Before moving on to this week’s game against Stony Brook, here are some final notes and observations about the Temple offense from the season-opening 28-13 loss to Army on Friday night at Lincoln Financial Field:
Phillip Walker was nearly perfect to start the game, completing 7 of his first 8 pass attempts for 98 yards. And he hit wide receiver Brodrick Yancy on the hands on his only incomplete pass, which turned into an interception.
Despite the interception, the Owls played with a great rhythm on their first two drives – mixing run and pass, moving Walker inside and outside the pocket, and spreading the ball around to four different receivers.
But Walker’s numbers dipped sharply after he was sacked on a 1st-and-10 pass attempt midway through the second quarter. The Owls failed to pick up the blitz on that play, and Walker was pulled down after a playfake where he appeared to be looking to throw it deep.
From that point forward, the offense never seemed to regain its rhythm, and Walker often looked uncomfortable. The Owls did put together an 11-play, 65-yard drive resulting in a field goal in the third quarter, but most of those yards came on three big plays. And once they got into the red zone, Walker seemed to rush a screen pass to Ventell Bryant and a jump ball to Romond DeLoatch.
Overall, after his terrific start, Walker went 5 for 18 for 70 yards and threw three interceptions in the last two-and-half quarters.
Similar to the passing game, Temple’s rushing attack also sputtered a bit as the game progressed.
Ryquell Armstead ran with a purpose in the first quarter, totaling 42 yards on seven carries. Five of those carries went for six yards or more, and the other two carries gained two yards. Gone were the negative runs that sometimes plagued the running game the last couple seasons.
But that momentum was lost in the second half. Armstead broke loose for a 16-yard gain on Temple’s third quarter field goal drive, but his other five carries netted just 10 yards. And the running game was mostly abandoned when the Owls got the ball back in the fourth quarter.
Armstead finished with 16 carries for 77 yards, while David Hood added 5 carries and 21 yards, and fullback Nick Sharga did a nice job converting two third-and-short situations on dive plays.
Ultimately, though, the Temple running game was somewhat of a non-factor in the outcome.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
While Yancy’s early blunder and late-game drops by Keith Kirkwood and Adonis Jennings exasperated the crowd at the Linc, the Owls also had several nice catches from their wide receivers – particularly a pair of early receptions by Marshall Ellick and another by Kirkwood. Ellick nearly made a third highlight-reel catch in the second quarter, only to have the play reversed on video replay.
Tight end Colin Thompson provided an early highlight with a 32-yard catch-and-run, but that was the only catch at the tight end position. Redshirt freshman Jake Robinson played a lot and Miami graduate transfer Jake O’Donnell and walk-on Chris Myarick also saw action at tight end and on special teams.
Though he’s listed on the roster at tight end, DeLoatch was split out wide when he got into the game.
The fourth quarter was a total disaster for the offensive line, which failed to react when Army turned up the defensive pressure.
On the possession after the Owls fell behind, 21-13, Walker was sacked on his first pass attempt. And when the Owls got the ball back, following a missed field goal, Walker was sacked again. And when he wasn’t sacked, he was usually hurried.
On the offensive line, four starters played every snap from start to finish – tackles Dion Dawkins and Leon Johnson, center Brendan McGowan, and redshirt freshman guard Jovahn Fair. At the other guard spot, Adrian Sullivan and Brian Carter rotated every other possession until the final few minutes. While Sullivan got the start, it was Carter who played the last two possessions in the fourth quarter.
It would not be a surprise to see another candidate jump into that position in the near future, or perhaps see McGowan move to guard, where he started 13 games in 2013 and 2014. But that won’t happen unless true freshman Matt Hennessy or redshirt freshman Benson Israel are ready to step in at center.