Tuesday bowl primer
UCLA vs. Temple
Today, 4:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
Keys to watch for:
• The Temple Owls are going to their first bowl game in 30 years, and it will be interesting to see how they handle the overall excitement and pressure of playing in the postseason. The good news is that the EagleBank bowl is played at RFK stadium in Washington D.C., so the Owls should travel well and have the support of a predominantly Temple crowd.
• Leading the way for the Owls is freshman running back Bernard Pierce, who has 224 carries, 1,308 yards and 15 touchdowns and has been the focal point of the Temple offense. He isn’t the most explosive of backs, but he runs with good vision, balance and power and has done a great job keeping the offense in manageable down-and-distance situations early while wearing down opposing defenses late.
• One of the main reasons for the success of the Temple run game is tight end Steve Maneri, a 6-6, 275-pound athlete who doesn’t offer much in the pass game but acts as the team’s sixth offensive lineman when the Owls look to run the football. Maneri is a smooth, coordinated blocker in space who showcases impressive technique and overall power on contact. In my option, he looks like the nation’s top “pure” blocking tight end prospect, and because of his size and athletic ability, he could also garner interest as a possible left tackle prospect.
• As for UCLA, its defense starts and ends with the effort of DT Brian Price up front. Price is an explosive, quick-twitch lineman who has improved his hand placement and overall ability to slip blocks dramatically from last season. As a result, he finished the year with 22