Temple set for battle with ‘great’ Memphis QB Paxton Lynch

The last time Temple faced a projected NFL first-round quarterback, the Owls had 10 sacks, returned an interception for a touchdown and held Penn State to 10 points.

On Saturday afternoon, TU (8-2, 5-1) kicks off against Memphis (8-2, 4-2) in an important American Athletic Conference game at Lincoln Financial Field.

With that comes the opportunity to face another estimated Sunday quarterback in the Tigers’ Paxton Lynch.

“That’s cool. They said the same thing about (Christian) Hackenberg,” linebacker Avery Williams said Tuesday. “He is a great quarterback. We’re going to face great quarterbacks.

“This is Division I football — everyone’s a great quarterback. I love his style. He’s got speed, a big arm, big body. We’re going to prepare for him like we prepare for anybody else.”

Temple is coming off its second loss in three games, as South Florida dominated the Owls last Friday night, 44-23. It was the second straight week TU allowed 40 or more points.

The Bulls gashed TU for 556 yards of total offense and 326 rushing yards. USF QB Quinton Flowers beat the Owls with his arm and legs, while running back Marlon Mack ran for 230 yards.

“It was painful, man,” Williams said. “But it was all on us. It was my fault in general. It was my fault as a leader. I should have been more detailed. I should have been more careful.

“On special teams, I should have made more plays. I should have got the ball out. I should have done that more. I put it on me.”

One constant this season on North Broad is the what’s next mentality but for Williams, he said it’s important to keep the USF loss in the back of his mind this week.

“You don’t put it in the past,” he said. “You think about it. You think about how much that (loss) hurt and you use that to influence you in the next game.”

Playing against NFL quarterbacks is nothing new to this Temple defense, as this group has faced Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater and Jaguars QB Blake Bortles.

Bridgewater completed 25 of 35 passes for 348 yards and two touchdowns against the Owls while at Louisville on Oct. 5, 2013. On Nov. 16, 2013, Bortles threw for 404 yards and four TDs at Central Florida.

Both of those came against a young, 2-10 Temple team. This is a veteran Owls defense going up against Lynch.

And facing Lynch is nothing new, either, as Saturday’s meeting will be the third time the Owls will see the 6-foot-7, 245-pound signal caller.

Still, the junior QB has Temple head coach Matt Rhule’s attention.

“He’s the next great American Conference first-round quarterback,” Rhule said.

Lynch has completed 68.7 percent of his passes this season for 3,292 yards, 21 touchdowns to just three interceptions. He’s also ran for 235 yards on 73 carries for two scores.

He’s thrown for more than 300 yards in eight of Memphis’ 10 games and more than 400 yards in two games. He was 20 of 31 for 278-2-1 in a 35-34 loss against Houston.

“He’s a first-round pick,” Rhule said. “He’s not a pure runner but he runs enough. He beat us last year. Any time you play a great quarterback, it comes down to you got to contain him.

“With Quinton Flowers, we couldn’t contain him with his feet and with his arm. And with Paxton, he’s going to sit there. He can throw the ball 70 yards. He can run.

“He’s going to be one of those guys on the stage holding a jersey in the NFL draft. He’s that good of a player.”

In Memphis’ 16-13 win over the Owls last season at the Linc, Lynch was 21 of 28 for 230 yards and a touchdown.

Temple also faced Lynch as a freshman, as Lynch threw for 162 yards and a TD in Memphis’ 41-21 loss to TU in 2013.

What have the Owls learned from film?

“We see that he definitely got better,” cornerback Sean Chandler said. “He’s more confident I can see. He got a little bit more swag to him, too. You can tell by the way he dresses.”

The Owls can clinch the American east division again this week with a win and a USF loss to Cincinnati on Friday. When they take the field Saturday, they’ll know what they’ll have to do.

Is Temple going to be paying much attention to the Bulls’ game against Cincy?

“We focused on us, man,” Williams said. “That’s how it’s been this whole season. We’re focused on us. We’re going to keep focus on us. We’re not going to change the process.”

*Story originally published on NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com on Nov. 15, 2015.