Temple vs. Wyoming Starts Bowl Season in New Mexico Bowl

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The 2011 bowl season kicks off today with the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, featuring the Temple Owls (8-4, 5-3 in the MAC) and the Wyoming Cowboys (8-4, 5-2 in the MWC).

Both teams enter the bowl game relatively hot, with Temple winning their final three games of the season, and Wyoming winning five of their last seven, only losing to TCU and Boise State. Temple finished second in the Mid-American Conference East Division, while Wyoming finished third in the Mountain West Conference.

This is Temple’s fourth bowl appearance in school history, most recently losing 30-21 to UCLA in the 2009 EagleBank Bowl. Wyoming has appeared in 12 bowls, winning the 2009 New Mexico Bowl 35-28 over Fresno State.

The Cowboys are led by dual threat quarterback Brett Smith. The MAC Freshman of the Year threw for 2,495 yards, with 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He was also second on the team with 645 rushing yards, and scored 10 times on the ground. Junior Alvester Alexander led the team in rushing with 678 yards and six touchdowns.

Wyoming has a solid pass defense, giving up an average of 202.2 yards per game, good for 35th in the country, but struggle against the run. They allow 230.1 rushing yards per game, 111th in the nation. The Cowboys’ defense is opportunistic, however, ranking first in the MWC with 31 turnovers. They are also have a turnover margin of 1.25, fourth best in the country.

Temple is the definition of a “ground and pound” football team. They are seventh in the nation in rushing, averaging 256.7 yards per game. They are led by their standout junior running back Bernard Pierce, who ran for 1,381 yards and 25 touchdowns on the season. The Owls’ passing attack is a different story, ranking 117th in the nation with only 123.3 yards per game through the air. Sophomore Chris Coyer had started the last four games for the Owls, but injured his shoulder in their season ending victory over Kent State, and his status is uncertain for today’s game. He was replaced by fifth year senior Chester Stewart, who leads the team in passing with 743 yards.

Whatever Temple lacks in the passing game, it makes up for with a stifling defense. They allow an average of 13.8 points per game, third in the country in that category. They also rank in the top 25 nationally in both passing and rushing defense.

Temple is not what you would call a balanced offensive team. Their passing game is among the worst in the country, while their rushing attack is among the best. Fortunately for the Owls, their strengths align perfectly with the Cowboys’ weaknesses. Pierce ranks third in the FBS with his 25 touchdowns, and should have a field day against Wyoming’s porous run defense. Temple’s tough defense should also be able to contain quarterback Smith both in the air and on the ground. Even with uncertainty at quarterback for the Owls, I think the combination of a great running back and stiff defense will provide a winning formula for Temple.

Temple 24, Wyoming 14

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