USF tasked with handling ‘efficient’ Temple offense

Temple boasts an offensive line that gave up only one tackle for a loss in its first and only game against Navy last weekend. Despite the Owls having played only one game, USF coach Jeff Scott said the Temple offense, led by veteran quarterback Anthony Russo, looked like it was in midseason form. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

Temple has only played one game this season — a 31-29 loss to Navy last weekend — and for most teams, having played only one game while the rest of the league has played three or four seems like a disadvantage right off the bat.

Despite the loss, the Owls earned the respect of USF coach Jeff Scott.

“I’m very impressed … they looked like they were in midseason form,” he said.

An efficient Temple offense along with a talented veteran quarterback is what USF (1-3, 0-2) will face when it heads to Temple (0-1, 0-1) on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.

Against the Midshipmen, the Owls scored 19 second-half points and had 407 all-purpose yards to Navy’s 299. Temple scored on five of its seven drives.

Defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer was also impressed with the way Temple’s offense executed against Navy.

“They were pretty effective going down the field,” he said. “They moved the ball quite effectively. Didn’t punt the ball very much.”

Just like their previous three games, the Bulls will have to face a talented quarterback with veteran experience.

Senior quarterback Anthony Russo is in his third year starting and has thrown 36 touchdown passes in 29 games.

In the loss against Navy, Russo went 21-for-30 for 206 yards, along with one touchdown and one interception.

With such a small sample size, it is difficult to get a grasp on how much of a threat Russo can be. Last year, Russo went 246-of-419 for 2,861 yards and 21 touchdowns with 12 interceptions.

“Any time you have a quarterback with that type of experience and that type of release and arm strength… poses a lot of problems,” Spencer said.

Against USF last year, however, Russo struggled, completing 15 of 21 passes for 164 yards with one interception.

Currently, the Bulls rank third nationally in pass defense with 598 yards allowed in four games, which could pose a problem for Russo who averages a 59% career completion rate.

Russo is not the only player that USF needs to be ready for, however. Temple’s offensive line is talented and physical, making it a formidable blocking force. 

Temple’s starting offensive line averages a combined 6 feet 5 inches and 296 pounds.

The line has also yet to give up a sack and only allowed one tackle for a loss against Navy.

“I think they just do a good job of balance… If you can’t make somebody one dimensional, you’re going to have problems,” Spencer said.

Against Navy, Temple ran 33 times for 166 yards and three scores.

Meanwhile, USF allowed 210 yards and two touchdowns on 47 carries against East Carolina last week.

USF’s defense has only recorded two sacks this season, and both were made by linebacker Antonio Grier, who has been in and out of the past two games with a leg injury.

Despite an extremely efficient and talented offense, defensive end Thad Mangum said being focused and locked in is the key to combating the Owls.

“They have a strong quarterback … tough running back … their offensive line is solid up front as well,” he said. “Just being able to be aligned and have our assignment and execute every time is key for us.”

USF’s defense will need to perform at its best against an efficient Temple offense, one that Scott believes will be one of the Bulls’ hardest tests yet.

“I really believe that outside of Notre Dame … I really feel like this will be our biggest challenge so far for our defense versus a very efficient, and strong offense,” Scott said.

The Bulls and the Owls kick off Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field at noon. The game will be televised on ESPN+ and broadcast on 95.3/620 WDAE/iHeartRadio Bulls Unlimited.