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