Almost two decades ago the best color analyst ever do to local games turned to the best play-by-play guy and would often echo this catch phrase.
“Hard to believe, Harry.”
If Temple radio analyst Paul Palmer steals the line on opening night at Rutgers, chances are Rich Ashburn and Harry Kalas would forgive him.
That’s because in all of my several decades of following Temple football, I can’t imagine a single season depending upon a single player like this one depends on D’Wan Mathis.
I can just picture the greatest player ever to wear Cherry and White (apologies to Dave Smuckler, who I never saw or Joe Klecko, who I did) saying this to another Harry (Donahue) before the Rutgers game.
“Hard to believe, Harry,” Palmer says, “but I can’t remember a single season depending upon one guy’s performance as it does with Duece.”
Even when Palmer was finishing runnerup for the Heisman Trophy in 1986, that team wasn’t as depended on him as this one is on Mathis. That’s because Palmer had a better supporting cast and good backups in guys named Todd McNair and Ventres Stevenson.
The bar has been set by Michigan State’s Anthony Russo.
Russo’s best complete regular season was in 2019 when he tossed 21 touchdown passes and had only 11 interceptions. That was good enough for eight wins.
You read it here first.
If Mathis just matches Russo’s 21 and 11, the Owls will have a winning season.
Probably not because Russo’s 2019 supporting cast was better than the cast head coach Rod Carey has put together.
I can see six wins and a bowl win with those kind of stats.
Maybe 7-6 tops.
Do I think Mathis is going to do it?
I think Mathis is more likely to do something like 15 and 15 and that’s just not good enough. The “experts” probably agree with that assumption because the Owls are pretty much the consensus AAC pick for last place.
It’s not set in stone though because that’s why they play the games on the field and not on paper.
Hard to say because he had more interceptions than touchdown passes in his short stint as a FBS starter last year. It’s asking a lot for a running quarterback to be as durable as a dropback passer, so Mathis is going to have to both produce and avoid the big hit.
Of course, there’s always the possibility Mathis could explode for 30 plus TDs and maybe eight interceptions but that’s living in fantasy land given his short history.
Whatever, there is a big target on his back and that’s a lot of pressure for one young man to accept. Let’s hope he’s one of those guys who thrive on pressure because the dropoff behind him is significant.
There’s no McNairs or Stevensons waiting in the wings at the most important position on the team.
Probably even Harry (Donahue) would concede that point.
Friday: Prime Time
Monday: What Could Go Right?
Friday: What Could Go Wrong?