After a shocking loss to Army that was more the result of a bad coaching scheme than physicality, Temple coach Matt Rhule conducted a ping-pong tournament at the Edberg-Olson Football Complex. The ping-pong diplomacy was just another bonding session for the Owls and, judging from the outcome of the Stony Brook game, the team that plays ping-pong together, wins together. So maybe playing table tennis this week is not a bad idea.
Here are five other things they need to do:
- Making McSOREly
When Temple defensive coordinator Phil Snow last visited Happy Valley, he came up with a defensive scheme almost as bad as the Army one against then Lions’ quarterback Christian Hackenberg and that was to rush three and drop back eight. Snow forgot one thing. Hackenberg did not then and does not now like to get hit and, by giving Hackenberg extra time in the pocket, he was able to pick out receivers at will. Snow did not make the same mistake a second time last year and, except for one three-man rush (that resulted in a Nate D. Smith sack), he kept the pressure on all day and the Owls had an NCAA-high 10 sacks. They don’t need 10, but if they get five against rookie quarterback Trace McSorley, they will win. Game film shows he almost always fakes on the read-option before passing, so having two blitzers, one assigned for McSorley, the other going to the running back, would mess up the timing.
- Stopping Barkley
Last year, Penn State fans said the reason Temple won was because James Franklin gave Saquon Barkley only one carry. What they forget is that it was for minus-1 yard. The Owls are going to have to close up the A gaps and nose guard Averee Robinson is going to have to handle the Penn State center, which he is more than capable of doing. If the Owls have the same kind of success against Barkley that they did a year ago, he will have minus-25 yards. All they have to do to win, though, is the same job they did against Notre Dame standout C.J. Prosise, holding him to 25 yards on 14 carries. Six of Prosise’s runs went for zero yards against many of the same players Barkley will face on Saturday. Is Barkley good? Yes. Is he better than Prosise? Probably not.
- Moving Jahad Around
Jahad Thomas might start on Saturday at running back after missing the first two games with a thumb injury. Moving Thomas around like a shell in a shell game is key to utilizing him. He should get a few carries, but splitting him out into the slot when, say, Jager Gardner is in the game and hitting him with a deep ball would give the Owls two breakaway threats in the game at once, not one. Also, Thomas is a terrific runner in space so getting him the ball on screens, traditional or bubble, creates that space for him. Jahad got hurt again in practice Tuesday; if he can’t go, I would put Jager Gardner in as the lead back. Always felt Jager had the higher upside over Ryquell Armstead, who is more steady but less spectacular. Use Marshall Ellick as the edge playmaker.
- Dynamo Nicky
On a 17-yard run against Stony Brook where he knocked over four defenders, Nick Sharga reminded the old time Temple fans of former Owl and Cleveland Brown running back Henry Hynoski who was known as Dynamo Hyno at Temple. He reminded current Owl fans of why he wears a single digit as one of the nine toughest guys on the team. Call Sharga Dynamo Nicky until the press comes up with a better name. Pitt fullback George Aston hurt the Nittany Lions with a couple of touchdown runs up the middle against the soft underbelly of that defense. Sharga is also capable of exploiting that fatty tissue and he’s better than Aston.
- Rolling The Pocket
Phillip Walker is better when he’s on the run because that’s where he creates major headaches for defenses. When offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas has rolled the pocket for Walker, opposing linebackers and safeties come up to stop the threat of a run and Walker deftly tosses the ball over their heads as Temple receivers run free through the secondary. If the linebackers stay back, Walker can use his athleticism and speed to gain big yards on the run. By keeping him in the pocket in the first game, Glenn Thomas was doing Army a favor. When he’s in the pocket, he can’t see downfield and his passes are often deflected by linemen or, worse, he’s sacked. It’s time to unleash Walker by moving the pocket.
Tomorrow: Watch Parties
Friday: The Rivalry Arrives