The secondary was considered Temple’s strength entering the season, and it actually still is, but the defensive backs weren’t always in sync during the first two games.
In the opening 49-16 loss at Notre Dame, Temple allowed 606 total yards, including 184 passing. Saturday in a 16-13 win over Villanova, Wildcats quarterback Zach Bednarczyk torched the Owls for 382 passing yards and one score.
“We honestly are not on the same page yet, but we will get there,” junior strong safety Delvon Randall said. “This week, we will be on the same page.”
The Owls will face another team with a strong passing attack when they host Massachusetts (0-3) at 7 p.m. Friday at Lincoln Financial Field.
In the opener, Notre Dame junior Brandon Wimbush completed 17 of 30 passes for 184 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. The Fighting Irish did much more damage on the ground, gaining 422 yards (9.6 per carry) and five touchdowns.
The Villanova game was a different story. Temple’s defense held the Wildcats to 20 yards rushing, but Bednarczyk’s passing almost led to an upset.
Asked if he was concerned that the Owls surrendered so many passing yards to the Wildcats, Randall said, “Villanova is a great team. I tell my teammates never underestimate an opponent, because you never know.”
UMass is known for its imaginative offense under coach Mark Whipple, a former Eagles assistant.
“It wasn’t very strong last week,” Whipple said by phone. “The first two weeks, we did some things.”
Last week in a 17-7 home loss to Old Dominion, the Minutemen rushed for only 79 yards (2.2 avg.) and threw for 253. UMass had totaled 63 points in its first two losses, to Hawaii and Coastal Carolina.
Whipple is impressed with the Owls defense — and the secondary, in particular.
“They have a very athletic defense, and they really run to the football,” he said. “They have a lot of skill and experience in the secondary.”
Randall is in his second season as a starter. Fellow safety Sean Chandler is a four-year starter, with two seasons at cornerback and two at safety. Corner Artrel Foster is a returning starter, and graduate transfer Mike Jones started 35 games for North Carolina Central.
Despite being a veteran group, the Owls’ secondary has yet to show consistency.
“It is just about being in the right alignment, where we need to be in drops and zones,” Jones said. “I don’t think it is anything we need to harp or stress on, and I think we’ll be all right.”
UMass has averaged just 2.7 yards per carry in its three games, so quarterback Andrew Ford likely will pass frequently. He has completed 65 percent of his throws for 827 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception.
The Temple DBs will enter the game believing they have something to prove after Villanova’s impressive aerial show.
“All week, we have been getting together and preparing,” Randall said. “We can’t let that happen again.”