An on-the-job learning experience for Temple QB Logan Marchi

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Temple quarterback Logan Marchi runs with the ball against UMass on Sept. 15.

Two weeks ago, after Temple redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi threw three interceptions in a 43-7 loss at South Florida, coach Geoff Collins talked about the open competition at the position.

In that game, redshirt junior Frank Nutile saw his first action of the season and freshman Todd Centeio came in for two running plays.

What hasn’t been stated is how much the staff is still behind Marchi, who made his fifth start last Saturday in a 20-13 loss to visiting Houston. Marchi should be under center again when Temple (2-3, 0-2 American Athletic Conference) visits East Carolina (1-4, 1-1) at noon Saturday.

The Owls like the toughness and athletic ability of the 6-foot, 205-pound Marchi, but they aren’t blind to what has been his biggest weakness: a lack of consistent accuracy. He is completing jut 52.5 percent of his passes and has six touchdown passes and six interceptions. The interceptions have come in the last two games.

Offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude says decision-making has contributed to Marchi’s accuracy issues.

“He has been inconsistent with where he wants to go with the ball,” Patenaude said. “Logan, when he gets his feet set and knows exactly where he wants to go, he has been really accurate and thrown great balls.”

Then there is the other side of it.

“When his feet are off the ground and he is running around a bit too much, then his accuracy suffers a lot,” Patenaude said. “He goes back into bad habits and throws the ball a little to the side and it is not really a physical thing, but an understanding and growth thing with a young quarterback in our system.”

Patenaude says that with Marchi, as with many players, the statistics don’t tell the whole story.

“We had five drops,” he said about Saturday’s game.

Patenaude said just one of the three interceptions against Houston was Marchi’s fault.

“When he threw one pick, he got hit in the back because we missed a protection,” Patenaude said, adding that the final pass of the game, a Hail Mary that was intercepted, shouldn’t be held against the quarterback.

Through five games as the starter, Marchi concedes, he has had his ups and downs. He didn’t throw an interception in his first three games, and even though the Owls lost their opener at Notre Dame by a score of 49-16, Marchi showed poise and wasn’t overwhelmed by the moment in his first college start. Before that, he had only six career passing attempts, which came last year as the backup to Phillip Walker.

During the last two weeks, in the losses against USF and Houston, he has taken a step back.

“There has been good and bad, and I have learned from being on both sides of the spectrum,” Marchi said.

Still, he sees progress.

“I see my game as maturing. I am getting a lot better,” Marchi said. “Any time you make mistakes like that, you have to learn from those.”

Despite the downs, Patenaude says there is a lot to like from what he has seen of Marchi.

“What I like is the combination of him being able to run and throw, throw the ball at times as good as anybody in the country,” Patenaude said.

It’s more consistency that Patenaude and the coaching staff are seeking out of Marchi. That’s part of the on-the-job training at this most difficult and visible position.

Temple-East Carolina by the numbers

39,609: ECU’s average home attendance in three games, which leads the American Athletic Conference

78-38: Point margin by which Temple has been outscored in the second half this season.

150: Rushing yards in the second half for Temple in last week’s loss against Houston. That was more than the Owls had in any full game previously this season.

Three things to watch

— Temple is emphasizing getting off to a quick start. The Owls haven’t scored a first-quarter touchdown and have been outscored, 31-9, in the opening periods this season. Conversely, ECU has scored 51 first-quarter points, although the Pirates have allowed 63.

— Whether Temple’s offense, averaging an AAC-worst 16.2 points, can get untracked against a defense that is allowing 50.6 points per game. Temple will no doubt attempt to establish a ground game vs. a unit that has yielded 300 rushing yards per game.

— Temple starting cornerback Mike Jones, a graduate transfer from North Carolina Central, is averaging 21.3 yards on 21 kickoff returns. He has a long of 36 yards, and has appeared close on occasion to breaking a longer return. ECU is allowing 22.8 yards per kickoff return.