New Mexico Bowl: Temple-Wyoming
By Paul Myerberg // Dec 16, 2011
It’s the most wonderful time of the year — sing that part. For me, it’s not necessarily wonderful because it’s bowl season, but rather because the writing’s on the wall: every game counts, and not in the B.C.S. sense of the phrase but because of the fact that there are only 35 games left in the 2011 season. Once the final whistle blows between Alabama and L.S.U., that much-beloved rematch, we’ll be left with just days, weeks and months of… nothing. Dead air; silence; no football.
So let’s get excited for bowl season. There are three games on Sunday: Temple and Wyoming meet in the New Mexico Bowl; Ohio and Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl; and San Diego State and Louisiana-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl. Up first: Owls and Cowboys, battling in the Land of Enchantment.
Steve Addazio’s Owls follow a similar blueprint as Al Golden’s Owls: let’s run the ball, since the forward pass is overrated. Temple’s three quarterbacks — led by senior Chester Stewart — have combined for 1,479 passing yards on the season; overall, Temple ranks 117th nationally in passing. Air Force, for example, averages 15 more passing yards per game than the Owls. In comparison, running back Bernard Pierce has rushed for 1,381 yards all by his lonesome.
His running mate, Matt Brown, has rushed for another 865 yards. Sophomore quarterback Chris Coyer, who will start tomorrow against the Cowboys, has chipped in with 491 yards on 8.6 yards per carry on the ground. Temple runs, runs again and runs one more time, and will only succeed if it can move the ball effectively between the tackles.
The Cowboys weren’t supposed to be here; not really, at least. Perhaps Wyoming was supposed to reach bowl play: the schedule wasn’t overly difficult, and the Cowboys seemed to have at least four wins on paper before the season kicked off. But there were warning signs.
The team was young. Dave Christensen decided to start a freshman, Brett Smith, at quarterback. A year ago, Wyoming’s offensive line couldn’t open up holes for the running game nor protect the quarterback — the latter better than the former, but that’s not saying much.
Most of the worries have proved unfounded, especially with the growth of a senior-laden offensive front. Smith is the future of the program; the future isn’t necessarily now, but it looks bright. The offense has picked up the slack for a mediocre defense, one that has taken a slight step forward in keeping points off the board but — and this is noteworthy — has struggled stopping the run.
Can Temple take advantage of Wyoming’s deficiencies against the run? It seems that way on paper, but take note: Wyoming has given up yards in bunches, but where the defense has really struggled is against the more two-dimensional teams on the schedule. Boise State chewed up the Cowboys thanks to its ability to strike big through the air and on the ground; likewise with T.C.U. and San Diego State.
I wonder how Temple will fare if Wyoming truly dedicates itself to limiting the impact Pierce and Brown have in the running game. The Cowboys won’t stop that pair, mind you, but if they can simply make the Owls work for yards on first and second down then the game will come down to Coyer’s passing ability, which despite some solid late-season play remains a work in progress.
The pick: Wyoming 28, Temple 17. A 5-2 mark in Mountain West trumps a 5-3 mark in the MAC.
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Tags: Bernard Pierce, Brett Smith, Chris Coyer, Dave Christensen, New Mexico Bowl, Steve Addazio, Temple, Wyoming
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