TU-Cincy: Story of the season

This is vintage Temple-Cincy football, not that RPO crap we’ve seen this year

Social media can be a wonderful and terrible thing at the same time and it was on full display in the first half of Temple’s 15-13 loss to Cincinnati.

“Russo just doesn’t have it,” one post read.

I had to shake my head.


Rod: This is Temple football, not that RPO stuff.

When a team has a great offensive line, a relatively immobile quarterback and two very good running backs, what kind of offense do you design?

Hint: It’s not the same RPO offense you played at Northern Illinois with Jordan Lynch.

This had nothing to do with any single player or really any player.

The loss in the most important game Temple has played since 2016 didn’t happen because a quarterback “doesn’t have it” but because of what happened in the spring and over the summer in the coaching offices of Edberg-Olson Hall.

This, though, really
has been the story
of the season for the
Owls so far because Rod
Carey otherwise is a good
head coach who has a blind
spot when it comes to this
ill-fitting offensive scheme

The answer, of course, is to fit the system to the personnel you have. The Owls were blessed with great wide receivers, sure, going into the season, but they had what Geoff Collins called earlier this year “the best three interior offensive linemen in college football.”

To best utilize that kind of personnel, you’ve got to put the tight ends in motion (see Maryland game film from last year), establish the run FIRST behind that offensive line and those tight ends and then make explosive downfield plays in the passing game off play-action fakes.

To attempt an RPO offense with a quarterback with a strong arm but not nimble legs is a recipe for disaster. To throw the ball 26 of the first 34 plays with good tight ends, good running backs, and a great offensive line is just a terrible game plan. Running the ball 26 of the first 34 times would have been a smarter game plan. Perhaps not ironically, what little success the Owls had came when they went ass-backward with the running game at the start of the second half.

By then, though, they were too far behind.

You kinda knew the kicking game would be a problem when both a dependable kicker (Aaron Boumerhi) and punter (Connor Bowler) were inexplicably told their services would no longer be needed.

Misuse of terrific personnel on offense, though, really has been the story of the season for the Owls so far because Rod Carey otherwise is a good head coach who has a blind spot when it comes to this ill-fitting offensive scheme.

Temple football is not passing first, running second. It’s run first, then draw the linebackers and safeties up to the line of scrimmage and then–and only then–fake to those backs to create open passing lanes.

That’s the way this program earned a lot of its Temple TUFF reputation over the last decade. It should have been the way the Owls won on Saturday night.

That it didn’t happen had nothing to do with the kids or any kid. Grown men should have known better months ago.

Tuesday: Fizzy’s corner



40 thoughts on “TU-Cincy: Story of the season

  1. While I would have liked to have seen the offense run the ball more and have a more balanced attack I’m not sure if we had the personnel to run either style offense, RPO or what you lay out consistently. As I’ve said previously think there are less holes to fill to get back that Temple Tuff power running game so this recruiting class and off season will be interesting. Maybe Carey wanted to stick with what he is most comfortable with for his first year, don’t know. I don’t get the feeling we will be seeing any changes on the staff though. As tough as tonight was I do feel finishing 8-4 (we’d better not lose to Uconn!!), Carey will have been more successful than Collins and my focus is on seeing what kind of recruiter he is, how he takes advantage of the transfer portal, etc going forward.

    • First seasons: Rhule 2-10, daz 8-4, Collins 6-6, Carey 8-4. I’d argue all underachived considering the talent they had. Carey probably only by 1 game. Rhule by 4, daz by 1 (bowling green), Collins by 4.

  2. Plus taking a “glass half full” view of things we could still have one of our recent ex head coaches, not including Rhule, still at the helm. Addazio has a good chance to finish with a losing record at BC where he’s never been better than 7-6, Collins will probably be 3-9 at GT and if you follow their boards a good number of folks are seeing the same things that were highlighted here and Diaz list to FIU with all of that NFL talent on the Miami roster

  3. If Carey chooses to stick with the RPO Russo must go. He will not or cannot run. Cinncy’s QB (and really any RPO qb) understands that what makes the offense so dangerous is the threat that the qb will run. Second, there is no coherence on offense. Too many times they get five yards on first down on a run and then on second down throw a pass that’s invariably incomplete thereby making 3rd down that much tougher to make. Third. What is wrong with Wright? That dropped pass for a first down was inexcusable. Fourth, I don’t want to hear that if Foley were here things would be different. Foley was here when TU had possibly the worst kicking game in football. Hell. That year they had the punter try field goals. Foley doesn’t snap the ball or kick what should be make-able field goals. Regarding fair catches, there were very few times I disagreed with the decision not to run. To give the returner a chance, the other people on the punt return team have to block. I see none of that. Rather three quarters of the team is worried about a fake. This is Carey’s first game that he should have won but didn’t. Cinncy’s not that good and if Memphis doesn’t beat them twice in a row, the conference really is all that good.

    • John, feel the same way regarding Memphis and Cincinnati. Cincinnati should get there first and second conference losses. If Cincinnati wins the conference I think there performance in the Cotton Bowl will be as bad as when UCONN won the Big East and went to the Fiesta Bowl (?). As for Foley, I really don’t know how much of it is coaching versus talent with the kicking game

    • * isn’t all that good. It’s late and my eyes are not working as well as they should.

    • Our OC is terrible and the QB coach is worse. We’ll see if Carey has the guts and wisdom to make changes next year. The Bottom Line is results. The Patenaude offense was more productive and average more points per game. The Temple recruiting class next year is below AAC average. So something has to change.

      Temple should have beaten Buffalo and Cincy.

      Beat UConn and win the bowl game.

      Wow, this season went super fast.

  4. So discouraging.

    Game could have been won. Owls lost, Cinci didn’t win.

    Congemi’s editorial about players taking dives (two UC players at one time) and plea for action by NCAA. How about any player with an injury stopping play has to remain out of the game until the next change of possession?

  5. This is the reality. This is a 6 to 8 win team. They blew the Buffalo and Cincinnati games and got lucky against Memphis. Hopefully, they beat UConn and they get a bowl that they can win. They will probably end up in a bowl against one of these MAC teams. I hope they can win a bowl game. Let us see…

    • It appears the SEC and PAC will not be able to fulfill their Bowl commitments. Let’s hope the Owls can get a bid to a higher profile bowl against a P5 team.

  6. The season came ” full circle ” as early on special teams play was full of nonsense error like yesterday and the QB threw the crucial INT like at the start of the year. I suppose a team IS what it is and that includes Coaches, right ?
    Now my big gripe was on the 4th down run with 21 JG and he did not get it done, sorry to see him get hurt later.
    But clearly nbr 20 had a much better chance to get that first down in the 4th.
    I blame coaches for this loss based on plays called and personnel decision for a key play.
    What an exciting last 10 minutes after total crap play or ‘misfortune’ before that.
    Woulda- Coulda -Shoulda won that game, I say.

  7. It’s ironical that the Owls had a relatively clean game penalty wise – no unsportsmanlike or targeting penalties, but then screwed up in other areas to lose. Cincy certainly had their fair share of screwups and penalties too but we outdid them. I’m sorry for criticizing players but Russo was just plain inaccurate at least half of the time, especially on the first series throw to a wide open reciever which would have been a TD to start the game and the last series of the game with a unexplanable throw-it-up-for-grabs IT when all we needed was a field goal to win. I just kept waiting for things to get decent on offense, but the ineptness kept the foot shooting going. The D did well enough for us to win. And Isaiah? It appears he put on a lot of weight and just can’t get going like he used to. But like JBelli said and I said before, he’s covered up by the time he catches the ball on kick returns. Well last night was certainly a winnable game and we blew it, Cincy didn’t beat us, we beat ourselves.

  8. The game reminded me of the bad days of TU football. Making mistakes on things that should be routine. Also, when is the defense going to stop going for the running back on the RPO? It’s really sickening and is something that has plagued them for years. Still see the Notre Dame QB going 80 yards because the D-end ignored his assignment. Also gets me mad because while TU runs that same offense, our QB’s never do it.

  9. More bad news: Elite running back Trevor Pena de-committed from Temple and committed to Syracuse. Syracuse? Yes, the same team that is going to fire Dino Babers probably right after the season. We need an elite running back badly. Here’s a story o Pena from earlier in the season. Ocean Township has a history of having players to commit to Temple (Kenny Pickett) only to de-commit later.

    • Just like our coaches skipping out for greener pastures, some players will too for schools in the more elite P5 conferences.

    • it’s okay if we can take some of the best talent Rutgers has.
      They don’t have much though, so don’t get your hopes up.

  10. Dino Babers, Syracuse (Cooler)
    Why it’s warm: A preseason Top 25 program has plummeted to 4-6 overall and a miserable 1-5 in the ACC.

    Season total: 5

    Next game: at Louisville

    Betting impact: Though the Orange started the season in the AP poll, bookmakers clearly knew something given that low season total. Syracuse salvaged a shot at going over by hammering Duke last weekend for its lone ACC win so far but the Orange must run the table against Louisville (-8.5) and Wake Forest. Both opponents are far better and odds seem long.

  11. This team is fortunate to go bowling with an opportunity for a 9 win season. Stats are like fired bullets, they always tell the truth. Temple is ranked 9th in the conference in scoring offense and 8th in total offense and pass efficiency. This includes UConn!
    And, the OL is way above average. So, where is the problem? Skill players or the OC and QB coach? Wright has been wrong all season, and Russo is the same player he was last season. Something has to change.
    Help is not coming. Next season’s recruiting class is ranked in the bottom half of the conference. Fran Brown needs help. The other coaches can’t/won’t recruit. And, Carey’s history and performance this year on the recruiting trail is very pedestrian at best.
    Gloomy days on the horizon next season. Sunday talent leaving, lesser talented kids coming in.
    Let’s just enjoy these next two games and be thankful for the wins this year.

    • Respectfully disagree, stats can tell you any story you want to craft from them. The only stat that matters is wins and losses

  12. One thing not to worry about at this point is any of the P5 programs poaching the HC. I’m growing more unimpressed by Carey each week.

    The offensive regression continues (60 TD last year, 36 so far this year). Russo, on the eye test, has gone backward. I’m not sure why #2 retains single-digit status at this point. I can’t figure out what the offensive strategy is.

    There are bright spots (Blue, Davis, O line, Defense, etc).

    The special teams have gone from big asset to big liability. Ed Foley’s value was underestimated.

    This could have been a Top 25 team if Carey had maximized what he had. He has much work to do for next season.

    • Run Pass Option. Russo: 31 rushing attempts, -67 yds net, -6.1 yds per carry.

      Great! So let’s keep this RPO offense, it has been so successful. Fake the handoff to Davis and eat it for no gain. Or, fake it and take a loss. Pass is not an option, defense jams the receivers, they know the QB can’t/won’t run.


      • Rushing statistics for QBs are misleading because yards lost on a sack count in their rushing total. Nevertheless, Russo’s running is atrocious and foot work worse. Marino and Roethlisberger were and are horrible runners but both danced like Fred Astaire in the pocket to avoid sacks and knew when to take off. I see none of that in Russo, who plants himself and takes the sack instead of trying to make plays on the run.

  13. way too much offensive talent to be struggling to score 13 against Cincy’

    • Overthrows, slips, and dropped passes aren’t Carey’s fault. There’s a reason these kids were three star or less. Russo had Mack open on the first drive but missed him, and Blue fell down as the ball went by him. Couple that with a bad punt snap and kneel down, a botched field goal, and a final series interception on a pass Russo threw off his back foot and you have a disappointing and unnecessary loss. This team, unlike Collins’ teams, almost always are in position on defense, which is Carey’s specialty. Carey’s only fault is his choice of an offense his QB cannot fully utilize. That is a big error but given they will end with at least eight wins, I’ll take it. Carey will get better and will correct this year’s errors.

      • yep, right on. You hit it square, three stars will ultimately perform like three stars. We have two Sunday players on the OL. The rest of the offense is comprised of three stars.

        So what can the coaches do? Buckle up and recruit better players, or devise a plan to maximize the talent at hand?

        Better players are not coming next year. The OC and QB coach are stuck on stupid, and Carey is coward to change.

        3 plays in 30 seconds followed by a rugby punt. OK Carey, got it. First things first. Let’s find a kid who can punt the ball like a real punter and flip the field.

        No wonder why skill kids who play offense are de-committing. Although kids may be immature at times, the best kids are seldom stupid.

        Pat Kraft is 0-3 PERIOD.

      • Will you stop making excuses for this coach I don’t know what your problem is it is poor coaching.

  14. My guess is Fran Brown and Hand are eating their hearts out. They miss MR and Baylor’s special season madly.

    Hmm.., no doubt they are comparing. MR vs Carey. The Process vs The Perturbation.

    Pure speculation, this is MR’s last year at Baylor. Fran Brown will have a decision to make, MR will offer him a new job.

    Hint: both have stopped recruiting this year.

    After three years in the top half, Baylor is ranked 10th this year.


    And, Carey is asleep at the wheel and hasn’t noticed Fran Brown has stopped recruiting.

    • i think that Rhule could be the next Dallas Cowboys’ coach. In any event, Mike has a piece on Diaz and his utter disaster at Miami on Facebook. Their three year recruiting ranking total is less than TU’s best year. Bottom line is that TU dodged a real bullet when he quit. If he can’t win with Miami talent, what would he have done with TU talent?

      • Rhule didn’t take the Jets job because of a power/control issue. I don’t know if I see him tolerating Jerry Jones. Yeah, I know, money talks, but he isn’t poor right now, so I don’t know that it would be just for the money with him. I can’t see Pat Shurmur surviving to see 2020 in NY. Couldn’t you see Rhule waiting until that job is open?

    • I guess someone forgot to tell Rhule he stopped recruiting


      As for Carey being asleep at the wheel, maybe his feeling is that people who are on the payroll have the integrity to do their job. If what you are saying about Fran Brown is true then hopefully Carey will wake up, tell him his services are no longer needed that way he will have nothing keeping him from accepting Rhule’s job offer.

  15. As bewildering as Carey has been, a big sigh of relief Diaz didn’t stay.

    Garret on his last month at Dallas, Jerry J hot for Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma), with Matt Rhule as the backup plan. A recruiting coach (Fran B) wouldn’t be needed with the Cowboys.

    Joe Juliano has a thorough game recap in the paper this morning.

  16. hells bellz, we will be goin going to the final game vs UCONN.
    damn but what a spoiled child I have become with TU FB
    In the early 1990’s with Dickson we started to be Tixx holders,
    Now with the hope of an 8 or 9 season wins I am disappointed ? NO it’s great.
    So to Mr Belli , we hope to see you on Saturday again, and thank you .

  17. Gardner done for season with broken ankle.

    • Sad. Both he and The kid Davis could have had 1,000 yards rushing in an H-back scheme then defenses would have ratcheted up to the stop the run and Russo would both have time and receivers running open on play-action fakes. 8-4 could have been 10-2 very easily.

      • Carey is in denial. Every other interview he is asked to compare the MAC w/the AAC. He refuses to acknowledge the simple fact the AAC is a better conference. Wow!

        Very telling…., does not bode well for the future of the Temple Offense in 2020.

  18. KJ: He’s in a bad spot to say the AAC is superior to MAC since he lost his game against a MAC team.

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