Penn State Week: Debunking The Myths

A good recap of Temple’s single-digit tough guy tradition.

Since Al Gore invented the internet (relax, just kidding), one of the quickest ways to get a pulse of a fan base is to visit one of these ubiquitous college football message boards.

Penn State has one of the best in its Blue White Illustrated McAndrew Board, a Wild Wild West of insults, flames and trolls but, mostly, a place to hold the hand of the Nittany Lions’ fans and look at a stopwatch to gauge their heartbeat.

If you do not take them seriously, a few minutes reading what these fans are thinking can be wildly entertaining.


Matt Rhule pointing the way to PSU.

Most of them think Penn State will steamroll Temple and that faulty logic is based on a number of unrelated thoughts floating around in their heads they accept as doctrine. One, in their collective minds, Temple is nowhere near as good as last year. Two, if Army can rush for 329 yards against Temple, so can Penn State.

Before debunking those notions, here is a pretty good sampling of the way the fans are viewing Temple’s visit to Beaver Stadium (noon, Big Ten Network) on Saturday:

AWS1022  (PSU fan)

   “ We aren’t losing to Temple and I’m not sure how anyone who watched the game today would think so. Temple is worse than last year by a lot and we’re better than we were last year. If you think Temple would beat Pitt you’re crazy and I doubt we have 5 turnovers again next week. …”

Greenpeach (Pitt fan):

“You beat Temple by at least two touchdowns. Honestly, after a horrible start, I thought your team looked poised and played very well.”

You could find about 1,000 posts over there expressing similar sentiments using different words. There are a couple of things wrong with that line of thinking.

Temple is only “worse” to people who do not know any better. The people who do, the Temple coaches and the Temple fans, feel this is a better team than the one the school fielded last year. The results of the Army game do not change that. That game is an outlier because the Temple coaches do not know how to scheme against the triple option and they never really did. Temple gave up the A gaps and fullback dives all night. (Memo to Phil Snow: 44 stack, nose guard, two tackles in the A gaps and no triple option gouges you ever again.) Unless Penn State comes out and runs the triple option, gives to a nonexistent fullback, the Owls match up very well against the Nittany Lions.

Pitt had eight plays
of 20 or more yards
against Penn State.
The week before,
the Panthers had
ZERO plays of 20
or more yards, and
that was against
Yes, Villanova
which is quite possibly
worse than Stony Brook.

The result of the Penn State game probably will be an affirmation of it. Here are a couple more facts to ponder: Kent State gave the Nits a game for the better part of three quarters on the road. Kent State lost to North Carolina A&T last week. Yes, A&T. At home. Pitt had eight plays of 20 or more yards against Penn State. The week before, the Panthers had ZERO plays of 20 or more yards, and that was against Villanova. Yes, Villanova  which is quite possibly worse than Stony Brook.

First off, to the casual outsider, the losses of linebacker Tyler Matakevich, tackle Matt Ioannidis, corner Tavon Young and wide receiver Robby Anderson are insurmountable. The Temple fan, the guy who pours over depth charts 365 days a year, knows better. Matakevich is not replaced by one player, but by three linebackers who have 41 starts between them. Two of them are repeat single-digit players, meaning they were among the nine toughest guys on the team last year as well. Because of the play of corners Nate Hairston and Artrel Foster, who both saw plenty of time last year, Tavon Young’s loss is replaceable. Moving the other corner, Sean Chandler, to the middle of the field has accentuated his ball skills and made the secondary better. Ioannidis is replaced by the deepest and fastest defensive line Temple has ever fielded. So much so that the defensive end who made the play of the game in a 27-10 win over Penn State a year ago, Sharif Finch, is now second team through no fault of his own but because the Owls have beasts on both ends, Haason Reddick and Praise Martin-Oguike, the latter who had an interception in the Notre Dame game.

To the know-it-alls on the opposing fan message boards, these players do not exist. On game day, they will wonder where they came from and wish they had paid closer attention to what Temple really has coming back.

In five days, they will learn the hard way.

Wednesday: 5 Keys For Beating Penn State

Friday: The Rivalry Arrives

Saturday: Game Analysis


31 thoughts on “Penn State Week: Debunking The Myths

  1. If Army is an outlier then so is Joe Moorhead.., i taped the PSU/Pitt and watched yesterday.., PSU will run the football against Temple and their WRs will beat our man coverage.., McSorley is a better leader than Hackenberg.., and the FG kicker is special….,

    our OL is not as strong as last year, we have depth but no deep threats at WR.., not sure we will sustain a drive longer than 30 yards against PSU…,

  2. Mike, what did you think of the Temple offense play calling on Saturday and the quarterback play? I was surprised and a little disappointed that Coach Rhule didn’t put one of the other quarterbacks in earlier. They need reps in games.

    • Phil, generally pleased that they started rolling Walker in the pocket. … not enough for my taste, but a little bit. Way too much pocket passing for him against Army. He doesn’t have the same vision of the field in the pocket as he does rolling. Also liked that they had Marchi and Nutile throw. Last year, in the same situations, they would have them handing off. I would not have waited until the fourth quarter to pull Walker, though.No need for fancy play-calling against SB. Would like to see the wrinkles saved for PSU, if there are wrinkles.

  3. on another note, it has been three recruiting classes since Daz left. Have we out-recruited BC in those three years?

    it will be interesting to see who has the better season this year.., BC plays a much harder schedule and we have seven home games…,

    Temple should finish the season with 11 wins if we are better than last year, a loss to PSU won’t get us there

    • Watched Daz lose the game against Georgia Tech. He’s the same one-dimensional coach he was here. Instead of switching things up and pressing his lead, he let GT back in the game and then win at the end. Frankly, I was happy he lost. PSU still has problems on the offensive line and their defensive front is not as good as last year. McSorley is error prone especially if rattled. He has barely played and can be led into mistakes by changing things up. I am not worried by their wide receivers. Barkley is the only guy who scares me.

    • You are comparing recruiting for a team in the AAC and one in the ACC. Big difference. Even if I concede the point hat Daz is a better recruiter his game plans flat out stink. He is way too conservative and his offense philosophy of 3 yards and a cloud of dust is outdated.

  4. Can’t underestimate PSU. That comeback against Pitt was very impressive. Walker needs to have a solid game. Owls need to stop end runs and have sustained drives to eat clock. Got my fingers crossed – again.

  5. I am going to defend the coaching staff concerning the Army game. Mike, while I agree with everything you have written as far as what it would have taken to beat Army, I think there is one thing that you have not written about. Army was just a worst case scenario for Temple in week one. Yes, there could have been changes to the game plan in order to beat Army especially on the defensive side of the ball. The big problem is that the team spends the whole off-season preparing their base defense, and then the first game you have to run a defense that is not your base defense. This was something of a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. They could have spent valuable time preparing for Army and neglecting the defense they would be using the rest of the year, or they could work install the defense they would be using the rest of the year. It is difficult to ask college kids who are limited in the number of hours they can spend on football activities to learn another defense. It would be different if the team and new starters had a few games under their belt, and had the kinks worked out. Neither option is particularly appealing. I think the coaches rolled the dice and hoped that Temple’s superior talent could beat Army and that obviously did not work.

    • first game should have been the EASIEST time to prepare for the TO, not the hardest. You have 9 months. Take 30 minutes out of every 3-hour practice and drill the TO concepts (44 stack, tackles in the A gap, nose guard). Why is it hard for Temple to do it and not hard for Duke? They changed their base defense for Army and won, 44-3.

    • If you watched UConn-Navy you would have seen how simple it is to defend. Just put two linemen in the A gaps on either side of the center and two on the heads of the offensive tackles. Play side line backer has QB and ends and corners have pitch. The key to stopping it is stopping the dive. You can’t only fill one gap and have the linebacker four yards off the ball in the other gap as TU did and expect to stop the triple option. Play man on the receivers and lure them to throw the ball. TU did none of these things.

    • What your implying is that because the coaches wanted to teach their base defense, which is fine for the rest of the games, they are off the hook. It doesn’t work that way because every game is important when you only play twelve. Using your logic, if the Owls meet Navy for the championship, the coaches shouldn’t worry about winning because the bowl game is more important than the Navy game. The fact is that the coaches had eight months to get ready and failed miserably.

  6. Temple has done nothing against one mediocre opponent and one bad opponent to suggest this team is better than last years team. Not having Thomas is a big blow, the other backs lack his home run potential and Walker has looked absolutely terrible. He didn’t complete 50% of his passes against an inferior Stone Brook team and didn’t play well against Army. Overall he has a 46% completion rate, yikes! I think PSU has a terrible defense but I am not convinced we can win unless Walker gets his head out of his butt and starts playing better. He needs to play like a 4th year senior. OC play calling is as bad as ever. Run into a stack front and then on third and long throw short out patterns outside the hash marks. They have to get the ball down the filed and use the middle of the field more to loosen up the defense.

    • I’d rather look at Walker’s overall body of work than his games against SB and Army. He’s a proven four-year starter at QB who will have every Temple QB record in the book by the time he leaves. The body of work, not the first two games, shows he can do the job. I think he will.

      • He only has 10 maybe 11 games left. He needs to get on track and fast or this season is finished. The defense isn’t as good as least years to carry this team. It has to be Walker and Thomas to carry this team! Walker’s three plus years goes as follows, a good year followed by a bad year, followed by a good year and here we are this year starting out pretty terrible. I hope you are right he can turn it around.

    • Army may win nine games this year. I do think they have gotten better and Rhule knew they had. That’s why it’s so disappointing that he was not ready for it and did not get the team ready.

      • The well-prepared staffs are able to both stop the triple option and incorporate their base defenses later. It’s not a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t proposition. It’s big-time college football and it is why the administration pays you either $1.5 or $2.4 million.

    • we have played Army and Stony Brook and Temple is LAST in the AAC in total offense…… the Army triple option lost 10 games last year.., there is NO indication the offense will be better than last year when we finished the season as the 7th ranked offense in the conference….,

      PSU will put 7 and 8 guys in the box on every down and dare us to throw.., if you thought the loss to Army was bad…,

      the 2016 Owls resemble the 2014 team., took two steps forward last year, one step back this year

  7. I’d love to sport the rose colored glasses too but I’ve seen nothing through two weeks indicating this team is equal or better then last year. PJW who had a stated goal of 70% completion rate has looked very pedestrian rather then taking the leadership role. The defense was largely heartless against Army and the line has been spotty.

    Barring a near flawless game and a few big plays I don’t see us beating PSU. Even taking into account their o-line challenges and loss of defensive talent they’re still playing better ball. Maybe if we’d devised a plan to beat army I’d feel differently about the superiority of our staff but I’ve been left a bit flat in that area too.

    • Look at it this way: PSU did not put Kent State away until the fourth quarter, the same Kent State team that lost to North Carolina A&T. Pittsburgh scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns against VIllanova to win that game, 28-7. It was 14-7 with 2:43 left in the third. I think Stony Brook is better than VIllanova and that will be proven later this year. You are looking at the flaws of the Owls without looking at the bigger picture that Penn State and Pitt really are not that good. I don’t think viewing it through that prism is rose or even Cherry colored.

  8. Hey Mike, i’ve been following this blog for quite some time now, just hope you’re right about this PSU game.

    – At the very least, we should be competitive, anything else will be a cherry on top!

  9. What are Penn States greatest threats? What are their weaknesses? How do Thomas, Snow, and Rhule attack this team?

    • Stop Barkley and have McSorely run for his life and you’ve got a good chance. I like our DL. It wasn’t their fault the coaches left two A gaps open against Army. Temple DL showed its true colors against Stony Brook (and before you knock Stony Brook, it beat the No. 19 FCS team in the country a week prior and I would take them head to head against PSU foe Kent State, which crapped the bed against North Carolina A&T).

    • Penn State’s front seven on defense stinks. Allowed 42 points to a Pitt team that was lucky to score 28 on Nova (which was lucky to score 26 on freaking Lehigh). Temple might not destroy Penn State, but it will win this game comfortably (something like 24-13). Cannot wait to shut up all of the arrogant PSU fans who are disrespecting Temple and that will happen.

      • Well you’re ignoring the fact that Pitt’s O-line/RB’s are very, very good. Also, Pitt had 3 drives that started in PSU territory. Twice at the 10 yard line and then once at the 30.

        I think you are severely underestimating Penn State if you think you will beat them soundly. You just got blown out by Army at home. You seem to believe as long as Temple isn’t facing a triple option they will shut down any other type of offense. Penn State’s offense is significantly better this year. I think most PSU fans expect to win but know it will be competitive.

      • When did I say soundly? I said “comfortably.” There is a difference. 52-0 is soundly; 24-13 is comfortably. The Army game is an outlier. Temple does not know how to defend the triple option (no 44 stack, no A gaps covered, LBs 4-5 yards off the ball). It certainly knows how to defend Penn State and has all but two players back from the two-deep line that dominated the Penn State offensive line last year. Unless Forrest Gregg or Jerry Kramer transferred in, I think Temple’s DL will dominate again. They are certainly salivating at the prospect.

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