All you have to do on any given NFL Sunday to see the winners and losers is thumb down to the turnovers section of the statistics.
Invariably, the team with the more takeaways than the other one comes out on top.
That’s the NFL where there isn’t a wide gap in overall talent. In college football, it’s a little different. The team with the talent and recruiting edge usually comes out on top and, instead of turnovers, it’s protecting the quarterback and getting to the quarterback that determines wins.
At Temple, much of the success under Matt Rhule was due to him ditching the spread after the first two seasons and going to a run-oriented approach with a heavy dose of play-action passing.
Simple formula that the Owls have strayed from the last few seasons. It shortens the game, keeps the clock running, and limits the number of possessions the bad guys get.
In order to get the bad taste of North Carolina out of their mouths, the Owls are going to have to do all of these things and more.
- Run game
Although Ray Davis got over 900 yards in a breakout season, the run game was spotty enough that, in the most important game of the season, the Owls schemed 26 passes in their first 34 plays from scrimmage at Cincinnati. When they got back to the run in the second half, it worked but was too late. Behind a very experienced and talented offensive line and a top running back, the Owls need to establish the run a lot better. That would make wideouts Branden Mack and Jadan Blue more dangerous than they already are and they have elite edge talent.
Protecting the passer
Nine of Anthony Russo’s 11 regular-season interceptions came as a result of him being hit while throwing. The other two were perfectly-thrown tipped balls that landed (1) in Isaiah Wright’s hand and (2) that bounced off Randle Jones chest. The Owls are going to have to do a better job of protecting Russo.
Rushing the passer
Losing AAC Defensive Player of the Year Quincy Roche to Miami stung in this area but there is hope in that the two starting interior tackles, Ifeanyi Maijeh and Dan Archibong, return and the Owls got a P5 player, Manny Walker, to replace Roche. The Owls are going to have to generate an edge rush or make up for it with an interior one.
This used to be an area of strength for Temple and, last year, the Owls looked like the Keystone Cops more often than not when it was time to punt, kick or return a punt. It’s worth noting that Ed Foley wasn’t around last year. Maybe his departure didn’t make a difference but Foley’s special teams did not false start on any field goals this season at Carolina, something that could not be said for the Eagles’ special teams this week or the Owls special teams last year.
The aforementioned 26 passing plays in the first 34 at Cincy was just one area of concern. The game plan at Buffalo last season was atrocious as well. Buffalo was one of the worst run defenses in FBS football in 2018 and the Owls should have exploited that weakness instead of throwing the ball all over the lot. Those are two of your four regular-season losses last year. The Owls will have to do a much better job attacking the weakness of the opposition than they did a year ago. If Team A is terrible against the run and Team B is terrible against the pass, you run a lot against Team A and throw the ball on Team B. Owls pretty much had the same game plan in all 12 of their regular-season games a year ago and that reflected staff tunnel vision.
That must change to get back to the Temple football we all know and love.
Monday: The Other October