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Temple's best option: Stop Tulane's prolific run game

When Temple team travels to Tulane for Saturday's American Athletic Conference game, the Owls will deal with their own form of kryptonite - the option offense.

When Temple team travels to Tulane for Saturday's American Athletic Conference game, the Owls will deal with their own form of kryptonite - the option offense.

Temple opened the season struggling against the triple option of Army, losing 28-13 and allowing 329 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

In 2014 Temple lost to Navy's triple option, 31-24, allowing 487 rushing yards and four scores.

Tulane, under first-year coach Willie Fritz, runs a variation of the triple option, just don't tell Temple coach Matt Rhule it's a true triple option.

"It is like night and day," Rhule said comparing the triple option to what Tulane runs. "It is a spread option offense, not a triple option, but there are option components."

One of the differences is that Tulane runs its offense in a shotgun formation as opposed to a team like Army, which takes the snap under center. Even though it isn't a true triple option, the offense could still provide plenty of headaches.

"They do a triple option but it is out of the [shot] gun so it is a little more difficult," said linebacker Avery Williams said. "They do a lot more motion."

Led by junior running back Dontrell Hilliard (737 yards rushing, 5.7 average, 9 TDS), Tulane has the fourth-best rushing offense in the AAC, averaging 236.4 yards per game. The Green Wave are right in front of Temple (184.5 yards per game).

On paper this looks like a mismatch with Temple 7-3 overall and 5-1 in the AAC. The Owls can claim the East Division title if they can win their final two games, which includes next Saturday at home against East Carolina.

Tulane (3-7, 0-6) has lost five in a row, but it has been able to move the ball on the ground in most games. During last week's 30-18 loss at defending AAC champion Houston, Tulane was held to a season-low 100 yards rushing but sophomore Glen Cuiellette added a different dimension, passing for a career-high 241 yards while throwing two touchdowns.

So whatever somebody wants to call the offense, it's something Temple has been poring over during its bye week and now this week.

"When I first saw it, I saw they had some freaky formations but it is something we have to keep studying in the film room and learning from our coaches how to handle it," Temple safety Sean Chandler said.

Still with all the flash and dash, the Green Wave are just 10th in the 12-team AAC in scoring offense, averaging 25.1 points per game and 11th in total offense (353.4 yards per game).

Temple must stop the run and force Tulane to throw the ball. The Green Wave are last in the AAC in passing offense, averaging 117 yards per game.

Temple's best defense is its running game. During their four-game win streak, the Owls have averaged a time of possession slightly more than 37.5 minutes, keeping some strong offenses off the field.

The two teams have only played three career games and Temple's lone loss in New Orleans came by a 20-14 score in the 1935 Sugar Bowl.

Rhule has said he will treat this like a bowl game, understanding that a loss would likely put South Florida in the driver's seat. How the Owls stop Tulane's whatever-name-one-calls-it offense will determine if this trip to New Orleans is better than the one more than eight decades ago.