David Hood is a patient runner, waiting for his blocks to line up before bursting up the middle or turning the corner, wherever the opening is greater.
The redshirt junior has shown plenty of patience off the field for Temple, as well. Last season, he had just 16 carries after getting 45 the previous season. This year, he has had 26 carries in his first five games.
Temple has been nicked up in the backfield, and Hood made the most of his biggest opportunity in last week’s 34-10 win at East Carolina. He rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
“I felt fresh. I could have had 30 carries,” Hood said.
His chance has come with No. 1 running back Ryquell Armstead hobbling. Armstead was limited to four carries last Saturday, and coach Geoff Collins said Armstead couldn’t even walk two days before the game.
Jager Gardner, expected to be the No. 2 back, suffered an undisclosed injury in the Owls’ 43-7 loss at South Florida on Sept. 21 and is expected to be out for the season.
“For everybody who is backing up, it can be frustrating,” Hood said earlier this week after practice. “I got a lot of guidance back home, my mother and father telling me to stay ready.”
His chances should continue when Temple (3-3, 1-2) hosts Connecticut (1-4, 0-3) in an American Athletic Conference game at noon Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field. Collins is hopeful that Armstead can play, but Hood still figures to get plenty of work.
“I was proud of David Hood last week,” Collins said. “He was due.”
As a senior at Absegami High in South Jersey, Hood rushed for 1,651 yards and 21 touchdowns. He showed the same patience then that he is displaying now.
“He is extremely cerebral from a football knowledge standpoint,” said his high school coach, Dennis Scuderi Jr., who is still the head coach at Absegami. “He understands how to set up blocks, and he has always been a patient runner.”
At 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds, Hood provides speed and power. He can be a three-down back because he has one of the most underrated but necessary skills for a running back, something he has displayed since high school.
“The thing that surprises people is he is very good in pass protection,” Scuderi said. “A lot of times, you get a kid out of high school and he can’t protect, and that is why many running backs aren’t on the field on third down.”
Entering the season, Hood was averaging 4.6 yards on 72 carries. This season, he has rushed for 214 yards (4.7 average) and the one touchdown on 46 carries. He is savoring this opportunity to stay on the field for an extended time.
“I feel blessed to be able to display my talent, take over and do what I am supposed to do,” he said.
Hood has earned most of his playing the time the last two weeks. He gained 53 yards on eight carries the previous week in a 20-13 loss to Houston.
“I am trying to stay humble and keep grinding,” he said. “I am looking to help our offense succeed at a higher level.”
Three things to watch
Last week, Temple’s Logan Marchi passed for a career-high 321 yards in the 34-10 win at East Carolina, which ranks 128th in the country in pass defense. UConn is allowing 399.8 passing yards per game, which is 129th and last in the nation, so the Owls will likely try to continue to go to the air.
With injuries at running back, fullback Rob Ritrovato lined up extensively at tailback and rushed for 48 yards and his first career touchdown on 14 carries against ECU. Look for Ritrovato to continue to get carries at tailback.
UConn has allowed the most sacks in the AAC, 15 in five games. The Owls are coming off a four-sack game against ECU in which they applied plenty of heat. So, look for more of the same this week.
By the numbers
43.6: Points per game allowed by UConn, which ranks 124th in the country.
34-9: The margin by which Temple has been outscored in the first quarter this season.
7.8: Average tackles for loss for Temple, second in the AAC and tied for 14th in the nation.