Heel Tough Blog: Temple Preview

@ToddGreene40- Twitter

Friday will be the final time this 2019 Tar Heel team will take the field. What’s on the line? The first winning season since 2016 and the first bowl win since 2013. To do that, they will have to beat a battle tested mid-major team, one who handed Cotton Bowl-bound Memphis their only loss of the season. Let’s take an in-depth look at the Tar Heels Military Bowl meeting in Annapolis, MD with the Temple Owls.

Team Breakdowns

Tar Heels

This will be the final time this team takes the field this year and they want to leave with a bang. Both units have taken major steps forward, but the Tar Heel offense has been the more consistent on their way to being one of the most lethal attacks in the country. True freshman standout quarterback Sam Howell (234-388, 3,347 yds, 35-7 TD-INT, 91 rush, -18 yds, TD) will have a chance to leave a strong final impression after an amazing start to his career. He’ll have the help of a wide receiving corps \ that has formed into one of the best in the ACC, led by Dyami Brown (46 rec, 947 yds, 11 TD) and Dazz Newsome (64 rec, 947 yds, 8 TD), who are looking to become the first Tar Heel tandem to ever have 1,000 yards receiving in the same year. While it will be more difficult, the running back tandem of Michael Carter (159 rush, 919 yds, 3 TD, 20 rec, 156 yds, 2 TD) and Javonte Williams (152 rush, 848 yds, 5 TD, 14 rec, 152 yds, TD) will be looking to become the first two players to run for 1,000 yards since Curtis and Leon Johnson did it back in 1993, as they close out what has been a strong season. Trying to help them reach those marks will be an improving offensive line that will see leaders Charlie Heck and Nick Polino play his final game.

The defense has taken a major step forward this year, as well, and has rebounded from a stretch near the end of ACC Coastal play to finish the season strong. The rushing defense has improved by allowing 69.8 yards less per game this season thanks to some standout performances in the front seven. Both Aaron Crawford (49 ttkl, 8.0 TFL, 3.0 scks, FF) and Jason Strowbridge (41 ttkl, 6.0 TFL, 2.5 scks, FF, 3 FR, PD) finished their career with strong seasons, while playing over 1,000 snaps. Meanwhile, the linebacking corps showed major improvement behind the direction of first team All-ACC honoree Chazz Surratt (110 ttkl, 13.5 TFL, 6.0 scks, FF, FR, INT, 2 PD) and fellow inside linebacker Jeremiah Gemmel (79 ttkl, 7.0 TFL, 2.5 scks, 3 FF, FR, 2 PD). Injuries butchered a strong start for the secondary, but players like Storm Duck (32 ttkl, INT, 5 PD) and Don Chapman (20 ttkl, FF, 2 INT, PD) have provided plenty of promise late in the year and Myles Dorn (78 ttkl, 4.5 TFL, 2 INT, 4 PD) has continued to handle the do-it-all role without much issue.

The special teams unit has settled into a groove as the season has progressed. Placekicker Noah Ruggles (39-39 XP, 17-24 FG, Long of 49) has bounced back since his midseason benching and punter Ben Kiernan (60 punts, 41.3 avg) has become a consistent weapon. Michael Carter (17 KR, 25.2 avg) has become a threat to take it to the house anytime he touches the ball, while Dazz Newsome (11 PR, 5.9 avg) and Rontavius Groves (1 PR, 0.0 avg) have both been reliable punt returners that just haven’t been able to create much after they field the ball. The coverage units have also shown major improvements as the season has gone along.


The Owls offense has struggled in the red zone, but Rod Carey’s crew has still found ways to move the ball down the field for most of the season. The unit is led by freshman running back Re’Mahn Davis (178 rush, 900 yds, 7 TD, 13 rec, 137 yds, TD), who has carried the bulk of the load since Jager Gardner (141 rush, 585 yds, 5 TD, 8 rec, 48 yds) was lost for the season. Quarterback Anthony Russo (234-399, 2,733 yds, 21-11 TD-INT) has combined with wide receivers Jadan Blue (87 rec, 975 yds, 4 TD) and Branden Mack (56 rec, 886 yds, 7 TD) to provide the Owls with a strong passing attack, as well. First-team All-AAC center Matt Hennessy anchors a Temple offensive line that has paved the way for an offense averaging 402.0 yards per game.

The Owls defense, as it has been the last few seasons, is the strength of this team once again. They’re led by fierce pass rusher and American Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Quincy Roche (44 ttkl, 18.0 TFL, 13.0 scks, FF, 2 FR, 5 PD) and fellow first-team All-AAC member Ifeanyi Maijeh (49 ttkl, 10.5 TFL, 5.5 scks, FF), both part of the Owls imposing defensive line. At linebacker, Shaun Bradley (78 ttkl, 8.0 TFL, FF, FR, 3 PD) and Chapelle Russell (63 ttkl, 7.5 TFL, FF, 3 PD) form a nice, productive duo. The secondary is in good hands also thanks cornerbacks Harrison Hand (59 ttkl, 4.0 TFL, FF, 3 INT, 5 PD) and Christian Braswell (26 ttkl, 1.0 TFL, FF, 2 FR, INT, 8 PD).

The special teams for the Owls might be the biggest overall concern. Placekicker Will Mobley (38-40 XP, 11-13 FG, Long of 44) hasn’t been called on much, but has been solid enough to get the job done. That’s where the good stops, though. Adam Barry (55 punts, 38.4 avg) has been below average punting the football, as has Isaiah Wright (27 KR, 20.5 avg, 11 PR, 6.3 avg), who has handled both return duties for most of the season.

Team Stats

Tar Heels

Off. PPG: 31.3 (47th)

Off. PYPG: 285.0 (24th)

Off. RYPG: 184.0 (41st)

Off. TYPG: 469.0 (14th)

Off. 3rd Down %: 38.4% (83rd)

Def. PPG: 24.6 (49th)

Def. PYPG: 232.6 (79th)

Def. RYPG: 149.0 (57th)

Def. TYPG: 381.6 (60th)

Def. 3rd Down %: 37.2% (47th)

Sacks: 28.0 (T-57th)

Interceptions: 12 (T-28th)

Turnover Margin: +7


Off. PPG: 27.4 (77th)

Off. PYPG: 259.8 (39th)

Off. RYPG: 142.2 (91st)

Off. TYPG: 402.0 (70th)

Off. 3rd Down %: 37.8% (91st)

Def. PPG: 23.5 (42nd)

Def. PYPG: 212.5 (49th)

Def. RYPG: 152.3 (T-61st)

Def. TYPG: 364.8 (46th)

Def. 3rd Down %: 35.0% (35th)

Sacks: 39.0 (T-13th)

Interceptions: 8 (T-86th)

Turnover Margin: +1

Keys To the Game

Keep Pressure Off of Howell

Temple is one of the better pass rushing teams in the nations and the good pass rushing teams the Tar Heels have faced so far this season have caused issues for an offensive line that has struggled at times to keep their quarterback off the ground. With the group fully healthy now, they’ll have all hands on deck to help in what will be a key matchup in the trenches. The goal is to give Howell enough time to find the intermediate and deep routes that have worked so well as the season has progressed.

Bring the Same Defensive Intensity as in the Final Two Games

After some midseason struggles, the Tar Heel defense closed down the season with two of their best performances of the season. The defense will enter this game the healthiest it’s been since the opening game of the season and if they come in with the motivation to close out the season strong, they should be able take some pressure off of the offense. The Owls offense isn’t nearly as dynamic as Carolina’s has become, but this is still an offense that can produce, so the Tar Heels still need to be prepared.

Get Some Young Guys Some Reps

Of course you want to win the game, but a non-NY6 bowl game is best used to get an early start on preparation for next year. Most of the major position players on both sides of the ball will return next season, but the trenches will lose some major players, especially on the defensive side. This is a chance to get a head start on finding replacements for players like Charlie Heck, Aaron Crawford and Jason Strowbridge. The Tar Heels need to find that balance to take full advantage of this game.

Injury Report

Tar Heels

OUT- Matthew Flint (leg), Brandon Fritts (knee), Cam’Ron Kelly (knee), Patrice Rene (knee), Bryson Richardson (knee), Jace Ruder (lower body), Myles Wolfolk (upper body)


OUT- Onasis Neely (undisclosed)

QUEST- Matt Hennessy (upper body), Benny Walls (upper body)

Projected Depth Chart

Tar Heels



# 7 Sam Howell, Fr.


#25 Javonte Williams, So. OR

# 8 Michael Carter, Jr.


# 2 Dyami Brown, So.


#15 Beau Corrales, Jr.


# 5 Dazz Newsome, Jr.


#84 Garrett Walston, Jr.


#67 Charlie Heck, Sr..


#75 Joshua Ezeudu, RFr. OR

#58 Nick Polino, Sr.


#68 Brian Anderson, So.


#73 Marcus McKethan, So.


#74 Jordan Tucker, So.



#55 Jason Strowbridge, Sr.


#92 Aaron Crawford, Sr.


#52 Jahlil Taylor, RFr.


#12 Tomon Fox, Jr.


#44 Jeremiah Gemmel, So.


#21 Chazz Surratt, Jr.


#3 Dominique Ross, Sr.


#29 Storm Duck, Fr.


# 1 Myles Dorn, Sr.


#13 Don Chapman, Fr.


# 4 Trey Morrison, So.

Special Teams


#97 Noah Ruggles, So.