Owls should wear down Rockets

A victory over Maryland has made Temple a stronger candidate to possibly receive an invitation to join a Bowl Championship Series conference down the road.  But at this moment, the Owls are focused on their first true Mid-American Conference test in Toledo.

 I’ll point out things to look out for in Saturday’s contest at Lincoln Financial Field.

RECORDS

Temple:  3-1 overall, 1-0 MAC

Toledo:  1-3, 0-0

GAME-BREAKERS

Temple:  Tailback Bernard Pierce is coming off a five-touchdown performance. The junior leads the nation with 12 touchdowns and in scoring (18 points per game). 

Toledo: Wideout/kick returner Eric Page had 14 receptions for a career-high 168 yards last week against Syracuse. The junior, who has 39 receptions for 442 yards this season, is ranked sixth nationally in receptions (9.5 per game) and 14th in receiving yards (110.5 per game).  

OFFENSE

Temple:  Chester Stewart will make his second consecutive start. The fifth-year senior had one of his best games in an Owls' uniform last week. He completed all nine of his passes for 140 yards. Stewart also picked up 43 yards on nine carries.  Tight end Evan Rodriguez is arguably the Owls’ best playmaker behind Pierce. He leads the Owls in both receptions (16) and receiving yards (215).

Toledo:  The Rockets are expected to use the two-quarterback system. Austin Dantin will get the start, while Terrance Owens could see a lot of action. Dantin is 54-of-87 (62.1 percent) for 624 yards and six touchdowns. Owens is 40-of-70 (57.1 percent) for 502 yards and three scores. Toledo, however, will be without running back Adonis Thomas (broken arm). He is the team's leading rusher (38 carries for 235 yards) and second-leading pass catcher (13 catches, 168 yards).

DEFENSE

Temple:  The Owls have the nation’s top-ranked scoring defense, yielding an average of 7.75 points per game. Temple is also tied for fifth nationally in sacks (3.75 per game). Middle linebacker Stephen Johnson leads the team with 29 tackles. He also has two pass breakups and a forced fumble.

Toledo: The Rockets are banged-up on this side of the ball. Linebacker Danny Molls (leg injury) won’t play. Cornerbacks Taikwon Paige (hip/groin) and Desmond Marrow (concussion) are listed as questionable.  And safety Mark Singer (shoulder injury) has been out the entire season.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Temple:  The Owls have blocked two punts and a field-goal attempt. They are also ranked second nationally in kickoff returns (35 yards per return) and 16th in punt returns (14.3 ypr). Matt Brown is the nation’s fourth–best kickoff returner (34.7).

Toledo: The Rockets are ranked sixth nationally in punt returns (18.4). Page is averaging 22.9 yards on kickoff returns and 14.5 on punt returns.

QUICK HITS

Temple has yet to beat a team with a winning record. The Owls three victories came against teams with a combined 3-8 record. However, the Rockets’ three losses were against teams with a combined 9-2 record … Toledo holds a 6-3 series advantage.

ANALYSIS

Toledo will put up a tough challenge. However, those key injuries – especially on defense – will be too much to overcome.  Pierce will have another big game in a Temple win.

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