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Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Wildcat ‗D‘ battles back: Improving Temple defense key in team‘s recent surge
Temple‘s defense began the season by allowing 490 yards to Pflugerville Connally, 658 to Georgetown (437 passing) and 493 to San Antonio Churchill, games in which the Wildcats permitted 141 points.

Things didn‘t get much better in Temple‘s first two District 12-5A games, with College Station A&M Consolidated producing 453 yards and 33 points before Copperas Cove went for 563 yards — 497 rushing — and 49 points.

So when the Wildcats‘ much-maligned defense went out last Friday night and limited rival and previously 5-1 Belton to 346 yards and, more important, a single touchdown in a 23-8 victory at Wildcat Stadium, a lot of people were surprised.

Temple first-year defensive coordinator Aaron Dunnam wasn‘t one of them.
―It didn‘t surprise me,‖ he said Tuesday afternoon. ―If we can get lined up and play hard, which they‘re doing, we knew it would eventually happen. These kids show up and work hard every day.‖

Belton ran the ball effectively early in the game and seized an 8-0 lead with 2 minutes left in the first quarter when Dovanan Williams rushed for a 7-yard touchdown and a 2-point conversion.
Apparently Temple didn‘t like that feeling very much, because it didn‘t allow a touchdown — or points of any kind, for that matter — during the remaining 38 minutes as the Wildcats defeated the Tigers for the first time since 2008.

―We flew around the ball, played extremely fast and were great tacklers,‖ said Dunnam, whose defense contained Harker Heights to 16 points for the first 45 minutes before the Knights tacked on a couple of scores in Temple‘s 40-30 road win two weeks ago in Killeen. ―It was very good. We‘ve progressed every single week, but we‘re not close to being there yet.‖

The interesting thing is that Temple‘s defense looked good in the first two games — for about 1½ quarters. The Wildcats led 33-17 at Connally before the Cougars scored the final 35 points, and Georgetown was scoreless the first 18 minutes before it took advantage of Temple‘s repeated breakdowns in coverage and tackling to score 62 points in 30 minutes of clock time.
On that night the Wildcats lost by 11 points even though they scored 51.

Dunnam said his defensive players had a tendency early in the season to play well but then lose track of their fundamentals and assignments when things began to break down.
Temple first-year coach Mike Spradlin knew he needed to keep the Wildcat defenders‘ confidence up and focus sharp.

―We just had to keep plugging,‖ Spradlin said. ―We told them, ‗The day‘s coming when you‘re going to win a game for us.‘ We‘ve got confidence in our ability to stop someone.‖

The Wildcats allowed plenty of big plays and yards against Churchill in their third game, but they also tackled better, limited the Chargers to 27 points and came up with a last-minute stand to prevail 31-27 for their first victory.

Temple mostly contained A&M Consolidated Tulsa-committed running back Quinton White in the league opener, but he had a big fourth quarter and got loose late for a the long, winning touchdown.

A week later Copperas Cove wore down the Wildcats with its combination of strong running back Brandon Hamilton and speedy quarterback Orlando Thomas in a 49-42 shootout, but Temple responded last Friday against Belton — frustrating the Tigers‘ balanced attack and finishing the night with 38 minutes of scoreless football.

―Our D-line went to work and got a lot of three-man pressures on the quarterback,‖ Dunnam said. ―That really helped the secondary. Our goal is to eliminate big plays and make them earn it.‖

The Wildcats‘ defense is led by linebacker Seth Culp (team-high 68 tackles, 52 unassisted), safety Jeremy Garcia (42 tackles, two interceptions) and cornerback Damion Dixon (34 tackles, one interception) — all seniors. Junior nose guard Troy Healy, junior end Demarkes Mathis — who missed the first two games — safety Jeff Sanders (50 tackles) and linebacker Brandon Gamboa also have aided the cause.

―We work every single practice on being great tacklers,‖ said Dunnam, who came with Spradlin after being his linebackers coach at Abilene Cooper. ―These kids show up, work hard and play hard." By Greg Wille – Temple Daily Telegram

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