Bob Morrison and Ryan Wallen at Owls247 are on Temple like we are at USF, and Ryan took some time to answer some of our questions. I also answered his, and will link once they’re up.
1. Philip Walker: good or not good?
I am not as big of a critic of Walker as many of my colleagues are, but there are times he shows moments of greatness, and other times you have to wonder what they heck he is thinking. If you go strictly by the numbers, you'd have to classify him as good because he holds almost every passing record here at Temple, but he is also prone to turning the ball over. His mechanics are all there: he has a good arm, he can run, he has good vision, but his weakness is that he tries to do too much at times, and that is usually when he throws INTs. I think he is too "good" of quarterback to call him bad, but has a lot of inconsistencies in his game, which wouldn't call him "good" either.
2. Your defense lost an outstanding Mike LB in Tyler Matakevich, but are still 16th by S&P defensively. How has that unit stayed so strong this season?
The defense has played dominant football at times, like against Memphis in the first half and UCF for the last 42+ minutes of action. The biggest thing they have been doing recently is shutting down the run game, and that starts with senior DE Haason Reddick. Reddick has played near perfect football over the course of the season and has been terrorizing opposing teams' run game, as well as QB's in the passing game. He has preached "finishing games" in the locker room, along with Rhule, and they finally did it last week.
The defensive line has really impressed me thus far, considering many of them are younger guys, in getting into the backfield and forcing pressure. The secondary has not really been challenged yet this season, which is why on paper they appear solid, but they also will most likely be without their two most experienced safeties this week in Sean Chandler and Nate L. Smith. Their weakness is that they give up too many big plays in a game, especially on the ground (Army, Penn State, Charlotte, Memphis, UCF); in each of those games, they shot themselves in the foot giving up a big run.
3. Jahad Thomas is a quality back, but your wide receivers don't put up huge numbers, especially outside of Keith Kirkwood. Is it because they aren't good, or since Walker struggles to get them the ball?
Granted, several receivers for Temple will drop passes in big moments, but the receiving corps is actually a very talented group of athletes. Ventell Bryant missed several games this season with a shoulder injury, which is why his numbers are down from last season, though he is the "veteran" of the group. Marshall Ellick probably has the best hands on the team, but just hasn't found much in-game action. Brodrick Yancy has had several big games this season, and Adonis Jennings has caught a couple deep-ball TDs, so I wouldn't say it is that the position group isn't good, or Walker struggling, its more so the way Temple plays football. They primarily focus on the run, and will rotate receivers fairly often to keep the defense on their heels: Walker likes spreading the ball around to all his guys, plus Thomas catches a lot out of the backfield as well, which takes away from the receiver numbers.
4. We saw your Memphis game plan, which looked to be control the clock and bend-but-don't-break on defense. Expect a similar setup against the Bulls?
Against Memphis, that was not Temple football: players said it, Rhule said it, and reporters said it. Rhule said it "hurt his soul" to throw 59 times, and that wasn't the right game plan going in. He wanted to get back to doing what Temple is known for: running the ball. That is "Temple Football": they are a run-first team that will only really air it out if he run game is being stopped. Temple would rather run the ball and attack the defense that way, then hope to hit a couple play-action passes later in games for big yardage. Last week against UCF was the style Temple wants to play. They have a talented backfield with Thomas, who can go to the slot or catch out of the backfield, Ryquell Armstead, and also a freshman in Isaiah Wright that can run the wildcat. I expect to see the Owls definitely control the clock, like they did last week against UCF, to keep the Bulls offense off the field as much as possible because they know it'' be hard to slow down Mack and Flowers. So in terms of bend-don't break and possession, yes I expect to see a similar setup, but the way they do it, will not be the same as Memphis.
5. Temple football: do your students care? Does your alumni? Is there enough passion, money, and graft to Philadelphia zoning boards to make an on-campus football stadium happen?
Ultimately, I think an on-campus stadium will happen within the next ten years. Alumni and about 1/2 of current students are in favor of the stadium, but they have mostly been quiet throughout the process. The "stadium stompers" have been very vocal about how a stadium would gentrify North Philadelphia even more so than it is, thanks to Temple. I think though that with persuasion, and if there ever is the possibility of Temple getting into a Power 5 conference (money talks), they will need to build a stadium. Attendance from students would be better if the stadium were on campus; I know a lot of people who just don't go to games because they don't want to take a subway or bus ride to the Linc. Alumni attendance definitely has gone up since I was a freshman here two years ago, so I have see growth in people caring about the team: they have expectations now under Rhule.
6. Predictions: guess the score and the actual butts-in-seats attendance for the game.
My final game score prediction will be 38-31 in favor of the Bulls. For the attendance, at kickoff, I could see being the largest crowd of the season, so around 37,000-38,000.