Temple Football: Stuck in Neutral

A season that began with the good guys winning 56-12 ended with the bad guys winning 55-13.

Temple made Bucknell look like, well, Bucknell way back in late August and, in late December, North Carolina made Temple look like, well, Bucknell.

It did not have to be this way.


How about fitting an offense
around the skill sets of guys
who were recruited to run another
type of offense? That novel concept
doesn’t seem to have ever occurred
to these guys and that’s one of the
many things that was sad about this
season. If you are a professional
coach, you adjust your schemes to
fit the talents of your players,
not trying to force your players
to fit your schemes

Every single North Carolina game was a lot closer than yesterday, with the exception of Mercer (56-7). Even the thumping of North Carolina State (41-10) that made the Tar Heels bowl eligible was closer.

Where does that leave Temple?

Stuck in neutral and probably not moving forward any time in the foreseeable future. Sure, the Owls should enter next season as one of the AAC favorites but with their top players declaring early every year (Matt Hennessy was the latest and soon will be followed by Quincy Roche), the Owls really cannot move forward to the point where they can beat one of these mediocre Power 5 teams in a bowl. With Hennessy and Roche back, the Owls go in as a prohibitive AAC East favorite next season. That’s not happening.

NC-Temple-Getty

Now they are just another contender and will be lucky to repeat the two 8-5 seasons they just consecutively finished.

The goal any program should be to improve and the Owls just have not shown one iota of improvement in the last couple of years. Eight and five and eight and five speaks for itself. At least with Golden you saw 1-11, 5-7, 9-4 and 8-4 seasons. Rhule had 2-10, 6-6, 10-4 and 10-3. That’s an improvement. You could see it coming with Al Golden and Matt Rhule but, really, can you see it coming under this staff?

I don’t.

The only thing we saw coming was a loss. This is what we wrote in this space way back on Dec. 13:

Screenshot 2019-12-27 at 10.57.13 PM

The reason is simple. Temple had 63-21 and 45-21 black marks on its resume and UNC had no such black marks.

UNC runs a system that fits its players. Temple does not.

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 12.47.25 PM

Temple had a “Temple TUFF” brand of football that set it apart from other teams in the “Golden Rhule” Era. Golden believed in great defense, special teams and shortening the game by a running game that opened up the passing game.

That set Temple apart stylistically from every other team in two leagues and made the Owls just as tough to prepare for as, say, Navy is to everybody else.

Now, under the current NIU staff, the Owls run the same style of spread and read/option offense everybody else in college football runs. Incomplete passes stop the clock and, with each stoppage of clock, the bad guys get a lot more possessions with the ball than they would have under Golden or Rhule. Special teams are not even an afterthought; they are a nightmare. Rhule and Golden made certain that the special teams got the head coach the offense and defense did in coordinators and did not treat it as a group effort.

No one here is calling for Rod Carey to be fired–Temple never does that nor does it have the money to–but a little flexibility next year in the organizational structure would be nice. Hiring a proven successful special teams coordinator would be even nicer. A renewed emphasis on a power running game to set up the passing game–and not vice-versa–might be nicest.

Screenshot 2019-12-28 at 1.18.33 PM

A lot of disappointed Temple fans in these $80 seats. (The upper deck was packed as well.)

The style of offense Temple runs does nothing to help its defense and the Owls, frankly, do not have the personnel to run such an offense. Offensive coordinator Mike Uremovich said something telling when he talked about signing a new quarterback, saying that this quarterback’s skill set is more suited to the type of offense they run.

How about fitting an offense around the skill sets of guys who were recruited to run another type of offense? That novel concept doesn’t seem to have ever occurred to these guys and that’s one of the many things that was sad about this season. If you are a professional coach, you adjust your schemes to fit the talents of your players, not trying to force your players to fit your schemes.

Even sadder is a team like Eastern Michigan–with 1/10th the fanbase, talent and facilities of Temple–was a much more competitive team in a bowl game against a better AAC team (Pitt) than UNC was.

Eastern Michigan has an offense and defense suited to its personnel, not one where a new coach forces his own schemes onto players ill-suited to run them.

In other words, it has a clue. Not so sure we can say the same thing about Temple anymore.

Monday: Season Review

29 thoughts on “Temple Football: Stuck in Neutral

  1. Mike,

    I have always read your blog and appreciate your insight and analysis of Temple Football. I am also a proud Temple alum as football fan. You’re absolutely right. This staff has a lot of soul-searching to do. I have not been impressed with the offense or special teams at all this season or last season. Since Coach Rhule’s departure, this team has been searching for an identity in two of the most important facets of the game – offense and special teams. Carey’s 0-7 bowl record should give any Temple fan pause. I’m so far not impressed with AD Kraft’s most recent hire and OC Uremovich seemingly does not have a clue.

    The bread and butter of Temple Football has been bruising bully ball. Run the ball straight at the D, I-Formation, power sets, and set up the play-action pass. Smash mouth defense, having the ability to flip the field on special teams, block kicks, and return punts. The past two bowl game showings have been utterly depressing to watch and the past two seasons have shown a marked departure from Temple’s formula for success.

    I honestly think Temple may need to consider hiring a new football staff if things don’t improve next season. This UNC team was good but far from a world-beater. Our beloved Owls were outclassed in nearly every facet of the game and that is a direct reflection on coaching and player execution.

  2. Temple Tuff. Golden made the brand, even Daz (although an a-hole) embraced it.

    MR took Temple Tuff to the highest ground, a conference championship. Collins was all smoke and mirrors…, and now Carey is still clinging on to his days at NIU.

    Temple Tuff does not go three and out in 30 seconds. With Temple Tuff EVERY down is a body blow, run or pass.

    UNC hit Temple in the mouth and talked trash the whole game.

    Car 54 where are you?

    1. Fire the OC, ditch the spread.
    2. Recruit a next level QB.
    3. Commission an independent 3rd party to assess the current state and future of the TUFB program. Report out to the BOT.
    4. Hold a High School Coaches Clinic. Invite AG, MR, BA to talk about team identity.
    5. Don’t ever mention ‘what we did at Northern’ again. Nobody gives two craps about NIU. Embrace and be the brand, Temple Tuff.

  3. Mike, I ranted in your previous post about the difference in talent between the two teams and in that vein don’t you think that NC’s players utilized the extra practices better than TU, which again, had some disruptions, with a starter leaving and others making noise about going pro. Did Roche even play yesterday? Couldn’t tell by watching the game except for his off sides on the blocked field goal. While you are enamored with Russo, I’ll give you one example where he fails as compared to NC’s QB. Both teams throw quick outs but NC’s qb throws the ball faster than Russo does so instead of gaining two-three yards, they got five and six yards on that play. Russo also is too inaccurate and makes too many bad decisions. In the scheme of things. While the pick six was irrelevant as far as the final score goes, it did extinguish what little hope the team might have had for mounting a comeback. How does a qb just blindly throw the ball like he did?

    Would I like a pro set? Sure, but the team doesn’t have a fullback or enough tight ends that can catch passes to run such an offense. Finally, the three NC receivers were better than all of ours. If they were on TU’s team they’d each start. Frankly, I’m reaching the point where I think TU should consider dropping football. There aren’t enough fans and most of Philadelphia, the alumni, and students, couldn’t care less about the team. Couple that with uncertainty about where they’re going to play in coming years, it’s time to rethink whether it’s worth spending millions of dollars a year on the team.

    • My gut tells me an independent third party study would recommend two courses of action: Double down or drop it. The status quo is not sustainable.

      How did UCF, Cincy, and Memphis become so dominant in the AAC? Coaching and recruiting. They have better athletes and better sidelines.

      Temple is unique. MR proved the TU ecosystem will turnout and support championship caliber teams. The TUFB fan base will not turnout in enough numbers to sustain average or below average teams.

      It costs too much money to justify having an average football team.

      Double down or drop it.

      • A big part of that is getting more $$$ from alumni and I think that is a huge issue facing Temple. Don’t know your background KJ, but I know a huge number of alumni in the area are like me, students who were commuters, a lot were part time “working” students and for whatever reason(s) there isn’t that identification with the athletic teams like there is at say PSU. Look at the Owl Club, I’m only at the Captain level annual giving and yet I’m in the middle of the pack or better as far as Priority Points. That being said the university cant “entice” a majority of local alumni to even give at that level. I agree with what your gut tells you but my fear is drop it may become the only viable approach in a few years, especially when couple with the whole issue of where the team will call home field.

    • John, first off pleasure meeting you and your son yesterday at the tailgate. I feel your last point about where this team is going to play starting next year is the biggest issue for this program right now. While I don’t think we’ll see an OCS in my lifetime (I’m in my mid 60’s) to me only the Linc or an OCS are the only viable options. That being said the admin needs to have a real plan for this not that BS public relations study they wasted money on.

      1. Finalize ASAP a 3 to 4 year extension at the Linc, there in NO alternative for the next several years.
      2. Hire a law firm, consultants, etc. who know Philly and PA politics like the back of there hand and work two-fold: first finding out what Clark needs to give the stadium project a go. He is the only person who matters for this. If Clark give the thumbs up it does not matter at all what the local residents think.
      3. Work with the building trades unions to get their support for a stadium construction project. With this pretty much the rest of city council and the mayor will green light it.
      4. If thinks look like they will be a no go with Clark, again without his buy in this project is dead period, work Kenney and Harrisburg for a reasonable long term lease for the Linc.

      Without achieving either a go ahead for an OCS or long term Linc lease, doing the things that KJ lays out, while making a lot of sense, ultimately will just delay the inevitable for this program as you point out.

      • OCS would be nice, but a Temple-owned stadium anywhere would be better than paying the competition rent.

  4. I knew Carey was 0-6 in bowl games before yesterday. However, I didn’t know how bad his teams lost in those games.
    I did some research and the quick math: Carey’s teams average (including yesterday) just over 13 points a game and have given up 41 points a game. That’s an average point differential of just over 27 points per game.
    Wow. Every coach loses games and have bad losses. However the pattern for Carey’s teams in bowl games is disturbing. The closest bowl game Carey lost was by 7. Yesterday wasn’t even his worst loss. He has 55-7 loss in his record too.
    I didn’t attend Temple (mom and sister are alums) but I have been watching them since I was in high school at Engineering and Science and got free tickets to the Vet.
    It’s been great seeing the improvement over the years, but disheartening to see them unable to break through and become a consistent top 25 program it has the potential to be.
    I no longer live in the tri-state area, but I enjoy reading your articles AND the insightful comments.
    Thanks for providing straightforward analysis rooted in long term fanhood. I look forward to reading this blog every few days.
    Happy New Year.

  5. By the way, how many TU players do any of you think would start for NC? At most two. Given this, wouldn’t have mattered who TU’s coach was yesterday. A different strategy may have mitigated the harshness of the score but it still would have been a decisive win for NC.

    • My answer to that question is how many Eastern Michigan players would have started at Pitt? Less than 2. Maybe the QB who threw the punch, if that. Somehow, Chris Creighton was able to stir that pot and come up with a competitive game plan against superior talent. He was my second choice for Temple coach behind Lance Leipold last year. Carey? Didn’t even think about him until they won the MAC title but I warmed up to him comparing his measurables against frauds like Collins. He’s no Rhule or even Golden, who could recruit much better.

    • UNCs speed, especially at WR was just too much for our defense especially being down a corner with Hand out.

    • Temple’s issues lie primarily on the coaching staff’s shoulders. Who hires a guy that is 0-6 in games where he has a month to prepare? Who runs a 1-A team without a dedicated special teams coach? This guy had named OC in 2011 at NIU, then was named head Coach at NIU a mere year later. His coaching pedigree (no disrespect to these schools-Wisconsin Stout, Illinois State, N Dakota State), not exactly Georgia, LSU, or even Pitt for that matter. Stuck with him for another year next year. He will have a bad year and will be let go. How do you prepare for 30 days and get shellacked by a average UNC team? Incredible.

      • Five-year contract. He will not be let go. Temple NEVER eats money. It is not in the SEC. If Daz stayed after year two, he would have been allowed to have 3 6-6 seasons at Temple before the Owls, like BC, would have let his contract expire. I suspect if Carey does the same Temple will do the same. If he goes 8-5 the next three seasons, he will be coach at Temple for life, like Joe Paterno, but without the statue.

  6. This is a mulligan year for Carey, who got a late start this year. A good butt whipping leads to some off-season soul searching, recruiting, and course correction.

  7. My enthusiasm on Carey waned as the season went on. Yesterday, it was extinguished. There are too many red flags for me with him going forward. Yesterday was the kind of performance that gets head coaches fired. Or should. Many of the criticisms of the NIU fans now make sense.

    Patenaude at a minimum could score points. This offense cannot score at that level and struggles to maintain drives. The special teams have gone from asset to liability. Defense cannot compete with speedier teams.

    This team is not Temple Tuff. Yesterday wasn’t the first time this season that they quit on the field. Carey now has a pair of 42 point losses to his credit. What elite AAC-level recruits think we compare with the upper echelon of the league? And what is the compelling reason for them to come play for this coaching staff?

    This program has come a long way since 2006. That progress is now all at risk. I don’t think Carey is the guy to keep the program moving forward. I hope he proves me wrong.

    • He said at the presser he knows Rhule well enough to talk to him on the phone. He needs to place a call to Matt after Baylor plays Georgia and ask him how to right this ship. This ship is a lot different from other ships. You can’t do the same things here you did at NIU and move forward. You can do the same things here you did there and win eight games every year. I’ve been to the Mountaintop (game day in Philly) and I want to get back there again.

  8. First off John B. we are all very discouraged after that performance, but all love TEMPLE FOOTBALL!!! Ithink we all got spoiled when things got turned around and then Coach RHULE really had us reaching for the stars. The big disappointment is I really thought losing games by 30 or 40 points was over with!! Also I really don’t under stand if these young men aren’t 1st or 2nd or even 3rd round picks in draft they would even leave?

  9. You mention being an AAC East favorite – divisions are scrapped starting next year, so it’s all or nothing. We play every team in the conference except for Houston and Tulsa in 2020 and miss SMU and Tulane in 2021. It’s going to be a bloodbath.

    • Yes. Thanks. Forgot about the restructuring. The last time we played Houston we beat them 59-49 and got 7 rushing touchdowns from our marquee back. We will have a marquee back next year but will Carey know how to use him? Doubtful.

  10. I didn’t see/ watch the whole game but was watching the end of the 2nd quarter. I thought TU was hanging tough but that offsides on the blocked FG was a spirit-crushing play and I figured that unless you stopped them/ scored to open up the 2nd half, that was game. UNC was also not a good matchup on the field; they’re a fast team that after a rough couple of seasons, was looking to make a statement for the future.

    As an outsider who knows what it’s like to watch their program make the totally wrong hire (twice in a row before we brought Schiano back), I don’t think Carey is as bad as some of you think…but I do agree that he seems a bit ‘off’ with certain elements (offense, etc) and I don’t think he has close to the ceiling that someone like Rhule had. TU has done well for itself in the AAC because by playing ‘Northeast football’, you set yourselves apart from a lot of the more finesse teams in the AAC…but that started changing with Collins (IMO you’re lucky he left after only 2 years).

    I also think you’re going to start feeling the impact of Rhule’s classes being largely gone starting next year, but the real ‘impact’ will likely hit in 2021. I have no idea what kind of recruiter Carey is but Rhule was outstanding (as a Rutgers fan I was *very* glad he went to Baylor when he did).

    Bowls aren’t the be-all/end-all, but something that sticks out to me like a sore thumb is the AAC’s bowl record since 2014, which is I think is 13-24 or 25 right now. IMO that’s a bit of an indication that outside of the AAC’s top 2-3 teams, the league isn’t as deep or as good as some may believe. On the flipside, consistently developing kids into NFL prospects can still make a program attractive.

    Joe P.

  11. In all honesty, right now I’d rather be a fan of Temple than Ohio State. The loss OSU just suffered eats at your soul for months while TU’s loss almost immediately dissipates.

    • OSU took a big L, but they’ll bounce back. Perennial contenders…., total commitment top to bottom.

      TUFB = perennial heartbreaker. Our BOT is comprised of gutless political appointees. Their favorite hoppy is lip service.

  12. Matt Rhule proved Temple Football can succeed by winning the conference championship and hanging with traditional powerhouses like Notre Dame and Penn State. I’m with KJ – Temple needs to double down if it wants to win. There is no reason that Temple can’t be one of the premiere teams of this conference once again. Temple’s administration needs to hold the current staff it hired accountable. Scoring only 13 points and giving up 55 points on a national stage is absolutely unacceptable. 8-5 seasons with blow out losses in bowl games is not moving the needle for Temple. The administration and athletic department needs to have some damn pride and demand a football program that represents Temple alums and students better than what we have seen since Matt Rhule left. Whether people want to accept this premise or not, Temple Football is an extension of Temple University and reflects on all Owl alums.

    • Those who can’t coach lose games 63-21, 45-21 and 55-13. Those who can’t see that are blind, deaf and (especially) dumb.

      • Mike you know that’s not true. Hardin’s teams were beaten worse than that and no would say he couldn’t coach. He lost to WVA 50-7 and 42-0 in 75 and 76, 76- 0 in 77 to Pitt, and 50-7 to PSU in 80 just to name a few slaughters.. The TU scores in the games cited above reflect losing to a much better team in NC and to teams while suffering from key injuries. Every game for TU is like walking a tight rope. One thing goes wrong and they fall. Take GT. Had GT scored and not fumbled, it would have been a different game and it took a brave reversal of a what was called a catch to beat Memphis. The time to judge Carey will be in his 3rd year after two full recruiting classes. Frankly, beating NC was a stretch especially because they played so well. NC was the only team this season to play Clemson close, which showed how good they could be if they played to the best of their abilities. Add the weeks of practice they had before the bowl game and those 4 star guys simply played up to their abilities against a team with lower three star players who overachieve.

  13. Mike, The trip to Annapolis and stay was top notch. A great town, nice people and we did not need to endure the airport. However, myself, like you, saw the awful display on our sidelines in the 3rd and 4th quarter trailing 41-13. The “ass play” is what our Coach would have called it. Goofing with water bottles on the bench. Mike, you left and there were a few “dancing the Macarena” during a commercial time out. Thankfully, THAT was not broadcast to a National Television audience. We talk about the Temple Brand built with Al Golden, the Temple Tuff brand. The attitude of some of these players, likely bench players needs to get fixed. These few do not realize the blessing they have to compete in Division I athletics, in a really good program, in a big city, then on National Television. These few bad seeds, do not care. They are getting whipped on the field, and “ass play” on the sidelines in front to thousands of Temple fans that spent their Christmas holiday and money to enjoy “their” play in a Nationally televised game against a Power 5 school. Ugh. Just typing this makes me sick. On the football side of things, we were not prepared. UNC has a nice team, but they were prepared for Temple, they knew our liabilities, and strengths. That opening drive by UNC in the quarter, seeing our defense pushed around with a run attack sealed my thought for hope for a comeback. I hoped the opening drive of the second half would help Temple set a new tone and attitude. UNC had a game plan that extinguished our strength, and they clearly took ownership of the game. The pick 6 followed, and it grew worse. Then, the next drive leads to a 4th and 4, and the coaching staff was in total confusion on the situation. That lead to our runner being swarmed in the back field! Ugh. Coach Carey must make changes and adapt to the talents of his players. Foremost, the attitude of Temple Tuff, and dignity and discipline must be restored to the football program. In retrospect, we are fortunate to had “dodged a bullet” missing our on the Miami coach, but I hope Carey can shape his skills {and his staff} to this team.

    • Thanks, Don. It was an honor sitting in front of the greatest kicker in Temple’s history. Don’t know how we went from you and Brandon McManus to routinely getting kicks blocked

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