If Rod Carey seemed a little evasive about making predictions from the end of last season until now, we pretty much all know why.
Coaches usually don’t say how many wins they are shooting for but when asked from the spring until the start of this season what he was looking for, Carey simply said this:
“I don’t want to put a number on it. We want to be a team that plays hard and our fans can be proud of …”
Lots of winless Temple teams played hard, but Owl fans were looking to turn around a 1-6 season, and playing hard alone was not going to get it done.
What we’ve seen so far in eight games is even a failure to deliver on that minimalistic promise.
Hell, the 2-10 team of Matt Rhule’s first year played a lot harder than Carey’s current 3-5 squad. Like this year, Rhule beat a favored Memphis team but it was 41-21 on the road and not 34-31 at home. Rhule also beat Army at home, lost on the final play at Rutgers, 20-14 (not by 61-14) and did not have a single loss as embarrassing as Carey’s last three–52-3 to Cincinnati, 34-14 to USF and 49-7 to UCF.
Rhule’s home performance against UCF–a much better version of UCF than this current one–saw the Owls lose a heartbreaker, 39-36, on one of the greatest end zone catches ever seen at Lincoln Financial Field (pro or college).
Rhule then, like Carey now, had a young quarterback but the difference was Rhule’s quarterback showed improvement every week and Carey’s quarterback has not.
Not once did Owl fans run down behind the bench and chant “FIRE RHULE!” like they did “FIRE CAR-EY!!” last week (although one loud guy was often heard yelling FIRE PHIL SNOW! in the back row of Section 121 and even he stopped doing that by Year Three).
The players supported Rhule then. They did not support Carey last Saturday when the chanting happened. In fact, they seemed to encourage it with their smiles and nods to the fans. That old adage about losing the locker room? Hell, Carey has lost the bench.
Even in Rhule’s 2-10 season, the players behind the coaches interlocked their arms and swayed from side to side cheering their teammates on the field. That was the Temple tradition under Al Golden and restarted by Rhule.
Then, there was hope for the future and that hope turned out to be realized the next three seasons (six, 10 and 10 wins).
Now there is none. Even if the Owls pull out a miracle and manage a win, that should only buy Carey one more week. He often says his injured players are “week-to-week” but now he should be “week-to-week” as well. The players’ confidence seems to be shot.
That’s the vibe the Owls take on the plane ride to East Carolina today for a 3 p.m. game tomorrow (ESPN+).
This game has 35-7 written all over it and it would be a shock if the game was more competitive than, say, the 29-14 score ECU beat USF by last week.
When this thing comes to a merciful close in a month, Carey will say “COVID, COVID, blah, blah, blah” and say the kids played hard but just made too many mistakes. He will remind you that he never promised anything but playing hard and he will lie and tell you they did that.
You will know the real reason why Carey lowered expectations is that he didn’t bring in the required number of great transfer portal players needed to turn a 1-6 season around and too many good players from even that team left.
You knew it then. Deep down he did, too.
Now we know why he never promised anything of substance. There have to be consequences for losing and waiting until the end of the season will make a bad situation much worse. Before the transfer portal, it was perfectly acceptable to wait until the end of the season to evaluate coaches. The transfer portal has changed everything. Schools like Texas Tech, TCU, and even Akron are realizing the urgency of acting in mid-season. Temple must get with the times.
Dr. Wingard and Mr. Johnson, you are on a clock that starts around 6 p.m. Saturday. Owl Nation turns its lonely eyes to you.
Picks This Week: AIR FORCE -2 at Army; MARSHALL -1 at FAU, SAN JOSE ST. -10.5 at Nevada and WAKE FOREST +2.5 at UNC.
Last week: Went 2-2 bringing our record against the spread to 20-16-1 for the season.
Sunday: Game Analysis