Coaches Still Slow On The Uptake


Big 10 replay officials blew this call as proven by this Glenn Tinner photo.

Sitting around with a smaller-than-usual post-game tailgating group after the Stony Brook game, my longtime friend Mark asked me a question.

“Mike, are you going to the Penn State game?”


“No? Why?”

“If they had beaten Army, I would have. My feeling is if this coaching staff can’t scheme for the teams they should beat, I have no confidence in them scheming for a team that might be on their level or a little above so I don’t want to go all the way there and then have to make the trip back all pissed off.”

“C’mon, bro,” Mark said, “How many years have you been following Temple football?”

Too many, I said.

Mark’s point was that I should accept disappointment by now. I had, and still have, a different take.

Making Walker a
dropback passer
is trying to fit
a square peg into
a round hole.
The sooner the
coaches realize that,
the better the chances
for future success.
They have a unique
weapon and they should
use him as such.

I wanted one year, just one, that Temple beat all of the teams it was supposed to beat and maybe reached up and beat one or two teams it was not supposed to beat with a solid if not brilliant coaching game plan.

I have not seen that year since the 13 years Wayne Hardin coached the team, but I had my hopes. After a 34-27 loss to Penn State on Saturday, my belief has not changed about this staff being a little slow on the uptake about basic football principles. Before the first game of the season, we outlined here the standard operating procedure to shut down a triple option—44 stack, nose guard over the center, tackles in the A gap, eight in the box and force them to pass. If a triple option team beats you passing, you walk over and shake their hand afterward. If they beat you running the ball because your linebackers played 4-5 yards off it, you walk over to your defensive coordinator and use that same hand to slap him in the head four or five times.

This is all simple shit that even a good high school coaching staff knows. We even outlined in this post how to play Army BEFORE the game and, of course, the slow-on-the-uptake staff had to do things their way.

As we all know now, the Owls left the A gaps open, and played their linebackers 4-5 yards off the ball and they were predictably gouged by the fullback. Afterward, the kids got blamed and the coaches got a pass in the post-game press conferences conducted by, surprise, the coaches.

Slow on the uptake also could be the phrase to describe use of the Owls’ personnel.  Earlier this week, we wrote a post on our five keys to beat Penn State and the No. 1 key was “Roll That Pocket.” Phillip Walker is a much more dangerous threat to defenses when he rolls in the pocket and becomes a threat to run the ball as well as pass it. Linebackers and safeties have to come up to stop the run and Temple receivers, covered when Walker drops back in the pocket, suddenly are running free through the secondary when he is on the move. Yet new offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas insists on making Walker a Matt Ryan, dropping him in the pocket more often than not. Maybe that’s because Thomas coached Ryan with the Atlanta Falcons. You cannot turn Russell Wilson into Tom Brady, nor can you turn Phil or P.J. Walker into a Matt Ryan. Walker completed 25 of 34 passes for 286 yards, but had very limited success when he was forced to drop back. When he took that step to the outside, receivers got separation like the Red Sea parted.

Making Walker a dropback passer is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. The sooner the coaches realize that, the better the chances for future success. They have a unique weapon and they should use him as such.

Walker sees the field a lot better and has a lot more success when the Temple coaches move the pocket for him, a fact that they should have known long before yesterday. The learning curve for this staff is too long and winding and leads to too many dead ends. The process needs to speed up if this team is going to have meaningful success the rest of the way.

Until then, my blood pressure will not allow road trips.

Monday: Recalibrated Expectations


23 thoughts on “Coaches Still Slow On The Uptake

  1. 40-4-1. 1 win since 1942. I give up.

  2. Just wondering why Sharga was moved from LB to FB? Remember reading that he was the heir apparent to Matakevich. It is obvious after 3 games that the Owls could use Sharga’s toughness and leadership on defense. Can’t Rhule see this?

    • I would move him back to linebacker. No. 45 can be the fullback. Alwan (41) has had a rough three games. Sharga played 15 plays at linebacker against Memphis and was outstanding.

  3. Yes we lost, but this team isnt that bad. They didnt roll over, and they didnt get blow out. I commented on your “Keys to Winning the Game” post that the keys were 1. No turnovers, 2. Minimize penalties, 3. Win on special teams.

    That comment was kind of ridiculed for being to generic. These teams are very close talent wise. It really didn’t matter about all of the other stuff. If this team didnt have 118 penalty yards, they win this game.

    That said, I am comfortable with 8-4 this year.

    • Before Mike posts his “recalibrating the season” article, I am recalibrating at 6-6 or 7-5. AAC teams are going to be tougher to beat this year!

      • I hope that the administration would consider a 6-6 season unacceptable. A 2 game drop off from last year is one thing with the number of seniors that were replaced, though I do think that is being somewhat overstated. Having a drop of 4 games and finishing 6-6 would show me that rather than turning the corner last year was a fluke, accomplished mainly with the prior regimes players. To me a program that is moving forward strings together several 7,8,9 win seasons after a year like last season. If the rest if the conference is that much tougher then that implies we are not keeping pace in both recruiting and coaching

    • Never “ridiculed.” I just wrote that when I write my “5 keys to the game” posts I avoid generic things like no penalties and no turnovers and address what I’ve seen in opponent game film that can be attacked and what Temple does well that can be accentuated. Those posts would be awfully short every week if all I said was no turnovers and no penalties.

  4. Mike, could you explain how the photo shows that the call was wrong?

  5. I will say the kids played hard. Slow start indeed as it took us a bit to settle in. If we didn’t have a penalty on that beautiful TD pass and catch I think we would have pulled it off in the end.

    Mike, what are your thoughts on the first half vs the second? Typically we don’t make adjustmets etc but yesterday I felt we turned up the heat in the second half.

    • We start way too slow. When you are only getting a limited number of possessions as we seem to get, having P.J. drop back on any play is a wasted play. We cannot afford to waste plays. The seam pass over the middle to Romond was the exception to the dropback/rollout rule. When we got P.J. on the run more (in the second half), we outscored them, 17-13. Too late. The only good from this game is learning from these mistakes.

      • Mike, In addition the offensive staff needs to be more creative in ways to get the ball into J. Thomas hands. He is explosive and can change the game on any given play. Find ways to get him the ball in space. With the exception of the QB for Houston, he is the best player in the league. The coaches need to do more to create “matchups” for him in space which will then open things up for the entire offense.

        On a side note Mike, the 4-4 Stack died with the Edsel. I understand your philosophy about taking away the FB in the Army game, but putting a noseguard and both DT’s in the A gaps allows the center to drive/base the Nose, and both guards will pin the DTs with down blocks. When that occurs the mesh point of the QB and FB now occurs a gap wider and forces the DE to make a decision on the FB. The OT inside releases to the Playside ILB and pins him on the wall and now the offense has a lead blocker up to the safety and they are pitching 2 on 1 vs. the OLB. If that DE squeezed on the FB at the wider mesh point, the play just turned into speed/lead option and the offense has a hat on a hat.

        You are close in your football lingo in spite of it being outdated. It should be some type of BEAR or TRIPLE front with a zero over the center as you said, but you need to cover the guards with head up or outside shade DTs. That is how you take away the FB without making you DTs rendered useless.

  6. Well, well …..we certainly “could” have won this game but the “wouldas” and shouldas” did us in. The penalties, of all sorts, got ridiculous. Just bad undisciplined mistakes like that face mask when the PSU guy was already on his way down and instead of getting the ball back we give them a first down and yards. Just unnecessary. And yes, there were some bad calls like that TD you mentioned above Mike, but they likely would have punched it in anyway. But really, coaches are supposed to teach basics and discipline and those things were lacking yesterday.
    Expectations can be a brutal thing to deal with. All the high hopes but then reality sets in and we’re back to mediocrity already. I guess I’ve gotten used to not having expectations, just see how things go from season to season, game to game and maybe hope for some success. That’s Temple for ya. So, a bowl game, any bowl game, would be a success for Temple – 2 years in a row that’s never been done before. But don’t start expecting it……….oh well.

  7. Team has potential and this game was winnable. But 120 yds in penalties especially the block in the back on the TD. Agree QB needs to be rolled out more and how about a little no huddle offense. The defense did not get to the QB, and similar to Army, PSU was able to run the ball right up the middle. When we needed the stop with the game on the line, Barkley was able to run right up the gut for a 55 yd touchdown. Even with all the warts, Temple can win the East div with a home game vs USF.

    • USF is much better than Penn State this season. Flowers is the QB Walker could be, if Temple allowed him to be ‘mobile’. Owls have to improve greatly on Defense before we play USF, which has been racking up points at a scary rate.

      • Agree that USF is much better. PSU will lose to Mich, OSU, MSU. Difficult games versus Minn, Iowa and maybe Hoosiers. Probable wins versus Terps, Purdue, Rutgers.

        Does Franklin retain job with a 4 loss season?

  8. The question is should MR retain his job if this team doesn’t go to a bowl game? My vote is no..,

    Houston fired their coach after a 7 win season and got Herman.., we have a bad habit of accepting undesirable performance at Temple…,

    what is our vision? Fortune favors the bold…, don’t think so? Look at Houston and Louisville, they have left us in the dust…,

    • Temple does not fire coaches. Matt Rhule would have to shoot someone on Broad Street to get fired because Temple is, err, frugal with the buck. Matt and Fran are here until their contracts expire and that’s into the next decade.

  9. Yeah kj, but Temple also has a bad habit of hiring not very good coaches. If MR can keep Temple at 7-9 wins and bowl games every year they should probably hang on to him, given their past record with coaches. Y’all can dream if you want, but that would statisfy me for quite a while.

    • Two interesting perspectives by KJ and Jon and a pretty good case can be made for either side. I posted something similar on Mike’s recalibration article. To an extent, I agree with KJ’s assessment that a big step back this year should be unacceptable and 4 years into a program we shouldn’t be lamenting how much better the rest of the conference has gotten and our talent level isn’t up to par. Especially it seems on the lines. I don’t believe the admin has those same expectations, if we can get to the level of Houston, Louisville, etc. “on the cheap” great. Feel that what Jon lays out is probably the more realistic expectation. As he says given our past track record, specifically 1989 through 2005 a team that consistently wins between 7 to 9 games a year, goes bowling annually and can get the occasional national ranking would probably satisfy me as well.
      I remember after one particularly bad game during the Dickerson/Berndt/Wallace nightmare saying I would be happy just having a team that was competitive, where they at least had a chance to win in most games and could get 5 to 7 wins a year (back when the season was 11 weeks)

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