It's probably one of the most misleading statistics, but after two weeks, Temple is leading the country in defensive passing efficiency.

The Owls have intercepted three passes, allowed just 99 passing yards and limited their first two opponents to a 40 percent completion percentage.

Now the reality.

In Temple's opening 28-13 loss to Army, the Black Knights attempted just five passes. And in last week's 38-0 win over FCS opponent Stony Brook, Temple simply overmatched the Seawolves.

So Temple's nation-leading 49.26 passing efficiency defense will mean next to nothing when the Owls (1-1) visit Penn State (1-1) at noon Saturday at Beaver Stadium.

Temple has defended only 25 passes its first two games.

Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley might throw that many passes by halftime. McSorley has completed 60.6 percent of his passes for 541 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception.

"We have seen they can put up numbers and we have been practicing each day to make sure we win this game," said Temple free safety Sean Chandler.

The trouble Temple has is that Penn State is a multidimensional offense that can hurt teams with the run as much as the pass.

Sophomore running back Saquon Barkley worries Temple as much as any player on the Nittany Lions roster and for good reason. He has rushed for 190 yards (4.5 average) and five touchdowns and has three receptions for 62 yards and a score.

At 5-foot-11 and 223 pounds, Barkley has both the power and speed to demoralize defenders.

"Saquon Barkley is as good a running back as I have seen," Temple coach Matt Rhule said. "I haven't seen anybody tackle him on the first hit."

Rhule said it is his elusiveness that makes Barkley so difficult to tackle.

"His biggest runs are when somebody penetrates in the backfield and he makes guys miss at the drop of a dime," Rhule said.

Defensive end Haason Reddick said discipline is the key against Barkley.

"He is a guy who likes to cut back a lot and if I have to told the end, stay on my edge and if he cuts back, I have to be ready to make the play."

On offense, the Owls need quarterback Phillip Walker to play with more consistency. The offense would get a boost if Jahad Thomas plays. Thomas missed the first two games with a dislocated left thumb. He made the trip to Penn State and a Temple official says that it's hoped that he will be able to play.

Walker has completed only 46.9 percent of his passes and has thrown four interceptions and three touchdowns.

The offensive line has been inconsistent, with Walker having been sacked six times.

What Temple needs are some long drives, which would keep that dangerous Penn State offense off the field.

"You like to get in a rhythm," Rhule said. "In the first two games, the offense would go 8-10 minutes stretches when you don't have the ball."

That was especially true in the opening loss to Army when Temple had the ball for just four drives in the second half.

In last week's 42-39 loss to Pitt, Penn State's defense showed plenty of holes. Then again, Pitt has a dominating ground game, one produced 342 yards and three touchdowns. In addition, quarterback Nathan Peterman threw three touchdown passes.

That is why one of the key players will be Temple punter Alex Starzyk because field position will be so crucial. Last week the junior had one punt downed at the 1-yard line and another at the 3-yard line.

During last year's win over the Nittany Lions he averaged 46.9 yards on seven punts, and in 2014, when Temple lost, 30-13, at Penn State, he averaged 41 yards on five punts.

Most of all, Temple has to be efficient. The Owls this season have committed four turnovers while also causing four. That ratio likely won't cut it against Penn State.

"I think our kids have been very honest with themselves about the mistakes of the first two games," Rhule said. "If we don't get those corrected, it doesn't matter who we are playing."

mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard