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Temple looks to continue its recent trend of quick starts

Temple has outscored each of its last three opponents in the first quarter and for the season have an 86-67 edge in the opening quarter.

Temple Ryquell Armstead runs with the football against Tulsa on Thursday, September 20, 2018 in Philadelphia. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Temple Ryquell Armstead runs with the football against Tulsa on Thursday, September 20, 2018 in Philadelphia. YONG KIM / Staff PhotographerRead moreYong Kim

To defeat a reeling South Florida team in Saturday's American Athletic Conference game at Lincoln Financial Field, Temple (6-4, 5-1) would be advised to follow the blueprint of the previous three games, which means setting the tone early.

USF (7-3, 3-3) has lost three in a row. The Bulls don't know whether starting quarterback Blake Barnett, who missed last week's 35-23 loss at Cincinnati with a shoulder injury, will be ready to go. (Coach Charlie Strong said earlier in the week he was day to day).

Temple is coming off a 59-49 win at Houston. It's senior day for Temple and the Owls will be charged up from the start.

The Owls have outscored each of their last three opponents, Cincinnati, Central Florida and Houston in the first quarter in winning two of three. The cumulative first quarter edge in those three games has been 41-28.

On the season, Temple owns an 86-67 edge in the first quarter over opponents.

During its three-game losing streak, USF has been outscored, 28-12, in the first quarter. For the season, the Bulls have been outscored, 83-59, in the opening quarter.

Throw in the weather factor and there is a chance for Temple to really jump on the Bulls. The Weather Channel forecast has the high on Saturday of 48 degrees.

That might feel balmy to Temple after Thursday's snowstorm that saw the temperature in the 30's, but to players from Florida it would seem pretty frigid.

Whether it's the quick starts, the weather forecast, or USF's slump, Temple tries not to get bogged down into any of that.

"My goal has always been to go 1-0 every week and not worry about outcomes of [past] games," offensive guard-tackle Jaelin Robinson said.

What matters most to the offensive players is that their unit has hit its stride, scoring 99 points in the last two weeks against the best team in the AAC (Central Florida) and a Houston team that is tied for first in the AAC West Division.

Even though Temple lost by 52-40 at UCF, the Owls trailed by just 42-40 in the fourth quarter before barely missing on a two-point conversion that would have tied the game.

What has to confound any defense is that two weeks ago, Temple threw for 444 yards and four touchdowns against UCF and last week the Owls ran for 312 yards and eight touchdowns, including six by Ryquell Armstead.

Defenses won't be able to cheat against the pass or the run.

"Having a run game like that takes so much pressure off me," said quarterback Anthony Russo, who has completed 57.7 percent of his passes for 2,071 yards, 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. "It opens everything else, play action, the defense has to respect the run and pack the box so that just gives more opportunities for our playmakers on the outside to make plays."

Temple is a 14-point favorite. Oddsmakers no doubt looked into the recent comparable scores with Houston.

USF began its losing streak with a 57-36 loss on Oct. 27 at Houston, the team Temple enjoyed its best offensive performance of the season against.

"Looking at what Temple did to Houston on the road, we went to Houston and got beat and they went to Houston and won," Strong said during Monday's AAC media call. "It is a program that always had an air about it, a very physical program, they pride on being physical."

Temple also has an outside chance of winning the AAC East. The Owls and Cincinnati are both 5-1 in the AAC, while Central Florida is 6-0. Temple needs to win its final two, which also includes a Nov. 24 meeting at UConn and have UCF lose its last two. (Temple beat Cincinnati and would own a two-team tiebreaker over the Bearcats if both win their last two games.)

UCF (9-0, 6-0) hosts Cincinnati (9-1, 5-1) in Saturday evening's nationally televised game and then ends the season at USF.

If Temple beats USF, the Owls will be watching the UCF-Cincinnati game with great interest. The best way for that contest to mean something to the Owls is for them to continue to come out firing in the opening quarter.