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Q & A with Owls Daily

We had a chance to pick the mind of Owls Daily, the 247 site for Temple football. We got to Ryan Wallen last year ahead of the game in Philadelphia. The site is a great all in one resource of news, recruting, and chat board.

I’m very fortunate this year that Both Ryan and Mike were willing to set aside some time to talk about this weeks game, and the two programs in general

We had a chance to pick the mind of Owls Daily, the 247 site for Temple football. We got to Ryan Wallen last year ahead of the game in Philadelphia. The site is a great all in one resource of news, recruting, and chat board.

I’m very fortunate this year that Both Ryan and Mike were willing to set aside some time to talk about this weeks game, and the two programs in general.

For my answers to their questions, check out Owls Daily. (which is currently behind a paywall sorry UBrothers)

1. New coach, solid start. Is there anything in Temple land right now that seems concerning to you?

I think the most concerning aspect of Temple’s team right now through two games is that the special teams’ play has been less than spectacular. Longtime special teams coordinator Ed Foley left the program for Baylor in the summer after being moved to an off-field role under Carey, not to mention neither the kicker or punter for this week’s game against the Bulls are the same ones who played last year against UB. Will Mobley took over the kicking duties for Aaron Boumerhi after the Buffalo game last season, but he is getting some competition for reps this week from grad transfer Jacob LaFree after the former missed a short field goal last week against Maryland. JUCO transfer Adam Barry took over punting duties this season from Connor Bowler, who transferred to Charlotte, but to put it plain and simple, he looked bad last week against the Terps. He averaged 32.0 yards per punt on seven kicks in that game, including a 7-yard shank late in the fourth quarter. Currently Temple sits dead last in the nation in net punting – one spot behind Buffalo. Add that in with a snap that went out of the endzone for a safety, a fumble on a punt return cause it drilled an Owl in the leg, a kickoff out of bounds, an offsides on a kickoff, and a 55-yard return that set the Terps up inside the 5-yard line, and the guys in the Cherry and White have had their fair share of blunders so far this season. This is uncharacteristic for the Owls because its been an area of the game that they have been really good in recent years. Head coach Rod Carey says the squad focused on fixing those mistakes early in the week, so as long as the kicking game improves and Mobley, LaFree, and Barry in particular regain their composure, the other mistakes should fix themselves.

Another small area of the game I find concerning is Temple’s turnover ratio. As good as the Owls have been on defense, the defensive unit has forced just one turnover this season, while the offense/special teams has turned it over four times, with the team losing the turnover battle in each of its first two games. Quarterback Anthony Russo especially, can’t get too pass happy down the stretch and force passes as he’s tended to do since taking over as the team’s starter. Granted, he has improved his decision making from a season ago. But going through the remainder of the season, once the Owls get into conference play, they will need to find a way to create extra opportunities to score against some really tough opposition, so it’d be good for them to get that going sooner rather than later.

2. Buffalo has really suffered against the passing game. How does Temple far in that area of the game?

The Owls passing game thus far this season has been very impressive. Russo looks every bit the part of an NFL prospect with his arm strength and accuracy, but even if he is a little off, he has some really good wide receivers around him to help him out. Like I previously mentioned, Russo’s decision making appears to have improved tremendously in the offseason, which explains why he’s completing 67 percent of his passes and has a 7:2 touchdown to interception ratio. As far as the Owls’ receivers go, they are led by senior Isaiah Wright, redshirt junior Branden Mack and redshirt sophomore Jadan Blue. Each has the ability to make a big play or go off at any time because it has been hard for teams to find a way to scheme against three dangerous wideouts. Blue has been the surprise thus far considering he had such little game-experience coming into the season, but so far he has a pair of scores and leads the group with 249 receiving yards on 15 catches. Mack has the potential to be a NFL prospect in his own right as he just looks like a professional and has the talent to back it up, particularly in his route-running. He just needs to find a way to produce week in and out to legitimately get considered for the NFL, but he’s off to a solid start this season with 147 yards and 12 receptions. Wright is probably the least-talented “receiver” of the three because at times he has struggled to catch the ball throughout his career, but he seems to have improved in that regard this offseason and once he has the ball in his hands, he is a big-play threat as he makes quick cuts and has good down-the-field vision. This bodes true for him in the return game as well.

3. UB’s primary offense at this point seems to be via the running game. Have you seen anything this season with Temple that gives you concern about this week’s matching?

So far, Temple’s run defense has been about as stout as they could be. They are allowing just 91.0 yards per game on the ground and did a pretty decent job in shutting down Maryland’s rushing attack last week. Aside from a few long runs the Terps busted, the Owls did a good job in containing the Maryland backs and meeting them at the point of attack, especially inside the redzone as the Owls held on three goal-line stands – two of which came with under five minutes to play in the fourth quarter. Coming into the season, the d-line was a little bit of a concern as the Owls lost defensive tackles Michael Dogbe to the NFL and Freddie Booth-Lloyd to graduation, and their defensive ends were unproven. But so far in 2019, the Owls have done a great job in the trenches. Ifeanyi Maijeh has looked outstanding on the interior and leads the team in sacks and is currently second in total tackles. He’s only going to get better and he already looks like someone beyond his years. Aside from the line, Temple arguably has the best linebacker corps in the American Athletic Conference led by single-digits Shaun Bradley, Chapelle Russell, Sam Franklin and Isaiah Graham-Mobley. At least one of these guys is always moving around pre-snap, setting the defense and attacking the ball upon the snap, so I expect Temple to scheme for the Bulls’ rushing attack based on the talent they have in the front seven and that Carey is familiar with Lance Leipold’s offense. I think Buffalo will find some success there on Saturday because Marks and Patterson are a solid one-two punch out of the backfield and the Bulls have a veteran offensive line, but I don’t think that it will be enough to propel UB to an upset win.

4. Temple has already had a couple of nice wins on the year – a blowout against Bucknell and a win over a ranked Maryland team. Where do you see their biggest challenge coming from on the remaining schedule?

On paper at the beginning of the season, Temple’s schedule appeared pretty favorable and like they could end up with 9 or 10 wins. But with the first few weeks of the season completed and seeing some of the teams Temple will play coming up, I’m not so confident in that prediction anymore. The Owls’ will be favored in their two remaining non-conference games, including against the Bulls – and they should be. They have a good chance at going 4-0 before opening

conference play at East Carolina, which should be another win. But after that game with the Pirates, the Owls’ schedule gets rough. They will have a homecoming tilt with Memphis on Oct. 12 in Philadelphia, which very well could be a ranked-versus-ranked matchup come the time of that game. Then the Owls travel to Dallas to take on a much improved SMU team in a contest that has trap game written all over it, especially if Temple would defeat Memphis the week prior. After that, they have a home tilt with a presumably-ranked UCF Knights team that hasn’t lost in the regular season since November 26, 2016 season. That game could very well determine who represents the AAC East in the AAC Championship. The Owls then get USF in Tampa at Raymond James Stadium – a place they’ve never won at, followed by a game with a good Tulane team, which picked up a massive win Thursday night against Houston. They then travel to Cincinnati for another East Division dogfight with the Bearcats, who are the

closest thing to a rival Temple has in the conference, so I expect a close game.

Finally, they close the season with UConn, so that’s almost a guaranteed win. If I had to pick one game that will be the biggest challenge, it would be the one against UCF since they are the two-time defending AAC Champs, but there are other games on the slate that the Owls should be worried about.

5. Predictions?

Knowing Temple is coming off such a big win a week ago makes me a little nervous for this game against the Bulls, especially with a game against former head coach Geoff Collins and his Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on the slate for next week, so there’s a slight possibility the team is overlooking Buffalo. I don’t get the impression that this is the case however under Carey because he mentioned several times in his presser this week that he’s talked to the team about the Bulls having a the best O-line and D-line they’ve faced to-date, as well as reminding them that UB defeated them last season. As long as the team received that message and they don’t play really bad football, I am confident in predicting that Temple wins this game pretty handedly, especially because the Owls’ defense looks top-notch. I’ll go with the Owls, 38-10.