Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NCF Nation [Print without images]

Friday, December 16, 2011
New Mexico Bowl Keys

By Matt Fortuna

The prediction is in the books. Now it's time to look at the keys for Temple and Wyoming for Saturday's New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque.

Temple (8-4)

1. Establish Bernard Pierce early. The junior keys the nation's No. 7 rushing offense and is facing a weak run defense against the Cowboys.

2. Get to Brett Smith. The strength of the Owls' defense is their pass rush. They lead the MAC in sacks and are 17th nationally. Smith has been impressive for a true freshman quarterback and has a strong offensive line in front of him, presenting a challenge for Temple.

3. Don't be overwhelmed by the moment. This is not a top-tier bowl, but it is a big platform for Temple, which is riding a three-game winning streak and might be the most stable program in Pennsylvania at the moment. In going for their first bowl win since 1979, at the EagleBank Bowl in 2009, the Owls blew a 21-7 lead to UCLA and gained just 41 second-half yards in a 30-21 loss. Temple could generate plenty of momentum with a win Saturday, which would be huge for first-year coach Steve Addazio to build off.

Wyoming (8-4)

1. Win the turnover battle. Easier said than done against a Temple offense tied for third in the nation in fewest turnovers lost, with 12. But Wyoming's front-seven will simply need to make big plays against Pierce and Co., as the matchup heavily favors Temple on the ground. The Cowboys are fifth in the nation in turnover margin, at plus-15.

2. Contain Evan Rodriguez. The tight end is Temple's leading receiver, with 33 catches and 427 yards on the season. The 6-foot-3, 250-pounder provides a big target for sophomore Chris Coyer, who will likely be making the fourth start of his career.

3. Send Gabe Knapton out strong. Three different positions and 49 career games have led to to 361 career tackles for the current end, who is 10th among active players and sixth in Mountain West Conference history. Knapton and his Abe Lincoln-like beard will take the field for the final time Saturday.