TU-Cincy: Dwan’s coming out party?

Right now, it’s pretty clear what the planned ESPN TV narrative will be for tonight’s game, Temple at Cincinnati (7 p.m., main network).

If Golden shows up for the second-straight Owl upset, Arthur Johnson might give him an offer he can’t refuse to be a football consultant.

Group of Five team returns home to adoring fans ranked No. 5 in the country with a real hope of being the first team of the sub-FBS group to make the four-team playoff.

Narratives can change, though, depending upon what happens once the ball is kicked off.

For Temple, nothing would be better than the narrative to change to the play of former Elite 11 quarterback and five-star recruit Dwan Mathis.

Owl fans caught a glimpse of what Mathis can do–maybe on the regular–when he took a simple zone read for himself instead of handing to a running back and went 39 yards in a 34-31 win over Memphis. Mathis was too fast for the defensive end and juked the defensive back to pick up a big gain. Mix in 35 completions for 322 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions and the Homecoming crowd of 28,356 got a nice glimpse into the future.

Remember, he did not play at all in a 28-3 loss to Boston College and that game was 21-3 with two minutes left in the fourth quarter.

“If that’s what he looks like on an 80 percent ankle, I’d like to see what he can do on a 100 percent one,” former Georgia starting quarterback Hudson Mason said while doing the game as an ESPN analyst last week.

Hell, maybe Mathis went from 80 percent to 100 percent this week.

We will find out in a few hours.

Like Mason, Mathis is a former starting quarterback at Georgia.

Unlike Mason, Mathis has world-class speed and can turn a simple tuck-and-run into an 80-yard touchdown on any given play.

By comparison, Cincinnati faced a pair of statues in the two Notre Dame quarterbacks it pummeled a week ago. Murray State didn’t have a quarterback like Mathis nor did Indiana.

Temple does.

Doesn’t say WHEN the showers will end but let’s hope it’s by 7.

Mathis can turn around this narrative pretty fast, especially if the Owls’ experienced offensive line and staple of good-but-not-great running backs have a modicum of early success. If the Bearcats go for the running back, Mathis has shown a pretty good instinct for keeping the ball when he sees a lane.

It might not translate into an 80-yard touchdown, but if it keeps enough drives alive for the Owls to get their share of first downs, it won’t have to be. This is the kind of game that the Owls might be better off rolling the pocket and throwing to the best wide receiver tandem in the American Athletic Conference. Watching the Owls on film, Luke Fickell hasn’t seen Mathis take off that much nor throw on the run. He hasn’t seen running back and former quarterback Trey Blair throw a pass off a pitchout, either.

This would be a good time for head coach Rod Carey and offensive coordinator Mike Uremovich to rip off those pages in the playbook and tape them to Mathis’ arm.

Then the narrative changes to how good Mathis and how good Temple can be and not so much Cincy-centric. Right now, everyone is assuming Cincinnati will breeze through the remainder of its schedule and, as UCF found out at Navy last week, assuming anything is dangerous.

Instead of the assumption that Cincy runs the table, a good Temple start could have the announcers talking about Al Golden’s presence for the second-straight game (after not being at a Temple game in a decade) and what a good-luck charm he has become for the Owls. Maybe a sideline reporter pulls new Temple athletic director Arthur Johnson aside for a chat about his vision for Temple’s athletic future.

Maybe even someone brings up the fact that Temple would deliver the nation’s fourth-largest TV market for any Power 5 conference which might be interested in addition to competitive football and basketball programs.

If the Owls win, ESPN will be talking about Temple beating Cincinnati in five of the last six football meetings. Since Cincy is playing for Big 12 prestige, not the AAC’s, nothing would please most of the current members of the league than that narrative supplanting the one ESPN has planned.

Picks this week: I never bet Temple (to win or lose) but the 12.5 over/under in points scored seems way too low. Think the Owls score at least 17, maybe more, but won’t include it in my official picks.

Official picks: IOWA (-2) over visiting Penn State, MEMPHIS (+3.5) at Tulsa (Vegas overreacted to the Temple loss, think Memphis not only covers but wins this game outright), COLORADO STATE (-1.5) over visiting San Jose State and MICHIGAN STATE (-5) in a revenge spot at Rutgers. (CSU’s win over Toledo was more impressive than SJS’s loss to Western Michigan and MSU now has a big-time running back that it did not have last year.)

Latest update: Won on Iowa (23-20), lost on Memphis, won on Colorado State (32-15), won on Michigan State (31-13). For the weekend, our 3-1 record ATS brings us to 15-9-1 ATS on the season.

Tomorrow: Game Analysis


After Cincy, plenty of room at the top for Temple

After Temple makes a prime time appearance on ESPN Friday night at Cincinnati, the Bearcats–a longtime staple of the Owls’ football schedule–will be gone.

Maybe forever from the Temple schedule after this year given the fact that the school wants an early departure from the American Athletic Conference.

That’s sad because Cincy was a longtime regional rival in the next state over where the Owls have had pretty good success against.

The Owls have more to thank Cincinnati for than the wins, though.

Cincinnati showed Temple University how to get to the top of the AAC: Build a state of the art on-campus stadium (Nippert Stadium is basically a new stadium on an old site) and compile four-straight top-level recruiting classes composed of players who want to experience college life in an urban environment, not in the middle of nowhere. Mix in a popular players coach who wants to stay a few years and not jump for the first P5 offer like most of his league mates, stir, and come up with a top 10 team.

In the G5, a top 10 team is reaching the pinnacle.

Philadelphia has arguably more to offer than Cincy as a city.

Temple, as a program, needs to, err, Cherry pick the other ingredients of success–getting a popular players’ coach and stringing together a few top-rated recruiting classes.

Owls on ESPN after winning the AAC title in 2016.

Can the Owls do it?


In Al Golden and Matt Rhule, the Owls had popular players’ coaches and top recruiting classes. In a league where everyone but Navy was running an RPO, they established a unique offensive style that featured establishing the run first. Only when that happened, which was pretty much always, the Owls faked it into the belly of a big-time running back (Bernard Pierce, Jahad Thomas and Ryquell Armstead come to mind) and that mere fake led to wide open Temple receivers running through the secondary for explosive plays in the downfield passing game. Special teams were not only locked down but the Owls routinely got big punt returns on their end and blocked punts on the other end.

What happened?

Temple beat Cincinnati four-straight times and the only recent loss to the Bearcats came on a blocked extra point that was taken back for two points in 2019. Under Rod Carey, the Owls don’t lock down special teams. Hell, they often leave the keys on top of the vehicle so the carjackers don’t have to do any work. Returning a kick for touchdown? Not allowed. Blocking a punt? Out of the question. You know how to take a punt to the house? Put Trey Blair back there. He has plenty of experience doing just that in a great high school league. You know how to block a punt? Have your tallest player (Ronnie Stevenson?) with a good wingspan and vertical leap come straight up the middle and stick his paw up. When Steve Addazio needed to block a field goal at UConn, he put 6-6 wide receiver Deon Miller in the game and gave him the job. It got done. Temple won, 17-14, when Brandon McManus kicked the game-winning field goal with no time left.

“I wanted to put the ball in the middle of the field and give the best kicker in the country a chance to win it and that’s just what he did,” Daz said.

Over at Cincy, special teams are the same third of the game they were at Temple under the Golden Rhule.

Now Cincy is on top of the AAC hierarchy and a lot of things will have to go right for the 28-point underdog Owls to shock the world on Friday.

Whatever happens, Cincy has now taken over the league for however much time they have left in it. Before leaving, they have shown the Temple administration how to get back on top. It’s not rocket science and it’s doable.

Football is the front porch of a major university and Cincy has the best porch in the AAC neighborhood now.

Good blueprints make for good porches. Now that the rich folks are leaving the neighborhood, we will find out soon enough if the Owls are the neighbors who invest enough coin to move on up to the East Side.

Friday: Cincinnati Preview

Fizzy: The Good, Bad and Ugly

Editor’s Note: Fizzy says this is his last contribution of the season. If he changes his mind, we’ll have a spot for him but, for now, we will take him at his word and thank him for his outstanding contributions to this space.


By Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub

THE GOOD …. the Defense

         THE BAD… Short yardage play-calling

                  THE UGLY …. 16 inaccurate passes & 4 missed touchdowns

Well, gang, this is gonna be a mish-mash because this will be my last write-up for the season. I’m tired of saying the same things over and over.


With the unfortunate ending of last night’s game, it marks the end of the competitive segment of this year’s schedule. With a win vs. Connecticut we’ll end up 8 – 4, but the season could have been so much more. Unless you’re in a top bowl game or the championship series, bowl games are now just exhibition games and the main value is you can continue to practice for next year.

I thought the defense did a fine job. However, they were aided by at least six drops by Cincinnati receivers. Two of those were probable touchdowns. Things do seem to even out, don’t they?

The single most important reason we lost was the many inaccurate passes by QB Russo, and four of the misses were probable touchdowns. I hate to zero in on one player, but since Russo had an off-night, why not bring in the relief pitcher? I believe Centeio was only in for two series. I would have put him in for good after the first series of the second half. All in all, the design of the pass plays resulted in many open receivers.


Fizzy gives his highest grades to the defensive staff that includes, along with Fran Brown, imports from NIU (from left) Knowles, Rice and Stewart

As I look over my notes from last night, there are constant references to horrible short-yardage play calling. Except for one time near the end of the game, it was always an up-the-gut play. This has been going on the entire season. We’ve also got the short end of the stick on referee ball placements in some of these situations (two last night). Surely, one of the 23 coaches could be assigned to watch TV and let the sideline know if they should challenge. Then there was the no-targeting call – quite unbelievable.

Many times on third and long, Russo was hurried, harassed and sacked by the Cincinnati blitz. Why not roll out?

With 2:35 left in the game and only down by five points, we ran an Up-The-Gut play from our 25-yard line. Someone needs to explain that play call to me. Why would we keep the clock running? Did we expect a 75-yard run? We’ve done the same thing before.

Now I’m going to do my end of the year evaluation.

Coach Carey’s Grade (assuming an 8 – 4 record) — C+

Coach Carey’s biggest mistake was to take Coach Foley off the field and force him to leave. As a result, our special teams which had been top-ranked under Foley were only acceptable. Also, Isaiah Wright who got national recognition for his punt and kickoff returns last year has been a nonfactor this year. But even more important is who the hell is going to do the local recruiting? Foley has ties to most of the high school coaches in the region. I’m afraid a lot of local talent is going to end up in Waco.

We’ve had four losses and I believe we have more talent than Buffalo and probably equal talent to the three other teams that beat us. We should have won two of those games. In the three loses before last night, I thought the opposition adjusted in the second half of those games, and we didn’t.

Penalties have hurt us considerably throughout the year, although they were mostly cleaned up last night.

I’m going to rate the offensive and defensive coordinators separately, but everything is the responsibility of the head coach. I’m particularly upset that QB Russo has not dramatically improved over last year. Unfortunately, Russo had his best game when his receivers couldn’t catch the ball, and Isaiah Wright hasn’t contributed very much.

Co-Offensive Coordinator Uremovich’s Grade — D

I don’t like this vanilla offense. I know almost everyone runs the Spread, but there are lots of better ways to do it. We have almost nothing going back the other way, one reverse and one QB Russo bootleg all year, and our short-yardage plays have been a disaster. Russo hasn’t improved and probably three of our wins could be attributed to the defense. There’s hardly any imagination and we need a short-yardage formation like the Power I.

Defensive Coordinator Knowles’ Grade — B-

Now we have a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide’s situation. We had two losses when we were outscored by 66 points due to no pass rush and poor man-to-man coverage, and no half-time adjustment. And I don’t know how Buffalo scored as much as they did. On the flip side, we won at least three and maybe five games because of outstanding defense. We need to have effective zone coverage for the outstanding passing teams.

Thank you all for reading the thoughts of a frustrated and cranky old coach throughout this season. Hopefully, I’ll be in touch next year. Be safe and healthy.

Thursday: Giving Thanks for Perspective

Saturday: Two Proper Sendoffs


TU-Cincy: Story of the season

This is vintage Temple-Cincy football, not that RPO crap we’ve seen this year

Social media can be a wonderful and terrible thing at the same time and it was on full display in the first half of Temple’s 15-13 loss to Cincinnati.

“Russo just doesn’t have it,” one post read.

I had to shake my head.


Rod: This is Temple football, not that RPO stuff.

When a team has a great offensive line, a relatively immobile quarterback and two very good running backs, what kind of offense do you design?

Hint: It’s not the same RPO offense you played at Northern Illinois with Jordan Lynch.

This had nothing to do with any single player or really any player.

The loss in the most important game Temple has played since 2016 didn’t happen because a quarterback “doesn’t have it” but because of what happened in the spring and over the summer in the coaching offices of Edberg-Olson Hall.

This, though, really
has been the story
of the season for the
Owls so far because Rod
Carey otherwise is a good
head coach who has a blind
spot when it comes to this
ill-fitting offensive scheme

The answer, of course, is to fit the system to the personnel you have. The Owls were blessed with great wide receivers, sure, going into the season, but they had what Geoff Collins called earlier this year “the best three interior offensive linemen in college football.”

To best utilize that kind of personnel, you’ve got to put the tight ends in motion (see Maryland game film from last year), establish the run FIRST behind that offensive line and those tight ends and then make explosive downfield plays in the passing game off play-action fakes.

To attempt an RPO offense with a quarterback with a strong arm but not nimble legs is a recipe for disaster. To throw the ball 26 of the first 34 plays with good tight ends, good running backs, and a great offensive line is just a terrible game plan. Running the ball 26 of the first 34 times would have been a smarter game plan. Perhaps not ironically, what little success the Owls had came when they went ass-backward with the running game at the start of the second half.

By then, though, they were too far behind.

You kinda knew the kicking game would be a problem when both a dependable kicker (Aaron Boumerhi) and punter (Connor Bowler) were inexplicably told their services would no longer be needed.

Misuse of terrific personnel on offense, though, really has been the story of the season for the Owls so far because Rod Carey otherwise is a good head coach who has a blind spot when it comes to this ill-fitting offensive scheme.

Temple football is not passing first, running second. It’s run first, then draw the linebackers and safeties up to the line of scrimmage and then–and only then–fake to those backs to create open passing lanes.

That’s the way this program earned a lot of its Temple TUFF reputation over the last decade. It should have been the way the Owls won on Saturday night.

That it didn’t happen had nothing to do with the kids or any kid. Grown men should have known better months ago.

Tuesday: Fizzy’s corner


Two Games are Must-see TV

If you are a Temple fan and want to vegetate, stick your foot up on the couch and put one hand in a bowl of chips and another holding the remote, this is your day.

Me, I’m headed out for a two-hour run right after the UCF vs. Tulane game (noon, CBS Sports), then back in front of the set for the 7 p.m. feature of Temple at Cincinnati (ESPN2).

Screenshot 2019-11-22 at 10.56.38 PM

By then, I’m guessing it gets a lot simpler for the Temple Owls who, since they don’t live in a bubble, will know exactly will have happened by 3 p.m.

My guess–and this is just a guess–is that Tulane not only covers the six-point spread but wins OUTRIGHT. If that’s true, I will jog with a smile on my face until darkness at 5 p.m. or so before heading back to set up for the main event.


Definitely buying one of these Rod Carey game-worn sweatshirts if the Owls win on Saturday night.

That’s because it will have gotten real simple for the Owls by then. Go out and play Temple TUFF, punch Cincy in the mouth (figuratively, not literally, no targeting penalties needed) and head back to Philadelphia as the de facto AAC East champs. Plenty to worry about, though. Will the Owls even attempt to run the ball or will they stay pass-happy? Can Quincy Roche and company get to the quarterback, force turnovers and have Sam Franklin take them to the house for six?

Still, the Owls matchup better with a Cincy-type team than a UCF/SMU-type team. The same is true for Tulane, which matches up better against a UCF type than a Temple type. It’s all about matchups in college football.

Think about it. If the Owls win and if Memphis needs that game against Cincy next week, the Bearcats are just not going to win in Memphis. They just don’t have the firepower to keep up with the Tigers.

That leaves the Owls holding serve at home against a UConn team that barely beat a Wagner team (that lost by double digits to East Stroudsburg).

De facto means in fact, in effect, whether right or not and, under that set of circumstances, the Owls can punch their ticket to Memphis.

Of course, if you don’t want to get outside on Saturday before the rain arrives at night, that’s your choice. SMU is on CBS Sports at Navy after the Tulane game (3:30) and Memphis travels to South Florida (4 p.m., ESPNU) and both are compelling games but the guilt from inactivity might be too much to bear and not conducive to overall physical health.

As far as the Owls go, we should know if the Owls are in good shape, at least figuratively, by no later than the 11 p.m. news.

Predictions: Navy and a couple of Techs (Georgia, Louisiana) let me down so I was 1-3 against the spread and 2-2 straight up last week. For the 34-24 straight up and 39-34 ATS. Going to try to finish the season above the water on the spreads at least so going with SOUTH FLORIDA getting 14.5 against visiting Memphis, EAST CAROLINA laying the 13.5 at Uconn, TCU getting the 19 at Oklahoma, MICHIGAN STATE laying the 21 at Rutgers, and SAN JOSE STATE laying the 5.5 at UNLV.

Sunday: Game Analysis

Tuesday: Fizzy’s Corner




Hazardous Duty, Great Recognition, Ahead


One of the best sports stories coming out on the internet last week was by Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports detailing how the shared experience between Matt Rhule and Ryan Day at Temple made them two of the best coaches in college football today.

In it, a photo of a silver-plated Ernest Shackleton quote above Al Golden’s office said it all: “Men Wanted for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honor and recognition in case of success.”


Screenshot 2019-11-20 at 9.03.20 AM

Fortunately, the Owls got used to playing in the cold last week when the game-time temperature was 36 with a wind/chill factor in the 20s.


That pretty much sums up Saturday’s chore for the Temple Owls. High risk, great reward ahead. The journey–a chartered jet–might be the easiest part. Certainly, the cost of living adjustment the school pays football players qualifies as small wages and the “wintry mix” forecast fits the bitter cold promise. (Although the Owls have played in colder weather as recently as last Saturday.) It’s a long three hours (not months) of somewhat darkness (night game) and constant danger and “honor and recognition in case of success.”

A safe return is pretty much a given but the key part of the sentence to me is  “honor and recognition in case of success.”

IF … and that’s a big IF
.. the Owls win, their chances
of winning the AAC East go up
from, say, 10 percent to 90
percent. That’s a big jump.
That’s all the team could have
hoped for prior to the season

IF … and that’s a big IF .. the Owls win, their chances of winning the AAC East go up from, say, 10 percent to 90 percent. That’s a big jump. That’s all the team could have hoped for prior to the season. That really exceeds what we could have hoped for as Temple football fans. Plus, if Tulane uses that on-campus Yulman Stadium advantage–where it is also unbeaten this season–to take down UCF, the Owls enter the final weekend needing only a Cincy loss at Memphis (duh) and a win over hapless UConn to earn a championship date at Memphis.

It’s a more likely scenario than a crazy one but the first step is going 1-0 this weekend.

The hazardous part is this: Cincinnati is a double-digit favorite and is 6-0 at Nippert Stadium this season. Temple had won eight-straight games at Lincoln Financial Field before losing to UCF. If UCF can do it at Temple, the Owls can do it at Nippert.

Put it this way: Cincinnati, in its most recent two games, needed to go to the final play to beat a pair of teams, ECU and USF, that Temple beat by double digits.

Asking the Owls to do this is not asking much considering where the program came from when that Shackleton quote was placed on the Edberg Olson wall. They did it as a program in the Al Golden days and they can do it as a team on Saturday night. The journey won’t be easy and the task will be hard, but the reward in case of success will be more than worth it.

Saturday: Game Night

Sunday: Game Analysis

A Very Special Temple Homecoming

This is Temple TUFF offensive football. Owls need to get back to it.

Since Temple football emerged from the dark ages around the year 2009, there have been some pretty good Homecomings.


Maybe the top one in my memory–and perhaps the best including the crowds of 70K for Notre Dame and Penn State games at Lincoln Financial Field that season–was the 35,711 fans who showed up for a 48-14 win over Tulane in 2015.

That’s because literally no one came from Tulane and the lower bowl of a 70K-seat stadium was filled entirely with Cherry and White fans. Thirty-five thousand and seven hundred eleven exceeds the capacity of many of the AAC stadiums so it was a tremendous crowd. Plus, it was 4,000 more people than attended the previous game, a 30-16 win over Central Florida at LFF on the preceding Saturday night (a much more attractive time for a home game).

That’s what being 6-0 and ranked nationally will do for you.

That is also the situation visiting Cincinnati (6-0, ranked No. 20 in the AP poll) finds itself in when it travels to Lincoln Financial Field (noon) on Saturday for Temple’s Homecoming game.

The numbers indicate that this should be a crowd that slightly exceeds the 30K mark, probably not quite up to the 32K mark for Temple’s home opener this season so it should be a special Homecoming. Every Homecoming is special because it attracts the same kind of softcore fan base that usually attends only Temple home openers. For the last eight Homecomings, for instance, the Homecoming Game drew an average of 7,654 more than the previous home game.


Figure in far right column represents an average of 7,654 more than the prior home game attendance in each of those years.

Will this be as special as Tulane?

Only if the Owls emerge with a win and the people in Vegas are counting on it. The line opened at 3.5 points on Monday and moved slightly up to four points on Tuesday and now back to 3.5 again Wednesday. Last week’s Temple line at Navy opened with the Owls as a 4.5-point favorite on a Monday and that moved to 5.5 on Wednesday before eventually settling on seven points by Saturday morning.

The Owls won, 24-17.


If nothing changes, expect Temple to win, 24-20.

Still, the game is played on the field and not in Vegas and Cincinnati has a formidable 12th man.

Dave Patenaude.


Three years ago today when No. 4 was a full-time fullback leading the way for Ryquell Armstead (and Jahad Thomas, pictured) and play-action fakes to the tailbacks allowed Ventell Byrant and Isaiah Wright to run so free through the secondary P.J. Walker did not know which one to pick out.

The Temple offensive coordinator has somehow managed to turn a team with a pretty good line and dynamic players like quarterback Anthony Russo, fullback Rob Ritrovato, tailback Ryquell Armstead, and explosive downfield wide receivers like Ventell Bryant, Isaiah Wright and Branden Mack into the 89th-ranked total offense in the country.

That’s a pretty hard thing to do but when you have a great fullback you never use as a fullback and, by doing so (err, not doing so) you pretty much pull the lynch pin out of this grenade and blow the whole offense up. Run Rock behind Nitro, establish the run, set up the play-action pass and Bryant, Wright and Mack become 10x more effective than they are now.

Also, both Patenaude and head coach Geoff Collins have been quoted as saying the reason they don’t run the ball on first and goal is because of the defense the bad guys are in dictates the Temple play call. That’s ridiculous on face value. From the time Walter Camp invented football, it has been the offenses, not the defenses, who dictate the play call. Do you think Matt Rhule EVER cared what defense Cincy was in the video at the top of this post?

If Temple is truly calling
passing plays on first and
goal based on the alignment
of the defense
across the ball, then the
coaching here is worse than
any of us ever thought and,
for the last two years, many
of us think it is appallingly
bad. An offense with these
players should be ranked
in the top 10 in the country
in total offense, certainly
not ranked No. 89 as it is now

If Temple is truly calling passing plays on first and goal based on the alignment of the defense across the ball, then the coaching here is worse than any of us ever thought and, for the last two years, many of us think it is appallingly bad. An offense with these players should be ranked in the top 10 in the country in total offense, certainly not ranked No. 89 as it is now.

That’s an indictment on the brain trust.

Somewhere in Waco, both Glenn Thomas and Matt Rhule have to be shaking their heads because you know they are laughing at Patenaude’s play-calling and personnel groupings. Knowing how much they love these kids they recruited, there are probably a few tears being shed as well.

We will ever see the Temple football Owl fans have come to know and love? That is an every-down fullback (Nitro) leading the way for an elite tailback (Rock), setting up explosive downfield plays in the play-action passing game to receivers like Bryant, Wright and Mack? Probably not as long as Collins is the enabler to this spread crack addict named Patenaude.

As Temple fans, we can only hope the talent overcomes the coaching or these coaches take a good look at the video at the top of this post and the light bulb finally goes on in their collective heads.

Saturday: How Good is Vegas?

Cincy Throwbacks: Game With a Kick


Ironically, No. 17 gave Temple a 17-17 tie with Cincy.

If Friday’s game with Cincinnati comes down to a kick, no one will be surprised.

The Owls are 2.5-favorites and many of their past games against the Bearcats have involved a kick.


Last year’s 34-13 win gave the Owls a 12-7-1 lead in the series.

The Owls have a great kicker in Aaron Boumerhi, who already has the pressure of a game-winning OT kick under his belt this year against Villanova.

If past games with Cincinnati are a yardstick, it just might come down to the length of a leg.

Field goals have played a big role in the series, which Temple leads, 12-7-1.

Probably the most famous kick came in the series only tie, 17-17, on Oct. 29, 1977.
A year earlier, Temple coach Wayne Hardin eschewed an extra-point attempt by kicker Wes Sornisky in an attempt to beat Penn State on the final play of the game. The two-point conversion pass went off the hands of the Temple receiver and the Owls lost, 31-30.

“A tie is like kissing your sister,” Hardin said afterward. “I felt the kids came too far and deserved the chance to win.”

Facing a similar situation the next season at Nippert Stadium, Hardin went for the tie, a 33-yard field goal by Sornisky.

It was good and the teams walked off the field with a 17-17 tie. It was Cincinnati’s second 17-17 tie that year. The Bearcats tied Louisville in an earlier game.

Afterward, a famous photo of Sornisky, who ironically wore No. 17, was published with him whispering something in Hardin’s ear.

“I asked him if this was like kissing your sister,” Wes said.

Those were pretty strange days. Now nobody gets to play for three hours and come away with a result that is pretty much like not even having played the game at all.

It was probably like kissing your half-sister from Temple’s point of view because the Owls came from down 11 points in the fourth quarter to get in a position for a tie. That year, Cincinnati lost by two points to a Maryland team that finished No. 13 in the nation.

Sornisky was a great kicker for Hardin, who helped the Owls set what was then an NCAA record for consecutive extra points (106) that was snapped earlier that season.

Another kick that factored into a memorable Temple vs. Cincy game came in 1974.

The Owls had a nation’s best 14-game winning streak and Don Bitterlich, who still holds the school record for longest field goal (56). A Cincy field goal ended that long winning streak, 16-15.

Temple also won the 1978 game on a field goal, 16-13.

Missed field goals also factored into the 2003 game. That game, on a Saturday night at unbeaten 13-point favorite Cincinnati, featured missed field goals from 37 and 24 yards by the Owls’ kicker. Temple, with a 24-10 fourth quarter lead, threw a bomb on 2nd and 2. Incomplete, of course. The Owls also threw three passes when they had a first-and-goal on the Cincinnati 2.

INCOMPLETE, of course, and the missed kicks had everything to do with a 30-24 double-overtime loss.

Now if the Owls can just put Boumerhi in a position to win, they’ve got to feel good about their chances.

The last time they were 2.5-point favorites, though, they won, 34-10.

To me, that would be the result I would most get a kick out of now.
Tomorrow: Cincinnati Preview

A Logical Look at the Cincinnati Defense


As bad as the Temple offense was a season ago, that’s about how bad the Cincinnati defense was over the same four months.

If Mr. Spock or Leonard Nimoy or anyone taking a logical look at this game tonight might conclude, how much Temple improved on offense vs. how much Cincinnati improved on defense really  are the only important variables in determining a winner. The Bearcats were the nation’s 54th-rated defense in 2013 but followed that up by dropping to the No. 69th-ranked defense.


It’s hard to judge anything by a 52-10 win over Alabama A&M because that was a 4-8 FCS team a year ago. Last year, though, Cincinnati gave up 34 points to Toledo, 24 to Miami (Ohio), 50 to Ohio State, 41 to Memphis, 55 to Miami (Fla.), 46 to East Carolina, 31 to Houston and 33 to Virginia Tech. The fact that Temple scored only six was more of an indictment against Temple than praise of anything the Bearcats did.

Obviously, head coach Tommy Tuberville knew defense was the side of the ball he had to address last year so he either didn’t address it or the bandages he applied to the defense did not stop the bleeding. Let’s work on the first part of that theory. Tuberville, at Texas A&M, was a noted offensive mind and his teams won by concentrating on that side of the ball. Maybe he doesn’t place a whole lot of emphasis on defense.

Great photo of Temple AD Pat Kraft (with tie) going nuts. Those Thomas sweeps should be there tonight.

Great photo of Temple AD Pat Kraft (with tie) going nuts. Those Thomas sweeps should be there tonight.

The second part of the theory is that maybe the Bearcats do not have a whole lot of good players on that side of the ball and that seems to be also true. The strength of the defense appears to be the two interior tackles, while the Bearcats have not had acceptable play from the ends. That probably means the same kind of sweeps that worked for Jahad Thomas against Penn State will be there in abundance tonight.

In the secondary, Zach Edwards is arguably the best safety in the conference and will probably take away the middle of the field but those sideline patterns that worked so well for P.J. Walker to Robby Anderson in 2013 will be big-play opportunities.

If the Owls attack the edges with Thomas, then hit Anderson and Adonis Jennings with play-action plays away from the middle of the field, they should be able to get points off of this defense. Those quick outs that Anderson got tackled on against a good Penn State defense could turn into explosive plays downfield for Temple.

Hard to believe that a Cincy defense that dropped from 54 to 69 is going move from 69 to decent any time soon. At least, as Spock might say, it’s just not logical. Expect Temple to score 31 points tonight. Hard to believe even a good Cincinnati offense is going to get more than three scores against the Owls’ defense and probably less.

We’re On To Cincinnati

Matt Rhule correctly set the tone last week when, while talking about PSU, said Cincy was more important.

The calendar says the AAC championship football game is scheduled for Dec. 5 in an as-yet unnamed location. Calendars cannot speak, but at least this time the calendar lied. All signs point to the winner of the Temple at Cincinnati game (Saturday, 8 p.m., ESPN News) as the favorite to come away with the league’s championship.

If there was any question of a letdown for the Owls after an emotionally and physically draining win, this trophy will probably go to the winner of Saturday's game. Win now and it's a clear path to a home AAC title game on Dec. 5.

If there was any question of a letdown for the Owls after an emotionally and physically draining win, this trophy will probably go to the winner of Saturday’s game. Win now and it’s a clear path to a home AAC title game on Dec. 5.

For Temple fans willing to make the trip, though, the game should be one of the most entertaining of the season in any league. Cincinnati came into the game as the favorite to win the AAC East and the winner of the East plays the AAC West champion for the overall title. Taking that thought process a step further, if Navy—as expected—were to win the West, it would probably be an underdog to both the Owls and the Bearcats so the importance of this game cannot be understated.

Even without the above narrative, this is an intriguing matchup of counterpunchers in that it pits the league’s top defense, Temple, vs. the league’s top offense, Cincinnati. The game will probably be determined by which of the weaker sides of the ball have improved more, the Owls’ offense or the Bearcats’ defense. The Bearcats’ major advantage is having arguably the league’s best player, quarterback Gunner Kiel.

Temple has proven to be the league’s most ready for prime time team, having pummeled two members of the Power 5 in the last two seasons. The Owls had a SEC scalp last year, a 37-7 win at Vanderbilt, and added a Big 10 one this year in a 27-10 win over Penn State last week. In that same time frame, Cincinnati’s only win over a P5 team was 42-7 over Big 10 member Purdue a year ago.  It’s hard to tell anything about the Bearcats, who beat overmatched Alabama A&M, 52-10, last week.  The Bulldogs were 4-8 at the FCS level a year ago.

Great photo of Temple AD Pat Kraft (with tie) going nuts as he watches Jahad Thomas score a TD.

Great photo of Temple AD Pat Kraft (with tie) going nuts as he watches Jahad Thomas score a TD.

There were signs last week that the Owls did more to fix their offense than the Bearcats have to fix their defense, as Jahad Thomas rushed for 135 yards on 29 carries in the win over Penn State and quarterback P.J. Walker, rejuvenated by the return of wide receiver Robby Anderson and the addition of four-star Pitt transfer Adonis Jennings, went 15 for 20 in the passing game.

Whether that is enough to overcome a home-field advantage is the key question in a game where the key answer probably means a championship for the winner.

Tomorrow:  The Concept of a Letdown

Saturday: Cincinnati’s Defense