Location: Philadelphia, PA
Enrollment: 37,788 (2014)
Home Stadium: Lincoln Financial Field (Capacity 68,532)
Colors: Cherry and white
Head Coach: Matt Rhule (4th year, 19-21 overall; .475 overall) (Rhule played linebacker at PSU from 1994-1997)
Conference: The American Athletic Conference, East Division
First Game: October 10, 1931 (Temple won 12-0)
Last Game: September 5, 2015 (Temple won 27-10)
Overall: Penn State leads 39-4-1 (.898)
Current Win Streak: 1, Temple
Last Season (10-4 overall, 7-1 conference)
Ranked #20 in the AP Poll at the time, Temple represented the East Division in the American Athletic Championship Game. They faced (and lost to) #17 ranked Houston 24-13. Temple played in the Boca Raton Bowl, losing to #24 ranked Toledo 32-17.
2015 was considered the Owl’s breakout season, and was highlighted by Temple’s first ever 7–0 start, their first AP Poll and Coaches Poll ranking since 1979 … and their first win against Penn State since 1941.
In January, Glenn Thomas was named the team’s new offensive coordinator after Marcus Satterfield became the head coach of Tennessee Tech. In February, Temple’s Board of Trustees approved a $1 million action to pursue architectural designs for a proposed $126 million on-campus stadium site. And Temple was picked to finish second in the American's East Division this year by the media.
Temple shut out Stony Brook 38-0 at home, holding the Seawolves to just 133 yards of total offense and just 49 rushing yards, with the Owl’s defense seeing 28 players make a tackle against Stony Brook. The Owls picked off Stony Brook three times and forced three fumbles.
Temple’s wide receiver Keith Kirkwood made 4 catches for 54 yards and two touchdowns, his best performance at Temple since transferring from Hawaii in 2014. His 2015 season was cut short after an injury in the 2015 Penn State game.
Quarterback Phillip Walker completed just 11 of his 23 pass attempts for 124 yards, and had three touchdowns and one interception. Temple rushed for 177 yards and two touchdowns off 39 carries. Isaiah Wright had seven carries for 42 yards.
On defense, freshman safety Benny Walls had five tackles and an interception. Safeties Sean Chandler and Delvon Randall each had their first interceptions of the season. As a team, Temple had nine tackles for a loss and forced four turnovers, and had 3 sacks.
Even though Temple is returning 73% of their offense this year as compared to PSU returning 53% of theirs, Temple has had to get used to a new offense and offensive coordinator, as well as being a little banged up on offense, with some key players out for now.
QB Walker had a solid 2015, finishing with 246 completions for 2,973 yards, 19 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. But Walker has had an unspectacular 2016 so far, completing only 45% of passes for 292 yards and four total picks in his first two games against Army and Stony Brook. This spells trouble in a loud environment against a team not only looking for revenge for last season, but pissed off after last week’s close loss.
Walker will have to rely on the running backs and wide receivers if he brings another lackluster performance this week. Top running back Jahad Thomas has been out with an injury, and might not return for this week’s game. You may remember Thomas running for 135 yards and two scores against Penn State last year (he ran for 1,262 yards total in 2015). So far, the Owl’s top rusher for 2015 is backup Ryquell Armstead, who had 30 carries for 125 yards, an average of 4.2 yards per carry for the year, so he’s a player to watch and a player to stop.
Keith Kirkwood is the Owls top receiver for 2016, with 7 receptions for 89 yards and 2 touchdowns, with Adonis Jennings and Marshall Ellick close behind. Last year’s top receiver was Ventell Bryant, who’s now listed on the second team.
If you remember from last year (or maybe you blocked it from memory), Temple’s defense had 10 sacks in the 2015 game.
The Owls return 53% of their defense, as compared to the Nittany Lions returning 63% of their defense. Top linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who had 138 tackles last year, is now in the NFL, so the Owls will miss his leadership and skill. However, the front four features returning defensive ends Praise Martin-Oguike and Sharif Finch and nose tackle Averee Robinson. Safeties Sean Chandler, Benny Walls, and Delvon Randall had interceptions last week against Stony Brook, so the PSU offense will need to keep them at bay.
Temple’s junior kicker Austin Jones is 3 for 3 on the season and performed well in 2015, too, at 23-28 of field goal attempts. Sean Chandler, who’s a solid safety, is also a player to watch as punt returner, averaging 16.8 yards per try. Returning punter Alex Starzyk averaged 42.4 yards per punt in 2015.
You can read more about the Temple Owls at Underdog Dynasty, the SB Nation blog for The American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, Sun Belt and Independent football fans.