Game Night Minus-1: Flipping the field

Going into the season, if you honestly asked yourself the question what sets Temple apart from every other team in this conference you might come away with these takes:

  • Great linebackers
  • Great offensive line
  • Great return game

The return game is led by the school’s first (and perhaps last) returning first-team All-American. (We’ll answer why later in this post.)

If there’s a key to winning in football, it’s accentuating your strengths to the detriment of the bad guys. The linebackers have been as advertised, all single-digit Temple TUFF guys who have played up to the honor. The offensive line is still the offensive line that Ryquell Armstead followed to six touchdowns at Houston and helped him become a fifth-round NFL draft selection.

Something appears to be missing.

Screenshot 2019-10-25 at 11.35.06 AM

Forecast: Mostly cloudy with a chance of punt returns

Oh yeah.

That great return game, particularly on punt returns. Isaiah Wright, that first-team All-American punt returner, has 10 punt returns for 68 yards, a 6.8 average and no touchdowns. Pedestrian figures for a first-team All-American considering that he had 19 punt returns for 23.8 per return last year and two touchdowns. The alarming number is the good returns he has passed up so far, instead electing to fair catch. He’s had more fair catches (16) than punt returns (10). From my seat, he’s made pretty good decisions on about half of those as a guy was in his face. The other half, not so good. He’s had at least a step, maybe two, to work his magic.

Enough with the fair catches already. If we wanted a guy to make fair catches, we’d have any other wide receiver on the roster back there.

Nobody makes the first guy miss as much as Wright and, if I’ve missed anything this year, that’s what I’ve missed the most: Seeing Wright make the bad guys break their ankles trying to tackle him and make that punt return the best offensive play in the playbook.

I don’t think we will ever see a returning first-team All-American at Temple again unless he’s a true freshman or sophomore and Temple doesn’t recruit those kinds of guys (Trevor Lawrence of Clemson is an example). Once they are a junior, they can declare so Wright did Temple a huge favor coming back for his senior year.

He can do himself a bigger favor by returning those punts for the final half of the season and showing the NFL scouts that he still has the Wright stuff. He can still raise his stock from a UDA to a high pick with a good final seven games. Remember, at this time last year, Duke’s Daniel Jones was rated as a UDA but his terrific second half of the season–including the bowl win over Temple–kept moving him from a fifth to a third to a first-round pick as the season went along.

The most important thing now, though, is helping his teammates achieve their goal which is a championship run (see above video). Wright was a big part of those great plans for this year and just because hasn’t been so far doesn’t mean he can’t be going forward.

Nothing better than Saturday night to start flipping the field only the way he can and reminding people that the Owls have a weapon no other team in this league can match.

Predictions (for amusement only): A very tough week for picks. Thought about taking Tulane getting the 3.5 points at Navy but Navy is playing so well that I’m letting that game go. Do like Indiana giving the 1 at Nebraska, Georgia State as a pick at Troy (still not fully recovered from losing coach Neal Brown), Liberty giving the 7.5 at Rutgers (betting against RU has made a lot of people rich), Ball State giving the 3 at Ohio, fake Miami (Ohio) getting the 2.5 against visiting Kent State (can’t believe Miami is an underdog there), TCU getting the 2.5 over visiting Texas and Pitt laying the 5 against the real Miami. So thankful that Manny Diaz is learning on the job there and not at Temple.

Last week: As far as the spreads go, I was 5-2-1 (the push was Wake beating FSU by the 2) so I will just throw out the push. Lost on Cuse and Duke but won five straight: ECU covering the 33 against UCF, Minnesota covering the 29.5  (Rutgers never covers these ridiculous spreads) and also winning with Louisiana Tech (a much better team than people realize), Georgia Tech (Diaz is even worse than Collins, if that’s possible), and BYU not only covering but winning the game OUTRIGHT against unbeaten Boise State. For the season: 29-12 SU, 25-16 ATS.

Sunday: Game Analysis

 

18 thoughts on “Game Night Minus-1: Flipping the field

  1. The Foley Ghost is real and Carey created it. Block a punt or return one for a TD?
    We could always count on Foley to win one game via special teams.

    UCF is a Top 25 team and will finish the season strong.

    Temple is banged up, starters getting too many snaps? Collins was terrible but he did do one thing very well. He put second and third team guys on the field, gave them plenty of snaps. Kept guys healthy and enhanced team level experience.

    Owls need to focus on the basics against UCF and play smart football. If not, UCF will put 50 on the scoreboard.

    • I think Temple has a lot of talent and should be able to play with anyone in the league! The problem is called being inconsistent ever weekend and also no identity on OFFENSE. GO OWLS!!!

      • That might be because the coach is a little too thick headed I’m just not sure about this guy yet.

      • 2 TE’s, 2 backs would give the run game too many blockers for opponents to handle. Still lets us put a WR out there, so you could still wind up throwing to him, either TE or either back. If we committed to the run itd help us out passing just as much.

  2. still in the 3rd qtr AND TEMPLE ONLY DOWN 56 -21 geeze.
    A pile of dog poop has more curb appeal than Temple now.
    Russo has another INT now
    Golly gee whiz …

  3. More than worth the trip to meet Mike, John, and fellow bloggers – TUFB forever.

    A few things: the negative effects of back to back to back bottom half of the conference recruiting years are here to stay. The AAC has grown up and Temple has stood still.

    Carey has plenty of work to do. What should he do?

    1. With no shot at a conference title, start building depth by playing underclassmen now.

    2. Dump the read option spread. Russo will never keep it and run so why are you running the RPO?

    3. Double down on recruiting and the portal. The top teams in the AAC are 2 and 1/2 deep. Temple must have a few dynamic recruiting years to keep pace.

    Either you hit in practice during the entire season (Temple Tuff) or you don’t. Players want predictability, switching up mid-season is a sign of panic.

    TUFB is at a crossroad. No place to play next season, and may have another 6 win season without a bowl game this season. The University budget can’t sustain or justify the cost. The MR effect (increased enrollment) is long gone.

    Sad reality. Indiana in Philadelphia doesn’t work well. Thoebald is gone, Kraft is not long gone, and Carey privately wishes he never came. The AAC is light years ahead of the MAC.

  4. Tonight. reality slapped TU in the face. Can’t play an entire college football season without two full teams and TU has, at best, one and a half teams because of three seasons of horrendous recruiting due to the coaching changes. I’d put TU at full strength against any one. A team and a half or less, nights like tonight happen because of the drop off in talent. At best, Owls win two more games and get invited to one of the lesser bowl games. Wonderful meeting you K.J. Hope you have a safe and smooth trip home.

  5. First time I left a game early (middle of the 4th qtr) since the 80’s. The by week couldn’t come at a better time hopefully some of our injured players, especially on both lines will be ready for USF. Given where the AAC is today it looks like it’s a bigger jump from the MAC then I thought so I’m looking at this as more of a transition year for Carey than I expected. Still think we can win 3 of our remaining games. That being said I agree with KJ about hitting the transfer portal and JUCO route for next season to make up for the past couple years of so so recruiting. Plus i think Carey will give some coaching stability which should help recruiting as well. With regards to injured players what is Hennessy’s situation I didn’t know he wasn’t playing until game time?

    • Hennessy was diagnosed with a concussion Friday. Don’t know details but heard that he was hurt in practice. Kind of upset with Russo’s play. Slid when he had a first down had he stayed on his feet and then just fell down with nothing but open field in front of him. As good as he throws at times, he simply is a disaster as a runner. That’s why it’s so perplexing to me that they’re running an offense that partly rests on having a mobile QB. Coaching is to blame when players are expected to things they aren’t physically able to excel at.

      • The play where he slid was right in front of my section and I thought the spot was less than generous. As for that fall down, that was a strange one, looked his foot got caught in the turf! For as inept a runner Russo is most of the time, from what I’ve seen of Centeio to date, I don’t think he is a huge improvement in that area either. Thanks for the info on Hennessy

  6. Bingo! It is no coincidence the best teams in the conference also happen to have the best play at the QB position.

    Temple is unique. I’m convinced, after watching TUFB for forty years, Temple’s path to success will be via defense and a ball control offense.

    Priority needs this off season: pass rush DE (Haason Reddick); sub 4.4 WR (Rodney Anderson); all-American/ all -conference RB (Paul Palmer/BP); and a punter (Alex Strazyk) who can flip the field.

    All the incoming WRs in the 2020 recruiting class are slow. Aside from R.Jones, all the Temple WRs are slow. The AAC is a downhill fast league, you need speed receivers to run the football in this conference.

    • Agreed. While I like No. 20 and No. 21, they aren’t game changers like the UCF running backs. We need one of those type guys and he is not on this roster now.

    • KJ, pretty much agree with most of what you point out. With regards to you point about Temple’s path to success is via defense and a ball control offense, the way Golden and Rhule built the program, more in that old Paterno mold, I don’t necessarily believe that has to be the case going forward. The big issue is Carey needs to decide which way he wants to build the team and both recruit and use the transfer portal to get there. If we are going to go the spread, RPO route then outside of maybe Beatty there isn’t a QB on the roster to be really effective.

      If the defense ball control route is the plan I would prioritize your list, pass rusher, “bell cow” all-American RB, bruising FB/H-back, punter, WR. WRs on the roster right now are good for a ball control offense especially if the OC realizes you can actually run patterns across the middle of the field.

  7. Need DB’s with speed who can tackle in the open field.

    • As far as the games went, I prefaced my picks by saying it was a very tough week for picks (it always is when something doesn’t jump right out at you) and it was. Went 3-3 SU and 3-3 against the spread, winning on Georgia State beating Troy, Indiana winning at Nebraska and TCU upsetting Texas. Lost on Liberty at Rutgers, Ball State losing to the always well-coached Ohio squad and Pitt crapping the bed against Manny Diaz and visiting Miami. For the season, now 32-15 SU and 28-19 ATS

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