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Temple faces another week with key players injured, including Amir Tyler and Michael Niese

The Owls have faced their fair share of injuries this season, with the offense and defense typically being healthy at different times.

Temple quarterback D'Wan Mathis looks to pass against Wagner at Lincoln Financial Field on Sept. 25.
Temple quarterback D'Wan Mathis looks to pass against Wagner at Lincoln Financial Field on Sept. 25.Read moreHEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer

Temple (3-3, 1-1 AAC) comes out of its bye week with a new set of injury-related challenges at the season’s midway point.

“It’s football; you’re going to have to manage yourself through the course of the year,” coach Rod Carey said.

Offensively, the Owls may lose graduate tackle Michael Niese, but get back graduate receiver Randle Jones, while the safeties will be without graduate Amir Tyler and junior DaeSean Winston for Temple’s 7 p.m. Saturday matchup against South Florida (1-5, 0-2) in Tampa.

Luckily for Temple, the Bulls haven’t shown much improvement from the one-win team they were a year ago. Despite being 2.5-point underdogs, this matchup could be the Owls’ chance to right the ship after their worst defeat of the season, a 52-3 loss to then-No. 5 Cincinnati on Oct. 8.

Statistically, USF is the worst defensive team in the American Athletic Conference, allowing 502 yards per game. Saturday will be the healthiest set of offensive weapons Temple has fielded all season. On the flip side, the Bulls’ offense, averaging 22.2 points per outing, will face a relatively depleted Owls secondary.

» READ MORE: Temple midseason report: D’Wan Mathis emerging at QB; defense has ways to go

Banged-up safeties

The last time these two teams matched up, Tyler single-handedly blew up a two-point conversion attempt and secured Temple’s 39-37 victory on Oct. 17, 2020. It was the Owls’ lone win of the season.

With Carey confirming that Tyler will be out for at least a couple of weeks after undergoing surgery for an upper body injury during the bye week, the Owls have some ground to make up defensively.

With Tyler and Winston (leg) out, freshman M.J. Griffin, freshman Alex Odom, and junior Jalen Ware will see a bulk of the reps.

“It’s always next man up,” Griffin said. “That’s nothing new. I’ve just got to step into that role and become the leader.”

Defensively, the Owls have been no stranger to fielding three safeties. Tyler, Griffin, and Odom each saw 59 or more snaps in the loss to Cincinnati. Ware did not see the field against the Bearcats but was at practice this week and could help fill a role in the secondary against the Bulls.

Thin on O-line

Temple’s offensive line could be without Niese after he was hurt in the loss to Cincinnati. He’s listed as day to day.

Niese has started all six games for the Owls while proving to be one of their most valuable offensive pieces. According to Pro Football Focus, he has graded out as the 15th-best tackle in the nation (86.2), and the 10th best run-blocking tackle (87.2).

“Mike is playing his best football of his career and probably playing the best up front — most consistent up front,” Carey said. “Obviously when you take him out of the game, you feel that a little bit. We certainly like our young guys who continue to grow and move at a rapid pace.”

» READ MORE: Temple safety Amir Tyler will miss a ‘couple weeks’ after undergoing surgery for an upper-body injury

If Niese is not able to play against USF, it’s likely Temple would take an approach similar to its strategy against Cincinnati. Junior Adam Klein would move from right guard to right tackle with freshman Wisdom Quarshie at right guard.

Klein said based on what he has seen from the film, USF isn’t a team that blitzes a lot, but will come full-force when it does.

“They’ll play base defense, base defense, base defense to kind of lull you to sleep,” Klein said, “then hit you with the blitz that you’re not ready for. That’s something we have to stay on top of.”

Receivers healthy

Saturday’s prime-time matchup should be as close to a clean bill of health as Temple’s skill positions have seen all season.

Redshirt freshman quarterback D’Wan Mathis will have the opportunity to play with his two top receivers, Jones and junior Jadan Blue, for the first time since the opening-day loss to Rutgers.

David Martin-Robinson, a sophomore tight end, is the only skill position player ruled out for Saturday’s contest. He has been out indefinitely since suffering a shoulder injury in Week 1. Carey says he is progressing well.

Sophomore tight end Jordan Smith saw an uptick in reps at the start of conference play, hauling in six catches for 55 yards in a win over Memphis.

Injuries have opened doors for the Owls to flex their depth. Through six games, 11 offensive players have scored touchdowns, led by sophomore running back Kyle Dobbins with three in the win against Wagner.