Temple Owls: Defense to be tested

Owls face up-tempo teams in the coming weeks.

NCAA Football: Temple at Connecticut
Temple Owls defensive lineman Praise Martin-Oguike (50) scores a touchdown against the Connecticut Huskies during the second half at Rentschler Field. The Owls defense will be tested in the next few weeks. (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

(C+P) — Which is better: The spread offense or defense?

It is not on the level of the chicken or the egg question. In a way, it is a “My dad can beat up your dad” question. No matter what school of thought may be, it is a situation that Temple finds itself for the next few weeks. Temple (3-1) will be facing some up-tempo, high scoring offenses in the next few weeks. The spread offense gave the team a tough time last year. The Owls will face their first spread offense team on Saturday, Oct. 11, against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.

The defense is about to go through what head coach Matt Rhule calls a “Murderer’s Row” of offenses. The Owls defense has been stout. When looking at the early season statistics, the Owls are towards the top in the country in some impressive categories:

Tied for third in the country in turnover margin with +10

Second in passing first downs allowed (20)

Third in the country in points allowed per game (12)

Although these statistics are what have helped propel the Owls to their 3-1 record, the toughest tests lie ahead, beginning with the Tulsa Golden Hurricane (1-4). Despite the Golden Hurricane lack of success this season, they still have a formidable offense. Averaging 23.4 points per game, Tulsa has the sixth-most prolific offense in the conference.

Temple Owls defensive back Sean Chandler (3) sacks Connecticut Huskies quarterback Chandler Whitmer (10) during the second half at Rentschler Field. (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)
Temple Owls defensive back Sean Chandler (3) sacks Connecticut Huskies quarterback Chandler Whitmer (10) during the second half at Rentschler Field. (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

Rhule is not taking this Tulsa team lightly; “As we move forward, we recognize that we are going to face some dynamic offenses,” stated Rhule. “We have not shown what we can do against some of the no-huddle or four-wide teams. As we prepare for Tulsa and the other teams moving forward, defensively we have some challenges ahead of us. We are happy our defense is playing well so far.”

“Phil is running the same system as last year. The calls are the same. I think our players have bought in 100 percent. They’ve gotten bigger and stronger. What’s going to have to happen is they have to prove that they can go out and do it against a dynamic passing game. We saw Teddy Bridgewater last year. We saw Blake Bortles last year. We saw Gary Gilbert last year. Those guys at the time hurt us. We’ve seen more pro-style offenses so far. We have to prove that we can handle the spread as we move forward.”

When facing multiple receiver sets, the Owls have used a few cornerbacks. Tavon Young and Sean Chandler have done a decent job so far. Anthony Davis and Khiry Lucas have done well when they have been in games. The Owls may have some more help on the way. Safety Alex Wells, who injured his knee in the opening game against Vanderbilt, may be back this week depending on how his knee holds up during this week’s practices.

Bill Blankenship, Tulsa’s head coach, is charged with the task of stopping his team from its current four-game losing streak.

Filled with a team consisting of many freshmen and sophomores, Blankenship thinks that getting out to a fast start will keep Tulsa in the game; “We are a team that has come out of the locker room kind of measuring our opponent as opposed to being very aggressive and attacking. We tend to be on our heels a little bit. Then, at some point in the game, you just see the light come on on the sideline, ‘Oh ok, we can play with these guys.’ By that time, we are down two or three scores. I think that is the biggest challenge that we see right now is to come out swinging and come out aggressive.“

The Owls defense will be tested by the spread offense. With the game being played on Temple’s Homecoming, they hope they pass the first test with flying colors.

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