Temple-Cincinnati football preview

The Temple football team will try for the third time to gain the sixth win it needs to become bowl eligible on Saturday afternoon, as well as send out their seniors with a win in their final home game.

The Temple football team will try for the third time to gain the sixth win it needs to become bowl eligible on Saturday afternoon, as well as send out their seniors with a win in their final home game.

But the task won’t be easy against a red-hot Cincinnati team that has won five straight and sits near the top of the American Athletic Conference.

The explosive offense is led by sophomore quarterback Gunner Kiel, who has thrown for 27 touchdowns – seven in the last two games – and over 2,600 yards this season. Cincinnati has scored at least 34 points in each game during the winning streak.

“It’s a good opportunity to highlight and showcase our seniors,” said Temple coach Matt Rhule. “Hopefully we finish the way we can. Cincinnati has a dynamic offense and strong, tough defense. It’s a challenge, but it’s one we’re excited about.

“Their success starts with their offensive line. Our defensive line has to play very well. We know we have to limit the big plays.”

Since going 4-1 to start the season, the Owls have lost four out of five – the lone win coming against then-nationally-ranked East Carolina on a rainy day at Lincoln Financial Field.

They’ve lost two straight since, on a last-second field goal against Memphis and two weeks ago, 30-13, against Penn State in a game that got away from them in the second half.

The bye week that followed the loss to the Nittany Lions was much needed, as it allowed the Owls to become healthier, especially on the offensive line.

“We needed the week to regroup,” said Rhule. “The week off was outstanding in a lot of ways. Having our offensive line back together is probably the biggest.”

Rhule said the Owls need to help struggling sophomore quarterback P.J. Walker. Walker has thrown 12 touchdowns, but has been picked off 14 times.

“He hasn’t played good enough, but we haven’t made a play for him and he’s getting hit,” said Rhule. “You look at the Memphis game, all we needed to do was make one more play.”

Despite the struggles over the last month, Rhule said he senses a positive team. They remain just one win away from being bowl eligible, and even a loss Saturday won’t end those hopes as they finish the season at Tulane.

But if the Owls could reach Win No. 6 in the final home game of the season, it would be a perfect send-off for the small senior class.

“Their path was to stay here and live through different coaches, different assistant coaches and get us back to a bowl,” said Rhule, the second-year head coach. “It would be quite an accomplishment.”

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