Temple Owls focus on run game during bye week

Backfield, offensive line have the attention of Temple coach Matt Rhule. 

NCAA Football: Navy at Temple

Temple Owls running back Kenneth Harper (4) gets tackled by Navy Midshipmen cornerback Quincy Adams (5) during the second quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. (Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)

(C+P) — The bye week could not have come at a better time for the Temple Owls football team. After two games the team has suffered some injuries to primary components to the offense and defense.

The bye week may have one major change. The Owls have had trouble running the ball so far this season. Before the Owls take on the Delaware State Hornets on Sept. 20, there may be some changes that occur in the backfield.

During the weekly American Athletic Conference Teleconference, Temple head coach Matt Rhule had some interesting comments about his offense’s running game and specifically the running backs. When asked by a reporter about the struggles that have occurred with the run game, Rhule had this to say:

“That is one of our focuses this week. We are going to give David Hood, who is a freshman, an opportunity. Hassan Dixon, who had a good camp, he is back from injury so we are going to see if we can find somebody in there to get that done. We’d like to have a guy go be the guy, and we have not done that so far. So, I hate to say there will be a tryout, but there will be a real competition this week in terms of who is going to carry the football for us moving forward. “

Temple Owls quarterback P.J. Walker (11) passes the ball against the Navy Midshipmen during the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. (Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
Temple Owls quarterback P.J. Walker (11) passes the ball against the Navy Midshipmen during the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. (Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)

The Owls have tried to establish the run. Temple currently has the second most rushing attempts in the conference with 79. However, they are sixth in yards per attempt (3.8 yards per carry) and have only one rushing touchdown in the young season.

Senior running back Kenneth Harper is tied with the team lead with 21 rushing attempts but has only garnered 76 yards. Junior Jamie Gilmore has given the team a spark at times but his results have not been much better (83 yards). Zaire Williams, who ran for 533 yards last season, is still feeling the effects of injuries, has only run the ball seven times this season.

Tinkering with the running back position is only part of fixing the problem. The other part of the formula has to do with the offensive line. The line is still trying to find its groove. The line, which includes converted defensive end Shahbaz Ahmed, had trouble at times on Saturday with the Navy front seven.

“I think our issue is more establishing the line of scrimmage,” Rhule said. “We had many runs that should have been bigger runs that guys fell off and made plays. We believe here that you win and lose with the offensive and defensive lines. We feel like we won the battle in the first game and Navy won the battle this game.”

There may be some success ahead with the Owls.   Their next opponent, Delaware State, has allowed 589 yards rushing over its first two games this year. This can be the best situation in which the offense can utilize what they have practiced during the bye week in a game situation before they enter conference play. Another thing that will improve is once the offensive line gels after a while of playing together for an extended period of time, the holes for the running backs should develop more frequently.

Although it is still early in the season, the Owls want to fix these issues as soon as possible. With what could be a tough conference schedule coming up, Temple will need to rely on a balanced attack in order to be competitive in the American Athletic Conference and contend for a conference championship.

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