No such thing as a moral victory … but

Stopped at Vincent’s Pizza in Rockledge on the way home from the Temple game on Saturday and a couple of young girls at the counter looked at my Temple Football Forever T-Shirt.

One of them said: “Were you at the Temple game today?”


Not much to choose between these two teams.

“We were too. We were at the student tailgate. It was so much fun. We only saw a little of the game because we had to get back to work here.”

“Good. I hope you guys are fans for life like me.”

“Oh we are.”

That was their first Temple football game. It was my, by rough estimation, 612th going back to the time I split as a grade school youngin between Penn and Temple football games.

When Wayne Hardin came to Temple, I gave up the Penn fandom altogether.

One school in Philadelphia had the best coach in college football and it wasn’t Penn.

Sometimes the lifelong fandom comes as much in a loss at much as a win. I’ve always said there is no such thing as a “moral victory” but maybe an exception came in a 16-14 loss to unbeaten Rutgers on Saturday afternoon.

A lot of Rutgers fans said they were going to “take over” Lincoln Financial Field. Far from it. There were at least 70 percent Temple fans there, as one of their “honest” fans said.

These Rutgers fans were on the money.

More importantly, Temple was without its best offensive lineman (Adam Klein), best linebacker (Tra Thomas) and two top running backs (Texas A&M transfer Darvon Hubbard and Illinois transfer Jakari Norwood) and played Rutgers to a virtual standoff.

Of course, a real standoff is preferable to a virtual one but the point is all of those guys will be back for the more important conference games.

The Owls were in this game against a Big 10 foe until the very end and there are a couple of “should-have, would-have” plays both fan bases can point to as keys. On the RU end, Temple’s first play from scrimmage should have been a pick 6. On the Temple side, Nathan Stewart dropped a perfectly thrown touchdown pass from E. J. Warner.

Stuff happens. A few plays here and a few plays there make the difference.

On the way out of the stadium, Tony Russo–Anthony Russo’s dad–tapped me on the shoulder. Anthony Russo is one of the top four quarterbacks, statistically, in Temple history. He was 6-4. Warner, as a 6-footer, can’t be blamed for not picking up the danger that lay ahead in a real Pick 6.

“I really like E.J. Warner,” I told him, “but if he was 6-4 like Anthony, he wouldn’t have given up the pick 6. He would have seen over the defense.”

“He’s going to be a real good player here,” Tony Russo said.

“Yeah, I think you’re right.”

Pretty good endorsement from the dad of a former player. Kurt Warner should have been there to hear it.

Minus that play, Temple wins, but it shouldn’t have come down to that.

Temple had a nice little drive going from its own 10 in the final four minutes that would have set up Rory Bell to be the hero with a field goal.

About the second play in, I was hoping for Stan Drayton to throw the halfback pass. All the mental telepathy fell on deaf ears sadly. I think it would have worked. Trey Blair, his halfback, was a terrific quarterback in high school. Pitching it out to Blair might have suckered in the RU defense just enough that Blair could have found a wide-open Adonicas Sanders behind the defense for the win.

Maybe Drayton didn’t know Blair played quarterback in high school or maybe he’s saving that play for a conference game that puts him in the championship. My guess is that the new Temple OC doesn’t realize Blair was a damn good high school quarterback and the play was not in the books.

Hardin would have thrown that halfback pass against Rutgers. Maybe it would have worked, maybe it wouldn’t but he wouldn’t have left it on the table knowing it might have worked.

Moral victories meant even less to him but if Rutgers turns out to be the best team on the Temple 2022 schedule and the Owls use that to win the rest, this will be only “moral victory” we’ve ever seen at Temple.

Monday: Legacy Analysis


22 thoughts on “No such thing as a moral victory … but

  1. Right on. Cannot wait to get back to their house and beat them next year.

    Sent from my iPad


  2. It was a loss but a game well-played by our Owls against a good Rutgers team. To be honest I, like I’m sure a lot of others, thought this might have ended up being a lopsided final score in favor of the team from Piscataway. But the Owls played worthy of the Temple TUFF moniker. I’ll take it. The turnaround from last year’s broken team under Rod Carey is truly amazing! Looking forward to much better times under this new HC and his staff.

    • Yeah, until Stan has a little success as the HC at temple then bolts to a Power 5 school. Then we are back to square 1. It’s like a revolving door with Temple. A new energetic coach comes in, helps turn the program around (or completely destroys it like Rod Carey) then leaves when the 1st power 5 offer comes his way. Temple will always be mediocre at best until it becomes a destination and not a stepping stone for a head coach and I don’t ever see that happening. It’s sad because Temple plays in a 70,000 seat state of the art stadium, has the 4th largest media market and probably has 250K alumni living in the area. There is no reason why Philadelphia can’t have a big time college football program if the Alumni and city would support the team. Get 70K in the seats every game and power 5 conferences and 3 star, 4 star and il even say it.. 5 star recruits will start taking notice. I almost thought Temple was on its way when College game day came to Philly to host undefeated Temple vs undefeated Notre Dame. Then Matt Rhule left and went to Baylor. Back to square one. That season was PROOF that Philadelphia can have a big time program but the Alumni and college football fans in Philly need to embrace it. Penn St. is no where near Philadelphia so the local fans here in Philly need to get off that train.

      • There is simply too much competition in the Philly market for Temple to get anywhere near 70k consistently. Eagles/Phillies/local FCS colleges/Penn State. Again App State/JMU/ODU/Va Tech/WVU—college athletics are the only game in town. Nothing else. These folks have been conditioned since birth that the college teams are the center of their sporting universe. Now Temple can draw 30k, kids like going to Temple, it is a fun school in the city. If somehow you could build a stadium the size of Navy Marine Corp at 35k ish capacity, you could have a real atmosphere. Heck, App State is a heck of an atmosphere at 30k. Call it multipurpose.
        Warner looks like the QB, i was encouraged by the intensity of the defense, you didn’t see that the last few years. The future of this program is going to come down to can Stan Drayton recruit and that means not just HS kids, but work the transfer portal. You need to be able to pick off kids at P5 schools that can’t see the field, but who could get some big time play at TU. That is how you improve quickly.

        C E Speed

      • The biggest flaw in Temple’s coaching “revolving door” is the choices the TU administration makes for new coaches. Almost always there have been better choices out there, especially like the last guy, who would have jumped at what TU offers salary wise. Heck, even Rhule had 2 lousy seasons to start but at least gave us 2 of Temple’s best seasons ever (even if he did leave us in the dust instead of finishing through the bowl game with probably a record win season and final top-20 standing). Lets hope Drayton gets us back to those days AND sticks around for a while.

  3. Spot on Mike. I was feeling good about this game after EJ got the nod at Lafayette and we saw an immediate change in energy and out put from the team. He has good accuracy and is not afraid to use it. Bruce Arians and Wayne Hardin built teams with guys that other schools rules out because they were and inch or two or three outside the prototype but they had football IQ and guts. I was fortunate to play with a few of them Matt Baker and Dick Beck come to mind.

    On another note, this team is starting to believe in themselves, but in large part that fans have not started believing. I was on the 50yd line in section C40 (about 80% – 20% TU to RU fans in that section BTW) we had way to many butts in the seats and silence in some crucial third downs. They got a little better in the 4th quarter. But overall these fans are still feeling the pain left by that guy, who should forever rename nameless, and seem to be waiting for the wheels to fall off. My hope is this moral victory gets the fans that are sitting on their hands or in the living room excited.

    • The Owls were Temple TUFF on Saturday. Remarkable spirit and fight considering the recent past under Carey! This new coach and staff have had no small role in that IMO! Things looking up!

  4. Saw a nice game where Temple was respectable, with some luck might have won it. For this remaining season I see that Temple can win a couple more games and that will be fun to watch. Looks like the coaches went to work after last week and several game aspects worked a little better. What I saw as the big factor was Rutgers turning loose their D backfield on our receivers and boy where they fast. Our Great QB may have not ever been matched up against speed like that before and darn it, but he adjusted his game nicely to some of that impact. Was sitting at the Temple side 20 yard line when an unusual pass play was called against TU for interference on their receiver. The TU defender was clearly infront the RU guy , and TU almost stopped , waiting for the pass. I saw the RU guy just ran our man, and got the call in his favor. What is the rule on that I wonder ???

  5. Biggest issue I see on this team is lack of talent at RB. Unfortunately Saydee not the answer had an easy hole to get through on 4th down and botched it. Good Temple teams in the past always have had a great back Palmer, Thomas, Armstead etc. Love Warner hopefully we hold onto him long term and really impressed with the Defense. Let’s get another win under our belt next week!

    • That’s the one thing NittanyOwl and I were discussing while he was sitting in his Jeep on the way out. Edgar says: “We haven’t had a real stud running back here since Tanardo Sharps and Bernard Pierce.” I agreed. Jahad Thomas and Ryquell Armstrong were good but not at the Pierce/Sharps level. I think Drayton realizes that because he grabbed the best running back in Florida and he will be in the backfield for the next game at Rutgers.

  6. That Temple Defense!

    Add Div-I speed at the skill positions and this team is going bowling next year.

    It just blows my mind a tiny true freshman comes in and towers over 2 giant elite elevens. Certainly a first in TUFB history, AAC, and ?

    Ironic, amazing, and refreshing. Going to be fun watching young Mr. Warner grow up these next four yrs. Give the kid a single digit already and witness the rendezvous w/history.

    • My wife noticed that no Temple RB knows how to hit a hole yet, so some work to do

      Other than that reasons for optimism

      • Yes, it looked like Saydee could have kept his knee up on that short-yardage fail but maybe he thought he got to the sticks. If anyone is capable of teaching a running back to hit the hole, it’s RB coaching guru Stan Drayton. Hopefully he gets those guys in a room with Preston Brown and breaks down the film and then take those teaching concepts onto the practice field.

  7. #18, beside dropping the wide-open touchdown pass (admittedly was being called back anyhow), fumbled the ball on a reverse and dropped an easy pass along the sidelines durning the failed fourth quarter drive. Hopefully it was just a bad game.

    • De’Von Fox (same guy who blocked the three punts a week ago) was CLEARLY the best receiver in the Cherry and White game. After Lafayette, Drayton said: “All he does is make plays for us. Today it was in the kicking game. In the future, I can see him doing it in the passing game.” I hope he gets his chance soon. Barbon doesn’t drop the ball but he has more difficulty getting separation than Sanders and Stewart. Fox seems faster.

  8. Mike, Although I was not with you and my teammates Saturday, I was in spirit. What is your assessment of our team after Saturday? My impression seems like we were toe to toe with Rutgers and our defense was aggressive. You and Mr Russo are right on in using a gadget play on the final drive. Coach Hardin would have and perhaps we get a W. Coach always had a gadget play with multiple options. Something he could use a couple of key moments. I hope Coach Drayton develops a package of these plays. Not that I am a football mind, I do know how our teams in the 70’s enjoyed working them and using them at strategic moments to change the game. Having a “trump card” in the pocket of a close contest, was not only a great game plan tool but for Hardin’s teams, it was a weapon. Yes, no moral victory in a loss. Can we build upon this and get to 6 or 7 W’s?

  9. I’ve seen highlights of the Rutgers game but will hold comment until I watch the entire game. I was in Atlanta for the weekend. Got to see some Phillies vs Braves. Made a point to stop over to see our old friend Geoff Collins against Ole Miss. Georgia Tech is a comatose program at this point. Team is poorly coached and undisciplined. They draw a nice crowd, but no energy or enthusiasm in the stands. Much anger in the fanbase. It emptied out in the second half. When people found out I was from Philly, there were a lot of questions about what he did at Temple. I told them I was not surprised at how things have turned out in the 404. Lots of sizzle, but when it’s time for the steak, it’s not a good serving.

    • This may be Geoff’s last year as Tech HC I’m afraid. This is a proud program that is used to winning. They have four national championships to their credit. They also have won championships in four different conferences, including three in the old Southern Conference, five in the Southeastern Conference, and two as part of their current membership in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

      • He is done and would be gone except for his buyout. Chatter amongst the people I was talking to is there enough booster support to make the move on Collins and the AD at this point. There is great history in that program. I walked around the stadium for an hour before kickoff and was impressed at the job they did recognizing past success. I admit I did some strong tailgating prior to that. It’s a good Saturday Down South college football experience there. The GT stadium would be a great model for Temple’s on-campus stadium if one ever comes.

      • I talked to some of them before our 24-2 game. Some of the nicest opposing fans ever but even then they were starting to have doubts about Collins.

  10. Both Collins and Carey couldn’t figure out how to recruit a college level RB, meh

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