FACTS & STATS: Site: Beaver Stadium (106,572) — University Park,
Pennsylvania. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Temple 3-2, PSU 2-3. Away
Record: Temple 2-2, PSU 2-1. Neutral Record: Temple 0-0, PSU 1-0. Conference
Record: Temple 3-3, PSU 2-4. Series Record: Penn State leads, 31-3-1.
GAME NOTES: Two teams fighting for bowl eligibility are set to square off at
Beaver Stadium on Saturday afternoon, as the Penn State Nittany Lions host
regional foe Temple in a non-conference tilt.
Temple has lost three of its last four outings, including last week’s 16-13
setback at home against Memphis on a last-second field goal. The Owls need to
win one of their final three games to become bowl eligible. They will get a
bye following this game and then will wrap up the regular season against
Cincinnati and at Tulane.
Penn State is coming off last Saturday’s much-needed 13-7 triumph at Indiana.
That victory snapped a four-game skid for the Nittany Lions, who began the
season 4-0 before that slide. They have three chances to notch one more
victory to become bowl eligible; Illinois and Michigan State are the final two
matchups on the docket.
PSU claimed a 24-13 home victory when these teams last met during the 2012
season. The Nittany Lions lead the all-time series, 31-3-1.
Moving the chains with consistency has been a season-long challenge for a
Temple squad that ranks 116th in the nation in total offense (315.4 ypg). The
Owls churned out a respectable 158 rushing yards (4.9 ypc) against Memphis,
but quarterback P.J. Walker struggled as he completed only 16-of-37 passes for
140 yards and an interception. Subsequently, the offense converted only 6-
of-17 third downs and came away scoreless in two trips to the red zone.
The Tigers’ longest drive of the day was the game-winner, which covered 66
yards on 12 plays against what had been a stingy Temple defense up to that
point. Temple held Memphis to just 82 rushing yards on 40 attempts as a team
(2.0 ypc), while the Tigers converted only 5-of-17 third downs and scored just
one touchdown on the day. Middle linebacker Nate D. Smith led the Owls with
nine tackles (all solo), while fellow linebacker Tyler Matakevich posted eight
stops (seven solo) in the loss.
Penn State’s matchup against Indiana was a defensive struggle as Bill Belton
notched the game’s only offensive touchdown on a 92-yard run late in the first
half. In fact, it marked the longest rushing score by a Penn State player in
school history. Belton finished with a game- and season-high 137 yards on 16
carries, but sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg turned in another
erratic performance. He completed only 12-of-29 passes for 168 yards, took
five sacks, and had one of his two interceptions returned 47 yards for a
touchdown. Protection continues to be an issue, with Hackenberg having taken
25 sacks over the last five games.
Defensively, the Nittany Lions are the nation’s top-ranked unit against the
run, allowing a mere 85.6 ypg. Indiana’s Tevin Coleman entered last week’s
matchup as the leading rusher in the country (162.5 ypg), but he was bottled
up to the tune of 71 yards on 20 carries (3.5 ypc), as he failed to eclipse
100 rushing yards for the first time in 11 games. With Indiana’s ground game
held in check, the Hoosiers got into some unfavorable down-and-distances as
they converted only 3-of-17 third downs. In fact, Penn State has held its last
two opponents to a combined 4-of-31 (12.9 percent) on third down to rank
eighth nationally in that department on the season.
The Nittany Lions are also ranked No. 3 in the nation in total defense (267.6
ypg) and No. 6 in scoring defense (16.6 ppg). Of their 15 defensive series
against IU, they forced 11 punts, notched two interceptions, stopped the
Hoosiers on downs and held them to a missed 51-yard field goal.
With Penn State proving stout against the run, Walker will need to make some
plays in the passing game for the Owls. Of course, the same can be said for
Hackenberg, although he is surrounded by better weapons.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Penn State 27, Temple 16