Here are four takeaways following Temple's 32-17 loss to Toledo in the Boca Raton Bowl:
Running back depth
One thing that Temple's 32-17 loss to Toledo in the Boca Raton Bowl showed is that the Owls can't rely so much on running back Jahad Thomas next year. Thomas had eight carries for 5 yards and a costly fumble that resulted in a safety before suffering a knee injury late in the second quarter that sidelined him the rest of the game. A team official said that Thomas suffered a sprained knee but would not require surgery.
Since suffering bruised ribs against Notre Dame, he rushed for more than 70 yards just once in the remaining six games. Freshman Ryquell Armstead had eight rushing attempts for 25 yards, the second most rushing attempts of his young career. Armstead, Jager Gardner, and David Hood will likely push for more time even though Thomas was an all-conference back.
Pass rush problems
It was no surprise that Toledo quarterback Phillip Ely wasn't sacked by Temple. He was sacked only four times all year. That said, take away the 10 sacks in the season-opening, 27-10 win over Penn State, and Temple had just 22 over its final 13 games. Improving the pass rush will be a major emphasis in the offseason. Temple's best natural pass rusher, Praise Martin-Oguike, was hurt early in the season and never showed the form he did last year, when he finished with 7.5 sacks over his final nine games. A bounce-back season will be needed from Martin-Oguike, who finished with four sacks.
Quarterback P.J. Walker didn't miss a game and showed tremendous toughness, especially against Toledo, when he took several big hits. Walker separated his left (non-throwing) shoulder against Penn State and later had a toe injury. This will clearly be his team next season. Temple didn't want to run him much for fear of further injury, but he had a season-high 10 rushes against Toledo and showed good escapability against a strong pass rush. He completed 56.7 percent of his passes this season and can use more consistency on his throws. But overall he appears capable of being the team leader next year.
No doubt defensive coordinator Phil Snow will work on stopping the big play. Trailing, 12-9, early in the fourth quarter, Temple allowed an 80-yard touchdown reception to Cody Thompson. Temple's defense played well for more than three quarters against Toledo, but that big play began a 20-point fourth quarter for the Rockets. In their other three losses, against Notre Dame, South Florida and Houston, those teams scored a total of five touchdowns of 40 or more yards, four running and one passing