View Count: 122 |  Publish Date: September 04, 2013
Temple takes on an explosive Houston team
John N. Mitchell, Inquirer Staff Writer Posted: Wednesday, September 4, 2013, 3:01 AM
Matt Rhule wanted to make it plain.
"Look, this is a much more important game," the Temple football coach said of Saturdays game against American Athletic Conference opponent Houston. "I remind our team that we were picked to finish ninth in the conference and we havent played any conference games. So were still seen as a ninth-place team."
Rhule has spent the last few months discussing the Owls season opener against Notre Dame, which Temple lost, 28-6. However, Saturdays noon game at Lincoln Financial Field not only marks his first home game as a head coach. It is also the first league game in the newly formed American Athletic Conference.
Rhule, who addressed the local media Tuesday in his weekly luncheon on campus, emphasized the importance of the game to his team and the university.
More coverageBuy local college sports tickets Latest college sports videos "Its great getting the chance to open the season the way we did, on the road in front of 80,000 people and a national television audience. Who doesnt get up for that?" he said. "But now, in my mind, we need to have an edge about playing conference games and winning them.
"I liked the way we practiced today," Rhule continued. "I think we are focused and I liked what I saw from our guys. Thats a good thing, because were going to open with a very, very tough opponent."
While the Owls opened the season Saturday on a huge stage, Houston (1-0) did just the opposite on Friday, rolling up 627 yards in total offense in a 62-13 victory over lightly regarded Southern.
Rhule, however, is not considering that the Cougars, who rushed for 372 yards, accomplished what they did against a Division I-AA opponent. Houston returns 10 offensive starters from a unit that has demonstrated an ability to strike quickly and from a distance.
Of the Cougars 64 scoring drives last season, 30 came in less than two minutes. And over the last three seasons, Houston (254) trails only Oklahoma State (261) in explosive plays of 20 yards or longer.
Last Saturday at Notre Dame, the Owls proved to be particularly vulnerable to plays of this variety. The Fighting Irish scored three of their four touchdowns on passing plays of 32, 32, and 66 yards. Those three touchdowns were the product of quick-strike drives by the Irish that combined required just 2 minutes, 45 seconds.
And though Houston had a successful day running the football against Southern, the Cougars probably have the deepest group of wide receivers in the conference.
"They are going to come out and sling it," Rhule said. "That is what they do. They have great wideouts."
Contact John N. Mitchell at Follow on Twitter @JmitchInquirer.
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