Temple Football: Despite struggles, the Owls have found a winning formula

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

After struggling with inconsistent play and a negative turnover ratio, Temple has found a winning formula thanks to another strong defensive performance.

Although Thursday, September 20th will go down in football history as the end of the Cleveland Browns near two-year losing streak, no team played a better game of football than the Temple Owls.

At least on the defensive side of the ball.

After pulling off a surprise victory literally no one saw coming over Maryland in Week 3, behind the arm of first-time starter Anthony Russo no less, head coach Geoff Collins decided to stick with the hot (and healthy) hand and gave Russo his second opportunity to run the show as the team’s starting quarterback.

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Once again, Russo found a way to win.

Though his stat sheet leaves a lot to be desired, closing out the game with seven completions for 112 yards and two interceptions, that doesn’t tell the whole story. No, even though Russo only completed a horrendous 35 percent of his passes, that’s more an indictment of his receivers, not his own indecisiveness.

While Russo can’t throw and catch his own passes, he still found a way to impact the final score, running in the first of two second-quarter rushing touchdowns to go into halftime 21-10.

As for the other score? It came courtesy of offensive focal point Ryquell Armstead, who capped off his third 100-yard performance of the still relatively new 2018 CFB season.

For those keeping track at home, Armstead has now rushed for over 2,000 yards over his career as an Owl, a feat only eight other players in school history have accomplished.

But the real stars of Temple’s 31-17 victory over Tulsa? The defense.

While a ‘Temple Tuff’ defense shouldn’t be too surprising, as Collins was the defensive coordinator at Florida before accepting the job, it’s hard not to be impressed by just how efficient the Cherry and White have been on that side of the ball.

They’ve got things humming like a finely-tuned machine.

After holding Matt Canada’s typically high-flying offense to only 195 yards of total offense, including a season-low 63 rushing yards, Collins’ crew backed up the performance with an even more impressive outing on ESPN’s Thursday Night College Football: allowing 403 yards from scrimmage while taking the ball away five times.


And it’s not like only one player shined and played a once in a lifetime game, no, Temple’s defense was equal opportunity. With four different players logging sacks and three hauling in interceptions, including cornerback Rock Ya-Sin running his routes better than Tulsa’s receiver, Temple had a plus-three turnover margin on the night, a stat that almost guarantees a victory.

This appears to be Temple’s winning formula.

After giving the ball away five times versus the only two takeaways over the first two weeks of the season, Temple is currently plus-four over the last two games, indicating improved play on both sides of the ball.

While Russo has been at least a marginal improvement over initial starter Frank Nutile, as he’s shown an ability to make good decisions in the pocket, and manage the game effectively, Temple simply can’t afford to take chances on the offensive side of the ball, and must keep feeding the likes of Armstead to keep ‘matriculating the ball down the field’.

It may not be flashy, but it sure is effective.

While we all love an 80-yard bomb, or a flashy trick play like the Cleveland (Philly) Special, Temple doesn’t have Baker Mayfield on center, and by extension can’t expect either of their guys, Russo or Nutile, to play outside of themselves. No, if these last two games are of any indication, Temple can win games with a strong, clock wasting run attack and a stingy, greedy defense.

They just can’t lose the turnover battle.

dark. Next. Temple Owls, Russo surge past the Maryland Terrapins in a 35-14 win

So, with a few extra days to get back to even strength and a 1-O record in their division, the sky really does appear to be the limit for Temple in the American Athletic Conference this season, especially if they can stick to their now proven winning formula.