Temple football: You are here

You’ve seen those maps in every mall in the country, an arrow pinpointing your location with the words: “You are here.”

In Temple football’s case, “here” means simply this: You have a football team with a winning defense and a losing offense, and the faster you can match one with the other, the better the shopping haul for wins will be.

At some point, the defensive players will ask themselves, maybe subconsciously, what is the point of busting our ass if the offense isn’t going to help out?

Maybe the play on that side of the ball erodes as well.

What’s abundantly clear, though, is that the “easy” part of the season is over. It only gets tougher from here on out. The Owls weren’t competitive when it mattered against Duke and maybe the good effort against Rutgers wasn’t as impressive as originally thought. UMass almost beat Eastern Michigan (which did beat Arizona State) so the Owls getting 28 points on that team was encouraging.

The remaining Temple schedule

Temple is significantly better than it was a year ago but so is the rest of the AAC. The UCF team that Temple faces next hung with a good Louisville team and blew out a Georgia Tech team that just beat Pitt.

Navy, which lost to Memphis by a worse score than Temple did, follows UCF.

After that comes a Friday home game against Tulsa, which played competitive games against two ranked teams, Ole Miss (35-27) and Cincinnati (31-21). Then a home game against USF, a visit to Houston, home against Cincy and East Carolina.

It’s hard to find more than two wins left on that schedule and, even then, those two wins figure to be a battle well into the fourth quarter.

“Rock Steadwell?” Toddy Centeio with the key block here.

The offense–which has some explosive players (Adonicas Sanders, Amad Anderson, Quincy Patterson, for example, produced at places like GT, Purdue and Virginia Tech before coming to Temple)–needs to get the ball in the hands of those guys and others in space. It needs to establish a representative running game to keep its freshman quarterback from getting killed and create space for playmakers.

Easier said than done.

Temple has some time to figure that out but the Owls have only 10 days to get significantly better than what they showed two days ago or the results of this season will be about the same as the last one.

You don’t need a map to remind you that wasn’t a good place to be.

Friday: Possible solutions

TU Offense: Most predictable in college football

One of the many “trick plays” that put Temple football on the college football map.

Any Joe Blow who watched Temple football over the first five games can tell you three things:

If D’Wan Mathis is in the game at quarterback, expect a fumble. If E.J. Warner is in the game, expect a pass. If Quincy Patterson is in the game, expect a run.

That’s called telegraphing a play.

The “original” Philly special

If Samuel Morse was still around today, he’d be the Temple offensive coordinator. (Inventor of the telegraph for those who don’t know.)

Former Temple running back Sid Morse (who then play-by-play guy Don Henderson called “Morris”) probably would do a better job than Danny Langsdorf.

That is a shame because as good a job D.J. Eliot is doing as defensive coordinator, that’s more than negated by the poor job Langsdorf has done as offensive coordinator.

You can add the “swing and gate” jet sweep (see above video)

There used to be a time when Temple would dictate the narrative on offense.

When Al Golden was head coach, the Owls used a jump pass to the tight end to win a game at the fake Miami. (Little did we know at the time Golden would become head coach at the real Miami.)

Also with Golden in charge, Adam DiMichele used a fake kneel down to throw a touchdown pass in the waning seconds of the first half at Navy.

Under Matt Rhule, Temple changed the momentum in a 27-10 win over Penn State with the first “Philly Special”–a pitch from then quarterback P.J. Walker to former high school quarterback John Christopher (a Temple wide receiver) who found Walker for a key first down. The Owls were down, 10-0, at the time and that play changed the whole game.

When the Eagles used the same play in the Super Bowl, Doug Pederson said “we got the play from watching a college game.”

He never gave credit to Temple. That’s not cool, Doug, so we hope you lose Sunday.

The real sad thing is that Temple has players with unique skills suited to what current head coach Stan Drayton calls “gadget plays.” Mathis can throw the ball on the reverse or a double pass. Running back Trey Blair is more than capable of a halfback pass.

“You want, North Philly, North Philly?”

Five games in, Drayton nor Langsdorf has taken advantage of those unique skills. No halfback pass. No double pass. No pass off a reverse. No pass off a fake kneel down. No jump pass to the tight end. No shovel pass to a running back in the red zone.

No nothing.

Instead, what every Joe Blow knows every highly paid coach in America knows and that’s probably why Temple is having a tough time scoring points right now.

Temple has a couple of choices. It can put Patterson in the game and have him throw (UCF won’t expect that) or it can jump-start an offense whose battery is dead by drawing up innovative plays.

Or it can keep what it has been doing and hope to win games by field goals.

That’s not a good plan. Eleven days to dictate the narrative on offense or keep up with the failed plan of the first five games.

Even Joe Blow can tell Temple that. We will find out soon enough if the Edberg-Olson brain trust is listening or has intentionally put fingers in their ears.

Monday: AAC Landscape

Temple offense: Time to take off the gloves

Temple running back Trey Blair throws a couple of damn good passes in this 2017 video.

There are three major computer-simulated websites that supposedly put in all the known data and come up with a final score for your weekend college football games.

The most accurate one beats the Vegas point spreads 9.6 percent of the time and has made a lot of, err, investment strategists big-time money.

That one has the final score of tomorrow’s Temple at Memphis game (noon, ESPNU) 37-26 in favor of the bad guys.

Must admit that one has me scratching my head a little bit because I’ve watched all eight games involving both teams and I don’t see: a) Temple scoring 26 points OR b) Memphis scoring 37 points in this one.

First, Temple’s defense has shown signs of being ahead of the offense. Holding Duke to two field goals in the second half was impressive and the 14 points against Lafayette were off turnovers. In addition, holding a Big 10 team to no offensive touchdowns indicates that the Owls might have something here and could hold Memphis in the 20-point area.

Or less.

That’s where the rub comes into play.

Our picks this week

The key point is all of the “known data.” What we don’t know, at least from a Temple perspective, is how willing Stan Drayton wants to show a hand he has not so far this season.

The so-called trick play.

Drayton alluded to as much in his AAC pre-game press conference Monday when he said “outside of the gadget plays” he doesn’t know what former quarterback D’Wan Mathis’s contributions could be to the offense.

Just by saying “outside of the gadget plays” indicates that the word “gadget” has entered Drayton’s mind. If you are Memphis right now, you are probably thinking this: E.J. Warner tosses a backward pass to Mathis, who draws the corners inside so much that Adonicas Sanders is running free down the sideline. Mathis tosses it and Temple gets six.

If you are Memphis, you might think that.

What might Temple think that Memphis isn’t?

How about this?

Warner tosses a backward pass to Mathis, who throws it across the field to Trey Blair–a former damn good high school quarterback–who finds David Martin-Robinson wide open over the middle (because the free safety bit on the fake) for six.

Memphis probably doesn’t know Blair was a quarterback but certainly knows Mathis was. That would involve thinking one step ahead of the bad guys.

Memphis has no idea that Trey Blair can throw a pass. That’s the best reason for him to do so tomorrow. (If you are a Memphis coach, he’s wearing No. 10.)

It would also involve taking the gloves off both figuratively and literally.

First, Blair has worn gloves on every single one of his plays as a running back this season. He needs to come in for at least a few plays before the gadget without wearing those gloves and run a couple of times to sell the play. The reason is simply that you can’t throw as good a pass with gloves on as you can with them off.

It’s worth a shot.

In a game where I see in the 24-17 range either way, a trick play–what Drayton calls a “gadget” play–might make a difference. We know what gadget play Memphis might be expecting. We guess they aren’t expecting double-trickery.

What Temple’s offense did not show anyone, including the simulated computers, has been innovation on offense.

This game might be a good place to start.

It’s time to take the gloves off and throw the computer for a loop that could blow a fuse or two.

Picks this week: Like four favorites and two underdogs. The four favorites are Fresno State to cover the 23.5 at UConn, NIU the 3.5 at Ball State, Ole Miss the 6.5 against visiting Kentucky and Kent State the 11 against visiting Ohio. The dogs are Navy getting 15 at Air Force and UMass getting 20 against an EMU team that gave up 50 to Buffalo last week.

Last week: 2-3 against the spread. Update: A 2-3 week (missed a push in the Kansas game by a point). Won on JMU and Rice and lost on Memphis, Duke and Eastern Michigan. That puts us at 7-7 for the season.

Late Saturday: Game Analysis

Monday: AAC Reaction

Sick burn: Temple’s perception on television

The ESPN+ replay never showed fans in the background like this shot here. (Photos courtesy Zamani Feelings).

Had to bail on my good friends from the beautiful town of Palmerton at halftime on Saturday.

This is the background most fans see on TV.

I was having such a good time watching the game and talking that I didn’t realize the sun on that side of the field was eating me up until I looked down at my arms in the concourse.

Found a nice shady place in the second half to watch the game and avoided what would have even been a more painful Sunday.

Then I came home and rewatched the game on TV and saw what the kids today would call another sick burn.

The relatively decent crowd on the Temple side was never shown because the TV pointed to my side of the field, which is now the “visiting side.” They showed the crew from Palmerton and a few other Temple fans who decided to keep their seats in 121, 122 and 123 from a couple of years ago but never the more populated side of the field which once was the visiting side and is now the home one. There were about 10,000 times the amount of fans on the home side but that’s not what the nation saw. (Or whatever part of the nation is watching a TU-UMass game on ESPN+.)

That led to some of these snide comments on the internet. We will post one from the UConn board but there were similar comments on both the UMass and Rutgers boards.

You know what?

It did look like a dozen fans because the TV cameras are situated on the other side and shooting at what is now the visiting side.

Since the home side was moved a couple of years ago, the optics have been terrible. The Owls have taken an attendance hit since 2015, going from No. 1 in the AAC in attendance to now ninth with 25,864 over two games. They average roughly the same as SMU (26,509) and are well ahead of Tulsa (19,712) and Tulane (14,501) but nobody writes they are watching the SMU, Tulsa and Tulane games “in front of 12 fans.”

That’s what a 70K stadium combined with shooting the empty side will do to your national perception.

The TV cameras are permanent and can’t be moved yet there is a permanent solution to the problem that can be solved next year with the stroke of a pen in the AD’s office.

Move the fans back to the spots they had under Matt Rhule, Steve Addazio, Al Golden and the now-fired Geoff Collins. It was Golden’s idea to have the cameras shoot at the home side and AD Bill Bradshaw agreed. The other coaches inherited a good plan. Then he who shall remain nameless wanted the home team on the other side and Pat Kraft caved to his fellow Indiana grad.

With the challenges Temple has filling a 70K-seat stadium (most other teams in the same league don’t even approach filling 30K stadiums), why exacerbate the problem when you don’t have to? Shooting cameras at an empty visiting side gives the impression that Temple football is a failed product, at least from a ticket-selling perspective. In reality, Temple usually (during winning seasons) is in the upper half of the conference in tickets sold per game. It just looks empty in a 70K-seat stadium. When Temple decided to build a 35K stadium in 2016 (apparently dead now), the official mission statement from the university included this explanation.

From Temple’s own “project overview” explaining why it wanted a new stadium.

Why make it look worse?

Watching from the, err, Rutgers’ side a week ago I was very proud that Temple fans doubled RU fans in numbers and tripled them from a decibel level perspective. Temple has its fan challenges on days other than Homecoming and it is only going to get worse when teams like UAB, North Texas, Rice and others are added to the league. They don’t bring fans like Cincy and UCF do. (Heck, even Houston doesn’t bring people to Philly.)

Avoiding TV showing only the empty side of the field over the next few years is a sick burn Temple can cure without even a drop of sunscreen.

Friday: TU-Memphis Preview (taking off the gloves)

Temple football: Work in progress

One of the recurring themes of every Stan Drayton press conference is that the Temple football Owls are a work in progress.

That’s usually what happens when the last owner of the house put a propane tank in the driveway, tossed a match over his head and did his darndest to blow up the whole place down before taking the keys in his pickup truck and driving home to Illinois.

The key stat in football is turnovers and TU won that battle

Drayton’s Owls rolled up their sleeves and swept some of the embers out of the driveway in the second half of a 30-0 loss to Duke, laid a nice foundation in a win over Lafayette, and started to put up a few sturdy walls in a 16-14 loss to Rutgers.

What happened on Saturday in a 28-0 win over UMass represented some nice windows and a front door.

Next week, maybe the roof gets put on in Memphis. This is real work, not a pre-fab job, so maybe we as fans are expecting too much, too soon.

What is apparent, though, is that any win in college football is pure Gold and the Owls mined a couple of nuggets on Saturday.

Ask Miami (Fla.), which lost to Middle Tennesee State. The Hurricanes are spending $8 million per year on Mario Cristobal (after eating $14 million of Manny Diaz’ contract) and their return on investment is questionable at best. I imagine those Cane fans are nowhere near as satisfied today as Temple fans are.

Progress is the operative word here.

Temple ate $6 million on the arsonist’s contract and is paying Drayton $2 million per.

The trend appears that Temple might be getting more ROI than Miami by the end of the season, but we shall see.

There were at least a couple of good signs on Saturday.

One, their really good tight end, David Martin-Robinson, made his first appearance of the season and was a factor in the success of both the run and the passing game.

Two, the defense posted the first Temple shutout since 2016 (three that year). If that weren’t a good-enough sign, Temple won the AAC championship that year.

As work days go, not perfect but more got done on Saturday than on the other three work days. They finally got the turnovers they needed but there remains a lot of work to be done in their own running game. That piece looked a lot better when Quincy Patterson came in at quarterback.

A week from now, the Owls will be facing a Memphis team in revenge mode so maybe that day won’t be as productive as this one.

That won’t stop the Owls from building and, if they hammer fast enough, they could get a presentable front porch done by the end of the week. If they win, they can set up the grill and party on it once the final seconds tick off.

Monday: Optics

TU-UMASS: Road to relevancy begins here

The next step for the Temple defense: Recover fumbles and take interceptions to the house

Quick, jot down this number: 119.

That’s where Temple football got rated nationally after nearly beating a Big 10 team last week. Moving five lousy stinking spots up the national ladder isn’t going to make anyone outside of Philadelphia notice.

Quick, jot down another number, 20,111.

After 33,297 attended Homecoming, that’s probably the number–give or take 1,000–that Temple will announce after tomorrow’s game against visiting Massachusetts (2 p.m., ESPN+).

The needle after a 16-14 loss to Rutgers hasn’t changed things much. Temple Homecoming fans are usually not football fans, but Temple fans. If Temple had won, they would keep coming back. If Temple had lost, they were gone until next year. That’s what the numbers show based on past history and those numbers never change. Temple lost so it’s tough sledding getting those fans back.

Homecoming fans are not nuanced enough to know there is real improvement in Temple football this season. Regular fans?

Definitely.

Temple could have, probably should have, won, except for a fluke tip interception that went the other way.

The perception to those of us close to the program has changed. Obviously, nationally, Temple football has a long way to go.

Kyle Hunter, one of the nation’s best prognosticators, wrote, “Temple-UMass is the sicko game of the week.”

To many nationally, it is.

Sad, really, how far the program has sunk from an outside perspective thanks to the last guy.

To Temple, though, this game represents the starting point of the road to relevancy.

If Temple wants to make the right turn, it needs to hammer UMass tomorrow and start a winning streak now.

Something on the order of 31-19 would do the trick (49-7 is preferable) and maybe wake a few national people up. Even that won’t move the needle much. To get even a couple thousand of those Homecoming fans back, Temple will need to win at Memphis the next week.

Our picks this week

First things first, though.

The SP+ 2022 computer model has Temple winning 31-19, and has Temple has one of its four best locks of the week. The computer has a 76 percent success rate against the spread. That’s a higher success rate than IBM’s Watson had against Brad Rutter on Jeopardy (72 percent).

I really believe Rutgers would beat Toledo and Toledo hung a 55-10 number on Massachusetts.

Still, UMass fans think they can win and, you know what, the Minutemen definitely can. Put it this way: If freaking Incarnate Word can beat both Nevada and Southern Illinois and Southern Illinois can beat Northwestern, UMass can beat Temple.

If the Owls play on defense like the mad crazed dogs they did against Rutgers, UMass won’t. Rutgers is about 50 points better than UMass. Had D’Wan Mathis not put the ball on the carpet twice, Temple probably could have been 50 points better than Lafayette. Had he not played so poorly in the first half against Duke, that might have been closer. We will never know.

It’s a new beginning now for Temple.

UMass will not come into the Linc with the Owls receiving the same kind of frenzied support from their fans as they did a week ago. So maybe the Owls won’t pummel the Minutemen like they should. The Owls will have to create their own atmosphere by making plays and those of us who are there wearing the Cherry and White will have to pump up the volume.

The blueprint for this trip is clear: Temple must run the ball better than it has in the first three games and its defense must take the ball away.

UMass will try to run and, if the Temple defense plays the way it did a week ago (and in the second half against Duke), it will be forced to do something uncomfortable: Pass. When that happens, Temple defenders must treat that ball like it is theirs.

Temple hasn’t really had a stud running back since Bernard Pierce but it doesn’t need a Pierce this year. It needs a Ryquell Armstead and, in Darvon Hubbard, he has shown that more in real games than any of the other backs. If he or Jakari Norwood is back against UMass, one of those two need to dicate the tempo.

It will be nice to see what D’Wan Mathis can bring to the receiving game and that piece should be available for all to see on Saturday.

It’s too bad the casual fans won’t be there. Some of them will be back if the Owls rip off a modest winning streak that starts here. If it’s an immodest one, all of them will be back.

Picks this week: Went 2-2 last week and, after a 3-2 start against the spread two weeks ago, sit at 5-4 against the spread. We like two underdogs (Duke at Kansas and JMU at App. State) getting a touchdown and Houston’s Rice Owls getting 17.5 against crosstown rival Houston. Also like two favorites, Memphis laying the 12.5 against visiting North Texas State and Eastern Michigan laying the two field goals against visiting Buffalo.

Update: A 2-3 week (missed a push in the Kansas game by a point). Won on JMU and Rice and lost on Memphis, Duke and Eastern Michigan. That puts us at 7-7 for the season.

Sunday: Game Analysis

Monday: Optics

A Warner Primer for Finding Your Roots

Bobby Salla Jr., son of the one-time Temple career interception leader of the same name, is the latest in a long line of legacy players at Temple. (Photo courtesy Zamani Feelings)

Someone needs to give Henry Louis Gates the phone number, email, or Twitter handle of Kurt Warner.

Gates is the Harvard professor whose “Finding Your Roots” on PBS is low-key one of the best shows on television. In the show, notable guests discover their family roots based on genealogical research and DNA results.

Now we don’t know if Kurt Warner is related to Pop Warner but it would be a terrific story if he was.

The storyline goes like this: Gates turns the page only to show Kurt a photo of Pop Warner, the legendary Temple coach, and reveal that Pop is his third Great Uncle.

Or something like that.

Kurt leans back in his chair, puts his hands behind his head, and lets out a big: “Wow.”

Come to think of it, Pop bears a slight facial resemblance to Kurt Warner (or Harry Chapin).

The TV screen then shows photos of Pop coaching Temple and Kurt’s son, E.J. playing for Temple and both Kurt and Pop being inducted into their respective Halls of Fame.

“I guess it was meant to be,” Kurt might say.

What we do know is that Kurt and Pop were born exactly 100 years apart. Pop in 1871, in Springville, N.Y., and Kurt in 1971, in Burlington, Iowa.

(Ironically, both of Kurt’s current college sons, Kade and E.J., started their careers in Pop Warner football.)

If so, Temple can somewhat claim E.J. as a legacy player in the long line of guys who succeeded relatives who made a name at the school.

I don’t think a single school has the history in that area that Temple does.

Almost in all instances, at least at the college level, the sons exceeded the contributions of the fathers. Even Joe Klecko’s son, Dan, arguably did more at Temple from a recognition standpoint than Joe did. Dan was named Defensive MVP in the Big East, then a Power League on the par of all the current Power 5 schools. Dan has three Super Bowl rings. Dad will be the one going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in January, though.

Temple defensive end Raheem Brock, the son of 1,000-yard rusher Zach Dixon (1978 Owls), also became an NFL player.

Mark Bright, the 1979 Garden State Bowl MVP, is the son of Jim Bright, the starting fullback for the 1950 Owls who tied Penn State. When the younger Bright was a fullback at William Tennent, he had no offers. Then Jim sent Wayne Hardin his film. Hardin knew Jim played at Temple and offered him on the spot.

Temple opened the checkbook to hire Warner away from Jason Wingard’s alma mater, Stanford.

“At Temple, we take care of our own,” Hardin said at the time.

Mark more than repaid the scholarship.

Those are just a few examples. There are at least a couple more, including kickers Jim Cooper and Jim Cooper Jr. Mike Walsh, a three-year starter at tackle for the Owls in the mid-70s, is the son of Bud Walsh, a former tight end for the Owls in the late 40s.

The latest is Bobby Salla Jr., the son of Bobby Salla, who at the time he graduated (1977) was the all-time interception leader at Temple. Salla Jr. is only getting started, a true freshman who was in on the kick coverage team when De’Von Fox blocked three kicks a week ago.

Judging from history, his best contributions are yet to come. Only a possible future Finding Your Roots episode will reveal if one of his current teammates is a legacy guy, too.

Friday: UMass Preview

Sunday: UMass Analysis

Monday: Optics

No such thing as a moral victory … but

Stopped at Vincent’s Pizza in Rockledge on the way home from the Temple game on Saturday and a couple of young girls at the counter looked at my Temple Football Forever T-Shirt.

One of them said: “Were you at the Temple game today?”

“Yes.”

Not much to choose between these two teams.

“We were too. We were at the student tailgate. It was so much fun. We only saw a little of the game because we had to get back to work here.”

“Good. I hope you guys are fans for life like me.”

“Oh we are.”

That was their first Temple football game. It was my, by rough estimation, 612th going back to the time I split as a grade school youngin between Penn and Temple football games.

When Wayne Hardin came to Temple, I gave up the Penn fandom altogether.

One school in Philadelphia had the best coach in college football and it wasn’t Penn.

Sometimes the lifelong fandom comes as much in a loss at much as a win. I’ve always said there is no such thing as a “moral victory” but maybe an exception came in a 16-14 loss to unbeaten Rutgers on Saturday afternoon.

A lot of Rutgers fans said they were going to “take over” Lincoln Financial Field. Far from it. There were at least 70 percent Temple fans there, as one of their “honest” fans said.

These Rutgers fans were on the money.

More importantly, Temple was without its best offensive lineman (Adam Klein), best linebacker (Tra Thomas) and two top running backs (Texas A&M transfer Darvon Hubbard and Illinois transfer Jakari Norwood) and played Rutgers to a virtual standoff.

Of course, a real standoff is preferable to a virtual one but the point is all of those guys will be back for the more important conference games.

The Owls were in this game against a Big 10 foe until the very end and there are a couple of “should-have, would-have” plays both fan bases can point to as keys. On the RU end, Temple’s first play from scrimmage should have been a pick 6. On the Temple side, Nathan Stewart dropped a perfectly thrown touchdown pass from E. J. Warner.

Stuff happens. A few plays here and a few plays there make the difference.

On the way out of the stadium, Tony Russo–Anthony Russo’s dad–tapped me on the shoulder. Anthony Russo is one of the top four quarterbacks, statistically, in Temple history. He was 6-4. Warner, as a 6-footer, can’t be blamed for not picking up the danger that lay ahead in a real Pick 6.

“I really like E.J. Warner,” I told him, “but if he was 6-4 like Anthony, he wouldn’t have given up the pick 6. He would have seen over the defense.”

“He’s going to be a real good player here,” Tony Russo said.

“Yeah, I think you’re right.”

Pretty good endorsement from the dad of a former player. Kurt Warner should have been there to hear it.

Minus that play, Temple wins, but it shouldn’t have come down to that.

Temple had a nice little drive going from its own 10 in the final four minutes that would have set up Rory Bell to be the hero with a field goal.

About the second play in, I was hoping for Stan Drayton to throw the halfback pass. All the mental telepathy fell on deaf ears sadly. I think it would have worked. Trey Blair, his halfback, was a terrific quarterback in high school. Pitching it out to Blair might have suckered in the RU defense just enough that Blair could have found a wide-open Adonicas Sanders behind the defense for the win.

Maybe Drayton didn’t know Blair played quarterback in high school or maybe he’s saving that play for a conference game that puts him in the championship. My guess is that the new Temple OC doesn’t realize Blair was a damn good high school quarterback and the play was not in the books.

Hardin would have thrown that halfback pass against Rutgers. Maybe it would have worked, maybe it wouldn’t but he wouldn’t have left it on the table knowing it might have worked.

Moral victories meant even less to him but if Rutgers turns out to be the best team on the Temple 2022 schedule and the Owls use that to win the rest, this will be only “moral victory” we’ve ever seen at Temple.

Monday: Legacy Analysis

RU at TU: What a long, strange, trip it’s been

Temple had to wait until late November to get its first win of the season in 1989.

Unless there are some backroom dealings we don’t know about, Rutgers will be making its last trip to Philadelphia to play Temple tomorrow (2 p.m., Lincoln Financial Field).

Maybe not ever, but certainly for a long, long time.

Temple wins this game at Temple Stadium.

That’s a shame because two FBS college football teams separated by only 67 miles should play probably every year. To put this in perspective, only few other possible matchups are shorter drives among the current 130 FBS teams. In the traditional East, Maryland vs. Navy is closer as is Pitt vs. West Virginia but that’s it.

Rutgers at Temple is not on any future schedule. Temple finishes up the current series in Piscataway next Sept. 9.

It’s a short trip geographically, but a long, strange one, football-wise, for both teams.

Many times–but not all–the unexpected happens.

That’s really a trademark of rivalry games.

Temple won its only game in 1989 by upsetting Rutgers, 36-33, in the season finale at Veterans Stadium. Not a big upset but the Scarlet Knights that year beat Northwestern and Boston College. In 1949, Temple came home from a 54-0 shellacking at the hands of Texas and beat a pretty good Rutgers team, 14-7, at Temple Stadium. RU finished 6-3 that year.

This has been a pretty competitive series. Temple voluntarily forfeited the 1986 game, which it won. The NCAA didn’t recognize Temple’s forfeit so the real lead is 20-16. Both schools, however, are going with the number that includes Temple’s voluntary forfeit so the game notes read 21-15.

Close enough.

It doesn’t really matter though because any series this tight both on the field and geographically qualifies as a rivalry.

RU has played Temple in four Philadelphia stadiums, all inside the City Limits–Temple Stadium, Franklin Field, Veterans Stadium and, now, Lincoln Financial Field.

Our picks this week: Two favorites, two dogs. Love Lance Leipold and the points at Houston, and also Purdue (which probably should be favored) at Syracuse. WSU should kill CSU as should KSU and Kade Warner Tulane.

To be honest, I thought Temple only had a chance to beat Rutgers IF the Owls won at Duke.

I still think that theory applies, but history has trumped logic a few times before in this and maybe it can again.

Let’s put it this way: Temple’s loss to Duke in Week One looked a lot worse then than it does now and Rutgers’ win at Boston College looked a lot better then than now.

Duke dominated Temple but then went on to dominate a Northwestern team that beat Nebraska. Both Temple and Northwestern had similar success, at least from the defensive end, in the second half against Duke.

Boston College, on the other hand, after losing at home to Rutgers by one, lost to a Virginia Tech team that lost to G5 Old Dominion. Then, once you thought ODU was good, the Monarchs got dominated by an East Carolina program that lost four of its six games to Temple.

The other X-factor is that D’Wan Mathis has killed Temple as its quarterback since beating Memphis a year ago. He plays for self-preservation and, if that means putting the ball don’t the ground for the bad guys to pick up, so be it. At least he’s not getting hurt.

Temple partied like it was 1999 in this game.

Rod Carey watched that, folded his arms, looked skyward and kept Mathis in the game, absorbing the beatings.

The new guy, Stan Drayton, proved to Temple fans that he won’t sit back and take beatings last week. He pulled Mathis after the second time he put it on the ground.

E.J. Warner has the opposite mindset and the team has rallied behind him. His style of ball deserves an extended look.

Behind Warner, Temple showed some life against a Lafayette team considerably better than the Wagner team that lost to RU 66-7 a week ago.

Vegas has noticed.

A lot of self-flagellating Temple fans thought the opening 16-point line was low. No doubt a lot of RU fans did, too but Vegas’ job is to set the line to get an equal number of bets on both sides.

The line has gone up to 17.5 in the last five days.

Homecoming should be a factor as Temple was an underdog three of the last four years on HC and won outright all four times. Temple fans grabbed up all of the seats on one side of this field two weeks ago and that contributed to 90 percent of Lot K being filled by Temple fans. On Thursday night, Lincoln Financial Field announced that Lot K parking–the largest lot nearest LFF–is sold out.

Rutgers, no doubt, will bring a large contingent of fans. Our sources in the LFF ticket office predict an announced attendance of 45,000, with roughly a 30,000 Temple group vs. a 15-20K from RU. Only if RU brings 20K could this announced attendance hit 50K. (They base it on Temple grabbing 90 percent of the Lot K parking spots.)

Temple could not have ordered better weather.

To be honest, I do not know what is going to happen either in the stands or on the field.

This could be anything from a 49-7 Rutgers win to Temple repeating its 36-33 upset in 1989.

What we will say is this series needs to be both extended and renewed and, if the administration of both schools is paying attention to their supporters, this better not be the last time Rutgers visits Philadelphia.

Our picks this week: Two favorites, two dogs. Love Lance Leipold and the points at Houston, and also Purdue (which probably should be favored) at Syracuse. WSU should kill CSU as should KSU and Kade Warner Tulane.

Last week ATS: 3-2 (won on Duke, App State and UTSA and lost on ODU and Vandy)

Season ATS: 3-2

Prediction update: Split on this weekend’s games, as our instincts were correct on Lance Leipold winning at Houston and Washington State killing CSU. Only a Hail Mary pass at the Carrier Dome kept us from going to 3-1 as Syracuse beat Purdue and Tulane’s win at Kansas State was a real head-scratcher.

So far: 5-4 ATS on the season.

Sunday: Game Analysis

Monday: Legacy Analysis

The ONE thing certain to shock Rutgers fans

The Temple fan experience will be a lot closer to this 2015 Homecoming Game than any recent one.

There’s a prevalent notion among Rutgers fans that Lincoln Financial Field is somehow “holding back” tickets because there are so few sections available for Saturday’s game.

Conspiracy theories abound but no one in Piscataway has come up with the correct answer. At least not among the literally hundreds of posts about the subject.

A couple of recent Homecoming Crowds: Last year for a 3-9 team, Temple drew 28,564 for the Memphis Homecoming win and, in 2019, the Owls drew 34,253  for another Homecoming win over Memphis. If the Owls get even 30,000 of their own fans and 15,000 Rutgers fans attend, the attendance for this game could push 45,000.

The answer simply is this: The sections that are not available are Temple sections because it’s Temple’s Homecoming. Temple might not win on Saturday, but on the trip back home, the honest Rutgers fans will no doubt reach one conclusion.

“There were a lot more Temple fans there than I thought would be there.”

There are plenty of reasons for this. One, since Matt Rhule started winning in Year Three of his tenure, the SMALLEST crowd for Homecoming was last year (28,564) because the fan base was shellshocked by the 1-6 Rod Carey COVID season of 2020. That crowd was still pretty loud and the atmosphere lifted one of the worst Temple teams of the past decade to a win over Memphis.

Temple beats Cincinnati in this 2018 Homecoming Game.

There seems to be a notion in North Jersey that Rutgers fans are somehow going to “take over” Lincoln Financial Field. While it was true back in 2012 when Steve Addazio was head coach of a LOSING Temple team, it does not figure to be true now.

That RU-TU game was NOT Temple’s Homecoming and that Temple team was on the way to a 4-7 season.

Temple Homecoming crowds generally average about 10,000 more than the other five home games. At least the last half-dozen HC games or so.

The best Rutgers’ fans can hope for is a 50-50 split, even though the numbers now indicate from the sections available that the Temple side is nearly sold out and it would probably be a 60/40 Temple lean.

Allentown (Pa.) nightly news anchor Rob Vaughn (the Jim Gardner of the Lehigh Valley), comments on last year’s HC crowd.

The Stan Drayton hire seems to have energized the fan base and probably the kind of atmosphere fans can expect is the Homecoming Game of 2015 (see above video). Plus, it’s Dr. Jason Wingard’s induction as Temple President and there are a lot of pre-game ceremonies planned for more than a year for this day. Temple people who see one football game a year will be at this one.

RU has never been to the Linc for a Temple Homecoming, at least since the program was revitalized by Al Golden and Matt Rhule. It literally is the ONLY game a lot of fans come to every year and that in and of itself guarantees a large Temple contingent. Temple has had its attendance troubles, but never on this one day a year. You cannot expect the average Rutgers fan understands that data. That seems to fuel a lot of misconceptions about what the size of the Temple crowd will be from a North Jersey perspective.

The only sections available on the Temple season ticket side are two at the club level.

The fact that this is a regional rival suggests there is even more Temple interest in this game than the two most recent Homecoming wins against Memphis or even the 2018 Homecoming win over a Cincinnati team that came in with a 6-0 record.

Will Rutgers bring the most impressive visiting fan contingent in the last half-dozen years? No doubt. Is Rutgers taking over the Linc?

That’s a notion certain to be disabused by late Saturday afternoon.

Friday: Temple-Rutgers Preview