This is the exact moment the great Ventell Bryant checked out of the Dave Patenaude Inn.
In the college football world of haves and have-nots, there is definitely a “have-not” feel among the Group of Five members.
Has been, maybe always will be.
At least for now, it is.
Among those G-fivers, though, the American Conference represents the haves and, among the AAC group, Temple has to be mentioned near the top.
That was clear after AAC Media Day on Tuesday, even though the Owls were picked to finish third in the AAC East for the second-straight year.
Reputation is based more on what you have done than what you are predicted to do and, with that as the criteria, Temple is royalty in this conference.
Only three schools—Houston, Temple and UCF—have won league titles and only two, Houston and Temple, have appeared in two title games.
Last year, the scribes who cover the league were right when they (correctly) predicted the Owls to finish third. This year, the nagging feeling is that they won’t be.
At least that’s the feeling among the Owls themselves.
Ventell Bryant put it best on his twitter feed.
What does Bryant know that they don’t?
Start with Frank Nutile being the quarterback for five of the last seven Temple games (all wins, except for losing to the national champions and a debacle we describe below), including a 28-3 thumping of Florida International in the Bad Boy Mowers Bowl. Add in the mix Bryant himself, who after saving Temple’s season with a spectacular circus catch to set up the game-winning field goal in the Villanova game, disappeared for the remainder of the season.
Partly that was due to injuries, but mostly that was due to checking out and not being a believer in OC Dave Patenaude’s “Coastal Carolina Soft” offense. With Ed Foley being named “head coach of the offense” Bryant has checked back into the Conwell Inn where the hope is an established running game will create more play-action openings in the second. There can be no debate who was the best Owl receiver in the 2016 championship season and that was Bryant himself, whose heroics basically won the UCF game in Orlando two years ago and could not be contained by Navy in the title game.
The key to Temple repeating the mediocrity of 2017 and becoming great is simply this: Does Collins realize successful Temple football is first establishing the run and THEN faking it into the belly of a great tailback on play-action to open things up for the passing game or does he continue to believe in the failed philosophy of his Coastal Carolina OC, who inexplicably passed on first and goal from the 1 at Army last year when he had the best fullback in the country available to lead block for a tailback who was unstoppable against that squad? Patenaude did similar, OK we’ll be frank, shit all season. Like North Carolina fans said about Dean Smith, only he could stop Michael Jordan. Only another Carolina guy (this time Coastal) could make the “best fullback in the country” disappear for most of the 2017 season.
It’s Common Sense 101 that once Rock Armstead (or Jager Gardner) gauges a defense behind fullback Nitro Ritrovato blocking for big gains to start a game, the linebackers and safeties for the “bad guys” will inch closer to the line of scrimmage to help with run support. Once that happens, it’s much easier to fake the run and find Temple receivers so open in the secondary Nutile will not know which one to pick out. Football is not Rocket Science. It never was and never will be. It took two years for Matt Rhule to figure that out. Will it take two years for Collins or has he learned after one year?
That’s the difference between this 2018 team going 10-2 or better or repeating a 7-6 season.
Ed Foley understands this concept and that might be why the players have bought into the system this season and not last.
Bryant, a Temple grad like most of us reading this blog, could be unstoppable.
With Isaiah Wright on the other side of the field, defensive backs head should be spinning and Nutile will have options.
Given that, and the fact that the UCF head coach will be learning on the job, UCF might not be the slam dunk the AAC writers think it will be. Geoff Collins already made his first-year mistakes.
It’s time for somebody else to do the same.
That might be enough.
They don’t even know.
We don’t, either, but by the time December comes around, do not be surprised if Temple is a three-time visitor to the AAC title game.
It all depends on what the playbook is, the 2016 successful one, or the 2017 failed one.
Monday: The Case for The Defense