Editor’s Note: Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub, a former Temple player and later a coach, teacher, and writer, offers his thoughts on the UCF game.
By Dave (Fizzy) Weinraub
When Peter Pan asked Tinker Bell where they were, she answered, “Why Peter, we’re in Never-Never Land.”
If you came away from the Central Florida (CF) game satisfied we were competitive but didn’t win, shame on you. I’m glad you’re not my coach. This Temple team has unquestionably established they have top -25 talent, and yet, we now have a 1 & 2 record against ranked teams. Overall, in woulda, coulda, shoulda land, (that’s the next island over from Never-Never Land) we are 8 & 0. Unrealistic you say? Bollocks!
Against CF, the play calling in the first half was nothing short of spectacular, with lots of play-action on first down, and the fake field goal was something to behold. Without question, Russo has provided the arm and the leadership we’ve needed for so long. Time after time, Russo kept a drove alive with his legs and could teach Carson Wentz when and how to slide. Armstead ran healthy for awhile (Let’s not get back into that, because I’ll never forgive Collins.) and we went into half-time with the lead against one of the most explosive offenses in the country.
In the third quarter, however, the strategy seemingly changed and Mr. Hyde once more emerged in the offensive coordinator’s box. We ran the ball on every first down until the last two, (We could have run off the pass like we did in the first half.) and it looked like the coaches were trying to use the clock to keep the ball away from CF. In doing so, we gave up the momentum and put Russo in third and have-to pass situations. This allowed the defense to ratchet up the pressure and force some throws and they got some sacks, and CF regained the lead. Mr. Mo is a thin-skinned guy. If he comes to the dance with you and then you give him the cold shoulder, rarely does he come back. I’ve watched teams in every sport start to be conservative and run the clock with the lead. Invariably, that leads to doom, especially when you’re playing a team like CF. You need every point you can get.
Still, late in the fourth quarter, we could have pulled it out. But we self-destructed on two motion penalties in succession at the goal line, and then missed the field goal. How does that happen? Congratulations to the CF quarterback Milton though, who put the game away with a terrific falling-down throw for the touchdown. We ended up a day late, and a dollar short. Over the course of this season, we are now four dollars short. Oh, and a few more things. Three times I watched the pass patterns when we had triple wide-outs on the right. Each time, all three guys just went straight. There were no crosses or picks. Hello? At first and goal and after a short gain, we came right back to Armstead the second time and got stuffed again. We ran a trick play in the first half by splitting the offense, and it worked. Why not another split play, where you do something off the first half play? Of course, I’ve given up on asking for some misdirection, a reverse, and (gulp), maybe even a “Philly-Philly”.
Now to the defense.
CF’s speed was exceptional, and they killed us with the run. As we always lined up in the 4-3, they knew just how to block. The runner would start with a few steps in one direction, before cutting back the other way. Those initial steps would set up a double team at the designated hole, and the uncovered lineman would come out and pick off a linebacker. With their speed, “POP,” the runner was into the secondary necessitating difficult open field tackles.
As I’ve asked before, does it take a genius to coach a number of different alignments? Why can’t we have five down lineman hitting different gaps or even six with someone backing off? Or what about the scheme we used to use where everyone stood up, danced around and hit a designated gap when the ball was snapped? Anything to confuse the blocking. Of course, we could blitz the hell out of them and take our chances. We rarely blitzed and they scored fifty-two points anyway.
Well, you say, what about the horrible officiating? I’m just getting to that.
I don’t often get into the bad calls since they usually even out. However, this officiating was a total disgrace and one-sided. The first was on the pass on CF’s first possession. The receiver clearly had his foot on the line, and one official called it out of bounds. And yet, no official thought to stop for the replay and our head coach didn’t throw his red flag. They scored on that drive. After that, they called a bogus holding penalty on us, and overlooked a CF takedown right in front of the referee, on a play which set up a touchdown. They called a ridiculous 15-yard penalty on Armstead after the tackler got halfway up and then came down hard on him again, and another for our receiver spinning the ball after his reception. In a game like this, you don’t call those chicken-shit penalties. The last doozie was the interference call at the goal line when there was hardly any contact and our defensive back turned properly and batted the ball down. I thought the bad calls caused 21 points; either when they stopped our drives or continued theirs.
And still, we woulda, coulda, shoulda won the game. We have top twenty-five talent, but not top twenty-five coaching. Our coaches must learn how to win and embrace momentum or we’ll stay in Never-Never Land forever. If you think CF had a wide-open offense, wait till you see the play calls from Major Applewhite. (I knew him when he was only a lieutenant.) He’s taken all the plays we called in pickup two-touch games on the street and put them in his offense. And South Florida ain’t far behind.
Temple must allow Russo to do his thing for sixty minutes, not thirty or forty-five. By the time he’s a senior, he’ll be on some magazine covers. The defense needs to do some different things.
Tomorrow: The Bright Side
Wednesday: The Dark Side
Friday: The Houston Side
Sunday: Game Analysis