Playing Possum?

Temple TV maps out road to the championship.

A possum plays dead when it wants to defend itself from predators and, in at least a couple of respects, the lead up to the AAC championship football game could be a case of the Temple football brain trust playing possum.

By extension, it also means to lay low to surprise the bad guys.

At least you’ve got to hope so.

Divulging an injury to P.J. Walker—err, walking around on a boot all week—could be a way of the Owls sending a signal to the Navy that their star quarterback will not play. I am not buying it. Walker will play and he will play at a high level. You heard it here first. I don’t think Ken Niumatalolo is preparing to play against Logan Marchi.


                                                                        49 in Philly, but 54 in Annapolis. C’mon down and join us in the warmer weather.

The more concerning case of “possum playing” are the comments coming about defending Navy’s triple option. They indicate that the Owls have not learned anything, or at least much, from their season-opening experience against Army.

“It’s not the offense, it’s the players,” Temple head coach Matt Rhule said in the Daily News today.

Err, Matt, it’s not the offense or even the players as much as it is the defense. Air Force proved that by taking care of the A gaps and putting a nose guard over the center. If Temple lines up in the same 4-3 it lined up on Opening Night, it will get carved up like a turkey. Navy had the same players against Air Force it will have against Temple and it scored 14 points on Air Force. Temple has better athletes on defense than Air Force.  It better not score more than, say, 24 against Temple.

SMU tried to play a 4-3 against Navy and allowed 75 points.  Of course, SMU’s players on defense are nowhere near as good as Temple’s or Air Force’s.

It will not matter if Temple attempts to defend the triple option the same way it did on Opening Night.

Hopefully, Rhule is playing possum here or Temple is in trouble. If so, I can understand where he is coming from. Even if Temple tries to put eight in the box, you do not expect Matt to say: “We screwed up in the opener. We’re going to put eight in the box and dare them to pass and disrupt their ass and hit their quarterback in the backfield.”  All Matt has to do is look at this Temple vs. Navy film from 2009, where the Owls tightened the A gaps and stopped a 10-win Navy team numerous times on third-and-short and fourth-and-short in a 27-24 win in Annapolis. That Temple team, and this year’s Air Force team, provided a blueprint for the Owls to win. Matt still has Al Golden’s phone number. I wonder if he has Mark D’Onofrio’s? The Navy team Temple beat that day was good enough to beat No. 21 Notre Dame (23-21) and lose to No. 6 Ohio State, 31-27.

Defensive coordinator Phil Snow also said something equally as concerning in the same article: “Any time you run the quarterback, you outnumber the defense in the running game.” No, Phil, you don’t. All 11 defenders are allowed to tackle. Not all 11 offensive players are allowed to run the ball. Send more than they can block and you can disrupt the running game at the point of attack. Sit back in a 4-3 and you are asking for the offense to dictate the tone and tempo of the game.

Praise Martin-Oguike joined in the possum playing (hopefully) with this comment: “When we played Army, we missed a lot of assignments.” Praise, you didn’t have the right assignments. Clogging up the middle against the fullback and stringing the option sideline to sideline can be done a lot better than in a 5-2 or “44 stack” than it can in the Owls’ base 4-3. Hopefully, the Owls put this in against Navy this week in practice.

Playing possum or history repeating itself?

I sure hope it’s the former.

Actually, praying.

Saturday: Thanksgiving +10

Sunday: Championship Game Analysis


10 thoughts on “Playing Possum?

  1. You make me nervous that our coaching staff has not learned.

    • Just keeping it real, Phil, and calling it as I see it. I have this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that we’re going to come out in the 4-3 after reading those comments. Maybe it’s just heartburn, but the one that really got me was Praise’s. Seems the coaching staff is selling the team on the mantra that “they” missed the assignments in the Army game and not the coaching staff missed the alignments. If so, it’s going to be a long afternoon. As far as Matt’s and Phil’s comments, doesn’t look like I read anything into them that we are going to change things up. I mean, we have the No. 3 defense in the country and I can see their reluctance to do so but the teams that have had success against Navy are willing to change up. Navy carved up Houston when Herman was arrogant enough to remain in his base defense. Got to hope Temple’s coaches learned not only from that, but their own game film. Fingers crossed. usaf played a 5-2 against Navy, but last week against Boise were back to their base 4-3. got to improvise and adjust to the strengths and weaknesses of your opponents, not just trust “the process” against all comers.

  2. If they don’t employ a different defense this staff has learned nothing. Without either a nose guard or two guys in the A gaps the Owls have no chance. Cannot play a defense where one of the linebackers is four yards from the line of scrimmage, which was the formation used against Army, a team with lesser and smaller players than Navy. The Owls have to win this game to avoid being called the Bills of college football.

    • they at least need to do this. Not a huge change up from their base 4-3 but in the eagle 5-2-4, the linebackers (Avery and Stephaun, I assume) are a lot closer to the ball than 5 yards off the line of scrimmage and 2-time state heavyweight wrestling champ Averee Robinson is right over the center, where he should have always been at Temple to take advantage of his gap leverage. OBVIOUSLY, YOU WANT YOUR TWO DTS A LOT CLOSER TO THE NG THAN THE BELOW GRAPHIC SHOWS. Then you can put FBL and Dogbe to his right and left, Haason and Praise on the flanks and away we go:

      • If they come out in the first quarter in the same defense that they did against Army (and the same defense they played the rest of the year), a 4-3 with linebackers deep off the line, we f*cked and we can all head out to the tailgates by halftime.

  3. Temple is ranked No. 1 in the country in “defensive line havoc rate” an advanced metric, which is measured by the percentage of plays that end in a tackle for loss (including sacks), forced fumble, or tipped/intercepted pass. To me, to accentuate your strengths, you beef up that line by adding one more of the “Wildboyz” (as they call themselves) or the “Cheetahs” (as Paul Palmer calls them).

  4. Constructive criticism is good and so is counterintelligence. Buddy Ryan’s 46 defense is perfect for Navy’s passing game. Chuck Burris as MLB and Julia Child at SS. 1000100100001011110010010001001010000

  5. Navy 41 – Temple 33

    • I see what you are doing there, the reverse double-whammy. Pure genius. I just dropped a dime on the Owls and will use the winnings for a free trip to the Cotton Bowl. Thanks.

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