2012 team report cards: Temple

The last school in our series: Temple.

OFFENSE: A category-by-category comparison from last year's stats to this year's don't tell the story of Temple, which made the jump from the Mid-American Conference to the Big East and, despite what a middling 4-7 record would indicate, outperformed expectations. The Owls got a steal when Montel Harris fell into their lap from Boston College, and the fifth-year senior did not disappoint, leading the conference in rushing yards per game (105.4) and rushing for 12 touchdowns. The first-team All-Big East back had a day for the ages in a Nov. 17 win at Army, rushing for 351 yards and seven touchdowns. While Matt Brown's carries number dipped, the senior exploded on special teams, earning All-Big East honors for his work there. Temple finished second in the conference in rushing offense, trailing just Cincinnati, but its shortcomings in the passing game were notable, as three different quarterbacks -- Chris Coyer, Clinton Granger and Kevin Newsome -- all saw time down the stretch as the offense searched for answers. The Owls finished the season fifth in the conference in scoring offense, seventh in total offense and last in passing offense. All three quarterbacks return next year, and figuring out that situation will be of utmost priority for new coach Matt Rhule. GRADE: C.

DEFENSE: The difference in MAC and Big East football play can be seen through the Owls' struggles on the defensive side of the ball in Year 1. They ranked last in scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense and pass efficiency defense. A four-game losing streak from Oct. 20 through Nov. 10 saw whatever postseason hopes Temple had go to waste, as the Owls surrendered 34 or more points in each contest, giving up an average of 40.25 points per game during that stretch. Louisville scoring 45 points on a team is one thing, but Rutgers' anemic offense scoring 35 -- all in the second half, no less -- is striking. That said, Temple was starting just four seniors on defense by season's end, and the break-in campaign in a better conference should serve the program well moving forward. GRADE: D.

OVERALL: Temple's return to the Big East began with consecutive conference wins, over USF and UConn, victories that no one saw coming. Reality crashed hard on this squad afterward, as it lost five of its final six games -- including all five remaining Big East games -- to finish 4-7. All told, 23 freshmen saw time for the Owls this season, and they will lose only 12 seniors next season. Coach Steve Addazio's jump to Boston College obviously hurt, but Rhule is a guy who knows the terrain and should prevent a drop-off. This team, for all of its faults -- and despite having one fewer game due to the late addition to the conference, and despite having two byes in the season's first two weeks -- out-performed most expectations. It will need to take another step in 2013 to compete regularly in the Big East. GRADE: C.

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