Part Two of Our Two-Part Temple-Penn State Primer: On Temple

Part Two of Our Two-Part Temple-Penn State Primer: On Temple
September 21, 2012, 10:47 am
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In advance of this weekend's
showdown in Happy Valley between Temple and Penn State (3:30 p.m. on ABC/ESPN 2), Nick Menta and
our friend and guest-spotter from Examiner.com Kevin McGuire have gotten
together for a two-part preview of this weekend's
matchup.


In Part 1, Nick picked Kevin's brain about the current state
of the Nittany Lions. They'll reverse roles in Part 2 below. And for yet more,
check out Nick's
full game preview here
.

Onto Part 2...

------------------

Kevin McGuire: I suppose I can ask you a similar question to your Navy inquiry.
Temple handled Villanova the way they should have (I would think), but
then threw an egg against Maryland. I tend to give the Owls some credit
for fighting back against the Terps to make
things interesting, but which Temple should we be expecting to see
Saturday, and do they show up for a full game or just a half?

Nick Menta: I'm also going to wimp out and call it somewhere in the middle. They're
obviously not as dominant as they were against FCS Villanova, but
nowhere near as inept as they appeared in the first half against
Maryland, when they gained just 34 yards and turned the
ball over twice.

Temple's second half against the Terps does, as you mentioned, give rise
to some optimism, but playing at home, down 26-3 at the half with
little pressure is different than going into Beaver Stadium. As Addazio
keeps reminding anyone who will listen, his team
is young, and many of them have never played in that kind of
environment.

As for how long they'll last, in 2010 they went about three quarters in a 22-13 loss
(Temple was up 13-9 at the break before losing Bernard Pierce), and did the same last year, losing 14-10
after, again, leading at the half. I'm not
optimistic about the running attack's hopes versus the Penn State front
seven, so Temple may just go as far as its defense will carry it. If
they can stymie McGloin and the revamped passing attack, we could be in
for a long, ugly affair similar to 2011.

Temple's defense has played very well against Penn State in more
recent years, helping to close the gap between the two programs on the
field. With Penn State's new-style offense, who on Temple's defense
steps up to keep that trend continuing?

That defense lost six defensive starters this offseason, and like the
team as a whole, has gotten younger and more inexperienced.

Redshirt freshman middle linebacker Nate D. Smith, the younger brother
of one L.J. Smith, has stepped into the spot vacated by Stephen Johnson,
who led the Owls in tackles with
123 last year. Smith leads the 2012 defense
with 18 total tackles (17 unassisted) and has forced a fumble in each
of his first two games.

More specific to stopping McGloin and the passing attack, senior
defensive end John Yabouty remains one of Temple's best playmakers and
will do his best to create pressure. Over the top, senior safeties
Justin Gildea (pictured above) and Vaughn Carraway will have to provide
support to corners Zamel Johnson and Anthony Robey as they contend with
wide receiver Allen Robinson and his counterparts. It was a secondary that, across the board, did not play well against Maryland.


We know that Bernard Pierce was a key player in the revitalization of
the program, but Matt Brown had a very significant role as well. How
has he now taken over the role as the go-to guy out of the backfield and
how has Montel Harris been fitting in with
his injury issues?

Well he was kind of stunning against Villanova (270 total yards), but
put the ball on the carpet vs. Maryland and continued to struggle before
spraining his ankle. With two weeks of rest, he should be fine.

How's Montel fitting in? ... So far he hasn't. He strained his hamstring late in the
preseason, and had just six touches in the first half versus Villanova,
before taking to the sidelines in sweatpants in the second half of that
game. He did not play at all versus Maryland,
though was warming up on the sidelines when Brown first went down.
Addazio indicated after the game that Harris could have played,
but that the he didn't think it would have been "right."

Two weeks later, but hamstrings are naggy. We'll see.


While Penn State has been struggling on special teams, Temple has
not. North Penn's Brandon McManus has proven to be a pretty solid
special teams player by handling place kicking and punting duties for
the Owls. Too many times we overlook special teams (until
it costs a team a game), but how important is McManus and special teams
in a game like this weekend at Penn State?

Considering the low-scoring nature of the games over the last two years, special teams will be crucial.

Flashback to before Sam Ficken, and Anthony Fera, who left Penn State
this summer for Texas, went 0 for 2 on field goal attempts versus Temple
last year. Then they called on Ficken, and he missed one himself.
They went 0 for 3 as a team. Of course, as
we discussed in Part 1, Penn State's four down territory has evidently
expanded under O'Brien.

Back to the original intent of your question, McManus is invaluable.
He's one of just eight kids in the country who handles all kicking
duties for his team. He has the leg to make the NFL as a kickoff
specialist, if not more.

Again, if this is a long, ugly, struggling game like it has been in the past, then
field position and converted field goals, and therefore McManus, will
be of the utmost importance.


I don't think it is too argumentative that the Penn State game is one
that Temple looks forward to every year, and that beating Penn State
would be a tremendous feat for the program as they continue to improve.
What will it take for this year to finally
be "the year" Temple knocks off their in-state rivals?

Just for reference, the last time Temple beat Penn State was roughly seven weeks before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. So, yeah.

Anyway, we discussed above how Temple keeps getting closer to jumping the hurdle without actually clearing it. Steve Addazio always lists a four-point plan to success for his Owls.

1. Run the football
2. Play great defense
3. Play great special teams
4. Don't turn over the ball

Well, if they run the ball with success, they control clock and shorten
the game. If they play great defense and special teams, those benefits
are obvious. As is the importance of holding onto the football.

Still, there's one component that's missing from the plan, and that's the passing game.

As I mentioned earlier this week
, Temple ran for
just 74 yards last year against Penn State during a season in which they
averaged 265.5 per game (seventh-best in the nation). The Penn State front seven
(and its safety help) that prides itself on stopping
the run.

Temple has to be able to do something to keep the Lions from loading the
box and cheating on the run. Whether its the spread-option, some unorthodoxy,
or some good old-fashioned passing plays, the Owls can't pound their
heads against the Penn State defensive wall
if the run just isn't available.

It's not a certainty, but chances are Temple will have to branch out
just a tad, even if it isn't their strong suit and even if it does open
the door for more mistakes. Conservative play calling didn't work last
year.

We'll see how Addazio and the crew have game-planned for 2012 on Saturday.

Keep up with Kevin and Nick's weekend reports from State
College on
Twitter @KevinOnCFB
and @cnmenta.

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