|ESPN Temple 37 vs Wyoming 15|
As predicted, the Owl rushing attack was too much for Wyoming and the Cowboy offense never got going. The Owls rushed for 255 yards, 100 of them from Bernard Pierce. A big turning point in the game occured after Wyoming had cut it to a 14 point lead with 37 seconds left in the first half. Temple QB Chris Coyer proceeded to find Rod Streater for a 61 yard touchdown pass with 19 seconds left and that pretty much sealed it. Brandon McManus added 3 second half field goals for the Owl victory.
Wyoming MVP: QB Brett Smith- He definitely struggled, but he was the leading rusher and passer. He is only a freshman, and big things are expected.
Temple MVP: RB Bernard Pierce- He finished with two touchdowns and 100 yards on 25 carries. Great win for the Owls.
We picked Temple to win. We are currently 1-0
Offense: Temple's offense is certainly based on the run, as they are 7th in the country with over 250 rushing yards a game. The leading rusher is Bernard Pierce, a powerful back who has 1381 yards and 25 touchdowns. He is complemented by the shifty Matt Brown. He averaged over 6 yards a carry en route to 867 rushing yards on the season. This success through the ground would not be possible with the veteran offensive line, a unit that boasts 4 senior starters. Chris Coyer will be at the helm for the Owls and will try to take advantage of the Cowboy focus on the Temple running attack. When he does pass, he will look to leading wideout Evan Rodriguez, who has caught 33 balls for the Owls. All in all though, look for Temple to ground and pound. Wyoming will offer a more balanced attack, averaging about 200 yards passing and rushing. They are led by freshman QB Brett Smith, an early enrolee who has done very well at big points in games. He has thrown for 18 touchdowns for the Cowboys, who have upped their win total from 3 to 8 in just a year. His top receiver for the New Mexico Bowl will be Mazi Ogbonna, who has caught 39 passes for 430 yards. Another freshman, Josh Dotson, is a big play threat as he went for touchdowns of 35 and 80 yards in the final regular season game. Wyoming has a very strong running game also, led by junior RB Alvester Alexander. Brett Smith also figures into the running game as he is the second leading rusher and has run for 10 touchdowns on the season.
Defense: Temple seems to have a clear advantage on defense as this unit yields only 13.8 points a game. In 7 games, the Owl "D" has given up 10 points or fewer. Their one weakness is defending the pass, but it is not a glaring weakness, as Temple really gets to the quarterback. Defensive ends Adrian Robinson and Morkeith Brown will make it their mission to make it a long afternoon for Brett Smith. Seniors Tahir Whitehead and Stephen Johnson lead the linebacking group and safety Kevin Kroboth anchors the defensive backfield. The Owls secondary may be a tad suspect, but if the Owls get to the quarterback like they are accustomed to, it shouldn't be too big of a problem. Wyoming will first and foremost focus on stopping the running game of the Owls. They have one of the worst run defenses in the country, so it will be important for the Cowboys to at least slow down the Temple backs. An encouraging sign for Wyoming is the fact that they gave up only 17 points to Air Force, one of the country's top rushing attacks. The Wyoming defense may bend but it is important for them to not break and hold the Owls to fields goals if they want to win.
The pick: I like Temple to win this one in a close one. I am looking forward to seeing Cowboy QB Brett Smith, but I believe the running game of Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown will be too much for Wyoming. If you agree or disagree let me know why by tweeting me @bowlseason or emailing me at email@example.com . I'll post them if you send them.
Keith Pompey, of the Philadelphia Inquirer answered some questions for us.
BS: The Owls finished 8-4 overall in Steve Addazio's first season as head coach. How would you assess his first season overall?
Keith Pompey: Quarterback Chris Coyer could have a huge game. Wyoming is going to concentrate on stopping the run. As a result, that should create some one-on-one opportunities for the receivers. Coyer has a strong arm and is very mobile. Temple hopes he will be the X-factor.
Robert Gagliardi, a beat writer for Wyoming, answered some questions for us
BS: The Cowboys are 8-4 after and headed to a bowl game after a 3-9 season last year. How was Wyoming able to have such a big turnaround this year?
Robert Gagliardi: The emergence and development of true freshman quarterback Brett Smith, who enrolled at Wyoming in January and went through spring drills and also stayed in Laramie all summer. That experience was invaluable for him. The offensive line was better, and the defense finished with the fourth-best turnover margin in the nation at plus-15. Those, I would say, are the biggest factors in the turnaround.
BS: The offense was led by Freshman QB Brett Smith. Talk about his play as well as his recievers and the strong running game.
Robert Gagliardi: Smith showed incredible poise and maturity from Day 1. In his first game he led the Cowboys on a game-winning touchdown drive where he threw the game-winning touchdown pass against Weber State. On that drive he completed a big fourth-down pass for a first down. Also did that in a win at Air Force. Smith shared the wealth well among the receivers, and junior Chris McNeill was playing at an all-conference level before suffering a season-ending injury at Air Force. UW’s run game improved about 65 yards per game this season, thanks in large part to Smith who had over 600 yards.
BS: The defense was average. What does the defense need to do to be successful in the bowl game and who are the key players that make it work?
Robert Gagliardi: First, it needs to slow down the run. Wyoming was among the nation’s worst teams against the run and its bowl opponent, Temple, is one of the best running teams in the nation. It also needs to continue to force turnovers. The defense has bent a lot, but hasn’t been broken a lot. It somehow seems to get a stop or force a turnover when needed. That needs to continue.
BS: If you could choose one player to have a breakout performance in the bowl game, who would it be?
Robert Gagliardi: True freshman receiver Josh Doctson caught three passes for a career-high 129 yards and two touchdowns in Wyoming’s 22-19 win over Colorado State in the regular-season finale. His touchdown catches were for 80 and 35 yards and could be the big-play threat Wyoming needs. Defensively, senior safety Tashaun Gipson will play in his 50th game, and started in all of those games. He will be critical in run support and when Temple passes. His last game for Wyoming needs to be a big game.
Thanks alot to Robert Gagliardi. Check him out at wyosports.net and follow @rpgagliardi .