In about 24 hours, we will find out how desperate Rod Carey is to cement his career legacy.
Will he go down as an interesting guy who won a couple of MAC titles and feasted on Big 10 teams enough to earn a contract at Temple or will he go down as a guy who moved on up to the East Side and never fit into the neighborhood?
He looks more like Tom Willis than George Jefferson to me and I’m not talking skin pigment.
If you’ve followed this space since Feb. 18, we wrote here that the Owls were more likely to finish 2-10 than 10-2 or even 6-6 because Carey and his staff did not do enough in the offseason to replenish the 15 good players who walked out the door with 15 better ones since the end of last season.
Even then, we wrote would you be satisfied with even four wins after averaging eight in the decade before COVID? Absolutely not was the resounding answer.
We thought it was time to go big or go home (Northern Illinois being home in this case) for this staff and they certainly did not go big.
If they don’t beat South Florida, they are on a path to go home.
South Florida is by far the worst team remaining on the schedule and, if the Owls lose, they are on an inextricable slide to a 3-9 season. It might be enough to get Carey fired, even with three years remaining on his contract.
The reason being simply this: According to OwlsDaily.com, new Temple President Dr. Jason Wingard called everyone in the athletic department (Carey included) for a group meeting and read the riot act and said the department was not meeting expectations, including the football team. The next day Wingard made a personal appearance at the football practice facility and gave the kind of pep talk to the team it had not heard since Matt Rhule.
Temple scored 45 of the last 48 points in a rout of Akron two days later.
If Temple finishes 3-9 coming off a 1-6 season, Wingard is the kind of guy who could convince the BOT to spend money to make money and eat the remaining three years of Carey’s contract and get a better CEO for the football program. In hiring new AD Arthur Johnson (the Director of FOOTBALL operations at Texas), Wingard sent a clear signal that winning in FOOTBALL is the biggest priority for Temple athletics right now.
For Carey, it better start now.
Saturday night (7 p.m., ESPN+) will simply come down to this: Can Carey be flexible enough to devise a game plan that keeps USF on its heels? Does he throw something that USF hasn’t seen on game film (i.e., a halfback pass from backup running back Trey Blair to Randle Jones for six) or a blocked punt? Go big or go home includes taking chances in the game plan as well as bringing in overwhelming numbers in the transfer portal.
Hell, no Temple fans have ever seen a blocked punt under Carey but they saw plenty under even the mediocre reign of Geoff Collins.
One thing Carey has going for him is playmakers. In guys like Jones, all-time leading receiver Jadan Blue, Dwan Mathis, Blair, Manny Walker, Keyshawn Paul, William Kwenkeu, Cameron Ruiz and M.J. Griffin, he’s got significantly more playmakers than USF does. Backup corner Ty Mason is one of only 10 Temple players in the three-century history of the sport to return an interception for six points. He’s a playmaker as well. Putting those guys in position to make plays is his job and the job of the NIU carpetbaggers. Mathis intrigued me against Memphis BUT he raised serious questions about his intestinal fortitude against Cincinnati. He did not look like a guy who wanted to win two weeks ago but maybe the fire in his belly returns against USF.
Say, for argument’s sake, it does and the Owls come out with an Akron-type win. Not only does Carey’s job become more secure, but the Owls build the kind of confidence that can set them on an impressive winning streak. No way Wingard or Johnson fire Carey then nor should they want to at that point. For the kids’ sake and for the fans’ sake, you kinda hope it happens. Long-term is a different story.
Winning on Saturday night and building the kind of team chemistry that steals a couple more later would save Carey’s job but it’s becoming an increasingly hard scenario to envision, even if you are looking into a Cherry and White crystal ball.
Picks This Week: OHIO STATE -21 at Indiana (Buckeyes want to show separation between them and Cincy if it comes down to those two teams; what better way to do it than blowing out Indy more than Cincy did); WESTERN MICHIGAN (a team that won at Pitt) -2.5 at Toledo; UMASS +35.5 at Florida State (Jacksonville State won there and UMASS is on that level); NORTH CAROLINA STATE -3 at Miami (proving for the umpteenth time that while Carey might not be the answer at Temple, Diaz certainly wasn’t either).
Latest update: Last week, lost on WMU, UMASS and NC State and won on Ohio State. The 1-3 mark ATS brings us to 18-14-1 on the seaosn 1 on the season.
Sunday: Game Analysis