Temple Owls no longer grounded

Jalen Fitzpatrick led the Owls with 30 receptions for 363 yards and two touchdowns last season.
Jalen Fitzpatrick led the Owls with 30 receptions for 363 yards and two touchdowns last season.

Whenever Temple soared under Steve Addazio — and it became less frequent as Year One’s 9-4 success was trumped by Year Two’s 4-7 failure — it was seldom in the air. Clearly those Owls couldn’t fly.

Now that star running backs Bernard Pierce, Montel Harris and Mack Brown — a group that amassed 3,826 rushing yards in the Addazio era — are all gone, new coach Matt Rhule has no choice but to run it.

In this case, it means the Owls will likely throw, throw and then throw more. It all begins with Saturday’s highly-anticipated opener at Notre Dame.

“I always thought we had guys who could catch the ball,” said slot receiver Ryan Alderman, who caught just five passes last season. “They didn’t want to showcase. It got frustrating at times.”

Rhule has other ideas.

“Everybody’s embraced this offense,” said starting QB Connor Reilly. “The wide receivers love it. The running backs know, while it may take some carries away, the passing game will open up lanes for them to make plays. And the quarterbacks, we love to throw the rock.”

Last year, Temple averaged just 121 passing yards per game, while the opposition averaged 237 yards in the air, with 21 touchdowns. That’s just one reason Rhule’s staff wants to open things up.

At the same time, especially facing an Irish team with a dynamic pass-rush, balance may be more prudent.

“With a quarterback making his first start, there’s no greater friend than a running game, so we have to manufacture one this week,” said Rhule.


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