Here five thoughts on Temple from one of our new contributors, Josh Verlin, after the Owls' Mayor's Cup win over rival Villanova.
1. Matt Brown is in for a big season
"Bug," as the former walk-on is known, has had a very solid Temple career in three seasons backing up Bernard Pierce. Coming into his senior year, he’d already rushed for 2,275 yards on an impressive 5.6 yards per carry average, proving capable of effectively carrying the ball 20-25 times when Pierce was out with various injuries over the last few years. Now, although Boston College transfer Montel Harris will get his share of carries, Brown is certainly going to get his opportunities to shine as a home-run threat every single time he touches the ball. The speedy 5-foot-5 back had 146 yards on 19 carries (7.6 ypc), including a 56-yard touchdown run with 20 seconds left in the first half, in addition to returning four punts for 84 yards and three kickoffs for 41 yards. There’s no reason Brown shouldn’t average 200 all-purpose yards per game for Temple this year.
2. The offensive line looked better than expected
With four new starters on the offensive line, including a redshirt freshman (Zach Hooks) at left tackle and a center (Sean Boyle) who hadn’t played since 2011, Temple’s front five was expected to have their growing pains--but they barely showed any against the Villanova Wildcats. Boyle was responsible for the only penalty, a false start in the fourth quarter with the game well out of reach, and besides that little hiccup the o-line did a great job opening up holes and allowing the home team to rush for over 300 yards without allowing quarterback Chris Coyer to get sacked once. Obviously the Wildcat defensive line isn’t quite the same caliber as the Big East lines that Temple will face for most of the season, but this group is still learning to play together and the early returns are certainly promising.
3. Stopping the run could be an issue
If there was one glaring issue for the Temple defense on Friday night it was their inability to stop Villanova’s spread-rush attack, especially once backup quarterback John Robertson replaced ineffective starter Chris Polony midway through the second quarter. Polony was just 2-of-7 for 18 yards and an interception, but Robertson came in and accounting for 241 total yards (135 passing, 107 rushing). Villanova rushed for 250 yards on 44 attempts (4.8 average), with running backs Austin Medley and Kevin Monangai breaking multiple tackles on several of their runs. The Owls had a pair of very productive linebackers to replace in Stephen Johnson and Tahir Whitehead plus linemen Morkeith Brown and Adrian Robinson, and while they have some young talent (see below) there are still some gaps to be filled in.
4. Nate Smith was all over the field
Another young Owl who made a big contribution on Friday night was Nate D. Smith, the redshirt freshman middle linebacker who led the team in tackles, with seven. Smith also forced a fumble that safety Vaughn Carraway recovered during a crucial stretch in the second quarter. At just six feet tall, Smith is a bit undersized for a true MLB but makes up for it with his closing speed and instincts, which allowed him to be all over the field in his first collegiate action. Temple coach Steve Addazio admits that Smith’s high motor still gets him caught out of place sometimes as he continues to adjust to the speed of the college game, but it was certainly a promising debut.
5. Brandon McManus is a real weapon for the Owls
The Big East Specialist of the Week for his performance in the Villanova win, McManus has been a solid kicker for Temple for the last few seasons. He really had a breakout junior year last season, going 16-of-22 on FGs (including 7-7 from inside 30) in addition to handling all kickoff duties and punting 46 times for a 45.8-yard average; this year, he’s one of eight players nationally who will handle all kicking-related duties for his team. McManus hit from 24 and 31 yards on Friday, his only two attempts, in addition to kicking off for six touchbacks (on eight attempts) and punting four times for a 44.2-yard average, including pinning the Wildcats at their own two-yard-line with a 61-yard punt in the third quarter.