Spaulding Roundup: Owls Flooding DC, Preparing For Bruins As If Getting Ready For Penn State & Other Notes

While the Bruins continue to have a good time in their (Donahuesque) preparations to go bowling, the entire Temple Owls program is preparing for what it appears to be their Super Bowl against UCLA in Washington DC. The Temple Owls athletic program have set up a special deal with Amtrak encouraging Owl fans to flood Washington DC:

The Temple University Athletics Department and Amtrak are encouraging fans to take the train to Washington, D.C., to watch the Owls and UCLA play in the EagleBank Bowl at RFK Stadium on Dec. 29.

With approximately 100 trains between Philadelphia and Washington every day, Amtrak is the most convenient way to the game.

Amtrak offers a number of discounts that are available to Owls’ fans, including a 10 percent discount for AAA members and active duty U.S. military personnel and their spouses and dependents.  Members of Student Advantage and seniors 62 and over receive a 15 percent discount, and children ages 2 through 15 travel at 50 percent off when accompanied by a full-fare paying adult.  Amtrak is also offering a 25 percent discount on its Northeast Regional service for those who would prefer an extended stay in Washington.

Would be interesting to know if UCLA athletic department can do the same for all UCLA alums living in the major cities on Amtrak line for this game as well. Either way I hope the Bruins better be ready to play in a game atmosphere which might end up feeling like a road game at fired up Autzen or Husky football stadium with much colder and icier winter weather.

Perhaps the "camaraderie" the team is building through over the wall stunt, diving around at the Spieker Aquatics Center, enjoying Magic Mountain will help the team to get more loose and focused next Tuesday. However, I have to say part of me is feeling very uneasy whether our team will have the requisite fire and intensity to get it done against jacked up Owl team backed by thousands of their fans.

As for the Owls, they are preparing for UCLA as if they are getting ready of Penn State. Specifically Al Golden is seeing similarities between the Bruins and Nittany Lions:

UCLA has similar players to the Nittany Lions and runs similar schemes, Golden said Thursday. But this isn't good news for Temple (9-3), which is going to its first bowl game in 30 years. The Owls lost 31-6 to Penn State on Sept. 19.

"Offensively, they look very similar to Penn State," Golden said. "On the other side of the ball, they look like Penn State. They have probably five or six (future NFL) draft choices. They have dominant players in the front seven and linebackers that could run. It's a great challenge for us."

More on the Owls' line of thinking and notes on their team after the jump.

Golden and his coaches have specifically zeroed in on the similarities between the defensive lines of Lions and Bruins. To drill down bit further they are seeing a lot of PSU's Jared Odrick (who led the Nittany Lions with six sacks and had 10 tackles for losses totaling 56 yards) when watching the game films of Brian Price. Needless to say our big guy will have the full attention of the Owl's offensive line:

"I thought Odrick was the best, but these guys were saying he's better," Golden said. "After we played Penn State, I didn't think we would see anyone as good as him. (Price) is a heck of a football player, quick off the ball and very disruptive. He's hard to block and someone we're concerned about."

Price has seven sacks and 22½ tackles for losses this season.

Temple named its offensive line the team MVP in its recent banquet. The Owls gave up just 18 sacks all season, tied for 39th in the countrt, and had four games in which they didn't give up any.

But the line is going to have its toughest job to date. Penn State's four sacks against Temple were the second-most the Owls allowed all season. And Price is just as explosive as Odrick.

The job of blocking Price could go to any one of the offensive guards, including freshman backup Jeff Whittingham, an Atlantic City High School graduate.

"We watched film on him. He's a great player," Temple senior offensive tackle Devin Tyler said. "I will see him a couple of times, and we'll be ready. But he's a great player and dominates games."

 

How the Owls handle Price and what the Bruins do to anticipate and attack will be critical because the game is going to hinge on how the Bruins handle the Temples rushing attack. Sportsline.com has the following scouting report on the Owls' offense:

Temple, home to one of the best and most physical o-lines in the MAC (a jumbo-sized unit that includes a pair of first-team all-league performers in Darius Morris and Colin Madison and averages 6-foot-5 and 318 pounds from tackle to tackle), will rely on its two-headed tailback approach of freshmen Bernard Pierce and Matt "the Bug" Brown, who are now called "Bernie and the Bug" by their Owl teammates. The 6-foot, 212-pound Pierce has established himself as one the top ballcarriers in the country on his way to setting Temple freshman records with 1,308 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns. Brown, all 5-5, 167 pounds of him, has risen steadily on the depth chart to become the chief backup for Pierce.

If UCLA packs the box with defenders to slow down "Bernie and the Bug", then Temple head coach Al Golden has shown that he isn't afraid to use Pierce as a decoy -- faking handoffs to him, freezing the defense and then punishing the Zips with a nice blend of play-action passes, reverses to speedy wideouts and some option runs by mobile quarterback Chester Stewart, who will be making just his fifth college start.

Bruins will have to find a way to get to Stewart. From what I have read apparently he "could be rattled" if our guys find a way to land couple of huge shots early on and disrupt him from getting into any kind of comfort zone.  Note he will be making just his fifth collegiate start and was apparently "clearly rattled" in their regular season finale against Ohio, completing just seven of his 22 passes for just 92 yards.

The other key Temple players Bruins need to keep an eye on Tuesday:

WR/KR James Nixon -- The fastest player on the team (4.3 speed in the 40), Nixon is Temple's top kick returner with 497 yards and two touchdowns on 17 returns. He became the first player in school history to score a kickoff return touchdown in consecutive games. He ranks No. 10 nationally with 29.24 yards per return.

DE Adrian Robinson -- The sophomore defensive end earned 2009 MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors after setting a school single-season record for sacks with 12. He ranks No. 10 nationally in sacks (0.92 per game). Robinson also has a team-best 12 tackles for loss and a team-best five forced fumbles.

LB Alex Joseph -- A team captain, Joseph leads all Temple defenders with 73 tackles, including a team-best 46 solo takedowns and 5.0 tackles for loss. He also has two breakups, a sack, an interception, and a fumble recovery.

Robinson and Joseph are keys to one of the best rushing defenses (108.8 yards per game allowed) in the country. The strength of the Owls' defense is its front seven, which besides Robinson and Joseph includes potential future pros such as Andre Neblett at nose tackle.  Per Sportsline.com Neblett and Robinson "routinely occupy multiple blockers, allowing Jaiquawn Jarrett (70 tackles), Dominique Harris (68 tackles) and the Joseph brothers, Alex (73 tackles) and Elijah (56 stops), to make plays."

As mentioned yesterday the key for the Bruins on Tuesday will be to mix it up with a balanced offense bringing different looks. I think this Owl team will be well prepared for the base look Bruins showed against the Arizona State and Southern Cal defenses. Given Prince's shoulder status and Craft's track record, Owls will also most likely stack the box and force the Bruins to beat them with our passing game. I think the Bruins should take up that challenge (unless we have brutal wintery weather conditions via rain, sleet or snow) and go to the passing game (including looking for opportunities to go down field) to set up our running attack.

Either way I hope our guys are mentally prepared. While I am excited personally to see our guys in person for the first time in years, a big part of me is anxious about our preparations for the actual game. I don't think this is a game Rick Neuheisel can afford to lose heading into his third season in Westwood.

GO BRUINS.

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