Temple is now 0-2 after Saturday's 36-29 loss to Buffalo in which the Bulls scored the winning touchdown in the last minute.
It won't get any easier for the Owls who visit a 2-0 Maryland team on Saturday. Here are five quick observations from Saturday's game.
Over the middle
In Temple's opening 19-17 loss against Villanova, the winning Wildcats lived by completing passes over the middle. Buffalo must have watched the tape. The Bulls consistently worked the middle, including the winning 29-yard touchdown reception by Anthony Johnson with 59 seconds left. One reason the middle was so open is that the Owls were giving a huge cushion to the Buffalo receivers, something Johnson acknowledged after the game. The receivers were also gaining significant yards after the catch. Until this gets tightened up, teams will continue to exploit the middle of the field.
Where is the pass rush?
Temple had zero sacks against 6-foot-7, 245-pound Tyree Jackson, who attempted 45 passes. In the first game against Villanova, the Owls had two sacks against Zach Bednarczyk, who attempted 40 passes. Both quarterbacks used their mobility to buy themselves time. Buffalo did a good job of picking up Temple's blitzes. When quarterbacks have that much time, they will make big plays. The Owls were without injured defensive end Dana Levine and lost fellow defensive end Quincy Roche for nearly half the game with an unspecified injury, although he returned in the final few series. It may be a dangerous way to play, but the Owls will have to gamble more on blitzes, sending even more secondary personnel on the quarterback. Depth at defensive end is so poor that running back Ryquell Armstead was used as a situational pass rusher against Buffalo. The defensive line, tackle in particular, was supposed to be among the Owls' biggest strengths, but Buffalo rushed for 152 yards and running back Kevin Marks continued to gain extra yards after the first and often the second hit. So while the pass rush has been almost non-existent, the defensive line as a unit hasn't come out strong the first two games.
During the third series of the game, coach Geoff Collins used his three top quarterbacks. Frank Nutile was replaced by Anthony Russo at quarterback while Todd Centeio played running back. Collins said this was pre-determined and the package was also used one other time in the game. These are creative ways to try to confuse a defense, but if Nutile were more consistent, there wouldn't be a need for this. Nutile admitted after the game he needs more consistency and for the second game in a row, he threw two interceptions. Against Buffalo, the Owls converted just 3 of 14 third downs and Nutile completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes (15 for 31). Collins was asked after the game who his starter would be at quarterback against Maryland and he shrugged it off, but if there isn't an improvement, the Owls will have to do more than use an occasional creative package.. It sounds simplistic, but Nutile needs to have a successful beginning to get the confidence. In the first half he completed just 8 of 16 with an interception and had it not been for 39-yard Hail Mary TD pass to Branden Mack on the last play from scrimmage in the half, it would have been disastrous. No doubt Nutile seems to be pressing and he has to revert to the form that allowed him to go 4-2 after taking over as the starter last year. Doing so against Maryland, won't be the easiest of tasks.
This seems to be a weekly theme here. Junior Isaiah Wright is the Owls most dangerous offensive player. He caught just three passes for 29 yards. During his first two seasons, Wright was utilized at times as a Wildcat quarterback. Now he doesn't own that role, with Centeio in the mix. Wright also returned four kickoffs for 98 yards, with a long of 32 yards. Whether it's using wide receiver screens or even giving him carries, in say, jet sweeps, Wright needs to touch the ball more. He didn't have a single carry against Buffalo, and just one (for minus two yards) against Villanova. Sure, teams know about Wright and are trying to take him out of plays, but the Owls have to consciously attempt to get him more touches.
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