Temple’s defense gaining early-season development as Owls prepare for Buffalo

Temple head coach Rod Carey dubbed Tuesday’s practice “workmanlike,” stemming from players’ ability to fight through school fatigue and compete. You could call the Owls’ defense workmanlike this past Saturday, due to all three levels factoring into Temple’s 20-17 upset of Maryland.

In the Trenches

Up front, redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Ifeanyi Maijeh had a career-high two sacks while totaling six tackles. He won the Chuck Bednarik Defensive Player of the Week Award for his stellar outing.

Maijeh entered the Owls’ starting rotation this season, and the 6’2″, 285-pound lineman has dominated in his heightened role with 11 tackles and three sacks through two games. When pouring over Maijeh’s film, his hand usage stands out, and he utilizes them to overwhelm offensive linemen.

They compose a part of Maijeh’s pass rush plan. 

“It’s very critical,” Maijeh said. “As a D-lineman, you need to be able to use your hands, quick hands (and) react to the offensive lineman.”

Maijeh has been a pleasant surprise for a Temple defensive line that’s composed of three upperclassmen, including redshirt junior defensive end Quincy Roche. Roche brings the juice off the edge and recorded his first sack of the season Saturday.

One play, in particular, stood out. During one of Temple’s three goal line stands, Roche had to defend the mesh point of Maryland’s read option on a 2nd-and-goal at the Temple four-yard line. When Maryland quarterback Josh Jackson (Jr.) kept the ball and broke it outside, Roche pursued and tackled Jackson before he reached the end zone. 

Maryland would turn the ball over on downs. Here’s Roche’s takeaway from that play:

Roche feels like his leadership and energy has spiked this season. Senior linebacker Shaun Bradley extolled Temple’s defensive line in their win. He mentioned how they committed to their gaps and handled double teams.

Linebackers Against the Rushing Attck

Bradley recorded eight tackles and three tackles for loss against a Maryland team that featured a main tailback in Anthony McFarland Jr. (So.). Maryland relied on a committee approach during both of their prior games, and Buffalo’s two top rushers in Kevin Marks (So.) and Jaret Patterson (So.) have 48 and 52 rushing attempts, respectively.

Bradley said that preparing for multiple running backs requires different game plans.

“I guess it’s just different personnel,” Bradley said. “You have to prepare for different backs to do different things. Maybe somebody may be able to get downhill more, somebody may be able to make the cuts. You have to prepare for everything.”

Temple has to prep for a balanced rushing attack this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET when they travel to Buffalo, as well as for the Bulls’ offensive line, which Carey praised.

“This is the best ‘O’ and D-line we have faced to date,” Carey said. “I have no problem saying that. They have four or five starters returning up front on offense.” Carey added that the Bulls’ running backs are “dynamic.”

Patrolling the Passing Game

Buffalo (1-2) quarterback Matt Myers is the graduated Tyree Jackson’s successor, and the redshirt freshman has thrown five touchdowns to just one interception. Myers has a paltry 48.6 percent completion percentage, though, and Temple cornerback Harrison Hand (Jr.) will be a member of the Owls’ secondary attempting to limit him.

Hand recorded a team-high 10 tackles and one interception in Temple’s upset over Maryland to go 2-0 on the season. He feels that his ability to “key and diagnose” has increased in his senior season. 

“I think it improved a lot,” Hand said. “(I’m) just seeing everything faster and reading my different keys and details. Coach Brown, Fran, just us talking more. Really just locking in on everything more.”

Kicking Battle

Will Mobley’s early-season kicking struggles has spurred a competition for starting kicker between him and graduate student Jacob LaFree, per Carey. Mobley, a redshirt sophomore, is 0-for-1 on field goals after missing a 34-yard kick against Maryland. Over his career, Mobley is 11-for-16 (68.7 percent) on field goal attempts but is an excellent 64-for-65 on extra points. LaFree, a grad transfer, was 3-for-3 on field goals at the University of Indianapolis.

Injury Update

WR Randle Jones (Sr.):

“Randle ran today,” Carey said. “I was hoping he’d be further along than he was today. Just watching him run – I talked to the docs about it – just my eye… he’s favoring it a little bit, too. It might go into next week. I hope it doesn’t, but it might go into next week. We’re going to run him again tomorrow and treat him. He’s doing a great job with treatment and rehabbing. He’s just got to respond.”