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Published: Saturday, 10/24/2009

Temple brings hot start to UT

BY ZACH SILKA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Are the Temple Owls for real?

That's the question floating around the Mid-American Conference these days with a longtime cupcake off to a 3-0 start in league play and winners of its last four contests.

Before last week's 27-13 victory over Army, Temple hadn't won four in a row since 1985. It should also be noted that the Owls still finished that season 4-7, losing their first three and their last four.

Temple (4-2, 3-0) brings its newfound winning ways to the Glass Bowl tonight at 7 against the University of Toledo. The Owls will be vying for their first five-game win streak since 1979, also the last time they went to a bowl game.

“[Coach] Al Golden has done a great job with that program,” UT coach Tim Beckman said. “I've known Al for quite some time. He's got them to the point where they're very competitive. They're a very, very good football team.”

Some would argue Temple hasn't proved anything this season, either, with wins over Buffalo, Eastern Michigan and Ball State.

Not to mention a season-opening loss at home to Villanova.

So are the Owls a contender or pretender?

“When I played in the Big 33 Game, they had just [named] the head football coach at Temple. He was there letting everybody know that they were going to be a team to be reckoned with in the next couple years,” UT senior safety Barry Church said. “He's done a lot. They're pretty good this year — top in the [MAC] East — so it's going to be a heck of a ballgame.”

Since Golden took the helm after the 2005 season, Temple is 14-28. Last year in his third season, the Owls went 5-7 — the team's most wins since 1990 — and finished second in the MAC East Division.

“You knew when he took over that program that it was going to be just a matter of time, and he's done a great job with it,” Beckman said. “It really doesn't shock me, because he's done such a great job at the different places he's been at.”

Temple enters tonight's contest with the MAC's top defense, limiting opponents to 320.3 yards per game. The Owls have the conference's best run defense, allowing fewer than 106 yards per game on the ground. They also rank third in the conference in scoring defense, giving up an average of 19.2 points per game.

Temple's defense will face arguably its stiffest test yet against the Rockets (4-3, 2-1), who possess the nation's ninth-best pass offense (310.6 yards per game).

UT's running game also came alive last week in a 20-19 win over Northern Illinois. Senior running back DaJuane Collins rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns, including a 4-yard run in the fourth quarter that proved to be the game-winner.

The Rockets will need their ground game again this week, with senior quarterback Aaron Opelt still recovering from a bruised right (throwing) shoulder. If Opelt can't play, junior Alex Pettee will get the start.

“I don't think there's any question that [Opelt's] going to be back for this game,” Golden said.

“We're looking at a very scary offense. Frightening is really the word that comes to mind when describing this offense. We're going to have to play our best game of the year to beat these guys.”

Contact Zach Silka at:zsilka@theblade.com.



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