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Thomas is back, but Temple running game still going slow

Temple senior running back Jahad Thomas says he felt no rust after making his first appearance of the season during last week's 34-27 loss at Penn State.

Temple senior running back Jahad Thomas says he felt no rust after making his first appearance of the season during last week's 34-27 loss at Penn State.

"I have been doing this my whole life and I really felt good back there with the guys," Thomas said.

The running game, however, still hasn't gotten into gear, even with the return of Thomas, who missed the first two games with a dislocated left thumb.

A first-team all-American Athletic Conference running back last season, Thomas provided a major boost to the offense, but averaged just 3.7 yards per carry, gaining 52 yards and scoring twice. He also added 48 yards on six receptions and Temple is intent on making him a much more integral part of the passing game.

Yet for Temple to have sustained success, the Owls have to run the ball and it hasn't happened in their two games against Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

The Owls (1-2) host Charlotte (1-2) in Saturday's noon game at Lincoln Financial Field and one of the priorities will be to get the running game going, which means finding some open space for speedy Thomas.

Temple averaged 3.0 yards per carry in an opening 28-13 loss to Army. The Owls then averaged 4.5 yards per carry in a 38-0 win over FCS Stony Brook.

Last week against Penn State, Temple averaged 1.4 yards per carry.

So what is up with the running backs?

Coach Matt Rhule says the backs are fine and that they aren't getting the running room needed from the offensive line.

"The running backs are never really the issue in the running game, the issue in terms of big plays is the offensive line," Rhule said. "We are just not playing well up front."

Rhule also mentioned that yardage lost by sacks are counted on the running total. Quarterback Phillip Walker has been sacked nine times for 57 yards.

That also falls on the offensive line.

Against Penn State, Thomas didn't have a lot of open room to run. Last season, playing behind a more accomplished offensive line, he rushed for 1,262 yards (4.6 average) and 17 touchdowns.

Rhule says he likes the look of pairing Thomas with another halfback, most notably sophomore Ryquell Armstead, who has rushed for 121 yards (3.8 average) and two touchdowns.

Freshman Isaiah Wright, who rushed for 42 yards on seven carries in the win over Stony Brook, has also impressed the staff.

Under new coordinator Glenn Thomas, the Owls are looking to get Jahad Thomas out in open space more. Last season he averaged 19.7 carries, and he may not do that this year. Against Penn State he had 14 carries.

It should be noted that his six receptions last week were a career high.

Charlotte is allowing 147 yards per game rushing and 332.7 passing, so Temple should be able to be proficient in both areas.

Yet the key is still establishing the run and there is nobody better to do that than Thomas. Last season he ranked 30th in the NCAA with 1,677 all-purpose yards. He understands that the running game has to improve.

"We are looking to establish the run game but we also have things in the passing game that can be effective and that we do well," Jahad Thomas said. "But we definitely want to get back to the running the ball the way we do."