Temple flies to Greenville, North Carolina for a swashbuckling rendezvous with the Pirates. This matchup marks the beginning of Temple’s conference slate. Fans making the trek to Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium will bare witness to a fan base ready for some winning football. The Pirate are 3-2 overall and very much overlooked in a competitive AAC.
Well known for an electric offense during their run as a CUSA powerhouse, ECU has slumped over the years, primarily from an anemic offense. Poor coaching and recruiting has lead to a depleted roster with few play makers. This season, some of the newcomers have stepped up including replacements along the offensive line.
Holton Ahlers returned as starter this season after a very strong opening salvo. This season has been a little bit of a struggle, at least statistically with 4 TDs and 5 INTs. He does return with him 2 strong WRs in Blake Proehl and Deondre Farrier. Two other freshman have also stepped up in the passing game, giving Ahlers plenty of options.
Offensively they are a mixed bag ranking 11th in scoring offense in the AAC, 9th in total offense, and 4th in “explosive” scrimmage plays (10+ yards). They have converted 85% of their redzone trips but still only average 21 points per game. Their rush attack is split between Ahlers and freshman Demetrius Mauney and senior Hussein Howe, with junior their star running back Darius Pinnix out with injury. However, they have put up 173 rush yards per game, good for 8th in the AAC. The offensive line has done a pretty solid job keeping Ahlers upright, and their advanced stats paint them as “average” nationally in many categories. So in total, the revamped offensive line is playing at a good level.
Taking a closer look, their offensive efficiency is ranked 117th in the country, Temple is ranked 111th according to ESPN. Generally speaking, ECU has not done a good job putting up points, but we didn’t need the efficiency numbers to know that. Their offensive S&P+ ranking is also 111, which takes into consideration efficiency, explosiveness, and success rates adjusted for each opponent. This is not a high volume offense either, only running 62 plays per game, ranking 122nd.
The ECU defense has also put up respectable numbers. They are currently 2nd in the AAC in sacks with 13, 7th in total defense allowing 340 yards per game, and 7th in scoring defense allowing just 20 points per game. Senior Kendall Futrell and Alex Turner anchor a good defensive front, even if they are a little “leaky” as they are 10th in the conference in allowing plays of 10+ rush yards. Chance Purvis, another DL, leads the team with 7.5 TFLs. It’s an active group. Linebackers are a solid group made up of Xavier Smith, Bruce Bivens, and Gerard Stringer, amassing 90 tackles combined too.
The defensive line also has a stuff rate of 24% (RB stopped at or before line of scrimmage), good for 34th in the country. Their sack rate is 40th in the country. They also allow 4.4 yards per rush, 67th in the land. Temple’s offensive line will have its work cut out for them, even if the sentiment is that Temple should dominate.
The defense as a whole allows 5.8 yards per play, compared to Tempe’s 4.6 yards per play on offense. There will be yards to be had for Temple, as well as scoring opportunities. They especially seem to struggle in the 3rd quarter where they allow 10.3 points, good for 117th in the country in that department.
ECU’s pass defense ranks 5th in the AAC, allowing 191 yards per game. With Temple struggling with their passing offense, ECU may not be the best opponent to right the ship. Colby Gore is the senior leader of the group, which extends all the way down to freshman Ja’Quan McMillian. Their safeties, Davondre Robinson and Daniel Charles have no problems coming up to help support the run defense.
This may be another defensive slug fest for Temple. If the offense continues to struggle with errors and a mercurial pass game, this could be a sneaky tough match-up away at ECU. The Pirates tends to play the Owls pretty tough and I would expect for that to continue tomorrow. I can see the score being something along the lines of Temple 28 and ECU 17.