Regular Season: Could Have Been More Special

Rod Carey’s disdain for special teams goes way back. 

About this time every year, I pour through the predictions made over the summer or before online.

Vegas had the over/under for Temple at six and the over seemed like easy money at the time and it was.

Only one national writer, the Associated Press’ Ralph Russo, had Temple doing any better than 8-4 and he also had the Owls winning the AAC East. It is important to know here that Russo is no relation to the Temple quarterback, so he wasn’t wearing Cherry-colored glasses.


Whether he wants to admit it or not, Rod Carey cannot say his special teams by delegation produced better results than any of Ed Foley’s special teams at Temple.

Even in this space, I did not have Temple winning the AAC East simply because I did not think it was fair to expect the Owls to go to Cincinnati and beat a team that traveled 35 true or redshirt freshman to Lincoln Financial Field and extended the 2018 Owls into overtime. I disagreed with the AAC media’s consensus of the Owls finishing fourth. I thought they would at least finish third, ahead of USF, and I was right.

Still, after seeing the season unravel, the Owls probably should have done what the elder Russo said–win the AAC East. There was just too much offensive talent on this team to struggle to score 13 points at Cincy. Still, the Owls really never figured out how to utilize the talents of Ray Davis and that has to be a priority in the offseason. Throw as many blockers at the point of attack in front of him, establish the run and then the passing game benefits.

It’s hard to imagine the Owls winning anything less than eight games next year with the returning talent they have if properly utilized.

If you aren’t going
to block kicks, you
better make a difference
in returning them.
If you aren’t going to
return them, you better
be able to block them.
Do something

My thoughts on the portal will come in a future post. Just say I’m not a fan for now. Losing Kenny Yeboah was a blow, but losing Kip Patton at the same position seemed to be a blow at the time and turned out not to be.

Still, the portal bleeding must stop with Kenny if the Owls are going to go from good to great next season. You can’t go through expected losses (graduation) and then, on top of that, have younger guys leaving on their own if the program has any chance of moving forward.

Still, if the Owls hold serve–keeping guys from going to the portal and raiding a few top talented guys already in the portal–it should be a double-digit winning season next year because they have good depth in areas they lose talent (linebackers and defensive backs). Isaiah Graham-Mobley and William Kenkeuw return in areas where the Owls lose Sam Franklin, Shaun Bradley, and Chapelle Russell and at least those two guys are as good as any of those three.

Jadan Blue and Branden Mack are poised to become wide receiver stars and, if the Owls decide to return punts next year instead of fair catching them, the special teams immediately get better.

Quarterback Anthony Russo improved from a 14 touchdown 14 interception year to 21 touchdowns and just 11 interceptions this season. Contrast that to P.J. Walker’s “sophomore slump” of 13 TDs and 15 INTs and that bodes well for even further improvement in that area.

Head coach Rod Carey, though, will have to be able to face hard facts. The hard facts are that Temple’s special teams returned five kicks for touchdowns and blocked five punts in 2018 and went 0-for-0 in those areas in 2019. If you aren’t going to block kicks, you better make a difference in returning them. If you aren’t going to return them, you better be able to block them. Do something and don’t just be vanilla on special teams, which Al Golden always said was one-third of the game of football. Not only did the Owls fail to make a difference on special teams this year, they did to themselves on those teams what they’ve been doing to others for the past decade. The level of screwups this year on Temple special teams in the post-Golden Era was unmatched.

Golden was right about that, as he was about a power running game. Both are the essence of Temple tough (TUFF) and, hopefully, someone will knock some sense into his head in the offseason. Maybe Ed Foley will enter the assistant coaching transfer portal (just kidding, we know coaches don’t have one).

Hell, to see evidence of a change in special teams’ philosophy by the bowl game would be a nice indicator that what happened or didn’t happen the dozen prior games will be unacceptable going forward.

Thursday: Fizzy’s Recap in Verse

Saturday: A Dream Bowl Matchup


12 thoughts on “Regular Season: Could Have Been More Special

  1. I agree with everything you said. I am also thankful Carey is our coach as opposed to Diaz. I am convinced we would have not been Bowl Eligible if Miami had not called him to be their coach.

  2. Mike think you hit the nail on the head where the biggest deficiency was on special teams, punt returns. With all the Foley, Foley, Foley on all the Temple boards I decided to look at all of the special teams stats for this years versus Foley’s tenure with Rhule and Collins. Aside from the big drop off in punt returns overall and none for TDs the special teams this year were pretty much on par with how Foley’s units performed. Temple’s special teams only blocked 2 punts and had 1 blocked in 2018, it was 5 kicks blocked. This years ST unit did block 3 kicks but no punt blocks. The 3 blocked kicks are almost what Foley’s units averaged per season 3 to 4 blocks over 6 years they also allowed 2 to 3 kicks blocked per season as well, but to your point I agree either set up to go for the block or play for a big punt return next season. Speaking of punting for as bad as I thought it was this year our net punting average was exactly the same as what Foley’s units averaged over 6 seasons 36.8 yds.
    As for the transfer portal, I have the think the NCAA is going to tighten up on granting waivers and more players entering it will have to sit a year. To me “I’m homesick” or “I’m not getting enough playing time” aren’t hardships. That being said while the waivers still seem to be getting granted Temple needs to take advantage. With regards to Yeboah, being a grad transfer is a little different and I wish him the best where every he ends up, whether it’s Baylor or another school.

    • The portal is a good idea for players stuck behind superstars. I don’t believe it was meant for starters. In fact, starters who leave a team they’ve been starting members of could be considered traitors. I know a kid has to do what’s best for him but there aren’t any guarantees. Ask Wimbush at UCF. I have to wonder who got into Yeboa’s ear. The portal to me, like many good ideas, is susceptible to corruption and tampering shenanigans. Just look at AAU and high school BB to see what can happen especially with gullible kids who buy whatever the hucksters tell them. I don’t wish this kid ill will but feel that he betrayed his Temple brothers who bled with him and the fans who cheered for him. Kudos to JD for recognizing the nonsense written and said about Foley;s departure. The mistakes like the flubbed snap and blocked extra points would have occurred regardless of who the coach was. Although there were no returns by TU, the kickoff team had one lapse that I can recall. People forget that Foley was here under Daz and for one year TU couldn’t kick or punt. It was pathetic. In the end, the Owls had a very good year. No many people thought the Owls would beat Maryland and GT and they are the only team to beat Memphis. The losses to UCF and SMU were hard to take but given the injuries to the team, in hindsight, they should have been expected.

      • John, your point regarding tampering shenanigans with the transfer portal is why I think the NCAA is going to start making it tougher to get wavers to play right away. Seems like SMU treated it like NFL free agency and the Rutgers folks keep talking about Schiano hitting the portal “hard” . As for Yeboah would be kind of ironic if he does end up at Baylor only to see Rhule and most of the staff heading off to the NFL .

      • I will disagree with you John . I don’t know where are you come up with not many people thought they could beat Maryland and Georgia tech . Temple was better than both of those teams so I don’t even know why you’re saing that. You’re one of those guys that’s happy with eight wins they should have 10 come on .

  3. Many fair points here.

    I was positive on Carey at the start but my concerns grew as the season went on. I have my doubts about him going forward. I hope he proves me wrong.

    This team had the talent to get to the AAC championship game. Facebook squad seems happy with 8 wins. I think we should have done better. AAC had 4 ranked teams during the season. Temple was not one of them.

    Defense was a positive. The team did not always seem ready to play. Undisciplined play recurred throughout the season. Special teams were problematic. Offense produced near 100 fewer points than prior year. The offensive strategy is puzzling at the least. How could this staff make #2 a non-factor?

    Seeing KY in the transfer portal is a concern. From his comments, he thinks he can make the NFL and seems to think staying here will hurt his chances. How does Carey sell this offense to skill position players that are here or being recruited?

    This is a far more pivotal offseason than expected on August 31.

  4. We should see early on where the program is going:

    09/05 – at Miami (FL)
    09/12 – Idaho
    09/19 – Rutgers

    All are winnable with the right coaching.

    In other news, Jacksonville U has dropped the sport immediately.

    • It is good to see that they are being tested early. I think those three games will get them ready for the conference games.

  5. F. Jones They were underdogs in the Maryland game by 7 and I was merely saying that most people did not think the Owls would win both games. People thought that GT would and should be a win but after the Buffalo debacle the week before some doubt crept in especially because GT had more players ranked much higher as high school players than TU had.

  6. It is not over, WIN the bowl game! A 9-4 record is a very admirable accomplishment in the AAC.

    Can some areas be improved? Yes.

    First – the offense. The Patenaude spread was more productive and scored more points. Temple finished 8th in conference scoring and total offense. Fix or ditch the Uremovich spread.

    Second – special teams. Are we asking the wrong question? The question should be, how can we win the game on special teams? Cincy beat Temple this year on a special teams play.

    Third – recruit, coach and develop players. We know Carey can coach. He beat two ranked teams. Can he recruit and develop players on par w/MR?
    The top team in the AAC are getting bigger, stronger, and faster. TUFB will be successful if Carey proves he can recruit and develop players better than the other top conference coaches.

  7. With Schiano in place at Rutgers, suddenly there’s competition on the recruiting front for local 3* kids that flesh out rosters and sometimes develop into NFL-caliber talent. South Jersey and Connecticut will become a real battleground. Hope the Carey team is up to the task.

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