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.
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.
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