North Carolina and Temple will square off in Annapolis on Friday in the 2019 Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman. This is a bowl game with potential to go down to the wire, as the two programs seem to be very evenly matched. The Tar Heels are currently a four-point favorite; however, this game could play out in any number of scenarios.
Scouting The Temple Owls
The Owls, like North Carolina, are led by a first-year coach. Rod Carey left Northern Illinois for Temple after last season, when previous coach Geoff Collins left for Georgia Tech and newly-named coach Manny Diaz took the Miami job instead. Collins inherited a solid program at Temple. This is the fifth straight season the Owls have made a bowl appearance.
Temple is led by redshirt junior quarterback Anthony Russo. While Russo is not a flashy and widely-known college star, he is a dependable and talented signal-caller. He can put up big numbers when given the chance, having twice thrown for over 400 yards in a game. This past season, he was on the Maxwell Award Watch List as well as the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Watch List.
Re’Mahn Davis is a true freshman running back with explosive talent. The 5-9 San Francisco native rushed for 900 yards and seven touchdowns in his first year of college ball. Davis has the ability to take over a game if he’s allowed to hit his stride. He carried the ball 29 times against Georgia Tech earlier in the season, for 135 yards and two touchdowns. On the season, he averaged 5.1 yards per carry.
Temple has two very reliable receivers in Jadan Blue and Branden Mack. Blue led the team with 975 receiving yards, but Mack seems to have a better nose for the end zone, scoring seven touchdowns compared to four for Blue.
Playmakers On Defense
The Owls’ defense is led by Quincy Roche, an outstanding defensive end. Roche is a player with an almost-certain NFL career ahead of him. This season, the junior recorded 44 tackles and 13 sacks, as well as two recovered fumbles. He had his best game in November against Tulane, with 12 tackles, 3 sacks, and a forced fumble.
Cornerback Harrison Hand is a Baylor transfer and the de facto leader of the Temple secondary. Hand had a very solid season with three interceptions and 55 tackles. However, there have been games in which the Owls secondary was suspect. Central Florida passed for four touchdowns against Temple in route to a 63-21 shellacking, and North Carolina’s offense has the same sort of explosive ability.
Tar Heels Responded Late In The Season
Mack Brown‘s Tar Heels needed to win their final two games to become bowl eligible, and the team responded with consecutive blowouts. Freshman quarterback Sam Howell has been outstanding all season, passing for 3,347 yards and 35 touchdowns on the way to being named ACC Rookie of the Year. After a quiet first half in the season finale against NC State, he exploded in the second half, finishing with 401 passing yards and three touchdowns.
Howell has two dynamic receivers in Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown. The duo combined for 19 touchdowns. However, Howell also established a growing rapport with Beau Corrales as the season progressed. The Tar Heels have an effective time-share at running back. Michael Carter rushed for 919 yards and three touchdowns, while sophomore Javonte Williams rushed for 848 yards and five touchdowns. True freshman Josh Henderson made the most of increased playing time in the last two weeks of the season, averaging over seven yards per carry. North Carolina’s offense scored nearly 100 points during its final two games of the regular season.
A Rejuvenated Defense
Injuries mounted on both sides of the ball this season, and there were times North Carolina’s defense looked to be in trouble. However, young players have stepped up in the secondary, and linebackers Chazz Surratt and Jeremiah Gemmel are playing some of their best football yet. Surratt recorded seven sacks on the season, while Gemmel added two and a half sacks and a whopping 79 tackles.
Freshman defensive back Storm Duck was thrown into the fire after injuries to Patrice Rene and Myles Wolfolk. Duck has come of age quickly, and he will be looked upon as one of North Carolina’s defensive leaders over the next three seasons. Sophomore corner Trey Morrison has also played well with increased playing time, recording an interception and thirty tackles.
How Will The Military Bowl Play Out?
This year’s Military Bowl should be a very competitive game from start to finish. It could be a shootout or a defensive struggle. However, chances are good that these two teams will put plenty of points on the board. The over/under is 53.5, so the oddsmakers expect these offenses to move the ball.
North Carolina benefited the most from the break after the regular season. Several banged-up players will come into the game healthy and refreshed. The Tar Heels will hope to keep the momentum they established during the season’s final two games.
The Tar Heels and Owls will both likely try to exploit each other’s secondaries early. North Carolina offensive coordinator Phil Longo will almost certainly let Howell take some early shots. The Tar Heels will try to duplicate the Central Florida model of getting behind the Temple secondary, and Newsome and Brown have the speed to do so. Expect Temple to try to establish the run with Davis; the Owls want to keep Howell and company off the field as much as possible. While Russo can launch it downfield, the Owls don’t want to try to keep up in a barn burner.
The two programs will clash on Friday at noon, on ESPN. Get out the popcorn, this is one Military Bowl that could get really interesting.