SportsDesk Pregame Report: Temple vs Tulsa

Temple looks to even their record as they open conference play this season.

Temple (1-2) was able to turn things around in a big way last week with a win over Maryland, 35-14 and pick up their first win of the season heading into conference play. It’s a short week for the Owls as they turn their attention to Tulsa Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field.

Wrapping up what we saw over the weekend, QB Frank Nutile was sidelined for the game, unannounced to everyone until spectators and viewers saw Anthony Russo run out onto the field to start under center for the first time as an Owl. Coach Collins said after the game that Nutile had gotten injured in practice and was a game time decision, that is when he decided to go with Russo.

Frank Nutile is again a game-time decision, that leaves the door open for Anthony Russo (above) to start his second straight game.

Despite having never started a college football game before, Russo shined at University Park throwing for 228 yards, 1 touchdown to Kenny Yeboah and 1 interception. “You can’t ask for a better scenario, I got a great team around me. I prepare every week like I’m going to be the starter. Playing a BIG 10 team out of conference at their home stadium, with a big crowd like that, that’s what you want, it was pretty awesome to be starting today,” said Russo after the game.

As for the rushing attack, Ryquell Armstead eclipsed over 100 yards for the second straight game. He is just 30 yards away from 2000 career rushing yards and with one touchdown he can move into fourth all-time in rushing touchdowns for Temple.

As the Owl’s continue to run the ball effectively, C Matt Hennessy feels the offensive line’s communication is simultaneously getting better. “When you know what you’re doing and you know who you have to block, you’re going to play faster and be able to play more physical,” said the single-digit center.

Temple was not shy to go for it on fourth down this past Saturday, and their aggressive play calling paid off. First, on fourth and eight from Maryland’s 36, the Owl’s attempted a fake punt and had QB Todd Centeio roll out and throw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Freddie Johnson. And second, on fourth and goal from Maryland’s 1-yard line, Freddie Booth-Lloyd, the 330-pound defensive tackle came in to play fullback and took a handoff from Anthony Russo to cross the goal line.

Defensively, this was by far Temple’s best performance. The defense didn’t let up a single point. Maryland’s two touchdowns came off of a pick-six and a punt block returned for a touchdown.

Leading the defense this week was single-digit defensive tackle Michael Dogbe. Dogbe led the defense with seven tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. The graduate defensive tackle earned the honor of AAC defensive player of the week for his performance. “It’s a pretty nice accomplishment. I’m happy they were able to recognize what I did on the field. Like I said it was a group performance where we were all dominant,” Dogbe said.

As the Owls shift gears towards Tulsa (1-2), they’ll need to refocus after their big win and not overlook this weeknight matchup.

This is the first conference game for both programs, after last season they ended conference play against each other, Temple winning that matchup 43-22.

So far this season, Tulsa has beat the University of Central Arkansas 38-27 but lost close matchups to good Texas (28-21) and Arkansas State (29-20) squads.

Similarly, to Temple’s rushing success, Tulsa’s running back, sophomore Shamari Brooks has rushed for two straight games of over 100 yards. Last week vs. Arkansas St. he produced 115 yards on 21 carries. Tulsa has not allowed an opposing player to reach 100 yards rushing in their last four games dating back to last season.

The Golden Hurricane has outscored its three opponents 38-16 in the fourth quarter. But they have been outscored by their opponents in each of the first three quarters. If the Owl’s manage to get a lead late in the game, they will need to tighten up their defense down the stretch to ensure a victory given that Tulsa seems to be a fourth quarter team.

Tulsa QB Luke Skipper is looking to continue his impressive start tp the season against Temple. // Credit: Brett Rojo

Tulsa’s center, senior Chandler Miller has now started 41 consecutive games at center for the Golden Hurricane, ever since his first game as a red-shirt freshman in 2015.

Under center, is a different story. Tulsa began its third straight year with a different QB starting the opener. This season, its sophomore Luke Skipper. He came into this season with only 3 touchdown passes last year and in his first three games this season he surpassed that total with 4 touchdown passes, ranging from 49, 34, 14 and 10 yards.

Through their first three games, defensively, Tulsa has allowed an average of 376.7 yards per game. Last season, through their first three games, they allowed 638.3 yards per game, a major improvement. The most yardage given up by Tulsa this year was 478 yards at Texas.

Historically for the two programs, this will be their fifth meeting. The series is tied 2-2 as the two teams have split games on their home fields. Tulsa won the first two meetings as non-conference opponents, 24-17 in Philadelphia in 1987 and one year later in Tulsa 15-10. Temple has won the last two games as members of the AAC 35-24 in 2014 and last year’s matchup 43-22.

The game is set to kick off from Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday evening at 7:30PM. The game will be broadcasted nationally on ESPN. You can listen in to 97.5 The Fanatic, or tune into student radio on WHIP with the iHeart Radio app and listen to the SportsDesk’s very own Vince Coll as he’ll be analyzing the primetime matchup.

Make sure to follow @TU_SportsDesk for all your game-day coverage.

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