With injuries mounting, Temple still holds out hope of solving its issues stopping the run
The Owls allowed South Florida to produce 421 yards on the ground in their last game. They are set to face two capable running backs Saturday against Central Florida.
While Temple (3-4, 1-2 American Athletic Conference) has struggled to stop the run all season, the floodgates opened Saturday against South Florida. The Bulls ran for 421 yards and three touchdowns to expose the Owls in a 34-14 road loss Saturday.
After watching his team on film, coach Rod Carey said Temple’s defense missed tackles due to bad angles and lost leverage.
“In key situations, we’re missing tackles,” Carey said. “Then in non-key situations, we’re missing tackles.”
As Carey and the Owls prepares to play Central Florida (4-3, 2-2) at noon Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field, the emphasis is on fixing those mistakes. The Owls should expect another run-heavy week as Central Florida starting quarterback Dillon Gabriel has been out since Sept. 17 with a fractured left clavicle.
The Knights are more likely to rely on running backs Isaiah Bowser and Johnny Richardson with true freshman Mikey Keene under center.
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Adjustment due to injuries
Part of Temple’s struggle to stop the run could be the lack of depth in the defensive secondary.
The Owls had several injury-related issues before South Florida and were without safeties Amir Tyler and DaeSean Winston. The two are still unavailable for Saturday.
After suffering injuries against the Bulls, cornerback Keyshawn Paul and safety MJ Griffin are day to day. Tyler and Griffin lead the team in tackles.
“We’re pretty deep on [safeties], that’s getting tested right now for sure,” Carey said. “With that, and [Paul], you know, we feel good about our depth at corner, too, but that’ll get tested as well.”
Filling some of those holes are safeties Alex Odom and Jalen Ware, who each played 91 snaps in the loss to South Florida — the most they’ve played in their collegiate careers.
Odom believes the missed tackles against South Florida were caused by the defense reading the wrong plays and not picking up their assignments. His goal against the Knights is to pick up on formations instantly.
Central Florida has the second-highest rushing yards in the American Athletic Conference behind Bowser, who recently returned in the fold against Memphis last Saturday after suffering a leg injury.
In the Knights’ 24-7 win over Memphis, Bowser had 26 carries for 111 total yards. He is a 225-pound running back who won’t be easy to bring down.
Change of formation
With Central Florida having Bowser and Richardson in the lineup, Temple’s defense could change its formation.
Temple usually runs a 3-4 defense, but Carey changed the formation to 4-3 in the fourth quarter against the Bulls after going down by 13 points.
Carey said a 4-3 defense is a possibility on Saturday, which could allow the Owls to add pressure up front while the linebackers do their share of blitzing.
“It’s something that we’re definitely looking at now,” he said. “But you have to go ahead and have the ability to implement it inside of a game plan.”
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In Temple’s 52-3 loss to then-No. 2 Cincinnati on Oct. 8, Owls defendersplanted their feet and aimed too high on tackles, which led to 279 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
Carey knows Temple’s run defense has struggled in the last couple of games, which is why he’s prepared to make adjustments as needed.
“When [Central Florida] does decide to go fast, you have to have your automatic calls,” Carey said. “Have your adjustment calls, have your blitz calls ready, and guys have to communicate at a fast tempo.
“We need to get back to work and correct the things that are correctable. Do this thing together.”