Head coach Steve Addazio has his young Temple Owls team on the verge of a second straight bowl appearance. A big upset of the Cardinals would make that goal much easier to ascertain.
The Temple Owls were a pretty safe bet to finish dead last in their return to the Big East this season. The common thought was that the jump from the MAC to the Big East was a daunting task for any team, let alone one with a second year coach. But the job that Addazio has done this year to have his team in fourth place coming down the stretch of the season has been remarkable. He has a tough task this week facing both the Louisville Cardinals as well as the issues caused by Hurricane Sandy.
Temple doesn't have a very explosive offense. The offense is very much run oriented and really doesn't do well in the passing game. Quarterback Chris Coyer is, arguably, the worst signal caller in the Big East. He is last in the conference in every passing category outside of rating. However, Coyer does do a few things pretty well, though. He doesn't throw a lot of interceptions, and he can be dangerous with the read option. Coyer is averaging almost 4 yards per carry even though he's taken 15 sacks this year.
Temple doesn't run a spread attack like we've seen most of the season, but their offense is very multiple. They can go from a 3-back power I set to a 5-wide shotgun set from one play to the next. To be completely honest, if they could fix their issues in the passing game, they would have at least five wins right now instead of three. Steve Addazio had a great offense at Florida with Tim Tebow at the helm, but he struggled with the much less talented John Brantley. That seems to be part of his issue now. His system needs solid quarterback play to work and he's not getting that now. Louisville will undoubtedly focus on stopping the run like they did last week, and dare Coyer to beat them with his arm.
Montell Harris is the active leader nationally in career 100-yard games with 24. He teams with Matt Brown to make up an extremely talented backfield. Harris transferred to Temple after dominating the ACC as Boston College's star running back. He started off this year pretty slow but he's been playing really well over the last few weeks. Harris is probably the best back Louisville will face this season. They did pretty well against the more straight ahead running games earlier in the system and even though Temple runs the spread, Harris seems to do more damage on their more traditional run plays. Brown is the lone big play threat on the offense. He has a small frame but runs extremely hard. Brown is also a big threat in the return game. With the problems we've had on special teams, it'll be key to keep the ball away from Brown. He'll take anything from a screen pass to a punt return to the house in a heartbeat.
Temple only has two receivers with double digit catches this year. Jalen Fitzpatrick is a shifty player that works the middle of the field pretty well. I don't see any of the receivers having a big day because of the quarterback play, but if someone were to break a big play it would be Fitzpatrick.
Coyer has been sacked 15 times in seven games. I wouldn't put it all on the offensive line, though. He's taken a handful of bad sacks. Holding onto the ball, coming out of his blind play fakes too slowly, and just flat out stepping up into pressure. The line has seen pretty good continuity and they should be ready for an improved Cardinals pass rush. However, the tackles have struggled with speed rushers at times and I expect Marcus Smith to have some success Saturday.
KEY PLAYERS: QB Chris Coyer, RB Montel Harris, RB Matt Brown
Cincinnati adjusted their defense scheme a bit last week and didn't shift guys around a lot before the snap. They did a pretty good job of hiding their blitzes and got to Teddy a couple of times because of it. Temple runs somewhat of a similar defense as Cincinnati. They move guys all over the place and they blitz from different angles. They also stunt with their blitzes. Defensive Coordinator Chuck Heater worked under Charlie Strong at Florida and eventually was promoted to replace HCCS after he took the Louisville job. Heater likes to bring pressure, so I don't see him changing that philosophy for Louisville. A fast start from Teddy and the running game could leave a defense short on depth gasping for air in the second half.
Temple's young group of linebackers headline the defense. Freshmen Nate Smith and Tyler Matakevich will more than likely join Keith Brown on most All-Big East freshman teams. Both do a great job of being active and flying to the ball. Their youth showed up a lot last week when Ray Graham abused them as an outlet in the passing game. The future is bright for this defense but they have really taken their lumps the last two weeks.
Temple plays their safeties deeper than any team we've seen so far this year. 10-12 yards is pretty customary on first and second down, but Temple puts their safeties at about 15 yards pretty consistently. This leaves the middle of the field open sometimes but both Vaughn Carraway and Justin Gildea are solid tacklers in open space. Where they struggle however is stopping the big play. Temple has been gashed for 25 big plays (plays over 20 yards) this year, including a season high 5 to D-II Villanova. A lot of those big plays have been because the safeties couldn't cover enough ground or couldn't keep up with a guy in man coverage. Teams that blitz a lot need excellent safety play. Temple has gotten fairly inconsistent play from it's two safeties at times this year.
Temple hasn't gotten a lot of turnovers or a lot of sacks this year. It's not awful in either category but they have struggled in the same way that Louisville has. I fully expect Heater to bring the heat (I'm sorry) on Saturday because that's his philosophy as opposed to a choice. I can really see the offense having a similar performance to the UNC game with Strong taking his foot off the gas due to his friendship with the coaches on the opposing team. Hopefully he will keep the offense flowing due to the fact that "style points" do matter more now. Being a top 10 team brings a ton of eyes to each game you play. Taking it to an inferior team means more now than it did a few weeks ago.
KEY PLAYERS: MLB Nate D. Smith, OLB Tyler Matakevich, DE John Yoboughty, S Vaughn Carraway S Justin Gildea
- Blaze Caponegro starts at the third linebacker spot. His name is Blaze.
- Temple has one player that was starting at his position at the beginning of last season.
- Senorise Perry and Jeremy Wright have more combined touchdowns in 8 games than Temple's entire offense has had in it's 7.
- Steve Addazio has the manliest mustache in the Big East.