No one knows what we will see when Temple and Tulane play in New Orleans on Saturday.
We do know that Vegas believes the game will be decided by around three points and Vegas has usually proven to be right so making a play in special teams for once in Rod Carey’s short Temple life could be the difference between a win or a loss.
Judging on nearly two years of evidence, we do know what we won’t see: An impact play by Temple on special teams. By impact play, it’s simply this: A blocked field goal, punt or return for a touchdown.
It’s as simple as that and as complicated. Penn State might be Linebacker U and Miami (Ohio) might be the cradle of coaches but it wasn’t that long ago Temple was “Special Teams U.”
James Nixon’s 93-yard kickoff return in the 2009 game beat a 10-win Navy team. Delano Green’s punt return in 2010 beat Fiesta Bowl-bound UConn. Those plays were the residue of hard work in training camp below and the coaches putting their most elusive athletes in a position to advance the ball.
Who is the Matty Brown on this team?
Willie Erdman is our Matty Brown this year and that says more about Rod Carey than it says about Erdman. I rarely have to rub my eyes and go to the roster when I see a Temple player but when No. 84 fielded a punt against Memphis I had to ask myself: “Who is 84?”
It turned out to be Erdman, who was profiled on OwlsDaily this week. When I read the lead that he was a transfer from Georgia, I got excited for about a millisecond. “Must’ve been a five-star recruit with moves like Gale Sayers” went through my mind before discovering he was a walk-on with zero punt returns for zero yards at Georgia.
I’m all for transfers from P5 schools coming to Temple, but you can leave the walk-ons there to the Villanovas of the world. If I get a P5 transfer, I want it to be a guy from Penn State, Ricky Slade to throw out a name, who had to transfer to JMU to get playing time despite being the No. 1-rated RB recruit in the country.
Back to Erdman, though. Carey seems to be from the school of thought that just catching the ball and securing it is enough. He doesn’t seem to understand that securing the ball and advancing it are not mutually exclusive concepts.
Where is our Avery Williams?
Williams is shown above blocking a punt. Under Carey, Temple hasn’t even tried to block a punt and no one knows why but a clue can be provided by how Carey approaches the return game. Carey is risk adverse, which means that he’s probably worried more about getting a 15-yard penalty for roughing (or running into) the kicker than he is about, say, Branden Mack using that 91-inch wingspan to leap up and block a punt and then have about 10 other Owls chasing it into the end zone and falling on it.
Again, it’s possible to block a punt without running into the kicker. Temple used to do it all the time. For instructions on how, pick up the phone and ask Ed Foley.
Carey is too proud to do that and too conservative to change his special teams philosophy now. Let’s hope he can make up the three points in other areas but abandonment of one of the three most important phases of the game is not something Temple can sustain.
Predictions this week: Had Marshall laying the 26.5 on FIU but that ticket returned voided due to game being canceled; also was lucky enough to jump on BC getting the 31.5 before the Lawrence injury and picked Georgia Southern covering the 6.5 (barely) in a 24-17 win over visiting South Alabama. Of course, won’t count those so we start at 0-0 with these official TFF picks:
Air Force getting 14.5 against Boise State (any team that beats Navy 40-7 has my respect); going with Boston College now getting “only” 24 against Clemson and Michigan laying the 25 against Michigan State. BC is incredibly well-coached, while Michigan State hiring Mel Tucker coming off a 5-7 season at Colorado was a real head-scratcher to me and that was reaffirmed by Rutgers’ win at MSU last week. Not touching Temple-Tulane (no trust in Temple’s defense or special teams), Memphis-Cincy or Houston-UCF, three AAC games that can go either way.
Update as of 11/1: Lost on both Air Force and Michigan, won on Boston College.
Record so far: 1-2 against the spread.
Late Saturday Night: Game Analysis