If Temple is going to upset Rutgers on Saturday night at SHI Stadium, they’ll need to have some success through the air. That’s why the key matchup in this game is the Temple passing game against the pass defense of Rutgers.
Per Pro Football Focus (PFF), Temple quarterback EJ Warner targeted five different players at least six times in their 24-21 win over Akron in week one. Colorado State transfer receiver Dante Wright, who Greg Schiano singled out in his press conference, led the Owls with 9 receptions and 14 targets. He amassed 83 yards total. Tight end David Martin-Robinson was targeted 8 times and had four receptions for 51 yards. Two other receivers, Amad Anderson Jr. and Zae Baines, each were targeted seven times. Anderson Jr. had four catches for 65 yards while Baines had three catches for 43 yards. Lastly, running back Edward Saydee had five catches for 37 yards and had two touchdowns on six total targets.
For Rutgers, the defense as a whole graded very high in pass coverage at 80.4 per PFF. They were solid in the pass rush with a grade of 71.5. It was obvious how disruptive the defensive line was against Northwestern. Generating consistent pressure up front is key to forcing the shorter Warner (6’0″) into mistakes.
A real asset for RU is the pass coverage ability of linebackers Deion Jennings and Tyreem Powell. Jennings had the second best individual grade in pass coverage against Northwestern at 74.1. Powell was solid at 66.8 and uses his speed to eliminate space in the mid-range passing game. Their shutdown ability will be key in slowing down Saydee out of the backfield as well as the tight end Martin-Robinson.
The safeties represented well with pass coverage as Flip Dixon led Rutgers with a 75.7 grade. Desmond Igbinosun was third at 72.0 and Shaquan Loyal was fourth at 70.7. Can they prevent big plays from happening in the pass game and are they able to close out short to intermediate level passes?
Obviously, corners Max Melton and Robert Longerbeam need to be able to stifle Wright and Anderson Jr. as much as possible. If they can play tight coverage early, the defensive line will hopefully be able to wear down the Temple offensive line, particularly in the second half.
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