Temple has gotten back to what worked so well last season on offense.
The Owls leaned heavily on a power run game – led by the potent combination of junior Ryquell Armstead and former tailback Jahad Thomas – under former offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas in 2016. But through Temple’s first four games with Dave Patenaude as the new offensive play caller this season, the Owls surpassed 100 yards rushing just once.
Patenaude’s offense has found success running the ball, however, over the last two games. Temple ran for 150 yards in the second half against Houston and then a season high 179 in Saturday’s 34-10 rout of East Carolina.
The consecutive 140-plus-yard rushing outputs were done without the aforementioned lead back in Armstead, who has been dealing with an undisclosed injury since the season opener at Notre Dame. Armstead was unable to walk as of last Thursday, Temple coach Geoff Collins told reporters after the Owls’ win in Greenville.
But what has changed in Temple’s offensive line play to lead to the success in the ground game?
“Guys growing into their bodies, guys growing into the system,” Patenaude told OwlScoop.com following Tuesday’s practice at Edberg-Olson Hall. “They’re understanding. It wasn’t that guys weren’t being physical at the beginning of the year. Guys just have a better understanding of what we’re doing. They’re doing a good job of understanding defenses. They’re just growing up.”
It sounds like Temple has finally established a lone starter at left guard. Since redshirt sophomore Jovahn Fair went down with an unspecified injury, which has forced him to miss the last three games and likely more, the Owls have rotated redshirt freshman Vince Picozzi, redshirt junior Jaelin Robinson and redshirt senior Adrian Sullivan to fill Fair’s void.
Picozzi, who was awarded a scholarship over the winter after coming to Temple as a walk-on, will be the starter at left guard moving forward. The local Lansdale Catholic product arrived on campus at 250 pounds but has since bulked up to 300.
“As long as Jovahn is out, Picozzi will be the guy who’s in there,” Patenaude said.
Did Picozzi expect to start in year two at Temple?
“I really didn’t expect it to happen this quickly,” Picozzi said. “I just kept working in the offseason, all winter long, and waited for my time to come.”
Patenaude also praised the play of redshirt senior Brian Carter, who has been the starter at right guard in all six games.
“After the season, he’ll get a serious look as a guard,” Patenaude said, implying that Carter could get some NFL looks.
Wright to wear No. 1
Sophomore receiver Isaiah Wright has been awarded No. 1 for Saturday’s tilt against UConn, his home state school.
Wright, a product of Kingswood-Oxford in West Hartford, was alerted of his number change before Tuesday’s practice.
“It means something, but I’m just somebody who comes in and works hard,” Wright told OwlScoop.com. “I’m not really somebody that has to be rewarded for me to come in and work hard.”
The ESPN broadcasters called Armstead a “game-time decision” for last week’s game against East Carolina.
By all accounts, it sounds like Armstead is still nursing at least one injury.
Armstead, who was not made available to reporters Tuesday, was not seen on the practice field during the open portion of practice. He was spotted on campus last week wearing a boot.
When asked if Armstead will be able to practice in the week leading up to Temple’s Homecoming matchup with UConn Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field, both Patenaude and Collins were unsure.
“That’s still to be determined,” Patenaude said.
Meanwhile, Collins said he “hopes” Armstead will participate in practice.
A pair of cornerbacks – redshirt sophomore Kareem Ali and redshirt junior Derrek Thomas – are also dealing with injuries.
Thomas was removed from Temple’s newly released “above the line” depth chart. Collins said Thomas was on the practice field Tuesday. The long and lanky defensive back has not been ruled out to play against UConn.
Ali, a former four-star recruit from South Jersey's Timber Creek High School, has been banged up since spring practice. Collins said Tuesday that Ali is still injured. According to the team's participation reports, Ali has only played in one game this season - Sept. 9 at home against Villanova.
Collins said tight end Chris Myarick went down with an injury during pre-game warm ups at ECU and was replaced by redshirt sophomore Jake Robinson, who was added to the “above the line” depth chart this week.