We’ve seen a lot of interesting things the last few Homecomings for Temple University.
In 2015, we saw a wave that engulphed the entire lower bowl of Lincoln Financial Field because 35,711 fans were there that day in a 48-14 win over Tulane and almost every seat in that lower bowl was filled with Cherry and White-clad fans.
Fitting, because playing the Green Wave produced that Cherry and White Wave with the above video courtesy of an OwlsDaily poster named Victory Engineer. The crowd for a Homecoming game has averaged roughly 7,000 more than a “normal” home game for each of the last five seasons. Because of the importance of this game, Homecoming and the records of the two teams, anything less than an announced crowd of 36,000 fans would be disappointing. Even more important, those fans have to be as loud and involved as the 30,000-plus fans were for Maryland this year and the 33,026 were against Cincinnati last year.
That’s all nice but there has been nothing HISTORIC about any Temple Homecoming until maybe now.
For the first time in recent Homecoming history, the Owls not only have a chance to grab a Top 25 win, but they also have a chance to be a Top 25 team themselves by knocking off one of the 16 remaining unbeaten teams in the FBS. More importantly, as you can see below, Temple becomes the all-time winningest team in AAC games with a win. That’s not up to pollsters; that’s a fact.
While they were also playing a Top 25 team last year in unbeaten and No. 20 Cincinnati for Homecoming, they were far out of the picture themselves with a 4-3 record at the time including a brutal loss to FCS Villanova. The loss this year, Buffalo, is somewhat less brutal due to the fact that the Bulls are a fellow FBS team.
The Owls got a vote in the Top 25 this week and can move significantly up by going 5-1 and registering their second win over a Top 25 team this year. They have already beaten a No. 21 (Maryland) and beating a No. 23 (Memphis) on top of that could move them up fast.
How far up is yet to be determined by essentially two questions:
One, does Memphis scare you?
Two, does Temple scare you?
The answers to those questions, at least in my mind, are no and yes, respectively, for different reasons.
Memphis (5-0) has beaten Ole Miss (3-3), 15-10. Good win, but the Ole Miss of today is a little different than the Ole Miss of Eli Manning or even 2015 when the Tigers also beat them.
Other than that, Memphis has beaten Southern (55-24), South Alabama (42-6), Navy (35-23) and Louisiana-Monroe last week (52-33). Impressive scores, not so impressive opponents with the exception of Navy and that game was in Memphis. They have a running back with both a great name (Kenneth Gaineswell) and great wheels but Temple has three of the best linebackers in the country to counter him.
Last week, on the road against Monroe–a team that was beaten, 72-20 by Iowa State–the Warhawks outgained the Tigers, 575 yards to 535 and had 30 first downs to Memphis’ 21.
Got to believe here that Temple is a far better team than Monroe but the Owls scare me for different reasons. They have repeatedly violated former coach Matt Rhule’s No. 1, err, rule: Protect the football. This, to me, is an easy fix. Of the six interceptions and four fumbles lost, nine have come when the Owls lined up in an empty backfield. The other was a Jager Gardner fumble on a run from scrimmage.
An empty backfield telegraphs the play to the opposition. “Hey, guys, we’re going to throw the ball. It’s OK to blitz.”
Opponents have obliged. When that happens, there is no time to throw and the result usually is a blindside hit or a forced throw. Keep a back in the, err, backfield and a lot of those turnover problems go away because of the equal chance of a run or throw on any particular play and the defense has to stay home.
There is a lot to learn from that Monroe film that produced 575 yards and 30 first downs with lesser talent than Temple. The Warhawks used a lot of play-action and misdirection to get those yards. There is even more to learn from the Temple film of the last five games.
How fast the Temple coaches learn both lessons will determine whether this Homecoming is remembered for a fan-based wave or a player-generated tsunami that puts the Owls among college football’s elite when Sunday’s Top 25 is released.
Saturday: Game Day