Owls making big ‘investment’ in freshmen

Only nine freshmen started on offense and defense for Big East Conference football teams last week. Temple had five of them.

That statistic emphasizes the challenge that Owls coach Steve Addazio faces this season.

“But that investment is going to come back,” Addazio said. “It might not come back next week or next month. But it’s going to come back. That’s what it is. We are building this thing for the long haul here.”

The Owls (1-2) are one of the Football Bowl Subdivision’s least experienced teams. Temple has 15 first-time starters, which ranks second nationally behind Air Force (17).

Sixteen freshmen (including seven redshirts) played in Saturday’s 24-13 setback at Penn State.

Of the freshmen starters, right guard Kyle Friend was the only one playing high school ball at this time last season. The others — left tackle Zach Hooks, middle linebacker Nate. D. Smith, outside linebacker Brandon Chudnoff and nose tackle Hershey Walton — were redshirted in 2011.

For Temple, the youth movement comes with growing pains.

The Owls rank last in the Big East in total offense (276.3 yards per game), total defense (396.67), rushing defense (176.3), passing offense (121), first downs (12.3 per game) and third-down conversion (32.5 percent). Temple is next to last in pass efficency (121.3) and time of possession (26 minutes, 37 seconds per game).

“There’s great effort,” Addazio said. “We’ve got young guys that are improving. We are competing. We’re in every football game right now.”

After trailing Maryland by 26-3 at halftime, Temple pulled within 29-27 with 7:04 remaining before eventually losing, 36-27.

Last week, the Owls were competitive until Matt McGloin’s 1-yard score gave the Nittany Lions a 14-3 cushion 22 seconds before halftime.

“We were just not clean enough in those games, because we are not there yet,” Addazio said. “We have to get there. That’s our job. And we will continue to grow.”

-- Keith Pompey