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Paul Peck’s Bull Session: Temple

UNIVERSITY AT BUFFALO ATHLETICS

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Before the season started, I thought this game against the Owls might be the Bulls' toughest of the season.  Nothing that happened in week one, for either team, has changed my mind.  This is a major measuring-stick game for the Bulls.  They did what they're supposed to do in beating Delaware State, 48-10.  But this is a major step-up in competition. At about 7pm on Saturday in Lincoln Financial Field, we'll have a good idea about how good the Bulls will be in 2018. 
Temple is coming off a bowl win, and the Owls were picked to finish second in the American Athletic Conference's East division, behind "defending national champion" Central Florida.  The Owls, as always, have a collection of great NFL-caliber athletes.  Yes, they were bad in a rivalry loss to Villanova Saturday.  But don't get caught up in that as a loss to just another FCS team.  Villanova is a ranked FCS team from 13 miles away, and had a lot to play for.
The Owls may be the most athletic, long and tough team the Bulls will play this season. 
Bull Session Trivia: The Owls are one of five college football teams that currently share a stadium with an NFL team.  Of course, Temple plays at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the World Champion Philadelphia Eagles.  Can you name the other four college teams and the stadiums they share with an NFL team?
Bullseye on:  Buffalo Offense  
Tyree Jackson threw six touchdowns against Delaware State.  That's one shy of the school record of seven set last year by Drew Anderson in the seven-overtime game against WMU.  But two of them stood out.  Correction.  Not just stood out.  Made me say "Wow" and feel like they are only throws that you see on Sunday.  The second TD, a 27-yarder to Anthony Johnson, was a perfect back-shoulder pass thrown with the flick of Jackson's wrist while rolling out.  It was perfectly placed, and allowed AJ to toe-tap his way past the pylon for a score.  The other was even better. On a 4th & 7 from the 32, Jackson threw the ball almost 50 yards to a spot in the back of the end zone, about 3 feet around, that K.J. Osborn occupied in perfect stride just before the end line.  It's one of the most impressive TD throws I have ever seen at UB Stadium.  Lost in the amazing throw is Lance Leipold's confidence to go for it, and Jackson's confidence to throw that kind of deep ball.  Amazing…George Rushing had quite a Buffalo debut.  He caught two passes for two touchdowns, the first two scores of his career.  In his 39 games at Wisconsin, he had never found the end zone...The receiving corps look as deep as it's ever been.  Youngsters Charlie Jones, Rodney Scott and Isaiah King are all talented, and that was on display last Saturday…The short fields and quick scores didn't give the running game too much time to get going.  Five different backs carried the ball…The win was a great chance for the coaches to play a lot of players, especially offensive lineman.  That's key experience for some players who will have to move into the starting lineup in 2019…Temple sent two defensive players to the NFL from last year, and this year's team also looks a lot like an NFL defense.  The Owls always have tall, long defensive ends and linebackers.  The prime example this year is sophomore DE Quincy Roche (6-4, 235).  He had five tackles, a sack and two blocked kicks against Villanova…Temple likes to use those player's athletic ability to blitz a lot.  That's the challenge for the Bulls offense this week.  Could we see Tyree run more because of the pressure?  Since his return from a knee injury last year, he's only been credited with 7 runs.  Five of those were sacks, and only one was a run under pressure.  There have been zero read-options or QB draws…The Owls had to replace three secondary starters.  The returner is all-conference safety Delvon Randall, who has 8 career interceptions…The big problem for the Temple defense against Villanova was third down.  The Wildcats converted 8/16.
Bullet Points: 34 Games.  That's how long it's been since the Bulls played a game on grass.  The last time was September 19, 2015 when UB won at Florida Atlantic.
Bullseye on:  Buffalo Defense  
This unit was never tested by an overmatched Delaware State offense.  But they still did some things well that bode well for the rest of the season. Start with four forced turnovers.  Last season, the Bulls only had 14 all year…There was consistent pass rush, another big step forward from 2018.  Chuck Harris and Malcolm Koonce led the rush, as they will all season.  But the addition of Ledarius Mack to the third down defense will also pay off.  Mack had his first career sacks, adding to a very good weekend for the Mack brothers…The Bulls played 14 defensive linemen.  Some of that was due to the game situation, but I would expect to see around 10-12 play on a regular basis all season long…DT Chibueze Onwuka keeps getting better.  The former walk-on and wrestler earned the start, and had 3 tackles and a TFL…Khalil Hodge didn't play long but still had eight tackles.  He's now up to 285 in his career…His backup Matt Otwinowski led the Bulls with 10 tackles, a career high…From the third play of the game, Cameron Lewis set a tone for the defensive backs.  They will hit.  Lewis had three big hits, all on terrific reads on screen plays…He has company in the hitting department from newcomer Joey Banks.  The JUCO player from Hodge's school in San Francisco comes as advertised.  He's a thumper…Temple's offense struggled to run the ball, and that threw their offense out of rhythm.  QB Frank Nutile needs the play-action game, and it was never there.  He struggled and threw two interceptions.  Nutile had thrown for 200 yards in each of his six starts until this game…RB Ryquell Armstead is a very good back, 10th on Temple's all-time list.  He had only 31 yards on 14 carries…The Owls have very dangerous receivers.  Ventell Bryant is 4th on the school's receptions list.  Isaiah Wright is big and fast. He's been the third leading rusher the last two seasons thanks to end arounds and jet sweeps.  Branden Mack is a 6-5 specimen who had 7 catches against Villanova.
Bullseye on: Special Teams
This could be a crucial factor in this game.  That's because Temple has one of the best special teams units in the NCAA.  Last week, in the loss to Villanova, the Owls blocked a field goal and returned it for a 74-yard touchdown.  They also blocked an extra point.  That gives Temple 20 kick blocks in the last five seasons, more than any other FBS team.
The Owls also have a standout returner in Wright.  He returned a kickoff and a punt for scores last season.  He is one of the most dangerous returners in the nation. 
The Bulls will have to make sure they don't allow a big special teams play to change or determine the game.
While we're on special teams, Bulls kicker Adam Mitcheson has a chance to break two school records this season.  He's only five field goals from all-time mark.  He's also only 53 points from the career scoring record.  Both of those are held by A.J. Principe, who kicked from 2007-2010.
Bull Session Trivia Answer: Here are the other four college football teams that share a stadium with an NFL team.  Pittsburgh Panthers (Heinz Field with the Steelers), Miami Hurricanes (Hard Rock Stadium with the Dolphins), South Florida Bulls (Raymond James Stadium with the Buccaneers) & USC Trojans (LA Coliseum with the Rams).
Please join me, color analyst Scott Wilson, game host Brad Riter and postgame host Bob Gaughan for the broadcast on the Bulls Football Network.  Our pregame show starts at 2:30pm.  You can hear it in Buffalo on ESPN 1520 and in Rochester on Fox Sports 1280.  A link to the online broadcast is also available here and on the Tune In app.