CFB: More Chess than Checkers

The beauty of college football is that often a less talented team can beat a more talented team due to brains over brawn.

Take Louisiana’s Group of Five win on Saturday against Power 5 and No. 23-ranked host Iowa State.

The Rajun Cajuns won because of several well-designed plays. Iowa State relied too much on Brock Purdy’s arm and trying to run over the G5 team.

This P.J. Walker throwback pass across the field against USF (where he rolled right and threw across his body) worked for an easy six to Colin Thompson.

A few well-designed plays can be the difference between evenly matched teams and many more can be the difference in an upset. That was evident not only in Louisiana’s win, but Coastal Carolina’s 35-17 win at Kansas and Arkansas State’s 35-31 win at Kansas State.

There’s no way to convince me that the three winning teams had more talent than the three losing ones so it had to be coaching.

Such was the case on Saturday and such should and could be the case for Temple going forward this season. Under Wayne Hardin–and, to a lesser extent, Bruce Arians–Temple was able to win a lot of games by outsmarting teams.

Hardin used things like the wraparound draw, the halfback pass, the shovel pass (which worked for a touchdown for Coastal Carolina on Saturday) and the tight end to completely fool the opposition.

The times it didn’t work usually came against teams with overwhelming talent but most times it did because the Owls were 80-52-3 under Hardin.

Arians brought his own style of innovation to Temple and the play above where he completely fools Rutgers in 1988 was a perfect example. Arians had the tailback block down, leaving the fullback completely open in the flat for a touchdown. Because fullbacks usually block for tailbacks, and not the opposite way around, Nelson Herrera was left unaccounted for in the flat.

That brings me to Temple football recently which has been more like checkers than chess, a lot more brawn involved than brain. With only slight exceptions, I don’t remember Temple outsmarting many people in recent years. The First Philly Special–a throwback from wide receiver John Christopher to P.J. Walker–worked for a crucial first down in the 2015 Penn State game. The throwback pass to Kenny Yeboah in last year’s game was another and the fake out to Ventell Byrant (that resulted in Yeboah being wide open for six) in the 2018 Maryland game was a third.

That’s it.

Hopefully, the current Temple staff is using this extra time to go over some old innovative plays in the Edberg-Olson archives.

Putting them to work this season could not hurt and probably could help checkmate a few foes.

Of the things we want to see improvement on this year, innovation in the play-calling is near the top of the list.

Friday: 5 Ways This Season Will Be Different

7 thoughts on “CFB: More Chess than Checkers

  1. Mike, let’s go back in time just a few years- back when Jalen Fitzpatrick was wearing no5 I think we had 5 winning HS qb’s in our starting offense, yet I’d be hard pressed to recall a single trick play from that time.
    We had the weapons, both in terms of brains and brawn, to be the most unpredictable team in college football, but we weren’t.
    Very few coaches have the sheer nerve to go that route. I haven’t seen anything from Carey that’d tell me he’s got the nerve to take those kind of shots.

    • Rhule took a nice shot with Fitzpatrick and it worked for 6, a play I suggested in this space only about 5 times for two years prior. Reverse to Fitzpatrick, bomb to Robby Anderson for like 87 yards against SMU. Rhule never sent me the check for that play. 🙂

      • Oh snap yes!
        I know the one you mean
        But seriously, we had so many guys who could run, pass, and catch but we kept them in their clearly defined roles
        Meanwhile we were having some sweet winning seasons so I can’t complain much
        Point is- I worry Carey just thinks he knows better, and i further worry that he’s committed to using the same “system” he had at NIU here on broad street

      • Fitzpatrick was a Big 33 starting QB (as was Joe Montana, Joe Namath and Dan Marino). He didn’t have to play QB at Temple but it’s criminal that he was here 4 years and we used him for maybe 1 or two trick passes. Gotta maximize the talents of your players.

  2. Owls have permission to go full speed ahead. Philly.com reports Beatty and ISU transfer are playing really well. Time to integrate their skills into offense.

    • I could see Mitchell playing the Toddy role. Speaking of Toddy, he transferred to Colorado State to play and there will be no football at CSU this fall. It’s a shame because I don’t blame him for transferring but I do blame Yeboah and Roche, who probably would still be better off at Temple than at their new spots.

  3. I’d freak out seeing our QB improvise Jahad Thomases moves once a week.
    Linebacker ankles will snap; pro scouts will drool. Owls will win the AAC championship.

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