Ryquell Armstead has always been the epitome of Temple TUFF.
The routine on Senior Day is always a little different from the rest of the home games for a lot of Temple fans.
At least for me.
Instead of going in 15 minutes before the game, as I usually do, I make it a point to get in there a half-hour or earlier so I can see the Senior Day ceremonies.
The kids who play for Temple deserve that kind of respect because four years go by too quickly and the memories they leave behind will last for 40 years or more.
When you break it down to the basics, a college football season is really all about the seniors.
In the NFL, players exit stage left by doing what the old soldiers of General MacArthur did: “Fade away.” They leave without fanfare, some just being injured and released, some making the decision on their own but no ceremony involved.
In college, it is just the opposite.
Seniors go out in a burst of glory with their entire glorious lives in front of them. They’ve given four or five years to their college program and deserve the best exit possible.
When you strip the game of football to its basics, the most important thing is making plays.
That is what I will remember of this senior group, the plays a lot of them made as sophomores that enabled that championship trophy to be strapped on the team bus on the way home.
Start with wide receiver Ventell Bryant, who caught the first touchdown pass of the 34-10 win over Navy. The Owls would not have been even in the title game had it not been for the heroics of Bryant, who caught three passes in a 32-second, 70-yard drive that won a game at Central Florida.
Include Brodrick Yancy, who instructed a groggy (and probably concussed) Bryant where to line up that enabled then quarterback P.J. Walker to throw the winning touchdown pass. Had Yancy, who has caught a lot of clutch passes of his own, not had that kind of football IQ, the Owls would have suffered a 10-second runoff and never had time for the final play to Keith Kirkwood.
Mix in Ryquell Armstead, arguably the best running back on that 2016 championship team. His 25-yard touchdown run sealed the championship and allowed play-by-play announcer Brad Nessler to make this call on national TV: “How does it feel to be champions, Temple?”
Nobody epitomized Temple TUFF more than Armstead and his lead blocker, fullback Nick Sharga.
Rob Ritrovato picked up the mantle from Sharga and, while he wasn’t allowed to be a lead fullback blocker, took Sharga’s number and toughness to make some big plays on special teams. I first noticed Ritrovato throwing great blocks at the fullback position for Jahad Thomas in the historic win over Penn State.
Then there was Frank Nutile, who saved the season last year after Logan Marchi almost ruined it and was the second Temple quarterback named MVP of a bowl game (Chris Coyer was the first). Nutile played through injuries the first couple of games and has been nothing but a supportive teammate to sophomore Anthony Russo.
There were impact defenders, like safety Delvon Randall–who was projected by one service to be a first-round NFL pick–and tackle Michael Dogbe, who will surprise no one if he sneaks into that first round. Dogbe had the key hurry that resulted in an overtime interception thrown this year in the win over Cincinnati.
There are also the one-and-done Owls, including lockdown corner Rock Ya-Sin, who was everything Mike Jones was advertised to be last year, and Syracuse transfer Rodney Williams, who was the victim of an incredibly bad pass interference call at UCF. Holdover Jyquis Thomas has been an off-and-on starter for the last three years, but always Above The Line.
Linebacker Todd Jones, who played so well in the bowl game last year, has been outstanding on special teams this season.
The Owls are going to miss offensive tackle James McHale from the Scranton area as well as linemate Aaron Ruff, a one-time four-star recruit from Imhotep who became a late-bloomer at Temple. Tight end Chris Myarick being awarded a scholarship was one of the highlights of Geoff Collins’ first Cherry and White Day and defensive tackle Freddy Booth-Lloyd was the single-biggest (literally) reason the Owls were able to shut down the fullback dive in the second half and that allowed them to beat Navy.
He will always be known as the “Refrigerator Perry” of Temple if he doesn’t gain fame as an NFL player or Temperor in future years.
The best news involving a “senior” was about defensive end Zack Mesday, though. He was given a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA on Wednesday so that’s the first senior we won’t have to say goodbye to for a while.
Parting is sweet sorrow enough with the other guys so, when you get to keep one, it’s extra special.
Tomorrow: Game Analysis
Great summary Mike! We will be there to honor these great representatives of our University.
Just like I have said about Willie Taggart and Quinton Flowers…I hope to god Willie sends him a check every week because he got him paid. Same goes for Geoff and company. This team of talented individuals is gonna get them paid and they are among some of the worst in D1. Its a damn shame for these kids but they continue to persevere. Im pretty sure we shouldnt have a loss at this point. Leave it to dopey Collins and co to bring us down!
Senior moments worth remembering.
FLASH. PATENFRAUD HAS RETURNED; AGAIN ABANDONS WINNING OFFENSIVE STRATEGY.
Just when TU fans thought it was safe to watch Temple’s offense, David Patenfruade flipped the script and pulled the rug out from under them by abandoning the offense that embarrassed Houston’s and Maryland’s defenses. Rather than use a lead blocker and rely on play action as he did the week before to great success, he left his all conference running back to his own devices. “If Armstead’s as good as everyone says he is, he doesn’t need a lead blocker.” said Patenfraud, who added, “That offense was fine for Coastal Carolina and if it was good for them it’s good for TU. I made a deal with the devil to develop my offense and part of that deal was to torture Temple football fans, and my players by leaving them without blockers.” “Winning,” according to Patenfraud, “is for losers if the trade off is that I abandon that FCS offense.”
Patenfraud lastly said that winning the game proved that he was right even though the offense scored only 14 points in a lackluster performance after it scored over 50 a week earlier. TU fans can only shake their heads in bewilderment and are left wondering if Patenfraud will repeat the mistakes it made last season against UConn, a team it should have beaten by 50. Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds and no one can doubt that Patenfraud surely has one when it comes to offensive strategy. Time will tell but no one is confident that Patenfraud is capable of learning from his errors next week, given his affinity for that ill-applied and totally horrendous offense.