John Chaney used to talk about the known and unknown. The all-time Temple great basketball coach became an all-time great because he took care of the known and improvised and adjusted on the unknown.
There is a lot of both out there as Temple hosts Houston (noon Saturday) in the first-ever American Athletic Conference football game.
Taking care of the known, the strength of the Temple team is both the offensive and defensive lines.
The strength of Houston is a sophisticated passing attack.
That said, Temple controlling the rock and giving future NFL back Zaire Williams the first of his many 100-plus yard games on the ground is ALMOST as important as the Temple defensive line creating havoc in the Houston backfield.
We all know that the Temple defensive line more than held its own against the vaunted Notre Dame running attack, so it should be able to the same against any running back the Cougars throw at them.
What was really alarming, though, was that the Temple pass rush only got to quarterback Tommy Rees for one sack. This was the same Temple pass rush that produced nine sacks in the spring game against the same offensive line that handled two first-team All-Americans (Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt) last week.
So it comes down to this: Pass rush.
When you look at the box score this time, don’t look at first downs (Temple had 25 to Notre Dame’s 21 last week) or time of possession, look at sacks.
Hurries are important, too, because that forces the quarterback to put the ball up earlier than expected and allows someone like Tavon Young to step in front of a pass and get a pick-six.
The best pass defense, though, is putting the quarterback on his ass. So sacks, though, are the most important stat in this game.
If Temple gets five or more, Temple wins going away. Four and it comes down to a field goal. Three or less, Temple loses. You don’t want just four.
Guys like Sean Daniels, Levi Brown, Averee Robinson, Kamal Johnson and Shahbaz Ahmed are going to have to regularly meet at the Houston quarterback in order to do it, maybe punching the ball out while bringing him down.
We all know they are capable, but we all know they didn’t do it last week. Robinson is the brother of former MAC Player of the Year (and current Denver Bronco) Adrian Robinson, who made his reputation having quarterbacks for lunch. Robinson is also a three-time Pennsylvania heavyweight wrestling champ and that kind of ability allows for tremendous gap leverage. Brown is a former preseason All-Big East pick. Daniels is the team’s best pass-rusher. Johnson had sacks in both the Eagle Bank Bowl and the New Mexico Bowl. Ahmed came from nowhere to earn a starting spot at one end. A sub on the line, Shadid Paulhill, had the big sack that clinched the win over South Florida last year. Another sub, Matt Ioannidis, had the sack against ND. Brandon Chudnoff, a pass-rushing specialist who didn’t play against ND, got the clearance to play this week. He had two fumble recoveries against UConn last year.
This is the same defensive line that shut out UConn in the second half last year.
This is a formidable defensive line. It’s time they played like it.
If they do, the Owls win by a touchdown or two. I think they will.
Prediction: Temple, 27-17.
Last week’s prediction: Notre Dame, 37-15
Last week’s result: Notre Dame, 28-6.
Tomorrow: An early tailgate, a lot of cheering in the middle, and a very late game analysis
Sunday: The road ahead