James McHale patiently waited his turn at Temple, and his time finally came Saturday, in a 28-24 loss to visiting Connecticut.
A redshirt junior, McHale saw the most extensive playing time in his Temple career, subbing almost the entire game for injured left tackle Leon Johnson. Johnson, who has made 29 career starts, suffered an ankle injury on the second play of the game, sidelining him for the rest of the afternoon.
Coach Geoff Collins said Tuesday that Johnson was working toward returning, but he couldn’t say whether the tackle will be ready for Saturday’s noon game at Army. The Owls (3-4) need to go 3-2 in their final five games to become bowl-eligible. Army (5-2) has won three in a row.
McHale, a 6-foot-6, 300-pound graduate of Dunmore (Pa.) High, wasn’t the first player to replace Johnson. Redshirt junior Jaelin Robinson got the call, but after Robinson jumped offside, McHale replaced him and stayed in the game.
“I had some big shoes to fill in Leon and Jaelin, and I never had anywhere near 75 snaps like that before,” McHale said. “It was good to get out there a first time and get it out of my system.”
McHale has yet to start in his 18 games. He is on the field-goal and PAT protection units, but other than that, he estimated he had about a half-dozen snaps at tackle this season before Saturday.
He was exhausted afterward.
“It reminded me of my time in high school, when I didn’t come off the field,” he said, “but I only played one way on Saturday, and I was gassed.”
Offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said, “He did a good job going in there, and I think he only gave up one pressure.”
Collins added: “I am really proud of James McHale, who stepped in for Leon. He hadn’t played a lot of football and replaced a guy who started, and he fought and battled.”
McHale said, “I am out here playing football every day and having fun, and at the end of the day, it is about having fun and getting an education but it is tough sometimes [not playing]. You have bad days and get down, but I am having fun.”
He has certainly taken advantage of his educational opportunities. At the end of this semester, McHale will graduate in 3 1/2 years with a degree in criminal justice. He said he plans to work toward his master’s degree, and his goal is to be a state trooper.
McHale insisted he won’t be preparing differently this week, with the possibility of more playing time.
“Definitely not,” he said. “We have a process and have been preparing the same way since Week 1.”
McHale acknowledged that he paused Saturday to take everything in. While he was disappointed with the loss, he realized it was a big step for him.
“I come out here and grind every day with my brothers,” he said. “It’s a great feeling to go out there and actually play and see the hard work pay off.”
Three things to watch
- Army, with its triple-option offense, keeps the ball for long stretches. The Black Knights hold a huge time-of-possession advantage over opponents, 34:23 to 25:37.
- Logan Marchi, who has started all seven games at quarterback for Temple, has been banged up. Coach Geoff Collins says he expects him to play, but Frank Nutile, who has taken extra reps this week, will be ready to go.
- Last year, Army’s offensive line punished Temple in its season-opening 28-13 win. The Black Knights rushed for 329 yards and four touchdowns on 67 carries and wore down the Owls in a 14-0 fourth quarter. Temple has rotated as many as 11 defensive linemen this year, and close to that number probably will see action Saturday.
By the numbers
38: Passes Army has attempted all season. By comparison, Temple’s Logan Marchi attempted 54 in Saturday’s 28-24 loss to Connecticut. Not surprisingly, Army has yet to allow a sack.
378.4: Rushing yards per game for Army, which ranks second in the nation. Conversely, Temple is 120th, averaging 102.4.
8.0: Average tackles for loss for Temple, which is first in the American Athletic Conference and ninth nationally.