Interceptions could help Temple turn things around
When defensive back Tavon Young pulled down the first of two Temple interceptions in a 33-14 victory over Army, it ended quite a drought for the Owls.
Temple came within one day of going an entire year without an interception.
Before Saturday's win over Army, the Owls' last interception, also snagged by Young, came in a 35-10 loss to Rutgers on Oct. 20, 2012.
"Was it really that long ago?" Young said. "Wow, that's a long time."
Before Young and Tyler Matakevich picked off passes against Army, Temple's opponents had picked off 10 passes to the Owls' one, dating to last year's Rutgers game.
Last season, the discrepancy actually wasn't that bad overall, as Temple finished with four interceptions while its opponents had six.
Coming into this season, Temple coach Matt Rhule hoped that the pass rush, which generated just 20 sacks last season, would be improved. The by-product of a more ferocious pass rush, Rhule hoped, would result in opposing quarterbacks not being able to get comfortable in the pocket, hampering their ability to pick on the Temple secondary.
But seven games into the season, the Owls have generated just 12 sacks. In all fairness, they probably lost their best pass rusher, Sean Daniels, to a season-ending sports hernia surgery.
"Really, it works together. We have to get more pressure on the quarterback in order to help those guys back there," said Temple defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis, who leads the Owls with three sacks this season. "You can't point the finger at those guys. It's about us doing what we can do, the whole unit, to start getting to quarterbacks."
In 11 losses dating to last season, Temple foes have passed for 26 touchdowns compared with 11 for the Owls. Of those 26, 15 came the final six games of 2012, a really bad stretch that saw the Temple defense allow 39.8 points a game.
With little fear of turning the ball over in the passing game, opposing quarterbacks have feasted. Notre Dame's Tommy Rees was 16 of 23 for 346 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Owls, and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater went 23 for 35 for 348 yards and a pair of TDs.
Big numbers were expected out of marquee players against a Temple team that is transitioning to a new coach and a new defensive coordinator, Phil Snow.
But of the four 300-plus-yard passing performances against the Owls this season, the two that probably shouldn't have happened were supplied by Fordham quarterback Mike Nebrich and Idaho freshman Chad Chalich.
Nebrich completed 23 of 36 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns, the second of which was a 29-yard game-winner that came with four seconds left under a tepid Temple pass rush.
While Fordham (8-0) has proved to be one of the better FCS teams in the country, Idaho (1-6) was the loss that really hurt the Owls. Chalich passed for 310 yards and a TD.
"I felt pretty comfortable in the pocket," Chalich said.
The Owls (1-6, 0-3 AAC) play a winnable game Saturday at pass-happy Southern Methodist (2-4, 1-1). The Mustangs, who allow 40.8 points a game, have thrown the football 335 times through six games. By comparison, Louisville has thrown 90 fewer passes in seven games.
"There will be opportunities to take the ball way," Young said. "And that's on us this week."