Football is a simple game.
Throw the ball. Run the ball. Catch the ball. Block. Tackle. Be disciplined to the whistle. Cover your man.
They are called fundamentals.
Temple did only one of them right on Saturday in a 45-21 loss to SMU.
Quarterback Anthony Russo did all that he could to get the Owls a win but to quote Gabrielle Bundchen-Brady after a rare Super Bowl loss by the New England Patriots, “my husband can’t throw the ball and catch it, too.” After watching the game a second time (fast-forwarding through the drops), Russo would have had at a minimum … minimum, a four-touchdown, 351-yard passing game if just seven of the nine drops were caught.
That should be enough to win in college football.
It was a disappointing loss in a lot of ways for the Owls but certainly their troubles at catching the ball ranked right at the top BECAUSE this was not expected. Sure, the Owls dropped three completions that would have gone for first downs in a loss at Buffalo but the rest of the season they’ve been pretty sure-handed.
Even if it means
tweaking the spread
option by using two
tight ends to block
for tailbacks Davis
and Jager Gardner,
it’s worth it to chew
up clock and bring the
safeties and linebackers
up to the line of
scrimmage and make them
vulnerable to play-action
fakes. That’s what the
Temple TUFF brand
was built upon
They needed to continue that tendency against SMU and, for some reason, they did not. Maybe the Owls failed to pack the stick’em and left it home at the Edberg-Olson facility. Whatever the explanation, their normally dependable hands failed them, particularly early when it could have made a big difference.
Their slow start took them out of a game plan that would have served them a lot better. They should have run the ball behind Re’Mahn Davis to create passing lanes for Russo. That has been Temple’s Modus Operandi for the past few years with a variety of running backs not named Davis and it really needs to be a priority going forward, certainly against a UCF team that, like SMU, can throw the ball and put points on the board in bunches. Even if it means tweaking the spread option by using two tight ends to block for tailbacks Davis and Jager Gardner, it’s worth it to chew up clock and bring the safeties and linebackers up to the line of scrimmage and make them vulnerable to play-action fakes. That’s what the Temple TUFF brand was built upon. “We’re going to run the ball and we’re going to knock you back and there’s nothing you can do to stop us.” Not what it has turned out to be this year: “We’re going to run a read-option with a classic pro passer and hope it works.” SMU did a nice job to stop the run early, but would it have been as nice a job with two tight ends leading the way and a little jet sweep motion thrown in? I’m sold on Rod Carey but he definitely has a blind spot in this area. Maybe some bifocals will help.
The blocking and tackling also were not good nor was the discipline after the whistle, particularly after the game was out of reach and that probably had a lot to do with frustration.
Fundamentals and approaches can be worked on, though, and have little to do with the talent at hand which is good enough to win. It’s already proven to be good enough talent to beat Memphis, which just might be better than SMU.
Winning was fundamental a week ago.
So, too, was losing on Saturday.
How well the Owls address their largely correctable fundamental errors this week will determine if this ends up being a 10- or 6-win season.
Tuesday: Fizzy’s Corner