Well, that was quick.
A season that we thought would never start was over in a flash when the American Conference announced that the finale with visiting Cincinnati would be canceled and considered a “no contest.”
That’s curious because all week even the most ardent Temple supporters considered the upcoming game as a no contest. The season is gone, hopefully forgotten, but we doubt it.
Temple football which, as late as the Memphis game, was the winningest AAC program in the history of championship league play, finished with a 1-6 record and now has lost eight of its last 10 games.
How did we get here?
To answer that question, another question has to be proposed.
Why did we hire Rod Carey?
Ostensibly, Carey was a rebound hire for then AD Dr. Pat Kraft. Spurned by Manny Diaz after 18 days, Kraft and Temple Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Kevin Clark reached to the most familiar place they could find and they plucked fellow Indiana grad Carey for the job. No national search, no finding the best guy, just satisfying the comfort level.
He was hired to basically hold serve. Not advance the program further, but at least not demolish it.
On the surface, it appeared to be a good hire because Carey came here with a 52-30 record as a FBS head coach and by hiring a head coach, and not an assistant, Temple just wanted to continue the success of the last guy, Geoff Collins.
If Temple took just one backward step under Carey, that disproved the entire theory of the hire.
Instead, Temple took one side step and one gigantic backward step.
COVID is being used as an excuse, but it’s really not. Had the Owls been handcuffed by the City of Philadelphia under, say, Al Golden, it probably would have taken him no more than two seconds to move the entire practice operation to Ambler, a place where he had two Cherry and White games. Instead, Carey basically said woe is me.
It was not unreasonable for the Owls to post eight wins a year and maybe get a championship every four or five years. Carey was able to do that his first season, but there were major red flags. One, 2018’s AAC Special Teams Player of the Year, Isaiah Wright, was effectively muzzled in 2019 and the entire special teams have been a disaster for two seasons.
There seems to be no sense of urgency to improve that.
On top of that, for the first time in Temple history, starters–good ones–have left the program for greener pastures. Last year, was Quincy Roche (Miami) and Kenny Yeboah (Ole Miss). Many more than that to come. The team’s best running back and only “home run hitter” (Ray Davis) left the team in mid-season. We’ve heard the top two receivers, Jadan Blue and Branden Mack, are considering leaving and Ifeanyi Maijeh, a first-team All-AAC defensive tackle, told OwlsDaily.com he was “exploring his options.”
You don’t explore options if you intend to stay.
Arguably, they are three of the top five players on the team. When three of the top five players on the team leave a year after two of the top three leave, you know something is seriously wrong.
It’s as clear as the nose on Jimmy Durante’s face that the players DO NOT LIKE THIS GUY for whatever reason.
Could you see P.J. Walker, Tyler Matakevich or Haason Reddick leaving Matt Rhule? How about Mo Wilkerson or Adam DiMichele leaving Al Golden? Or Paul Palmer leaving Bruce Arians, even with a transfer portal?
Those were popular “players coaches.” Keeping the players here in the era of the portal is half the battle.
The other half of the battle is gameday coaching and locking down key areas of the team like special teams. Temple used to be “Special Teams U” and now is a national laughingstock in that area. That third of the team has been that way for two seasons and there is no sense of urgency to improve that area by a) finding great athletes to return punts and kickoffs; b) even attempting to block punts like the Owls used to do on the regular.
On defense, the Owls could not generate a pass rush post-Roche and company and could not stop anyone.
On offense, it was painfully obvious that the Owls have no AAC-caliber starting quarterbacks behind Anthony Russo and, if he leaves, Temple won’t be able to generate any offense at all next year. In other words, if Russo leaves (and we pray to God he won’t), Temple is bleeped.
Russo not being around and the special teams being neglected and the players leaving and others getting hurt added up to 1-6 this season and, however you look at the math next season, it’s going to get worse.
Only a new head of the math department can change things now. Does the Temple administration have the gonads to spend money to make money or will it be satisfied with a return to the dark ages of 5,000 fans rattling around in a 70,000-seat stadium?
Over the next couple of months, we will find out if they can put two and two together.
Saturday’s Best Bets: Going with former Temple Owl Alex Derenthal and his Georgia State squad in laying the 1 against visiting Georgia Southern at the former Turner Field in downtown Atlanta and Duke as a pick in a game across town at Georgia Tech.
Update: Went 3-0 against the spread for last week as Coastal beat App State, 34-23, to lay the 6.5, Liberty “only” lost to NC State by 1 (15-14) to cover that 3.5 and Georgia State easily laid the 3 with a 31-14 win over South Alabama. Now 6-3 against the spread for the season.
Update 2: Split the 11/28 games in Atlanta, now 7-4 against the spread for the season. Won on Georgia State, lost on Georgia Tech.
Monday: Fizzy’s Corner
Wednesday: Getting The Old Gang Back
Saturday: Five Guys