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Temple's Martin-Oguike on impressive sack streak

Praise Martin-Oguike keeps his emotions in check, a trait that was needed when the redshirt senior defensive end and his team got off to a slow start this year.

Praise Martin-Oguike keeps his emotions in check, a trait that was needed when the redshirt senior defensive end and his team got off to a slow start this year.

Like his team, Martin-Oguike has played much better over the second half of the season. When Temple (7-3, 5-1 American Athletic Conference) visits Tulane (3-7, 0-6) on Saturday, Martin-Oguike will attempt to keep a career-best sack streak alive.

Martin-Oguike had a sack in each of his last five games and Temple won the last four. That surpasses his four-game sack streak toward the end of the 2014 season.

In addition, he has blocked kicks in two of the last three games. He blocked a PAT in a 46-30 win over South Florida and a 35-yard field-goal attempt in Temple's most recent game, a 21-0 win at Connecticut on Nov. 4.

When asked if he was down about his slow start, which included just one tackle for loss in the first five games, Martin-Qguike replied, "Not really, I just looked at what I was doing wrong and seeing what I can improve on."

That's how Martin-Oguike has operated during his Temple career. His best season was 2014, when he had 71/2 sacks, 5 forced fumbles and 2 blocked kicks in 12 games.

He made some big plays last year, but his overall production was down. Then he got off to a slower-than-expected start this year.

Coach Matt Rhule said that Martin-Oguike and a number of his classmates were trying to do too much at the beginning of the season.

"A lot of seniors put pressure on themselves early," Rhule said.

Rhule added that Tavon Young, a rookie cornerback who is enjoying a strong season with the Baltimore Ravens, was an example of a player putting early pressure on himself during his senior year at Temple. Young eventually settled into a groove and so has Martin-Oguike.

"At some point, you relax and just play football," Rhule said. "It's like that with [quarterback] Phillip [Walker], [running back] Jahad [Thomas], and Praise, and you see guys when you watch the film playing free and energetic."

Rhule and the Owls have been playing with a lead more often and that helps a pass rusher, knowing the opponent will be throwing the ball.

Martin-Oguike is fifth on the team this season with 36 tackles. His sack total is second, behind defensive end Haason Reddick, a player the Owls are touting as an all-American.

With Reddick making 18 tackles for losses and getting 81/2 sacks and Martin-Oguike's improved play, the Owls have a formidable pair of bookends on the pass rush.

Both Reddick and Martin-Oguike are undersize linemen who rely on a cat-quick first step. Martin-Oguike is 6-foot-1 and 255 pounds while Reddick is 6-1, 235. Yet both have been able to apply plenty of heat on quarterbacks while pushing each other in a positive way.

"We have a chemistry and we compete to see who can get the sacks," Martin-Oguike said. "It's fun playing with him and he has progressed to an all-American player."

Reddick is questionable Saturday because of an injury. Martin-Oguike will likely draw more attention from the Tulane offensive line if his fellow defensive end is sidelined.

Keeping the sack streak alive might be difficult this week anyway, simply because Tulane is an option team that is last in the AAC in passing offense, averaging just 117 yards per game.

Whether he gets a sack or not, Martin-Oguike won't change his demeanor.

"At first [this year], things weren't going my way, but I had to stay consistent, trust my coaching and what I learned," he said. "Eventually, things have started to open up."