SportsDesk Preview: Temple Secondary To Face Another Big Test

Temple Football (5-3, 3-1) will host Cincinnati (4-3, 1-3) in an AAC conference showdown at Lincoln Financial Field Saturday afternoon in hopes of taking down their 4th conference team in five tries. A victory for the Owls would make it 3 wins in a row, something the Owls have yet to do this season. In order for Temple to make it to the AAC championship for the second straight season, they will have no choice but to win the remainder of their four conference games ahead. Cincinnati however is riding recent momentum, with the return of senior quarterback Gunner Kiel.
Temple celebrates after starting 2-0 in 2015. // Credit: USA Today
Temple celebrates after starting 2-0 in 2015. // Credit: USA Today

Last season the two teams faced off in Week 2, and it was a pivotal game for Temple in starting their 10-win campaign. Jahad Thomas won AAC Player of the Week for his evening, where he rushed for 193 yards and a touchdown, as well as a 100 yard kick return for a touchdown. Temple leads the all-time series 10-6-1.

Match-ups to Watch:
Gunner Kiel vs. Temple Secondary
Fifth-year senior quarterback Gunner Kiel started his first game of the 2016 season in the Bearcats’ last outing against ECU, and threw for 348 yards and 4 touchdowns. Cincinnati took care of ECU 31-19 for their first AAC victory of the year.
Gunner Kiel was inserted into the starting lineup and didn't disappoint vs. ECU.// Credit:
Gunner Kiel was inserted into the starting lineup and didn’t disappoint vs. ECU.// Credit:

Kiel is no stranger behind center for the Bearcats, he’s thrown for 6,078 yards and 50 touchdowns in his 2-year tenure prior to last week. However, drama with the quarterback started late last season when Kiel missed Cincinnati’s 2015 Hawaii Bowl game for undisclosed personal reasons, resulting in a suspension from the team. The veteran re-joined the team in January, only to deal with a lingering shoulder/back injury that would ultimately cost him the starting job. Head Coach Tommy Tuberville inserted sophomore Hayden Moore who went 2-2 in 4 games, only to be injured in week 3. Freshman Ross Trail played 2 games under center in Moore’s absence.

With a consistent Gunner Kiel just one game in, the Bearcats are still 3rd in the conference in passing offense, averaging 284 yards per game through the air. With youth and inconsistency at quarterback, credit the surrounding contributors on the offense who have kept the unit rolling. Cincinnati led the conference last season in total offense averaging 573.8 yards of offense per game.
Three Bearcats receivers have caught at least 35 passes this season, which gives insight of the passing volume of this offense. In Kiel’s first game against ECU, he favored sophomore receiver Kahlil Lewis who had limited action last season. Lewis hauled in 11 passes for 150 yards, pushing his season total to 35 receptions and 449 yards. Lewis is second on the team in yards behind Devin Grey- a first year junior college transfer, who has been a deep threat totaling 540 yards on just 35 receptions (15.4 YPC). Another 38 receptions this season have gone to senior Nate Cole, yet another weapon for Kiel.
Delvon Randall celebrates after his 4th quarter INT against USF. // Credit:
Delvon Randall celebrates after his 4th quarter INT against USF. // Credit:
Temple’s secondary leads the conference in pass defense, and they have kept all but 2 quarterbacks this season under 200 yards passing. The unit has done so without junior Sean Chandler, who was injured after entering the 2016 season on the Jim Thorpe Award Watch List. Sophomore Delvon Randall has been the most steady piece of this unit, as the free safety and both corner positions have been heavily rotated. Randall has 3 INT’s this season to go along with 36 total tackles, good for the third highest on the team. Something to note: Cincinnati’s rushing attack ranks dead last in the AAC.
Temple’s Offense vs. Cincinnati’s Defense

Temple’s rushing attack won the Owl’s their biggest game of the season last week as Ryquell Amstead and Jahad Thomas combined for 266 yards and 4 TD’s on the ground vs. USF. Temple’s offense under Matt Rhule has largely been predicated on a good ground game, setting

Jahad Thomas has 12 total touchdowns in just 6 games this season. // Credit: Temple Athletics
Jahad Thomas has 12 total touchdowns in just 6 games this season. // Credit: Temple Athletics

up opportunities through the air for Phillip Walker to make plays. So far Thomas and Armstead have accounted for over 1,000 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns. Thomas joins only Lamar Jackson in the NCAA with at least 2 touchdowns in six straight games, and for Thomas his six games have been the only games he’s played in this season.

With the run game establishing itself in the Owls win over USF, Phillip Walker had one of his most efficient games of the season, going 14/21 (67%) for 209 yards and a touchdown. Walker’s stats on the season although are not overwhelming. His season 57.1% completion percentage is right near his previous three seasons of 56.8% in 2015, 53.3% in 2014 and 60.8% in his freshman year. He’s also totaled 11 touchdowns to go along with 10 interceptions, which is already more INT’s for Walker than all of last season.
Sophomore Ventell Bryant has recently been establishing himself as Walker’s go to target at receiver, totaling 209 yards in the Owl’s last two contests. Missing three games earlier this season, Bryant had 140 yards prior to the past two weeks. With Bryant looking fully healthy, look for a Walker and Bryant connection to become routine for the remainder of the season.
Cincinnati’s defense is allowing 265 pass yards per game thus far, which ranks second to last in the AAC. Their rushing defense is better, although still allowing 165.7 yards per game, which Temple has done in all but 3 games this season. The recent emergence of comfortability in the Temple backfield with two elite rushers will look to give the Bearcats’ defense issues on Saturday.
About Vince Coll 68 Articles
Temple 2019 | Journalism Major | Football Enthusiast | Temple Basketball Manager

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