on Tuesday. “I ended up doing something out of character, and you gotta play smarter than that.”

Lining up across from Temple is the 12th ranked defense in terms of total and scoring defense in the conference. The Pirates are giving up a substantial 50.6 points per game, and have allowed 64, and 61 against Virginia Tech and USF respectively.

ECU enters with a 2-13 record in its last 15 games dating back to last season, a large chunk of that blame can be placed on the defense.

Ryquell Armstead will look to rush for 100 yards for the first time this season against ECU. // Credit: Zamani Feelings

The biggest stat that jumps of the page when it comes to the ECU defense is the rush defense, and the front seven. The Pirates’ defensive units has allowed 1,488 yards of rushing to opponents, an average of almost 300 yards per game. Not only have they allowed almost 1,500 yards on the ground through five games, but they have also given up 17 rushing touchdowns already this season.

If the Temple offense is looking for a true breakout game on the ground, this should be the one.

Leading the team in tackles are two inside linebackers in senior Jordan Williams, and junior Cannon Gibbs. Williams is first on the team with 49 total tackles on the season, and Gibbs follows close behind with 32 tackles, and 1.5 tackles for loss.

Senior defensive end Kiante Anderson leads the way for ECU with 3.5 sacks on the season, and 4 quarterback hits. He will be a guy the Owls focus on in pass protection in order to slow down the run game.

On the other side of the football, the Temple defense will look to build off last week’s success, after holding a good Houston offense to 20 points, and only seven points in the second half. The Owls rank eighth in the conference in total defense, which is a big dropoff after being a top 20 total defense in the country a year ago.

The Owls have struggled against the pass early in the season. Although Temple is allowing just over 250 yards per game, they allowed big games to Zack Bednarczyk, and Andrew Ford.

The Owls are not short on talent in the secondary, as they have two good corners in Artrel Foster, and Mike Jones, along with two very talented safeties in Delvon Randall, and Sean Chandler.

Senior transfer Mike Jones is coming off a strong performance in which he had a would be interception taken away by a tic-tac pass interference call, along with having a bid day in the return game. He will have a little extra confidence going into this week’s game after being awarded the number one jersey for saturday’s conference showdown.

“It’s just an honor, I’m blessed to even have coach Collins consider me with the number,” said Jones after practice on Tuesday. “I’m gonna wear it like I wore 10, continue to play like I have been.”

When it comes to the interception call that took away what would have been his second interception on the season, Jones wasn’t so sure about it.

“We fought for the ball, it was a good one on one matchup,” said Jones. “I’m passed it, I’m ready to get working with ECU.”

Leading the defense so far this season has been Randall, with 40 total tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and an interception. He is coming off a very strong performance against Houston in which he had a highlight reel hit, and a toe-tapping interception on the same drive. 

Following Randall is Chappelle Russell, who has stepping in and filled the role of being the team’s leading tackler of anyone in the linebacking corps, he also has 2.5 tackles for loss on the season. Leading the team in tackles for loss is Shaun Bradley, who was ejected in the first half against Houston for a targeting call that could have gone either way.

“I knew he wouldn’t do anything that malicious,” Collins said Tuesday. “And the league did agree with that one.”

The Temple defense will have its hands full going against a very talented ECU passing game. The Pirates rank number two in the conference in passing offense. The team is averaging over 318 yards per game through the air.

Two quarterbacks have seen action for ECU so far this season. The pair of quarterbacks that have seemingly been with the Pirates for a decade are Thomas Sirk, and Gardner Minshew. Sirk leads the way with 1,129 yards through the air on the season, but like Marchi has struggled with turning the ball over with six interceptions on the season. He is also the team’s leading rusher.

As for MInshew, he has seen less time on the season. The starter out of camp, Minshew has completed just 40 percent of his passes, and only three touchdowns on the season.

Leading the way in the receiving corps are Davon Grayson and Trevon Brown. Grayson is tops on the team with just under 500 yards on the season and five touchdowns. Brown follows closely behind with 365 yards and two touchdowns, one going for 95 yards.

Look for both squads to come out playing hard early, as the game is a must win for both teams.

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