Not since 1941, huh? Time to preview this sucker...
Temple Owls (1-1)(1-2) vs.
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. Beaver Stadium (107,252), University Park, PA
The Line: PSU -7
TV: ABC Mike Patrick, Ed Cunningham, Jeannine Edwards
Weather: 75 degrees. Chance for rain. Light/moderate breeze.
PENN STATE RECORD: 1-2, 1st year
OVERALL RECORD: Same
VS. TEMPLE: First Meeting
TEMPLE RECORD: 10-5, 2nd year
OVERALL RECORD: same
VS. PENN STATE: 0-1
NOW THE FUN PART
Temple Offense vs PSU Defense -
Chris Coyer reminds many of Adam DiMichele, in that he's mobile and gutsy. If you want a Penn State comparison, think of Zack Mills. Steven Addazio has moved the Owls to more of a spread attack that he's used to running, primarily due to Coyer's ability to run that kind of offense. He's a good passer, though we didn't get a chance to see it against Maryland. Coyer was suffering from illness during that game to go along with a horrendous overall team performance.
Montel Harris was the ACC's second all-time leading rusher when he was dismissed from Boston College. Now he's at Temple, and back after sitting out the Maryland debacle. Penn State has gotten progressively better on defense this season, most noticeably in run defense and forcing turnovers. Harris is the kind of back that gains chunks of yards at a time, similar to a Tony Hunt or Evan Royster. There is a very real risk that Penn State's defense could wear down once again like it did against Ohio. Temple is the closest to Ohio in terms of dangers. Coyer, Harris, and the always-dangerous Matt Brown should be able to feed off one another and keep the Nittany Lion offense off the field.
That is, of course, all dependent on how the Nittany Lion defense can gameplan for this kind of opponent. Ted Roof has already seen three very different offenses in three games this season, including one just like the spread-run Temple could throw down in Beaver Stadium this week. I'd expect forcing turnovers will continue to be a major factor in how Penn State combats the threats Temple poses on offense. I have a feeling that won't be enough. This is kind of a situation where the Penn State defense will have to bring together everything it's learned through the first three weeks. Fix the mistakes against Ohio, and continue the improvement we saw against Virgina then Navy, and this might be an easier win than expected.
PSU Offense vs Temple Defense -
You want to help out the defense? Keep the offense on the field. Or, in other words, don't give Temple the opportunity to score points by not allowing their offense to hold the ball. Penn State has a real shot to do that now, especially with the dynamic combination of Matt McGloin (Did I really just call Mac "dynamic"? Hmm, guess I did.) and Allen Robinson opening up the playbook for the coaches. The Nittany Lion offense has been on the upswing as the season has progressed. That trajectory shouldn't sway too much against a Temple defense that isn't nearly as strong as the 2011 unit that gave Penn State fits a year ago.
Villanova ran for more than 200 yards against Temple. Maryland finished with 144, with many short fields due to Temple turnovers. The Owls should be extremely concerned with the defense this week, going up against a Penn State attack it's never seen before. With or without Bill Belton and Derek Day, the weak Temple secondary might end up allowing Penn State to pass its way to a good rushing game. Owl corner Zamel Johnson is the weakest link, providing a juicy target for A-Rob to matchup against. Even if McGloin has trouble finding Robinson streaking free through the secondary, the middle of the field will be wide open for the tight ends to graze on Temple linebackers forced to play both the run and pass on every play.
Underlying Penn State's offensive improvement over the last few weeks has been the offensive line. One would think missing the top THREE running backs on any team would lead to low rushing numbers. But Penn State has been able to still move the ball on the ground with Curtis Dukes and Mike Zordich, two guys who were supposedly the third-best running back on the team and starting fullback, respectively. Temple's defensive line was gashed by Villanova in week one, even if the Owls played well in other areas. Maryland's offensive offense racked up almost 150 on the ground. Penn State has also given up only three sacks in three games.
Special Teams -
Brandon McManus is a great kicker. He could win the game. Penn State knows all too well how important a good, reliable kicking game can be in a close game. Penn State's best shot to minimize McManus's impact on this game would be to win the game early using the defense and offense. If the Nittany Lions are up 31-7, a Temple field goal won't make much of a difference. The return games haven't been much of a factor for either Penn State or Temple. But now that I've mentioned that, I'm sure something big will happen this week.
Penn State gets one last shot to iron out the major issues before the Big Ten conference schedule begins next week. In a way, playing a decent Temple squad is a great final exam of the non-conference slate. This game shouldn't be as emotionally draining as the opener against Ohio. It shouldn't come down to one player as it did against Virginia. It also shouldn't be quite as easy as the Navy win seemed. Penn State should come out strong once again through the air, even if Robinson doesn't finish with big stats. At this point, I'm comfortable with any running back Penn State starts, because the pass game should loosen up the Temple defense enough for another good day on the ground. Temple will gain yards. It could get very frustrating for a while. The Owls might even lead this game for a while.
This one could be won by double digits, but at the same time feel like a one-point game right to the end. Penn State pulls away after halftime.
Penn State 28 - Temple 19
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