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Temple vs. North Carolina: Five things to watch

Could this be the final game for Temple redshirt juniors, center Matt Hennessy and defensive end Quincy Roche, who are NFL prospects?

Temple # 58 Matt Hennessy blocks UConn’s # 57 Travis Jones in the first half of the UConn vs. Temple University football game at Lincoln Financial Field in Phila., Pa, on November 30, 2019.
Temple # 58 Matt Hennessy blocks UConn’s # 57 Travis Jones in the first half of the UConn vs. Temple University football game at Lincoln Financial Field in Phila., Pa, on November 30, 2019.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

Temple will be playing in its ninth bowl game and fifth in a row on Friday when the Owls meet North Carolina in the Military Bowl.

Here are five things to watch for in the game:

Will this be the last game for Hennessy and Roche?

Two of Temple’s top players and NFL prospects are redshirt junior center Matt Hennessy and redshirt junior defensive end Quincy Roche. Both have enjoyed some prestigious postseason honors. Roche was named the American Athletic Conference defensive player of the year. Hennessy joined Roche on the first team all-AAC squad and was also a third-team Associated Press All-American.

Both players earned their undergraduate degrees earlier this month. Each has said that they were concentrating on the bowl game and hadn’t made a decision. Roche has been on a certified roll, with 13 tackles for loss, including 10 sacks.

Stopping UNC’s passing attack

UNC quarterback Sam Howell has enjoyed an amazing freshman season. He was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year. Howell (standing 6-foot-2-inches tall, and weighing 225 pounds) leads the ACC in passing yards (3,347) and touchdown passes (35). The touchdown pass total is a school record, breaking the previous mark set by Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky (30). It is also the most touchdown passes by a true freshman in Football Bowl Subdivision history.

In his most recent game, a 41-10 win over North Carolina State that made the Tar Heels bowl eligible, Howell threw for 401 yards and three touchdowns. Howell has some formidable targets. Junior Dazz Newsome was a second-team all-ACC choice after catching 64 passes for 947 yards and eight touchdowns. Sophomore Dyami Brown joined Howell on the third all-ACC team He has 46 receptions for 947 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The ACC Bowl Hex

This is Temple’s ninth both game and third against a team from the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Owls are 0-2, having lost to Wake Forest, 34-26, in the 2016 Military Bowl and to Duke, 56-27, last year in the Independence Bowl. In both instances, Temple was guided by interim head coach Ed Foley, replacing Matt Rhule in 2016 and Geoff Collins in 2018. Temple does own a regular season win over an ACC team this season, a 24-2 win over former coach Collins and Georgia Tech.

The UNC ground game

While so much is said about stopping Howell and the passing game, UNC is averaging 184 rushing yards per game. Junior Dazz Newsome was a second-team all-ACC choice with 64 receptions for Michael Carter, who has rushed for 919 yards and 11 touchdowns, is the Tar Heels’ biggest ground threat. Leading the way is second-team all-ACC offensive tackle Charlie Heck, a 315-pound, 6-foot-8-inch senior.

The linebackers

Temple’s most experienced position is linebacker and this will be the final game for the trio of Shaun Bradley, Sam Franklin and Chapelle Russell. Bradley and Franklin are seniors and Russell is a graduate student. Bradley is a two-time first-team all-American Athletic Conference choice and Franklin earned second-team honors. Bradley leads the Owls with 79 tackles, Russell is second with 63 and Franklin third with 61. North Carolina’s defense is led by junior linebacker Chazz Surratt, a 6-3, 230-pound first-team all-ACC selection. He has 110 tackles, including 13.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. What makes Surratt’s accomplishments even more impressive is that he converted from quarterback to linebacker at the end of last year. Sophomore linebacker Jeremial Gemmel is UNC’s second leading tackler with 79.

Military Bowl

Temple vs. North Carolina

When: Friday, noon.

Where: Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Md.

TV/radio: ESPN/97.5 FM The Fanatic.

Records: Temple (8-4), North Carolina (6-6).

Coaches: Temple, Rod Carey (8-4, 60-34 overall), North Carolina, Mack Brown (75-52-1, 250-128-1 overall).

Series: This is the first-ever meeting between the two teams.