Temple football's loss to Central Florida shows Owls need to speed up

UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin (18) intercepts a pass intended for Temple wide receiver Isaiah Wright (13) in the third quarter of a game at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday, Nov 18, 2017. Temple lost 45-19. TIM TAI / Staff Photographer

When Temple goes out on the recruiting road, the No. 1 priority should be speed. It was evident again during Saturday’s 45-19 loss to unbeaten Central Florida, how much difficulty Temple has with quicker teams.

Then again, nine other opponents of Central Florida have experienced the same problem. That’s why the Knights are 10-0 heading into Friday’s showdown with South Florida (9-1).

Temple actually didn’t have any better luck when it faced South Florida’s speed as well, losing 43-7 earlier this year in Tampa.

That’s not to suggest that Temple is a slow team. But the Owls have some catching up to do, both talent-wise and speed-wise, when facing these two emerging AAC Florida schools.

In Saturday’s loss, the speed of the Central Florida defense was especially impressive.

The secondary was the best that the Owls had faced. Temple’s receivers, a strong point of the team, had trouble getting consistent separation.

“They were doing a good job in coverage and getting pressure on us,” Temple coach Geoff Collins said about the UCF defense.

That’s a difficult combination to combat.

Sometimes, statistics can be deceiving. On Saturday, none was more so than the fact that UCF recorded just one sack.

The defense was constantly forcing quarterback Frank Nutile out of the pocket, making the redshirt junior throw on the move, while running for his life.

And UCF’s team speed allowed its secondary to close quickly on thrown balls.

Nutile made the mistake a few times of throwing in tight windows and he paid a huge price, with four interceptions, after entering the game with three.

“I think they are very fast and athletic on defense, and we knew that going into the game,” Nutile said. “At the end of the day it comes down to me making decisions and I didn’t make great decisions, turning the ball over. It was very uncharacteristic of me forcing things in.”

The speed forced those mistakes.

“I think they may not have seen as fast of a defense, our secondary did a great job covering their skill guys,” said linebacker Pat Jasinski, who is not a speed burner but still was all over the field with seven tackles, one interception, one tackle for loss and a pass break up. “I think it caused their quarterback trouble and I think getting pressure on them also helped.”

UCF also had plenty of speed on offense, but it was the defensive pressure that seemed to set the tone.

Florida is among the best states for football prospects, and one of the reasons is that there is an abundance of fleet-footed football players in the Sunshine State.

Collins has made no secret that he wants to have a strong recruiting foothold in Florida.

Temple has 10 players on the team from Florida, tied for third with Maryland behind Pennsylvania (53) and New Jersey (29).

No matter where he recruits, Collins and his staff will look for speed.

Temple has its share of excellent athletes, but compared to UCF and USF, the Owls are a step behind in the speed department and as Saturday again showed, that can be a major disadvantage.