If there was anything Temple could take from the first six games of the season is not to take anything for granted.
As the Villanova debacle gets farther back in the rear-view mirror, the more devastating that train wreck looks (and it looked pretty bad when it happened). Dave Patenaude, who probably should have been fired the next morning as Temple offensive coordinator for putting up only nine offensive points against that squad, is still around so anything can happen. Patenaude has to know offensive coordinators with far lesser talent than Temple (Towson and Stony Brook) put up 45 and 29 points, respectively, against what head coach Geoff Collins then called a “clever defensive scheme.”
It’s only clever if you can’t figure it out.
Since then, like last year, Temple made a quarterback change and, like last year, Temple is a completely different team since.
Really, the Owls should be 4-0 since Anthony Russo took over for Frank Nutile but aren’t because two of their eight-deep receiver rotation had the dropsies against Boston College. One of the drops robbed Russo of a beautifully thrown 80-yard touchdown bomb; the other bounced off the chest and then the hands of an Owl and into the hands of an Eagle. The Owls were almost certainly headed for a touchdown on both drives and that was the ballgame.
On Saturday, Temple’s game at Navy (3:30 p.m., CBS Sports) should be all about creating separation–not only in the league race against a respective foe from another division but the kind of separation that gets Temple receivers out of that traffic in the middle of the field and into making game-changing plays.
There are four things that can happen when the ball is in the air and three of them are bad–a drop, an incompletion, and an interception–but there are methods that can optimize the chances for good and minimize the chances for ill. Creating separation–which the Owls really haven’t done for Russo so far–is a must going forward. Too many of Russo’s throws are designed to throw into coverage and an Owl receiver has to make a spectacular catch to wrestle the ball away from a defender.
That’s playing with fire and Patenaude must find ways to put that fire out.
There are at least five (of many) good ways to do that:
First, establish the run. With an elite tailback like Ryquell Armstead (assuming he’s healthy), the Owls should control clock and yardage with gouging runs against a Navy defense that has been close to porous.
Second, help the tailback accomplish that goal. For reasons known only to Patenaude, he has eschewed the lead fullback block that would make things soooooo much easier for Armstead. However, he did show the blocking H-back look using the tight ends as lead blockers against Maryland, so maybe he only uses it for games played in that state. We can only hope.
Third, play-action. With the run established, deftly fake the ball into the belly of Armstead (or Jager Gardner), bring the linebackers and safeties up to the line of scrimmage in run support, and make the easy pass over their heads into Owl receivers running so free through the secondary that Russo won’t know which one to pick out.
Fourth, the pump fake. We’re talking about the type of play that Kenny Yeboah ran free for a touchdown against the Terps here. Russo pump fakes a quick out to Ventell Bryant, who sells the play with a 37-inch vertical leap, and both the safety and the corner go for him leaving the tight end (safety responsibility) running free down the sideline for an easy six. The fact that we’ve seen only one of these plays this season is a real head-scratcher.
Fifth, the throwback pass (see above): P.J. Walker had a throwback pass to tight end Colin Thompson that created a whole lot of separation in a touchdown against South Florida. Walker rolled right and looked in the right corner of the end zone before finding Thompson (far left in the top photo and all alone in the middle photo) for a score.
Easy peasy stuff. If Patenaude can’t figure it out for himself, maybe he should place a call to the offensive brain trusts at Towson and Stony Brook. They can draw it up and send him a fax within seconds.
Sunday: Game Analysis