Changing Gears

The Temple football team won its first game last Saturday behind its best defensive performance of the season in a 33-14 win over Army. The Owls held the nation's No. 1 rushing team to 255 yards on the ground, well below their 340.1 average. But it will be a completely different defensive task as SMU, under former NFL and Hawaii head coach June Jones, is ranked eighth nationally passing.

The Temple football team won its first game last Saturday behind its best defensive performance of the season in a 33-14 win over Army.

The Owls held the nation's No. 1 rushing team to 255 yards on the ground – well below the Black Knights' 340.1 average – and pitched a shutout in the first half.

This week, the Owls (1-6 overall, 0-3 American Athletic Conference) will be looking for their second win of the season against a Mustang team (2-4, 1-1) that has also struggled in the first season in the American.

But it will be a completely different defensive task as SMU, under former NFL and Hawaii head coach June Jones, is ranked eighth nationally passing at 354.5 yards per game while only 115th rushing at 94.7 points per game.

The Temple secondary has been a problem this year and facing the Mustangs and their aerial attack is a tougher matchup than the Black Knights' triple option.

"We had to go out and defend the triple option and did it and accomplished something," said Temple head coach Matt Rhule, who won his first game as coach Saturday. "But now we have to be ready to face one of the best passing teams in the country."

SMU's senior quarterback Garrett Gilbert has completed 208 of 329 passes for 2,096 yards with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions. The Mustangs have a 1-2 receiving combination in Jeremy Johnson (62 receptions, 735 yards, four touchdowns) and Darius Joseph (56 receptions, 476 yards, three touchdowns).

"The D-line just has to play better, the front seven basically has to get pressure on the quarterback, make the plays and follow the keys," said sophomore linebacker/defensive end Nate Smith, who played his best game of the year against Army.

Ironically, the Owls and Mustangs have played twice in their history and both ended in ties – 7-7 in 1942 and 6-6 in 1946. That won't happen here, in part because of current overtime rules in place and also because both teams figure to put some points on the scoreboard this time around.

SMU is giving up 40.8 points per game, which is 122nd in the country and has allowed over 40 on four occasions. Last week, the Mustangs won their first game in the American, going to Memphis and coming away with a 34-29 victory.

The Owls will be hoping true freshman quarterback P.J. Walker continues his development.

Walker will be making his third start and was sharp in the win over Army. He has thrown for four touchdowns in his first two starts and will need to be on point to keep up with the high-scoring Mustangs.

"It was a good time to get a win (last Saturday), and from now on things are going to keep moving in the right direction," said Walker.

Rhule believes the win over Army could be a springboard not just for Walker but for the entire Owls team.

"They took control of the game, for the first time I saw that team not looking around (waiting for something to happen)," said Rhule. "Guys controlled how they played and I'm proud of them. You build something with work ethic and eventually it results in wins. They earned that win against a physical, hard-nosed football team."

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