To me, the big surprise has that Temple football has not been as good as expected.
So far, but that does not mean it has to last so long.
That’s not just a Temple fan talking here, it is from the perspective of places like The Sporting News that picked the Owls to finish first in the AAC East. That still can happen, but the results of the first four weeks gives even the most optimistic fan pause.
Temple could not get the job done against Army, despite having eight months to prepare for the triple option. Somehow, Buffalo—a team with considerably less talent than the Owls—did get the job done. The Owls could not get the job done at Penn State, committing 120 yards in penalties (including numerous false starts and offsides). Had the Owls been a disciplined-enough team to cut those penalties in half they likely would have won. Mike Pettine Sr. proved the way to eliminate penalties at Central Bucks West was repetition, repetition and more repetition and then by grabbing a few facemasks and yelling a few choice words to offenders at practice so they do not become repeat offenders during games. Temple could use a Mike Pettine now. That’s where you clean up penalties, in practice, not in games.
That does not look like it happens at Temple or at least has happened so far. These are the five things we’ve learned about the AAC and the Owls through 1/3d of the regular season:
- USF Might Be Vulnerable
For the first couple of weeks, USF established itself as the clear favorite to win the AAC East. It showed some vulnerability, though, in a 55-35 home loss to Florida State on Saturday. Remember, this was the same Florida State defense that allowed 70 points to Louisville the week prior to the game against the Bulls. Temple DC Phil Snow will have to devise a specialty defense, perhaps involving a spy on quarterback Quinton Flowers, to slow down the Bulls’ offense. As we learned against Army, though, Snow is not comfortable devising specialty defenses.
- Nick Sharga More Valuable At Linebacker
As valuable as Nick Sharga is as a blocking fullback, he’s a better linebacker and moving him to defense would help the Owls shore up a hole on that side of the field. Sharga had 15 plays as a fullback and 15 more as a linebacker in a 31-12 win over Memphis last year, and he was easily one of the defensive stars of that game. Rob Ritrovato has shown to be a serviceable blocker at fullback and can do that job.
- Pocket Needs to Roll
When Phillip Walker rolls one way and throws the other, as in the wheel route throw to Jahad Thomas, he is a lethal passer. The same can be said when he rolls one way and throws on that same side, as in the touchdown pass to Brodrick Yancy. The more the Owls can roll the pocket, the more dangerous their offense becomes. That needs to grow exponentially going forward.
- Knack For Sacks
When Marcus Smith was a backup quarterback at Louisville, he asked for a few snaps on defense and ended up with seven sacks at practice one day. The coach at the time, Charlie Strong, then moved him permanently to defense. Romond Deloatch set what is thought to be a Temple practice record for sacks with the same seven, but the difference was that head coach Matt Rhule moved him back to offense. Deloatch has a knack for this sack thing, and since none of the other Owls have shown it, he needs to be moved back to defensive end—at least for third and longs. Who knows? Maybe he could become a first-round pick, too. Temple has plenty of good receivers; it needs a sackmeister and Deloatch is certainly that.
- Temple’s Slow Start Is Fixable
Temple has shown flashes of brilliance on offense and probably will continue to improve in that area. The Owls, though, need help on the defensive side of the ball. They have a former defensive tackle starter as a backup offensive guard, Brian Carter (6-1, 304), and they could use that experience and bulk back on the defensive side to stop the run. Add Sharga and Deloatch and hit APPLY, and that could be the fix the defense needs. We know one thing.
It could not hurt.
Wednesday: Not-So-Sudden Death