The Cincinnati Bearcats are set to trade blows with the Temple Owls on Friday night.
Last year, the meeting between the two clubs was cancelled due to COVID-19 protocols. Last year, these two teams had strikingly dissimilar seasons as well. The Cincinnati Bearcats had their best season in more than a decade while Temple looks to put 2020 in the rearview mirror.
Rod Carey, now entering his third year in Philly, was unable to have his team scrimmage until October. In the seven contests they managed, this Temple team went 1-6. This is in no way a reflection of the culture and success that the Owls have over an impressive half-decade stretch under previous coaches Matt Rhule, Geoff Collins, and now Carey. Before the debacle of 2020, the Owls had enjoyed five consecutive winning seasons.
Success has returned to Philly this fall. The club sits at 3-2 as the AAC slate kicks into high gear.
Last Saturday, the Owls pulled off a major upset. They knocked off perennial AAC power Memphis 34-31 in Philly.
Quarterback D’Wan Mathis added his name to any conversation of the league’s top QBs. Mathis completed more than three-quarters of his passes, threw for more than 300 yards, and added more than 50 yards on the ground. The 6’6 Georgia transfer has become the centerpiece of the Owls’ attack.
The veteran team surrounding him is playing a significant role in Mathis’ success.
The Owls return the majority of starters on both sides of the ball. On offense, Temple has an impressive array of perimeter weapons including 2019 All-AAC receiver Jaden Blue, Purdue transfer wideout Amad Anderson, and veteran speed perimter speed burner Randle Jones.
The Owls also have four veteran starters on their offensive line.
Defensively, the Owls have more question marks. The squad is fairly veteran across the board but frankly, the Owls didn’t show much on defense last year. They did not once hold an opponent under 28 points. The clear leader of this unit is standout middle linebacker William Kwenkeu, a senior and a captain who led the club in tackles last year and may be the best tackler in the conference. He has certainly been busy as offenses have tried to assert the ground game against a defensive front that proved rather porous in 2020.
Thus far, things haven’t been much better defensively. The Owls surrounded 61 points to Rutgers in the opener, were outmuscled upfront by Boston College, and hardly stymied the Memphis attack.
Expect this Cincinnati-Temple game to be a shootout and a duel between Desmond Ridder and Mathis.