Temple defensive end Quincy Roche is an intimidating presence on the field, and it’s been elevated the last two weeks.
The 6-foot-4, 235-pound redshirt junior has such a quick first step that he can get to opposing quarterbacks in an instant. He also has the speed to chase down running backs and the toughness to fight off double teams.
Roche is in the best two-game stretch of his career, and not coincidentally, it has helped Temple turn its season around and remain in contention in the East Division of the American Athletic Conference.
After two losses that totaled 66 points, Roche led the defensive effort in a 17-7 win at South Florida on Nov. 7 with six tackles, including 3.5 sacks.
He topped that effort in Saturday’s 29-21 win over Tulane with 12 tackles, including six for loss and three sacks. He also forced a fumble on a sack and recovered it. He was the easy choice for AAC defensive player of the week.
There are other reasons Temple (7-3, 4-2 AAC) has turned its season around, but Roche is the biggest.
Temple will visit No. 17 Cincinnati (9-1, 6-0) on Saturday. If the Bearcats win, they will clinch the division, but a Temple victory would put the Owls one game out with one to play.
Based on Roche’s recent performance, he was a popular interview after Tuesday’s practice. That’s when his teammates showed they weren’t intimidated by him, giving Roche the business, heckling him before he began his interviews.
“I will get them back,” he said, cracking up.
His teammates also don’t back down to Roche on the practice field.
“Honestly, I like going against Quincy," tight end Kenny Yeboah said. "He’s one of the best defensive ends in the country.”
Does the 6-5, 230-pound Yeboah, who has three touchdown catches in his last two games, hold his own in those practice battles?
“He knows I do,” Yeboah said. “He gets me sometimes, but we go hard against each other.”
The thing is, Roche has a friendly nature that allows his teammates, some seemingly half his size, to tease him.
Asked whether he is happy that he doesn’t have to deal with Roche in games, receiver Jadan Blue replied, “I am not worried about Q.”
Then, laughing, Blue added, “I am happy to have him on our side. He is somebody you don’t want to be on the other side of.”
Especially these days.
Roche has been producing for much more than two weeks, but he was hampered by nagging injuries. They didn’t force him to miss time, but they did leave him at less than 100%.
For the season, he had three sacks before his recent spurt. For his career, he has 22.5 sacks.
“It doesn’t come as a surprise to us," first-year coach Rod Carey said of Roche’s recent success. "We see the work ethic he has had since we got here. I would be more inclined to say we have been waiting to see it, and this has been more expected than shocking.”
Roche has a simple explanation for the last two weeks.
“I am just trying to finish the season the right way,” he said.
There is no doubt he is in a groove when rushing the passer.
“I feel good,” he said. “... It all starts at practice, having great days at practice and translating it into games.”
Those practice efforts are definitely paying off, with Roche imposing his will and his teammates following his lead.