Assessing Temple football at the bye week
A major struggle has been finding consistency on an offensive unit that is 111th in scoring.
There have certainly been growing pains in Geoff Collins first year as Temple's football coach. The Owls are 3-5 and must go 3-1 just to become bowl eligible. That will be a challenging task since two of the next three games are against Navy (5-2) and No. 18 Central Florida (6-0).
This is a bye week for the Owls and time for the coaches to evaluate the team as it prepares for its final four regular-season games. How did Temple go from 20-8 the past two years, two division championships and last year's overall American Athletic Conference title, to a struggling group?
The main reason is an obvious one: The talent level is below that of the last two years.
Here is a look at the offense, defense and special teams.
The Owls are last in the AAC and 111th nationally in scoring, averaging 20.9 points per game.
There is no doubt that Collins and offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude wanted to have the quarterback situation decided well before the opener at Notre Dame, but Logan Marchi wasn't told he had won the job until a few days before then.
Marchi actually acquitted himself well despite the 49-16 loss, throwing for 245 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. In fact, he played solidly in the first three games but then threw six interceptions in his next two games, AAC losses to South Florida and Houston.
Marchi has eight interceptions and nine touchdown passes and his accuracy has needed work. He has completed 55 percent of his passes.
With Marchi injured, Frank Nutile played well in his first start, completing 20 of 29 for 290 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions in Saturday's 31-28 overtime loss at Army.
The Owls receivers, considered a strength, have been inconsistent. What has hurt is that redshirt senior Keith Kirkwood has been playing with a sore shoulder, limiting his effectiveness.
This veteran group has also dropped too many passes, including seven in the 28-24 loss to UConn.
One receiver who has emerged as a major threat either catching or running the ball is sophomore Isaiah Wright. He leads the Owls with 30 receptions and 467 yards and is tied with Adonis Jennings for the lead with three touchdown receptions.
Wright scored last week on a 50-yard run while running the Wildcat and in the last three games has 15 receptions for 220 yards and two touchdowns.
The Owls have struggled running the ball. They are 11th in the AAC in rushing, averaging 116.8 yards per game.
A big reason is that the offensive line was slow to develop this year. Surprisingly, the Owls rushed for 214 yards last week with four starting linemen from the opening game out of the lineup due to injury.
One reason the running game has stalled is that Ryquell Armstead has been hampered with a toe injury most of the season. Armstead finally had a breakout game last week with 151 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.
An effective Armstead changes the entire offense.
Temple's defense was bulldozed when Notre Dame gained 606 total yards in the opener. After that, the defense settled down. Even though South Florida scored a 43-7 win, the Bulls benefited from great field position, courtesy of six Owls turnovers. South Florida did rush for 312 yards, which means the Owls allowed 734 yards rushing against the two Top 25 teams they have faced, Notre Dame and USF.
Temple is allowing 26.9 points per game, fourth best in the AAC. Even though the Owls are second in the AAC with 22 sacks, they have not had a dominating pass rush. Nine of those sacks were against an overmatched UMass team.
Still, Collins has used as many as 11 defensive linemen in a game and they have been solid. The young linebackers, none older than a redshirt sophomore, have improved. Redshirt sophomore linebacker Chapelle Russell has been among the pleasant surprises. Coming off ACL surgery, he wasn't a starter in the opener but leads the Owls with 62 tackles.
The secondary has been solid, although allowing Army to drive 79 yards on 14 plays in 1:31 and tie the score with a 16-yard touchdown pass with 1 second left in regulation, was a mark against them.
Saturday was the special teams' worst day. The Owls missed field goal attempts of 32 and 27 yards, had a punt blocked, and were called for a delay of game, nullifying a 52-yard field goal made by Aaron Boumerhi.
The Owls have made just 12 of 18 field goal attempts and they haven't shown explosion on returns, averaging 5.38 yards on punts and 22.03 on kickoffs, although Mike Jones had a season-long 42-yard kick return against Army.
Temple has done a good job on kickoff coverage, allowing 18.76 yards per return, but like the offense and defense, special teams need to step things up in the final four games.