Pass Rush Biggest Difference for Temple

After posting 19 sacks a year ago, the Owls got to the quarterback four times on Thursday night.

Asked before the season if the secondary was the biggest problem for a 2012 defense that took a brunt of the responsibility for a 2-10 season, Temple defensive coordinator Phil Snow shook his head.

He noted the 19 sacks the Owls collected were well off what a good defense would produce and led to coverage issues on the back end.

“When you have (19) sacks … To play good defense, you have to have 35-40,” said Snow. “The secondary takes the brunt of it because that’s who everybody sees, but did you see anybody rush the passer? You don’t stop the passing game unless you rush the passer.

“Watch (the) Seattle (Seahawks), why do they create so many problems? They don’t have time to pass the football. Until we correct that … If we have 20 sacks again, we won’t be good in the secondary.”

In last Thursday’s surprisingly thorough 37-7 victory over Vanderbilt, the Owls sacked Commodore quarterbacks four times and pressured them on a number of other occasions. The pressure also led to seven turnovers – one a sack by Avery Ellis that led to Averee Robinson’s fumble return for a touchdown, giving the Owls a 21-7 lead heading into the half.

Last season, Temple totaled three interceptions for the season. On Thursday, they matched that total as the Commodores tried to make plays under duress.

Snow felt speed on the edge would be a big difference this year. Sharif Finch moved from linebacker to defensive end this year, and Praise Martin-Oguike wasn’t with the team a year ago.

“Our outside pass rushers last year ran 5-flat to 5.1, now they run 4.5-4.6, they’re dramatically different people,” said Snow.

Of all the encouraging signs in the opener – and oh, there were many – the pass rush and the havoc it caused had to be at the top of the list. Ellis had two sacks, and Finch and Matt Ioannidis added one each.

The challenge will be different this week against Navy’s triple option. It’s likely the Midshipmen won’t drop back to pass enough for the Owls to produce another four sacks, but if they can create the same kind of havoc and force a few more turnovers it will go a long way towards the Owls matching last year’s win total in just the second game of the season.

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