Other than knowing the geography every nook and cranny of Philadelphia, the Tampa/St. Pete area is the one I am most familiar with on the planet.
If I could live there, I would. That’s pretty much why I play the lottery a couple of times a week.
Great weather a dozen months a year and no driving in the snow. I know. I spent nearly 20 springs there, covering the Philadelphia Phillies for a suburban daily and going down on my own in the years I was not on assignment.
Can’t beat it. From Dale Mabry Boulevard to the Howard Franklin Bridge, the driving is easy and the people are laid back and happy. There are plenty of Philadelphia transplants, lured by the appeal of the Phillies being in town for February and March and plenty of Eagles’ bars down there.
So the Temple Owls will live in St. Pete/Clearwater for at least a week, getting an invitation to the Gasparilla Bad Boy Mowers Bowl (Dec., 21, 8 p.m., ESPN).
It should be a fun week.
This time, though, the focus should be on winning. It is the only game on national TV that day and the national perceptions of Temple football will be formed in bars from Salem, Oregon to Salem, Massachusetts.
The Owls’ lone motto from today on out should be: “Let’s Win This Bad Boy.”
If Matt Rhule were to get on the horn with his good friend Geoff Collins, he’d give the first-year coach this advice:
“Geoff, I wanted our Florida bowl to be a reward for our kids so we went heavy on the air hockey, the bowling, the beach volleyball and even a trip to the Everglades. What I didn’t do enough of was game prep and we got our asses handed to us by a good Toledo team. Don’t make the same mistake I made. Go very light on the tourist stuff and very heavy on the game prep. Make it like a regular week at the E-O.”
If that were truly Rhule’s advice—and we suspect it would be—the Owls will be much better off. Look at it this way: From a national perception standpoint, the Temple football brand (Temple TUFF?) takes a huge hit if it loses to Florida International. There’s a big difference between finishing 6-7 and trending downward after back-to-back 10-win seasons and 7-6 and trending upward by winning four of the last five games. It’ll be pretty hard to sell things like “The Standard, Money Downs and Swag” coming off a 6-7 season. In fact, it will sound damn hollow.
Plus, there is the added incentive of doing something those double-digit-win Temple teams did not do: Celebrate the last game of the season by hoisting a bowl trophy. They had to watch two teams do that the past two years at their expense.
So let’s win this bad boy and wash that nasty taste out of our mouths. There’s no easy formula to accomplish that, but hard practices would be a good place to start.
Friday: Closer Look at FIU