The last time Temple head coach Geoff Collins faced a one-dimensional team, the game plan was OK for all but 1 minute and 15 seconds.
That was when Army ditched its triple-option attack and passed the ball downfield for the last 75 yards with the Owls holding a 28-21 lead.
It should have never happened because the Owls should have known the Cadets had one time out to negotiate those 75 yards. They should have eschewed the prevent defense for an all-out assault on a backup quarterback not used to throwing the ball.
Temple should have not made him comfortable back there.
But it did, and it was another of many first-year mistakes for a first-year head coach and allowed Army to tie the game with one second left and force overtime in an ingnomious 31-28 overtime defeat.
Florida International, the bowl opponent tomorrow night, is one-dimensional but the dimension is passing, not running. Alex McGough, its quarterback, is 6-foot-2, 187 pounds and has thrown for 17 touchdowns against eight interceptions while racking up 2,791 yards. Head coach Butch Davis calls him the best quarterback he has ever coached on any level.
What the Owls should have done is what they should do tomorrow night (8 p.m., ESPN). Bruce Arians once said his pass defense never got good until he figured out by late in his career at Temple was that the best defense was to put the opposing quarterback on his backside.
The lesson, he said, was learned in a 35-30 win at Rutgers—the same Rutgers’ team that had beaten Penn State earlier that year. With about as much time left and as much distance to cover as Army did this season, a quarterback named Scott Erney passed the Scarlet Knights from his own 20 to the Owls’ 30 with three quick throws against a prevent defense. Arians called a timeout, and rather heatedly discussed what the Owls should do with then defensive coordinator Nick Rapone.
“I told Nick to go jailbreak (eight-man rush),” Arians said. “I decided if I was going to go down, it would be with my guns blazing.”
The Owls had Erney in their sights the next three plays and found himself on his backside for the each time and the game ended way back on the Rutgers’ 41 with a defensive lineman named Swift Burch sitting on top of him.
“I say this from being an ex-quarterback,” Arians said. “The best pass defense is putting the quarterback on his backside. If you can’t get to him with four, send five. If you can’t get to him with five, send six. We had to send eight but we got it done and that’s the bottom line.”
If these Owls treat Mr. McGough has rudely as those Owls treated Mr. Erney, they should be hoisting a nice trophy tomorrow night.
Friday: Bowl Analysis