That Temple’s football team has struggled this year seems to have been missed by Army coach Jeff Monken.
When Army hosts Temple at noon Saturday, Monken’s team will be facing a struggling 3-4 Temple unit that was upset, 28-24, last week by Connecticut, but the fourth-year Army coach sees things differently.
“They scare the liver out of you,” Monken said of the Owls in a phone interview. “Ability-wise and talent-wise, we are not close to what they are.”
Monken wasn’t being overly modest and he did acknowledge that his 5-2 team, which has won three in a row, isn’t devoid of talent.
“Brett Toth, our right tackle, has had a lot of attention paid to him, and a lot of [NFL] scouts have talked about him and have been evaluating him,” Monken said.
Another highly touted player, according to Monken, is senior linebacker Alex Aukerman (6-1, 260). He has 28 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss, including five sacks.
“Alex was a high school safety at 205 and is now 260 and is really strong, does a great job of controlling blocks,” Monken said.
Then Monken went back to talking about a Temple team he is very familiar with since Army opened last season with a 28-13 win at Lincoln Financial Field against the Owls.
“They could easily be 5-2,” Monken said. “The lost to a good [20-13] Houston team and threw a pick-six last week. We have a tremendous amount of respect for them.”
The feeling is mutual.
Temple has been preparing all week to contain Army’s triple-option offense. The Black Knights are second in the nation in rushing, averaging 378.4 rushing yards.
“They have tough, physical players,” Temple coach Geoff Collins said. “They play hard and have tremendous athletes who work in sync and play together.”
The person who creates the biggest problem is 5-11, 205-pound senior quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw. In last year’s win over Temple, he rushed for 50 yards and a score on 16 carries and completed 1 of 4 passes for 11 yards.
This season, he has been the offensive catalyst. Bradshaw has rushed for 818 yards (7.7 avg.) and seven touchdowns. He has attempted only 30 passes.
“He is a dynamic player,” Collins said.
Bradshaw ranks third among quarterbacks in Army history with nine, 100-yard rushing games.
“He makes great decisions, gets us in the right play, is a mentally and physically tough kid, a strong inside runner, and probably the best quality is he is very poised and never gets rattled. Nothing seems to bother him,” said Monken, whose team needed to stop a two-point conversion attempt with 49 seconds left to beat Eastern Michigan, 28-27, last week.
While so much is discussed about the Army offense, the defense is unique, according to Collins.
“It is very multiple and one of the more blitz-heavy groups we have played in the last couple of weeks,” Collins said.
Overall, it will be a difficult task for Temple, but virtually a must-win game since the Owls need to go 3-2 in their final five to be bowl-eligible.
Temple at Army
Saturday, noon, Michie Stadium, West Point, N.Y.
TV: CBS Sports Network. Radio: WTEL-AM (610).
Records: Temple, 3-4. Army, 5-2.
Coaches: Temple, Geoff Collins (3-4); Army, Jeff Monken (4th season, 19-25; overall, 55-43).
History: Temple leads, 7-5.
Last meeting: Army won, 28-13, on Sept. 2, 2016 at Lincoln Financial Field.
Collins said during media availability Tuesday that quarterback Logan Marchi missed the end of practice because of an injury but is expected to play. If he doesn’t, redshirt junior Frank Nutile will be the starter. The Owls hope to redshirt freshman Todd Centeio, but any injuries could change that thinking.
Army is a team that starts out quickly, and Temple is the opposite. The Black Knights are outscoring teams, 56-38, in the first quarter, and Temple has been outscored, 34-16, in the opening period.
Temple did face Army’s triple option in last year’s loss, but as Collins pointed out, this will be the first time the linebackers have played against it. Of the six Temple linebackers projected to see action, two are redshirt sophomores, three are sophomores, and one is a redshirt freshman. Dealing with the deception and speed of Army quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw will be a key.
Not surprisingly, Army hasn’t allowed any sacks this season. The Black Knights have attempted just 38 passes.
Bradshaw isn’t the only runner the Owls will have to contain. Last week, sophomore running back Kell Walker rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. He has rushed for more than 100 yards in two consecutive games. For the season, Walker has rushed for 435 yards (9.3 avg.) and four touchdowns. He is among 11 players who have scored at least one rushing touchdown for the Black Knights.
Temple defensive end Sharif Finch has to sit out the first half after he was ejected in the third quarter for targeting during last week’s 28-24 loss to Connecticut. No doubt Finch will give the defense a boost when he is inserted in the game. This season, Finch has seven tackles for loss, including three sacks.