Badgers place Owls in crosshairs, aim for victory

first_imgDEREK MONTGOMERY/Herald photoFor the Temple Owls, the long strange trip simply rolls on. This weekend they find themselves in Madison playing the role of colossal underdog against Wisconsin in a game that originally did not even include the Owls.However, after joining the MAC conference in a move that necessitated a pair of schedule changes, the struggling Owls will take to the field Saturday at Camp Randall. After a tumultuous off-season that saw a university task force ponder the program’s existence after its jettison from the Big East, the Owls took another hit in the form of academic suspensions last week. The team lost seven players total — five of them projected starters — for the entirety of the 2005 season.Last Thursday, just four days following the announcement of the suspensions, the Owls kicked off their season in Tempe, Ariz., and suffered a blowout loss at the hands of the No. 15-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils. The Sun Devils dominated in every facet of the game, defeating the Owls 559-265 in total offensive yardage.Even worse, Temple’s defense allowed 300 yards on the ground, a bad omen for a team preparing to face a Wisconsin rushing attack that racked up 338 yards of its own last week against Bowling Green.”I’m very worried,” Temple head coach Bobby Wallace said of the Badger rushing attack. “First of all, Arizona State rushed for 300 yards on us. They didn’t run the football very well last year. Wisconsin is [a tremendous] physical running football team and they showed that Saturday. It’s almost overwhelming how well they ran the ball against Bowling Green, and we’ve got our hands full just trying to slow them down, and it’s going to be a very difficult challenge for us.”By contrast, the Owls struggled mightily to move the ball on the ground against the Sun Devils. Senior Umar Ferguson led the team with just 42 yards on 16 carries, while Temple as a team rushed for only 62 yards. The other half of Temple’s starting backfield entering the season was supposed to be senior Tim Brown, who fell victim to one of the seven academic suspensions.”We’ve got to be able to run the football better as the season goes on for us to have a chance to win a game,” Wallace said. “You just can’t go into a game and not be able to run a football, and that’s kind of where we were at Thursday night against Arizona State.”Thus, the Owls will turn to senior quarterback Mike McGann to carry the load offensively. McGann started for three years prior to last season, when injury problems and the total emergence of dynamo Walter Washington (who declared for the NFL Draft after last season) limited McGann to just one game. Now, with Washington gone, the offensive burden once again rests on McGann’s right arm. The fifth-year senior threw for 203 yards and one touchdown in the Owl’s season opener, but tossed a pair of interceptions.”I think Mike had a good game against Arizona State,” Wallace said. “He just made a couple of critical mistakes late in the game that gave up some easy points with some turnovers. But I think he can throw it better than he threw it the other day. … I like Mike. I think he’s a competitor. He’s a leader, and I think he’ll have a good season for us this year.”Defensively, the Owls have a strong front on paper, with 300-pounders Antwon Burton and Adam Fichter in the middle and 2004 second team all-Big East selection Mike Mendenhall at rush end. Even though Temple’s 4-2-5 defense struggled to stop the Sun Devil attack last week, the Badgers are expecting a challenge.”[Temple’s loss to Arizona State] was kind of a different game the way it played out, but we believe they’re a good defensive football team and they’ll be ready to play and we’ve got to get better from where we were last week,” Wisconsin co-offensive coordinator Paul Chryst said.Regardless of the apparent mismatch, Wisconsin is treating Saturday’s contest as seriously as any other.”We have a long season,” wide receiver Brandon Williams said. “We don’t have a bye week until close to the end, so us [overlooking] somebody is not going to happen.”last_img

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