A first and second place matchup in the AAC East is set to take place Thursday as Temple (6-0) will travel down the coast to take on the Pirates of East Carolina (4-3).
The Owls are all about making history this year. Coming off of a 30-16 win against UCF, the Owls received their first Top-25 ranking since 1979. Coming in at #22 on the AP poll, Temple will head into this week with the same mindset. “I don’t think about it at all” noted Rhule. “My focus is on just playing well.” With a win tomorrow night, the program would be 7-0 for the 1st time in history.
Junior running back Jahad Thomas added to his outstanding performance this year against the knights as he rushed for 199 yards and 3 scores while catching 3 passes for 25 yards. ECU ranks 3rd to last in the conference in rushing defense this season. Allowing 186 yards per game and over four yards per carry,Thomas’ production will be essential for this Temple offense. Freshman running back Ryquell Armstead will likely get steady workload, taking some pressure off of Thomas, as the Owls will look to use the run game to control the tempo.
East Carolina will be Temple’s first look at a dual quarterback system, as Juniors Blake Kemp and James Summers have combined to fuel the conference’s 4th ranked passing attack. Kemp has been stellar through the air, completing 71.3% of his passes for just over 1500 yards. Summers provides the Pirate’s offense with a dual-threat component, as he has rushed for 354 yards and 6 touchdowns. Summers has also proven himself as an efficient passer, throwing for 417 yards and 4 touchdowns with just one interception. The combo of Kemp and Summers will be a test for Temple’s defense which ranks first in rushing defense and second in passing defense in the AAC.”We have our plan” said Rhule. “We have a plan maybe a little different for both (quarterbacks).” Temple has allowed just 244 total yards in the last two games, which Rhule noted was a great accomplishment for the team.
Two out of the three ECU losses came by less than one score. Against 13th ranked Florida, ECU had 20 first downs compared to Florida’s 17 and threw for 139 more yards in the 24-31 loss. ECU also gave BYU a scare, as the game was decided with a 9-yard touchdown run with just 19 seconds left to play. The Pirates have showed their ability to face top tier opponents and hold their own.
Thursday’s matchup will come after the Owls took down the undefeated Pirates just a season ago, which marked Temple’s first victory over a ranked team in 16 years. ECU came into the game with a 6-1 record and ranked 23rd in the nation. East Carolina has not seen a Top-25 ranking since.
With Temple being able to solidify the run game which will ultimately control the game tempo and clock, Temple should be able to keep the ECU offense in check. Jahad Thomas and Ryquell Armstead will carry big roles for the Owls on Thursday. However, another slow start could plague the Owls. ECU has won 25 straight when leading at the half. Catch the game on ESPN2 starting at 7pm.