The "Temple Tough" label that the Owls football program preaches will be tested when the Owls host East Carolina at noon Saturday in an American Athletic Conference game at Lincoln Financial Field.
Temple (2-3, 1-0 AAC) will need the mental toughness to bounce back from last week's 45-35 loss at Boston College. As the score suggests, it was a rough day for the defense, but the Owls also weren't helped by their offense. Boston College scored 22 points off three Temple turnovers. One interception gave Boston College the ball at the Temple 9-yard line.
That said, it was clearly the defense's worst outing of the season, as it allowed 275 rushing yards.
"It was definitely frustrating for as hard as we played, the effort, and things like that," said redshirt junior linebacker Chapelle Russell, tied for second on the team with 32 tackles. "We were put in bad positions sometimes, but that is the defense and we have to toughen up."
And while Temple won't be facing an offense as prolific as Boston College's, ECU is vastly improved, especially from the previous two years, when Temple outscored the Pirates, 71-20.
Both Temple and ECU own a win over a Power Five school, with Temple beating Maryland and ECU defeating North Carolina, 41-19. The Pirates are coming off last week's 37-35 home win over an Old Dominion team that previously upset Virginia Tech.
Quarterback Reid Herring threw for career highs with 309 yards and three touchdowns against ODU. Senior Trevon Brown (21 receptions, 325 yards, two touchdowns) is among the best receivers in the AAC.
Temple has the personnel to deal with ECU's offense, but the Owls can't afford self-inflicted wounds.
"The big thing is our guys play with an edge, they play physical, tough, they play with relentless effort, and they go so hard," Temple coach Geoff Collins said. "The thing we have talked about is you can't go beyond that and you become reckless and get penalties. You can't go beyond that and go out of your realm of responsibility."
Collins doesn't want his players to lose their aggressiveness, but sometimes it has to be funneled.
"You can play with an edge, but can't go over," he said.
Last week, Temple was penalized 11 times for 95 yards, both season highs. The Owls also had two players ejected for targeting.
"There were a couple of technical things we have to work on, but for the most part, I think we played well" against Boston College, said linebacker Shaun Bradley, who leads the Owls with 40 tackles.
Played well while yielding 45 points?
"Forty-five points looks bad if you see the score, but if you watch the game, I don't think we played bad at all," Bradley said.
East Carolina coach Scottie Montgomery says Temple has a big-time defense.
"They definitely run to the football. It is Temple tough," Montgomery said during Monday's AAC media call.
ECU at Temple
When, where: Saturday, noon, Lincoln Financial Field.
Records: ECU, 2-2, 0-1 American Athletic Conference; Temple, 2-3, 1-0.
Coaches: ECU, Scottie Montgomery (third season, 8-20); Temple, Geoff Collins (second season, 9-9).
TV/Radio: ESPNews/97.5 The Fanatic.
Series history: ECU leads, 8-7 (Temple has won four in a row.)
Three things to watch
Running the ball. ECU has the No. 1 rushing defense in the AAC and is ninth nationally, allowing 94.8 yards per game. Temple's running game has been steadily improving, especially with the play of senior Ryquell Armstead, who has rushed for 100 yards in four straight games. Before this season, he never had consecutive 100-yard games. Armstead rushed for 171 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries Saturday in a 45-35 loss at Boston College. It will be important for the Temple running game to prosper and limit the Pirates' pass-rushing efforts. ECU is second in the nation in sacks per game, averaging 4.25. The Pirates had nine in last week's win over ODU, with defensive end Nate Harvey earning three.
Third-down conversions. ECU's defense is first in the AAC and sixth nationally in third-down conversion defense (25.5 percent). Temple is converting 40.3 percent of its third downs. One reason ECU has been successful is opposing offenses have often been put in a hole because of tackles for loss. The Pirates are first in the AAC and second nationally with 10.3 tackles for loss per game. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Harvey has 11 tackles for loss, which leads the AAC. Needless to say, he will be a handful.
Can the streak continue? Temple has scored at least one non-offensive touchdown in each game this season. Last week, Isaiah Graham-Mobley scored on a 19-yard fumble return after Rob Ritrovato leveled kickoff returner Michael Walker. The Owls are aggressive on both special teams and defense and are always thinking about not only stopping the opponent, but scoring as well.