— Story by Chris Franklin @
While many students left to go back home to be with their families for the Thanksgiving break, Temple was practicing on a cold, blustery Tuesday, preparing for their Saturday night matchup against the East Carolina Pirates. An Owls win would clinch the American Athletic Conference’s East Division and set up a showdown with Navy next week. Even though the Pirates enter the game 3-8 with only one win in the conference, Temple head coach Matt Rhule evoked an old Italian proverb during Tuesday’s news conference when describing East Carolina:
“Beware a man with nothing to lose.”
Rhule leads a team that has won five straight games and a defense that is ranked second in the country, in passing yards allowed. They will be tested by the fifth-best passing attack in the country, led by wide receiver Zay Jones. Jones is a talented receiver. Last week, he set the NCAA record for the most career receptions in FBS history. Heading into this weekend, his 151 catches this season are four short of a NCAA single-season record set by former Bowling Green wide receiver Freddie Barnes. Even more astounding is that his 151 catches are more than what 15 FBS teams have this entire season.
“He’s a talented kid who is also extremely competitive and savvy,” Rhule said. “He’s physical. One thing that is not said enough is these guys really know how to throw the football.
“This isn’t some gimmicky college football spread offense. They know how to attack coverage. They know how to get the ball in the right guy’s hands. They create big plays. They are explosive with double moves and reaction plays off your coverages. They’re probably going to attack us. We’re probably going to be a little depleted in the secondary so it’s going to be a real battle to see if we can hold up.”
Another event that will be going on is Senior Night. Rhule’s first recruiting class could possibly be playing their final game at Lincoln Financial Field.
“It’s going to be exciting for me” stated senior quarterback Phillip Walker. Walker was a part of Rhule’s first recruiting class when he took over as head coach. “I’m going to try to control my emotions so that I am playing at a high level. I just have to relax and get back to the regular game.”
Saturday will highlight the accomplishments of a senior class that helped turn around the program. After the ceremony, they still have a football game to play. The best way to stop a dangerous offense is to keep them on the sideline. East Carolina is last in the conference in terms of rushing defense, giving up 226 yards a game. Look for Temple to continue to have success running the ball and for running back Jahad Thomas will have another two-touchdown game. The ECU offense will get some points but Temple’s defense will be able to minimize the damage and will be in control of this game. The Owls will win the AAC East, setting up a showdown with Navy next Saturday in the AAC
Temple 34, East Carolina 17
Other News and Notes
Safety Nate L. Smith and wide receiver Broderick Yancy are out. Running Back Ryquell Armstead is questionable. Rhule said that he is “somewhere between 50 and 90 (percent)” Wide Receiver Ventell Bryant was “dinged up” in practice and will wait to see if he would be ready for Saturday.