Temple-Connecticut preview

The Owls open their 2014 American Athletic Conference schedule with a road game at Connecticut at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

The Temple football team opens American Athletic Conference play against rival Connecticut, which stunned the Owls, 28-21, last year after rallying from a 21-0 halftime deficit.

The Huskies were 0-10 coming into the contest last year, and coach Matt Rhule said it was a turning point. Temple finished the season with a win at Memphis and started 2-1 this year.

The Huskies are 1-3 this year though with losses to BYU and Boise State and and a 17-14 setback against South Florida in a downpour. The win was 19-16 against FCS Stony Brook.

"It was cold last year and we didn't want to play the second half, and they made plays and we didn't," said Temple coach Matt Rhule matter-of-factly. "But we've won three of four since. We're still not happy about (losing) to Navy, probably won't be for a long time.

"We know we're facing a really potent team. They have a good run defense, great in the red zone, I have respect for what (first-year UConn coach) Bob Diaco has done. He's building a team in his image. They're going to erupt and we expect they'll erupt against us, and it's going to be a four-quarter football game like they always are."

Diaco was the Notre Dame defensive coordinator before taking the UConn job this year. He was considered a candidate for the Temple job which went to Rhule two years ago.

In the new-look AAC, Rhule notes it is nice to have a team with which it has a little history. Even before becoming conference rivals, Temple and Connecticut often played as non-conference opponents, usually with close results.

"It's nice to have some familiarity," said Rhule. "They're going to test your physicality. They are going to keep running the football and wait for you to make a mistake, like we did last year. We have to stop the run, play great on special teams and not turn the ball over."

Wide receiver Geremy Davis has 17 catches for 288 yards and three of UConn's four TD receptions. On defense, cornerback Byron Jones has 13 tackles, three pass defenses and an interception he returned for 70 yards.

"(Jones) is a first- or second-round pick," said Rhule. "Geremy Davis hurt us last year. (Quarterback) Chandler Whitmer is back at starting quarterback. He can make things happen."

Owls quarterback P.J. Walker is still hobbled by an ankle injury but is expected to play. Rhule said he is critical of the sophomore, but that overall he has played well.

"The three interceptions are what bother me, but he's completing 65 percent of his passes, has six touchdowns," said Rhule. "If you are doing that and still aren't happy, you have high expectations for yourself. He's hurt and he's still going out there. He's still trying to find his rhythm."

The Owls will try to continue their defensive excellence, having shut out the opposition two out of three games and forcing 14 turnovers.

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