Owls to host a formidable Houston team

T25–AP Preseason All-America Team Football
Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver takes down Lamar’s Kade Harrington during a game last September.

Temple and Houston, which will meet at noon Saturday in an American Athletic Conference football game at Lincoln Financial Field, have a few similarities. Each is coming off a loss. Each has had an unsettled quarterback situation.

The difference is that Houston (2-1, 0-0 AAC) is considered a contender in the AAC West Division, while the Owls (2-2, 0-1), after last week’s 43-7 loss to current No. 18 South Florida, are already considered East Division long shots.

The nation’s longest active home winning streak (16 games) ended last week when the Cougars fell to Texas Tech, 27-24. In that game, after ineffective work from starting quarterback Kyle Allen, Houston replaced him midway through the fourth quarter with Kyle Postma. During his brief time, Postma engineered two touchdown drives, scoring on a 9-yard run and finding Linell Bonner on a 4-yard scoring pass with 15 seconds left. Postma went 8 for 13 for 100 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 52 yards and a score on four carries.

Allen, a transfer from Texas A&M, is still listed as the starter on the depth chart, but that isn’t etched in stone.

Redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi started Temple’s first four games, but after he threw three interceptions in last week’s loss, coach Geoff Collins said there would be quarterback battle this week between Marchi and redshirt junior Frank Nutile.

The Owls might have a tough time fixing their offensive problems against the Cougars. Temple is averaging 17 points per game, 114th nationally. Houston is 18th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 15.3 points per game. All-American defensive tackle Ed Oliver (6-foot-3, 290 pounds), a sophomore for the Cougars, has the size and quickness to blow up opposing offensive lines.

“He is one of the most dynamic defensive linemen in college football,” Collins said.

Oliver is not the only playmaker on the Cougars’ defense. Senior inside linebacker Matthew Adams is sixth in the nation and first in the AAC in tackles, averaging 11.3. Outside linebacker Khalil Williams has a team-high six tackles for losses. At 5-11 and 210 pounds, he isn’t the biggest of linebackers, but, like so many on Houston, he has great quickness.

And Temple struggled with South Florida’s defensive speed last week.

Houston plays a 3-4 defense. In addition to Oliver, the starting linemen are senior Nick Thurman (6-4, 293) and senior Reggie Chevis (6-2, 290).

Houston’s defensive linemen “move well and play hard,” Temple left tackle Leon Johnson. “We have to be on top of our assignments and, of course, finish our blocks.”

The Cougars also have playmakers on offense, led by Bonner, who is sixth in the nation with 8.7 receptions per game. Senior Steven Dunbar has made 30 career starts. He has 18 receptions for 212 yards.

Temple, despite being at home, is about a two-touchdown underdog.

A win would turn the Owls’ season around, while a loss would continue the question about whether they have what it takes to beat a quality team.

Houston at Temple

Saturday, noon, Lincoln Financial Field.

TV: ESPNU. Radio: WPEN-FM 97.5.

Records: Houston (2-1, 0-0 American Athletic Conference). Temple (2-2, 0-1).

Coaches: Houston, Major Applewhite (2-1). Temple, Geoff Collins (2-2).

History: Houston leads, 5-0.

Last meeting: Houston, 23-14, Dec. 5, 2015 in the inaugural AAC championship game.

Talking points

–Houston is first in the nation in kickoff-return average. The Cougars have averaged 38.6 yards on five returns. Leading the way is John Leday, who is averaging 50.7 yards on three returns. Leday is also a receiving threat with 11 catches for 111 yards and a score.

–This is the third time this year Temple has been an underdog, and in the first two times, the Owls lost by a combined 92-23 score against Notre Dame and South Florida.

–Temple has not lost two games in a row in the same season since falling to Houston in the 2015 AAC title game and then to Toledo, 32-17 in the Boca Raton Bowl.

–Temple is averaging just 2.1 yards per carry. Ryquell Armstead, has rushed for 180 yards (3.1 average) and no touchdowns. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry and scored 14 rushing touchdowns last season. The offensive line has not provided consistent big holes for Armstead, but he also hasn’t run at the level he did a year ago.

–In last week’s 43-7 loss at South Florida, Temple committed six turnovers, dropping its turnover margin to minus-5.

–Temple has 15 sacks, but that figure was inflated by the nine against a suspect Massachusetts offensive line. Temple has not out consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Redshirt freshman Quincy Roche has 6.5 tackles for losses, but four of them came against UMass.

–The two head coaches worked together in 2007 on the Alabama staff. Collins was director of player personnel, and Applewhite was offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach.