There are few things more depressing than waking up on a crisp Saturday in November without my beloved Temple Owls playing football but today is one of those days.
Consecutive games of 63 and 45
points cannot be easily explained
away by missing a couple of key
players. Miss 11 starting players
on defense and maybe you can talk
about an excuse for 63 points.
Two, not so much.
Game Day is not only without the Owls but includes a team they beat, Memphis, playing a team they should have been a lot more competitive against, SMU, on the most national of stages, the ABC Prime Time game of the week tonight.
Oh, what might have been.
You can make a strong argument that the Owls didn’t play the last two weeks, either, but that’s neither here or there because there is a void today that is as much psychological as it is physical. The Inquirer’s Marc Narducci made a great point in an article this week that the Owls lost to Buffalo because they were overconfident but, after being exposed by SMU, probably lost to UCF because their belief system in themselves was shaken by coming up microscopically small in Dallas.
There’s a lot to that theory because a normally sure-tackling team couldn’t tackle anyone nor was even seemingly in the vicinity of a tackle.
Consider this in this crazy season:
Temple dominates Georgia Tech, 24-2, which beat Miami (Fla.), which beat Pitt, which beat UCF. Temple beat Memphis, which is at least as good a team as UCF and SMU, possibly better. Temple doesn’t show up against either SMU or UCF.
Something has happened since and it’s an easier fix on offense than the defense from a mostly schematic point of view. Definitely, a lot of it stems from not only their heads but the heads of their coaches. Consecutive games of 63 and 45 points cannot be easily explained away by missing a couple of key players. Miss 11 starting players on defense and maybe you can talk about an excuse for 63 points. Two, not so much.
If Pitt can beat UCF, Temple should have at least been competitive with that squad.
What was the difference?
Pitt won the time of possession battle (31 minutes, 13 seconds) by having 37 rushing attempts for 214 yards.
Temple didn’t even try to run or did so half-heartedly. Pitt established the run first against UCF and then had successful passing plays off of it. Temple tried to spread the field and open lanes for the run, which UCF’s speed closed off. Maybe a fullback and two tight ends would have helped. I suspect so, but we will now never know.
For folks used to the way Temple has played in the past, it was sickening to watch.
Saturday night, the Owls paid tribute to the 10-year anniversary of their Eagle Bank Bowl team and I noted on facebook that those Owls never lost, 63-21. That was a Temple TUFF team in every sense of the word.
Dominque Harris, a safety who was drafted by the Green Bay Packers, replied to my post: “You know we would have fought tooth and nail, brother.” They also ran the ball behind an elite college tailback, Bernard Pierce, and a great blocking fullback.
It might be too much to say this team quit, but you can’t lose 63-21 without the fight disappearing at some point. They had their teeth punched out and no tough as nails could be found anywhere.
Now you would figure the Owls’ coaches have been to work trying to fix the running game but the defense is a whole other story. The confidence of this defense appears to be shattered, even though there is plenty of talent on that side of the ball. A defense that played with so much swagger against Maryland and Georgia Tech–the two Power 5 wins on the schedule–appears shaken.
Defensive backs who played well in the first six games have been out of position. Linebackers who played with a fierceness in three goal-line stands against Maryland were routinely blocked.
Maybe Vince Lombardi said what every Temple fan was thinking on Saturday night:
Unfortunately, Vince is not around to fix this disaster and we will have to rely on Rod Carey to restore some kind of order.
He’s all we got.
We’ll have to wait until Thursday night to find out if he’s all we need.
Predictions: First last week. 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.
This week (for amusement only): Going with Georgia Tech getting the 7.5 against visiting Pitt. Miami, which is in disarray, was able to go up to Pitt and beat the Panthers. GT is not in as much disarray as Miami and has the home-field advantage so I could see GT winning this more than the Panthers. Pitt might win, but this is more of a 20-17 game than a 25-17 one. Others: Visiting Buffalo getting the 2 at Eastern Michigan, UCLA covering the 5.5 against visiting Colorado, Northern Illinois going from a 1-point underdog to a 1-point favorite over visiting Central Michigan, Memphis covering the 5.5 against visiting SMU and Middle Tennessee State covering the 3 at Charlotte and former Temple punter Connor Bowler.
The Memphis logic: At home, Memphis was able to take care of business against Tulsa, 47-17, the same Tulsa team that took SMU into double-OT in Dallas. You can point to the Temple scores against both teams but the big difference here is that Memphis is at home and the excitement around Game Day should propel the Tigers.
Tuesday: The narrow path forward
While I agree that the schemes have something to do with the last two losses. one cannot overlook the injuries to key players. There is zero depth on this team at most positions. Losing the center last week, arguably the second most important position on offense, hurt given how versatile he is. Not many teams have centers who can pull like he can. As to Mike’s point, Carey better begin to shorten the game and the best way to do it is by running the ball using lead blockers be they other backs or tight ends liked up as H backs. Before the season started the depth of this team especially on the o-line was a point of concern and as the last two games showed it was warranted. If Owls don’t win at least two of the last four, it will be a giant disappointment.
Totally agree John, especially the effect of injured key players with few or no equal backups. But it does seem like something else has gone off base too.
Watchinbg Houston UCF and Houston is doing what TU should have done-clock control by running well against UCF and using the run to set up the pass. First 25 minutes Houston has had the ball for almost 20 and only trails by three.
Brilliant. Also letting the play clock run down to three on each play before snapping. At 40 seconds a play, that adds lot of time to keep the ball out of UCF’s hands. We were snapping at the 12-15-second mark last week.
Also, there’s no way you can tell me Houston has more talent than us. We had a 59-36 lead on that team last year and only lost two significant players.
Although I don’t think that highly of Holgorsen. he at least knew enough to go a run oriented offense against USF and he’s part of that air raid coaching fraternity. If he can do it why won’t Carey? This is quite worrisome.
How did TU ever beat Memphis? They have to be kicking themselves.
A lot of luck
And at the time, healthy players.
The dropoff at center has been shocking. The first two sacks of Anthony were straight up the middle. Matt Hennessy might be the best center in the country but at least when he went out against Army in 2017 Gordon Thomas did more than a respectable job.
That’s a poor excuse stop making excuses . Should not get beat that bad with the players they have .
Lost Owls. The last three bottom half of the conference recruiting years are not easily overcome.
This is what Carey should do and probably won’t/can’t do:
1. Start building depth on the roster NOW by playing underclassmen.
2. Fully embrace Temple Tuff Football in 2020. Re-establish the brand of football to dominate the AAC.
3. Recruit and build a Conference leading roster. Recruit kids who want to play TUFB.
4. Bring in another OC. You must score more than 20 points per game to win in the AAC.
Will Temple beat USF? 39% chance
Will Temple beat Tulane? 33% chance
Will Temple beat Cincy? 11% chance
That would be 5 L’s in a row…,
The 2020 recruiting class is another bottom half of the Conference class.
Norvell, Dykes, Heupel, Fritz, Niumatalolo, Houston, and Fickell are all better coaches.
Send the Indiana guys back to Indiana so we can start to rationally separate reality from delusions of success.
* Tulane game:
I’m afraid after 8-straight home wins, we’ve lost the home mojo. One of the reasons is that the belief system in the Owls is so fractured, fans will be giving up their final two season tickets (if they have them) and the crowds will be significantly smaller and much quieter. I point to Fizzy (about as loyal a Temple fan as there is) saying, “I won’t sit in the cold to watch this team.” I don’t feel that way, but I’m sure 50 percent of the season-ticket holders were disgusted enough with that effort that they won’t come back.
I’ll be at the Tulane and UConn games but to your point Mike, prior to UCF I had friends asking about going to a TU game if one of my tickets were available. Right now I doubt I’ll be getting any of those calls for the remaining 2 games, especially with the weather starting to get colder. At this point in the season I’ll settle for a 7-5 record, disappointed but at least a winning record. Hopefully recruiting will rate better by signing day. I am starting to feel the same way regarding the OC as KJ, really not a lot better than Patenaude just different
I hate to say this Mike as a Temple fan since 1974 I think you’re absolutely right . I don’t understand why this offense is so bad , and I really don’t get the defense there’s no way this defense should be that bad . I watched Houston last night and East Carolina no way Temple should be getting 63 points scored on them .
Tell you something else , no way is the quarterback going to be with this team next year . I could be wrong but I wouldn’t bet on it . I think he will play for some big-time program that needs a quarterback .
Pat Kraft is 0-3. He hired Collins, Diaz, and Carey. Collectively they are responsible for four consecutive bottom half of the conference recruiting classes.
It is IMPOSSIBLE to be one of the best teams in the conference with bottom of the conference talent.
At one time I really thought Kraft knew what he was doing. TUFB records and facts tell a different story. Basketball is worse off…,
Maddening situation, as the Temple BOT remains aloof.
Temple could have been at the top of the world. An undefeated Temple team could have hosted College Game Day vs and undefeated Memphis team..,
The AAC grew up. Pat Kraft stood still, then went backwards to hire Carey. Jeff Laurie is laughing his butt off all the way to the bank. What a shame.
And no place to play 10 months away from the 2020 opener
Shame the program may be missing the boat. AAC status is soaring in media commentary and with some grace period to fill the vacancy in the roster, league can be very selective. With all the attention the league is getting, one or two programs could be on watch lists for P-5 expansions. But a faltering program in the conference’s largest media market….another opportunity slipping away.
That high AAC visibility would be exhibit A for getting public pressure on the Eagles to offer a good deal (like the Steelers-Pitt).
Observation: Cincinnati-Memphis could play two weeks in a row, possibly at the same venue if UC would prevail on Nov 27. Does the conference want attendance to be limited to 37,000 (capacity at Nippert)? Or would they quickly inquire about playing at Paul Brown?
That would be at Nippert. Choice of the home team and I’m sure Cincy would pick the venue where they thought most likely to win the chip.
Watched the Tulane vs Tulsa on ESPN2 and it was interesting.
I thought Tulane would be better as the were almost good 2 years now, had a very nice QB last year.
Tulane ? Who would have thought Tulane would be good now ?
They seemed like a continuous bottom team, as small school without hope.
Again we see that each year brings changes and now somehow Tulane has gotten to be OK, and showed fine on TV.
I was happy for Tulane ,yes, its nice to see success for a small school team.
Now since Temple is a large school. I expect them to be much better next year with their recruits and coaching ability.
No excuses will be allowed.
This year we see Temple can have 7 wins, I guess that’s OK , not good or great.
I now see ,maybe, Tulane ,with maybe , a possible win here over TU now.
Can’t believe I see that as possible.
USF game will tell me what the season ending will be like.
We all hope Cary gets smart soon.