After a bye, Temple returns to action Thursday vs. USF, looking to put its last two games behind
The Owls have lost their last two games to SMU and Central Florida by a combined 108-42 margin.
Temple has returned to the football field well rested but not necessarily all healed entering Thursday’s American Athletic Conference matchup at South Florida.
Both Temple (5-3, 2-2 AAC) and USF (4-4, 2-2) are coming off bye weeks.
After Tuesday’s practice, Temple coach Rod Carey and the players talked about how needed the bye week was, in order to bounce back from an accumulating number of bumps and bruises.
Yet Temple figures to miss at least two main players for the game: freshman running back Re’Mahn Davis and senior safety Benny Walls.
When asked about Davis, who was seen leaving practice with a boot on his left foot, Carey said, “I don’t think he will be ready to go. He is one of the ones that won’t be ready to go, but he is a lot closer than I thought he was going to be.”
On Walls, who has missed the previous three games with an upper body injury, Carey added, “He won’t be ready to go.”
Center Matt Hennessy, who missed the Owls’ last game with a concussion, is back, as is defensive tackle Ifeanyi Maijeh, who was sidelined the previous game with a back injury.
Since Hennessy and Maijeh have been the Owls’ top offensive and defensive linemen, respectively, they are welcome additions.
Walls’ loss has been huge, as the Owls have allowed 136 points in the three games he has been sidelined.
Whether Temple’s psyche is healed remains to be seen. The Owls are looking to snap a two-game losing streak and both were convincing defeats -- 45-21 at SMU and 63-21 against visiting Central Florida in their last game on Oct. 26.
Since then, there has been a players-only meeting, with the Owls looking to clean up a series of mistakes.
With all the hysteria surrounding a losing streak that has left the Owls needing several major breaks to return to conference contention, Carey has kept a cool head.
No, he said he doesn’t feel the team is at the crossroads. In his mind, it’s just a matter of getting back to executing the way Temple did when it was 5-1.
Carey also didn’t look at the players-only meeting as a negative.
“I don’t know why it sets alarms, it didn’t for me any shape or form,” Carey said. “I preach player-led teams.”
He said from what he heard, the meetings were productive.
USF is coming off a 45-20 win at East Carolina. Unlike Temple, USF hasn’t played the heart of its AAC schedule. The Bulls’ final four games are against teams with a combined 27-7 record.
USF is quick on both sides of the ball and Temple had noticeable trouble containing the speed of the Bulls’ Florida neighbor UCF, last game.
For Temple, the key will be stopping the run and running the ball well. UCF is 102nd in the nation in rushing defense, allowing 199.1 yards per game.
That is why missing Davis, who has rushed for a team-high 655 yards (4.9 avg.) and five touchdowns, will be key. Redshirt senior Jager Gardner (405 yards rushing 4.5 avg. and 5 TDs) is among the players looking to pick up the slack.
Stopping USF game-breaker Jordan Cronkrite (588 yards rushing, 5.4 avg, 4 TDs) and the Bulls’ ground game will also be challenging. USF has six players who have rushed for 100 or more yards, compared to just two for Temple.
So there will be no shortage of challenges in a game that certainly looks like a measuring stick for where Temple is headed it final four games.