Temple football will head into Beaver Stadium with a chance to drastically change the outlook of their season, while Penn State coach James Franklin will be sitting in a hot seat for the full 60 minutes of play on Saturday. Franklin will enter his first “must win” game of his 3-year tenure as head coach, according to an article released by The Inquirer’s Mike Jensen earlier this week.
“In Happy Valley, losing to Temple will never be acceptable, even with scholarship restrictions, since there is very little overlap between the offers received by the players at the two schools out of high school. Losing once in 74 years – it happens. Two years in a row? Fair or not, almost regardless of circumstance, practically the whole place would be walking out of Beaver Stadium talking about looking for the next guy.”
However, for Temple and head coach Matt Rhule, the Owls come into Saturday as obvious underdogs against a Penn State team averaging 36 points per game after the first two weeks. The initial, and current line for the game gives the Nittany Lions a 9 point advantage.
Rhule’s fingerprints are now almost fully upon this Temple unit, as this year’s senior class was his first recruiting class- and they’ll be looking to help Rhule notch his second win against his alma mater in three tries.
Saquon Barkley v. Temple front 7
Saquon Barkley has proven himself as a promising talent at halfback during a 2015 campaign where he rushed for 1,076 yards on just 182 carries as a true freshman. He’s coming off a tremendous game in their loss to Pitt last week, where he rushed for 85 yards and 4 touchdowns- including 45 yards receiving with another touchdown. Only 3 other players in college football have more rushing touchdowns (6) than Barkley after the first two games.
Needless to say he’s sold himself to Nittany Lion fans, and will look to find creases in Temple’s defense on Saturday. See his true freshman highlights courtesy of Predator Edits here:
Attempting to slow Barkley down will be the 7 guys in the box for Temple, as they are looking to redeem themselves after allowing 329 rush yards vs. Army Week 1. Redshirt senior LB Avery Williams says he takes the blame for Week One. He’s leading the team in tackles with 14 after two games.
Other leaders on the defense such as Jarred Alwan, Stephaun Marshall and Praise Martin-Oguike are looking to rally a unit that boasted the #1 rush defense in the conference last season. The three round out the top 5 in tackles on the team along with DB Sean Chandler.
Phillip Walker v. Penn State Defense
Phillip Walker is experiencing an obvious drop off in talent surrounding him so far in 2016, partly because senior halfback Jahad Thomas has been out of the lineup. Thomas injured his thumb and was ruled out just before Week 1’s kickoff. Aside from that, only 3 receivers have caught more than 3 passes from Walker this season, and two of them made their first career start two weeks ago.
This is a key contributor to Walker’s pass completion percentage, as it sits under 50% after the first two games. He’s also thrown two interceptions that went through the hands of his receivers. Leading receivers Keith Kirkwood, Brodrick Nancy and Marshall Ellick (in that order) will be looking to make things easy for Walker, as well as senior 6’4 TE/WR Romond Deloatch- who will need to step up in the pass game for the Owls on Saturday.
A quality rush attack will take the pressure off Walker, and sophomore Ryquell Amstead has assumed his role as #1 RB. With Thomas inactive, Amstead has filled in with 133 yards on just 30 attempts and 2 touchdowns. With Thomas in the lineup, expect Temple’s rush totals to increase, as coach Rhule talked about utilizing schemes with both Amstead and Thomas in at once- utilizing Thomas’ pass catching ability and speed around the end.
Penn State senior LB Brandon Bell and his defensive unit will be looking to lock down Walker and the Owls offense, despite struggling last week against Pitt. The Nittany Lion defense allowed 341 rushing yards to the Panthers and 3 touchdowns and will be looking to redeem themselves.
Regardless, the unit has registered 7 sacks in the first two games, and have averaged 110 pass yards per game- both rank second in the Big 10.
Freshman Trace Mcsorley vs. Temple Secondary
A very intriguing matchup for Saturday’s game, Temple’s secondary has defended just 25 passes after two games. Trace Mcsorley has managed 541 yards through the air, and he is looking to see what the Owls secondary is all about.
Saturday will be the secondary’s first test of the season.
Following a long off season battle at quarterback for the Nittany Lions, McSorley won the job and called it “a weight off his shoulders.” See how the QB felt being named the starter in an interview with pennlive.com:
McSorley has attempted 66 passes this season, completing 40 of them to a solid receiving corp. DaeSean Hamilton and Chris Godwin will be receiving the bulk of the passes from the freshman QB, however watch for sophomore, big-play threat DeAndre Thompkins, who has a team high 130 receiving yards on just 4 catches.
Junior Sean Chandler and this Temple Secondary has allowed 99 passing yards, forcing a 40% completion percentage, largely due to its very small sample size.
Saturday at Beaver Stadium will be a big game on both sides, follow @TU_SportsDesk for live game updates.