No. 19 SMU faces strong test in Temple

Field Level Media

October 15, 2019 at 6:13 pm.

No. 19 SMU was able to catch its breath during a bye week after a whirlwind first half of the season that captured the attention of the college football world.

The Mustangs are sporting their best start since 1982 but will have to play their best game of the year Saturday against upset-minded Temple in Dallas in a key American Athletic Conference battle.

SMU (6-0, 3-0 AAC) remained undefeated with a dramatic come-from-behind-then-hold-your-breath, triple-overtime win over Tulsa on Oct. 5.

SMU coach Sonny Dykes said Monday he has been impressed with the way his team has responded to different challenges.

“We’ve had to win some football games different ways,” Dykes said. “We’ve had to get some defensive stops at the end of games, we’ve had to win some games offensively, and we’ve had to do some things to give ourselves a chance to beat good teams. They’ve played well together, and they feed off each other.”

The addition of Texas transfer Shane Buechele has buoyed the Mustangs and added a stabilizing effect to a team that is used to scuffling but is already bowl eligible. Buechele is 11th nationally with 277.5 passing yards per game, with 12 touchdowns against five interceptions.

Wide receiver James Proche is coming off an 11-catch effort for 153 yards and two scores against Tulsa. The senior has seven TD receptions this season and 31 for his career.

Meanwhile, Temple (5-1, 2-0 AAC) looks to beat a ranked team for the third time this season after surprising No. 23 Memphis at home last Saturday. It’s the first time the Owls have defeated two ranked teams in the same season. They also defeated Maryland on Sept. 14 when the Terps were 2-0 and ranked No. 21.

Last week’s victory allowed the Owls to climb to No. 25 in the coaches poll, while they are third among others receiving votes in the AP media poll. Temple coach Rod Carey sidestepped the ranking and recognition, preferring to focus on preparing for SMU.

“It’s great, and we’re happy, don’t get me wrong — we’re certainly happy about it,” Carey said. “You know that number doesn’t mean anything come Saturday when they kick the ball off (against SMU). SMU has a good football team. It’s a good challenge for us. It will take all of our attention.”

The Owls’ defense is allowing only 19 points per game (second in the AAC and tied for 22nd nationally) and is giving up a 325.7 yards per game (second in the conference and 31st nationally).

“Our defense is one of the best in the nation,” said Temple sophomore defensive tackle Ifeanyi Maijeh, who has team-highs with six sacks and 9 1/2 tackles for loss. “So we just gotta have that mentality to take it to the next team.”

Temple’s 30 points last week marked a season high against an FBS opponent. Quarterback Anthony Russo has completed 129 of 218 passes for 1,503 yards, with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. Freshman running back Re’Mahn Davis has two 100-yard games and 575 rushing yards in six outings.

Temple leads the series between the teams 2-1, with two ties (in 1942 and 1946). The Owls have won the past two meetings, including most recently a 45-20 victory in Philadelphia in 2016.