Freshman quarterback Matt Duncan will be making his first collegiate start for Temple on Saturday when the Pirates visit town. With starter Anthony Russo still in COVID-19 protocol and backups Trad Beatty and Re-al Mitchell banged up, Duncan will get the call as the Owls’ final available scholarship quarterback.

Duncan is a product of Ashley Ridge High School in Summerville, South Carolina, an area ECU head coach Mike Houston has recruited well in his coaching career. While at James Madison, Houston recruited Duncan’s older brother Steven who ended up attending Western Kentucky before transferring to Tarleton State earlier this year.

“We recruited his brother when I was at James Madison, so I’m familiar, at least, with his family,” Houston said. “I know the high school very well.”

Pirate wide receiver Cam Burnette and deep snapper Clayton Stancil are also from Summerville, but attended different high schools than the Duncan brothers.

Heading into Saturday, the Pirates will be looking at every bit of film available on the younger Duncan. That, of course, includes tape from his high school playing days, as well as the few reps he earned against UCF last weekend.

“We have his film from high school and we’ve taken a good look at that,” Houston said. “Then we’ve taken a look at every snap he’s played this year. Certainly a talented player coming out of high school. Runs well, lefty, strong arm, very accurate. I thought he had really good film coming out of high school. I thought in the latter part of the game against UCF, I thought he showed some athleticism with some of the runs that he had.”

Duncan’s best play against the Knights came in the form of an eight-yard scramble play. After throwing two incomplete passes last week, however, his first completion on Saturday will be the first of his career.

At the high school level, Duncan proved he could sling the ball around. His prep numbers included over 6,800 yards through the air and 40 touchdowns, breaking his brother’s school record for passing yards. As a senior, Duncan passed for 1,172 yards and four touchdowns, adding 488 yards and five scores with his legs.

Being a lefty listed at 6’1” and 215 pounds, some have already drawn the comparison to ECU’s junior quarterback Holton Ahlers. Ahlers is a bit taller and more stocky at 6’3” 228 pounds, but neither quarterback will be scared to tuck the ball and run on Saturday.

“A little bit shorter, but runs well,” Houston said of Duncan. “Throws the ball with a lot of zip. Certainly I’m more familiar with Holton because I see him everyday. I think that you’re talking about a dual-threat guy that’s a good athlete that can throw the football.”

While the Owls’ playbook may be limited for the freshman, Temple has all the tools to keep pressure off the inexperienced quarterback. Of teams with at least 225 pass snaps this season, Temple’s offensive line has allowed the third-fewest quarterback pressures in the FBS. The Owls are also one of two FBS programs to enter Saturday with four offensive linemen who have blocked on at least 175 pass attempts and allowed no more than six quarterback pressures.

With a week for Rod Carey and his coaching staff to prepare Duncan, Houston believes there will be a certain portion of the playbook he will be able to run well with a talented group of receivers around him.

“I know that they were probably trying to be pretty conservative with their play-calling there (against UCF), but with a week under their belt to develop a game plan for him, I’m sure that they’ll have a package that he can run at a very high level,” Houston said. “We’ve had that experience earlier this year when we started a true freshman against Navy, so I can relate to what they’re going through right now. Like I said before, he’s got such a strong surrounding cast — it’s going to be a challenge for us…I’m sure they’re going to have him prepared to play at a high level.”

ECU and Temple are scheduled to kick-off at noon on Saturday from Lincoln Financial Field. The game can be streamed on ESPN+.

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