Every comedian has a shtick, a routine, style of performance associated with that particular person.
Temple football today reminds me of a 1950s and 60s comedian named George Goebel. He started a series of jokes with “Do you ever get the feeling?”
He had the whole comedy thing figured out in how it would work given his circumstances. He knew the room.
Matt Rhule definitely did not have the Temple football room figured out until after his first two years and, largely to figuring it out, he’s sitting on millions of dollars and, on top of that, trying to sell at $2.5 million home in Waco after moving on to the Panthers.
Rod Carey would do well taking notes.
Do you ever get the feeling that this is the year Carey figures how to succeed at Temple? I have my doubts but we shall see.
How did Rhule figure Temple out? After the first two years, he scrapped the spread and went to a more conventional pro offense using two backs. In this interview with USA Today’s Paul Myerberg, Rhule capsulated the Epiphany beautifully. The scheme fit the school. Temple TUFF, 10th and Diamond, run the ball, with two backs, make explosive plays off the play-action passing game, play great defense and special teams.
This the key quote in that story:
Said Rhule, “How do we differentiate ourselves? How do we make ourselves hard to prepare for? Put two backs on the field. Put two tight ends on the field.
“This is what your roots are. These kids have made themselves really tough. And that’s the only way we’ll ever win. By being a really, really tough football team.”
Let’s analyze that. What does “put two backs on the field” mean? Two halfbacks? Two fullbacks? Three quarterbacks? It means exactly what he did: Put a fullback in front of a tailback, establish the run, bring the safeties and the linebackers up in run support and use deft play-faking to the backs in throwing to wide open receivers for explosive downfield plays. It was what we were pleading for him to do in this space for the first two years of the Rhule Era.
Carey, to me, is a good coach but Rhule made the leap to great when he went from to a more traditional NFL-style offense.
Temple has the offensive line to run such an offense, experienced, talented and averaging 300 pounds across the front. Use, say, Tayvon Ruley (6-0, 216) as a fullback in front of Ray Davis and that’s even an extra blocker at the point of attack for a shifty cutback runner. Throw one more blocker in the area of defenders and Davis has a bigger hole to cut through. The Owls have a quarterback known for an accurate and big arm and not for his legs. Those are the essential elements of a play-action focused offense, not an RPO one. Great coaches adjust to their personnel; they don’t make the personnel adjust to them.
Is Carey comfortable with just good or does he want to be great?
This season Temple fans should find out if the Owls play at least nine or more games. If Carey is still living in a modest home in South Jersey next year and driving a pickup truck, he will have done things his way and gone 4-4.
If, on the other hand, he reads the room better than a year ago, he will be 9-0 or 8-1 looking for a $2.5 million mansion somewhere, maybe even Waco.
It’s the difference between being good and great.
Now let’s go have a season and find out.
Friday: The AAC After Week One