Temple Wildcats Football Team Set for Saturday Matchup Against Potent Austin Vandegrift Vipers
The Temple Wildcats find new ways to win each week. Whether Chad President is throwing bombs, Jeff Carr & Marques Hatcher are on the loose, or Cole Martin's booting game-winners into the wind, it's been Temple making the big plays.
Saturday night at the Alamodome in San Antonio, 10,000+ Temple Wildcat fans will pack in for what could be Temple's toughest test to date. The 'Cats have played teams with phenomenal running backs and teams with tough defenses, but this Temple defense has yet to face a threat like they'll see Saturday night.
Temple's defense will face an offense that can win on the ground and through the air. Up to this point, Temple's been able to make the opponent one-dimensional, but with as balanced an offense as the Vipers possess that may not be as easy this week.
From my view in the press box each week calling the games, Temple's opponents have typically run out less than a dozen different formations. Vandegrift will do that before the end of the 1st quarter, and Temple's defense doesn't have time to think it over when they see something foreign to them.
The offense for the Vipers is orchestrated from a former Temple offensive assistant, so what you've seen from the Wildcats' offense this season you'll probably recognize coming the other direction Saturday night. Stats don't typically jump off the page at this point in the season. After four playoff wins (and counting), Temple has seen a lot, but the stats that jump off the page with Vandegrift present an entirely new challenge.
The Wildcats have seen talented runners this postseason, but between Junior RB Travis Brannon and Yale-bound Senior QB Jamie Hudson will have to cover a lot more of the field. Most of the offenses the Wildcats have come across have used the pass to keep the defense honest while relying on the run.
Temple's dominating performance against George Ranch's potent offensive attack show that Temple can shut a team down, but with an injury forcing a Sophomore QB into the game prior to halftime, Temple wasn't worried about a gunslinger.
Brannon has rushed for more than 2,500 yards this season while picking up another 600 through the air. His 41 total TDs would be more impressive if not for the numbers from Hudson. The TD-INT ratio of 11-1 is ridiculous, but on top of 3,117 yards and 33 TDs through the air, he's rushed for another 14 TDs and 1,100+ yards on the ground.
The superb Wildcats secondary, which has allowed Temple's linebackers to focus on stopping the run, will be tested in a way they haven't been since facing their own QB, Chad President, in preseason practice. It'll be up to Sr. Clint Cole, So. Ashton Logan and the rest of the secondary to play at the top of their game and avoid giving up the big play.
While Vandegrift averages just under 49-points a game, just a tad bit more than Temple, but the Vipers give up 35.9 points per game defensively while the Wildcats hold opponents to less than 23 points per game. The Temple defense has shown, time and again, that they play their best football in the biggest situations.
Whether it's a big stop on 4th down, a pick-6, or completely dominating a George Ranch team that we heard similar praise about just last week. Temple's ability to prevent the big play, outside of the Stratford game against a one-of-a-kind running back, has been the biggest reason they've held opponents under 23-points a game. Aside from Stratford's handful of long runs, Temple has only given up one play defensively in excess of 50 yards, and that was just a 51-yard TD pass against Hutto.
Chad President, now just a few weeks away from enrolling at Baylor University, has taken the governor off and has been picking apart defenses during the postseason. We haven't seen President run as often throughout the postseason, but when he's run it's been in big spots in the ballgame. President will use his legs to pick up a first down or to keep the defense honest, but he's really impressed with the throws he's been making.
After being hit-or-miss throughout much of the regular season on deep passes, President's found a go-to target in Davion Curtis. Curtis has put up huge numbers in the postseason, and when a defense has focused on his side of the field, Aaron Freeman on the opposite side is there to streak down the sideline for a big play.
With all the big plays and big names on offense, Chris Minter has been the forgotten hero for Temple. He's been huge in the running game, blowing defenders out of the hole for Carr & Hatcher. He's also become more of a target in the passing game. He's picked up big first downs and has found the endzone more than once, as well.
We've gone over a lot of areas in this game, but we haven't yet mentioned the guys much that might play the biggest part of this game. Jeff Carr has been bottled up for two games, not finding a ton of yardage in the open field. He's been forced to grind for yards, and that's like seeing a Ferrari stuck in a traffic jam. I look for Carr to bust multiple big runs Saturday night.
The number of those runs that get called back due to penalties will go a long way in determining the number of points Temple will put on the scoreboard. He's had more than a half-dozen TD runs in excess of 35-yards that have been called back because of a flag. Temple's ability to overcome a good number of those penalties by coming right back and picking up 20-yards on a simple rush up the middle has been incredible. Let's hope the well doesn't run dry on that end.
Marques Hatcher took over the 4th quarter of Temple's win against George Ranch, dodging, ducking, dipping, diving and dodging his way for two big TDs late. Over the course of four 4th quarter rushes, Hatcher picked up over 90 yards and had two TD runs. On one TD run alone, Hatcher ran over a defender, spun around another and dragged two more into the endzone for the score.
It's Hatcher's ability to pick up those tough yards in congestion has been beyond huge for the Wildcats. Hatcher has the ability to break the first arm tackle (or 2 or 3 or 4) and get to the next level. It's his acceleration and speed to pull away from the pack that raises eyebrows, but it's those 5 or 10-yard runs that keep Temple drives moving.
Offensively, the numbers show that Temple is going to find the endzone. The question will be how the Temple defense responds to the talent on the other side of the field. It seems like we've said the same thing before, doesn't it? I've learned, this far into the postseason, not to doubt Defensive Coordinator Scott Stewart's crew.
Since the postseason began I've been saying that all the press goes to the offense, but the defense is going to have to win a few games. They've done it up to this point, but Saturday night at the Alamodome we'll see if we see a lockdown defense from Temple, or if it'll be the offense putting up video game-like numbers to outscore Vandegrift.
The Vipers have been in a few shootouts this season, including one loss you may remember from earlier this fall. Remember Apollos Hester (in video below) from East View High School? He shot to fame after his inspirational postgame interview went viral. The victory that inspired Apollos was a 42-41 victory over these same Vandegrift Vipers.
The Vipers have had several close games this season, including their two losses by a combined 6-points. They've also won a couple of one-possession games throughout the season, including last Saturday's 5-point win over LBJ Austin. This is a battle-tested team, same as the Temple Wildcats. It's going to be a fantastic playoff football game.
Saturday's game at the Alamodome can be heard on K 101-7 and NewsRadio 1400 KTEM. You can also listen online at K1017FM.com or KTEMnews.com. You can also download the free Radio PUP app for your tablet or smartphone.
The pregame show will begin at 6:30, and kickoff is scheduled for 7:30pm. Temple had more than 8,000 fans at the George Ranch game in Round Rock. The toll road should be busy heading to San Antonio Saturday. Drive safe.