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Temple out to restart its running game

Temple hopes the second half of its football season is better than the second half of its games so far.

Temple hopes the second half of its football season is better than the second half of its games so far.

The Owls (3-3, 1-1 American Athletic Conference) will visit Central Florida on Saturday night.

A year ago during a 10-4 season, the Owls outscored opponents, 257-109, in the second half of games. This season, Temple has been outscored in only one quarter, the fourth, by 50-34.

In the second half, Temple has been outscored, 84-71, after outscoring teams, 127-52, in the first half. Central Florida (3-2, 1-0) has outscored teams, 89-53, in the second half. So the Owls need a better closing act, particularly in the ground game.

Coach Matt Rhule pointed out at a news conference Tuesday that the Owls have outrushed opponents, 506 yards to 342, in the first half. In the second half, Temple has been outrushed, 621-332.

"This is staggering," Rhule said.

And that's why running the football has been a point of emphasis this week. In a 34-27 loss at Memphis on Thursday, Temple gained just 86 yards on 29 carries (3.0 average). In a 34-27 loss to Penn State, the Owls rushed for 38 yards on 28 carries (1.4 average).

"The running hasn't been up to par this year and one of the emphases this week is to establish the run," said Jahad Thomas, a first-team all-AAC running back last season.

Thomas, who missed the first two games with a thumb injury, has yet to break out. He has rushed for 237 yards (4.1 average) and six touchdowns in four games. Those aren't bad numbers, but they also aren't the spectacular ones he put up last season, when he rushed for 1,262 yards (4.6 average) and 17 touchdowns.

What Rhule is looking for is his team to step up in the second half, a common occurrence a year ago.

"We have to cut down penalties, run the ball, and stop the run in the second half, especially the fourth quarter," Rhule said. "And we have to win the fourth quarter."

The only time this year Temple won the fourth quarter was during a 45-20 win over Southern Methodist, when the Owls had a 7-6 advantage.

Ever since Temple's season-opening 28-13 loss to Army, Rhule has questioned his team's toughness.

"I say we are really talented, but I don't know how tough we are," Rhule said. "I have been saying that for a long time."

His message is that he wants the younger players to step up.

"All those redshirt freshmen and sophomores will win for the next few years, but I tell them, 'How long are you going to make P.J. [quarterback Phillip Walker], Jahad, and [linebacker] Avery Williams wait while you guys are kind of messing around?' " Rhule said.

Owls notes

Linebacker Stephaun Marshall, who missed the Memphis game with a head injury, returned to practice. Marshall and defensive end Haason Reddick share the team lead with 28 tackles. . . . Rhule confirmed that placekicker Austin Jones suffered a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament in the Memphis game during the Tigers' 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Freshman walk-on Aaron Boumerhi, who converted a PAT after Jones was hurt, will assume kicking duties.