None of the Temple Owls were carrying tennis racquets on Saturday afternoon, but the result of the day was that they held serve nonetheless.
The Owls were supposed to win at home, and they did, 48-20. They held serve, but not much can be learned about a game like this. Before the game, we predicted 48-7. At least we got the 48 right.
The defense, though, is going to have to play better.
Charlotte was just another one of those games that new athletic director Pat Kraft likes to schedule and that former athletic director Bill Bradshaw would have avoided like the plague. Bradshaw liked the regional games against Power 5 teams, while Kraft likes the tune-ups against punching bags. Expect more of the Kraft-like games in the future (Bucknell, Villanova) mixed in with games Bradshaw scheduled (Rutgers, 2020 and 2021) along with Kraft adding Boston College to the mix.
If the Owls are going to contend for the AAC title, the Owls will have to shore up the middle of their defensive line and generate a pass rush that has been late in arriving. There are signs that the pass rush is coming as four-star recruit Karamo Dioubate seems to get comfortable with the college game more every day. The Owls need to improve their rush defense and a possible fix would be moving former defensive tackle starter Brian Carter back to defense from the offensive side of the ball. Putting him in there as a tackle with fellow Harrisburg Area nose guard Averee Robinson could help shore up the run defense and help with a push up the middle that could collapse the pocket. Romond Deloatch, arguably the team’s best receiver, had the team’s only sack. He might be needed on defense when Ventell Bryant comes back from an injury. For that matter, so could starting fullback Nick Sharga. Those are decisions for the coaches to make, though. I think all three moves would help the defense establish some needed consistency and maybe defensive coordinator Phil Snow should lobby for those players.
On offense, Phillip Walker showed a nice touch on a pair of scoring tosses and Brodrick Yancy showed why head coach Matt Rhule compared him to former slot receiver John Christopher in terms of toughness. Christopher was in the house on Saturday, getting an award for academic prowess.
The other takeaway is that Jahad Thomas is the team’s No. 1 offensive threat and maybe the best overall player on the team. Unlike the other backs, he has a knack for either making the first defender miss or shaking off the first defender and getting into space. He was missed in the Army game and could have been the difference-maker in that one. The Owls need to find creative ways to get the ball to him in space, and they may have hit on at least one with that long wheel route. Two years ago, Jamie Gilmore dropped a perfectly thrown wheel route in a 16-13 loss to Memphis; this time, Thomas did not.
Other than that, the learning process continues against SMU and the Owls will need to hold serve once again at high noon in a week.
Monday: 5 Things We’ve Learned So Far