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Temple, ECU looking to move up standings

Temple Boston College Football

Temple running back Ryquell Armstead (7) dives into the end zone for one of his four touchdowns against Boston College, Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018, in Boston. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, October 4, 2018

South Florida, Central Florida and the American Athletic Conference’s surprise football team — Cincinnati and its 5-0 record — are the AAC’s three undefeated teams heading into Week 6 of the season.

The two Florida schools are still considered the favorites in the AAC East division, although they are joined by Cincinnati and Temple with 1-0 league records. Some clarity in the conference is expected to emerge with this week’s slate of games.

East Carolina (2-2, 0-1) faces Temple (2-3, 1-0) in Philadelphia on Saturday at noon, which is also when Cincy hosts AAC West co-leader Tulane (2-3, 1-0). The other matchup featuring teams with 1-0 AAC records is at night when SMU plays at UCF.

ECU, which beat Old Dominion 37-35 last Saturday, has not won consecutive games since starting 2-0 in 2016 with victories against Western Carolina and N.C. State. The Owls are 2-1 since they began this season with home losses to Villanova and Buffalo.

“I’m thankful that we’ve been put in some tough situations, some that we came out on the short end, but they’ve battled every step of the way and learned something new every week,” Temple coach Geoff Collins said on the AAC coaches teleconference earlier this week. “Our conference is really good and we know the teams we have coming up, especially this week, are very talented and well-coached. We have to use those lessons we have learned in the first five games to play at a really high level.”

It is the Pirates’ defense that has been their most consistent unit this year.

Despite inconsistent play at quarterback, Temple has relied on its power run game and big-play ability on defense and special teams to score more than 30 points in three straight weeks. Yardage has not been a problem for the Pirate offense, but it scored only one touchdown in its lone league contest, a 20-13 setback at South Florida on Sept. 22.

“We’re in AAC play now and every week there is going to be great offense,” Pirate first-year defensive coordinator David Blackwell said. “Every week will be a great challenge and a different challenge. We have to show up week to week, because consistency is what makes great defenses. We can’t be a flash in the pan.”

Stopping Temple usually begins with keying on its running backs.

This year it is senior Ryquell Armstead leading the way, and he’s been a workhorse with 102 carries for 534 yards. Fullback Rob Ritrovato, who is also a senior, is second on the team with 16 rushes for 44 yards.

Armstead’s career high for yards in a game came in 2016 when he totaled 210 against USF. He nearly reached the 200-yard mark a week ago in a 45-35 loss to Boston College, carrying the ball 24 times for 171 yards and four touchdowns.

“He is running his heart out every single play, then he does a tremendous job in pass protection,” Collins said. “Even in the run game, he is the lead blocker on a lot of plays and does a great job.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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