Temple cornerback to face former teammates when Owls play Rutgers

Abdul Smith (21) said coming to Temple from Rutgers has been "a great experience."
Abdul Smith (21) said coming to Temple from Rutgers has been "a great experience." (CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 21, 2012

Abdul Smith said Saturday's game against Rutgers is big for two reasons.

The Temple cornerback first pointed out that it's a Big East Conference game.

"They are the best team in the Big East right now," Smith said.

As for No. 2, "They are No. 15" in the Bowl Championship Subdivision standings.

While true, neither of those reasons is bigger than the fact that the former Scarlet Knight will be facing his former teammates at Lincoln Financial Field.

"A couple of guys on Facebook and Twitter trash talk," Smith said of his former teammates. "I just laugh at them. They think because we are [formerly] from the [Mid-American Conference] that we really aren't going to do anything. But we're 2-0" in the Big East.

Rutgers is 3-0 in league play and 6-0 overall.

"It's going to be a big game," said Smith, whose Temple team has a 3-2 overall record after consecutive wins. "I'm just ready to accept the challenge and show them what we are about in Philly."

From the sound of things, Smith couldn't be happier with his current surroundings. Listed as a reserve, the redshirt junior took several snaps with the first-team defense this week at practice. He also rotated quarters with starting cornerback Zamel Johnson in last week's 17-14 overtime win at Connecticut.

Smith played the second and fourth quarters and in the overtime session. The 6-foot, 205-pounder finished with a tackle and a pass breakup. Connecticut scored its two touchdowns in the first quarter with him on the sideline.

"Coming to Temple, it has been a great experience," said the Perkiomen School graduate, who has three tackles this season. "It's been a good adjustment. I like the city life more being in Philly because I'm from Trenton. It's a city. I just went to a boarding school in the suburbs."

Coming out of high school, Smith was regarded as one of Rutgers' top recruits in the class of 2009. He said he transferred after his freshman year because of a change in a position coach at Rutgers and his pursuit of an urban setting.

However, it wasn't an easy transition. Smith was forced to sit out in 2010 because of transfer rules and played sparingly last season.

"Coming out of high school, you're big-headed," he said. "Everybody tells you how good you are, and you think you'll play immediately. But I wasn't playing at Rutgers, wasn't playing here. I finally started playing a lot during the UConn game."

Now Smith believes his time at Rutgers will benefit the Owls on Saturday. Still close friends with some of the Scarlet Knights, he attended the Rutgers spring game. And he has watched a lot of Scarlet Knights game film to keep track of his former teammates.

"I wouldn't say this game is personal, but I have some tips and hints because I went against them in practice," Smith said. "I know some of their tendencies. [Wide receiver] Mark Harrison was a guy I went against a lot in practice."

Owls notes. George Washington High School senior defensive end Justin Moody lists Temple, California, Pittsburgh, Purdue, and Syracuse as his five recruiting finalists. The 6-3, 270-pounder finished last season with 12 sacks and five forced fumbles. . . . Temple will play at Idaho next season as part of a two-game agreement with the Vandals.


Rutgers at Temple

Saturday at noon, Lincoln Financial Field.

TV/Radio: 6ABC, Big East Network; WPHT-AM (1210), WIP-AM (610).

Records: No. 19 Rutgers, 6-0, 3-0 Big East; Temple, 3-2, 2-0.

Coaches: Rutgers, Kyle Flood (first season, 6-0); Temple, Steve Addazio (second season, 12-6).

Series: Rutgers leads, 19-15, and won the last meeting by 16-6 on Oct. 16, 2004. However, the Owls won five of six games from 1997 to 2002.

Betting line: Rutgers by 4.

Three things to watch

It will be interesting to see if Temple tailback/return specialist Matt Brown plays. The senior reinjured his sprained ankle during last week's game at Connecticut. Brown was in a lot of pain after Thursday's practice.

Field position could play a major role, and the advantage belongs to Temple punter Brandon McManus. The senior averages a conference-best 44.9 yards per punt. McManus has put seven punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line. He has also produced eight punts of 50 yards or longer. Rutgers punter Justin Doerner, on the other hand, ranks last in the conference with an average of 39 yards.

How will Tyler Matakevich perform? The Owls freshman linebacker finished with 15 and 19 tackles in his first two starts. Can he produce his third consecutive double-digit tackle performance?

Three things you might not know

Owls offensive coordinator Ryan Day and Scarlet Knights offensive coordinator Dave Brock coached together at Boston College the last three seasons. Brock was the tight ends coach, while Day coached the wideouts.

Rutgers and Temple rank first and second in the Big East in turnover margin. The Scarlet Knights have a plus-2.17 average, while the Owls are plus-1.20.

This is Temple's first game against a ranked opponent since facing 23d-ranked Penn State in 2010. The Owls are 2-73 against ranked teams. Their two wins came at No. 14 Virginia Tech on Oct. 17, 1998, and at No. 16 Pittsburgh on Sept. 19, 1987. - Keith Pompey


Contact Keith Pompey at kpompey@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @pompeysgridlock.

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