Houston-Temple: Fork in the road

Interesting that three of the starting offensive linemen who played in this game are still with the Owls.

Three years and two days ago, Temple football rung up 59 points on Houston in a 59-49 road win.

Since then, though, the two teams reached a fork in the road.

Houston went down a nice four-lane highway that led to an 8-1 record this season.

Temple drove off into a ditch, turned the vehicle over, and totaled the car and has won only four games in its last 16.

Houston is on the road to the AAC championship game with Cincinnati while Temple has called the towtruck in order to remove a group of midwestern carpetbaggers who ruined one of college football’s most unique and respected brands.

What happened?

Two things:

One, Temple got away from the Temple brand (run the ball, control the clock, great defense and special teams) and was seduced pretty much like everyone else in college football by the RPO. That might be the trend in most of college football but Temple had its own nice little brand (fullback, two tight ends, run the ball to make the pass effective) that was just as hard for other teams to prepare for as was the Navy triple option.

Two, Houston hired a big-time winning coach from a Power 5 conference who was known for establishing a rapport with his players and Temple hired a hard-ass “my-way-or-the-highway” guy who had success at a lower conference but was overmatched in this one. If his players didn’t like his style, they were free to go and, in the era of the transfer portal, they did.

Temple did a piss-poor job of replacing them, something we’ve harped on in this space since February. We thought the Owls would finish 2-10 back then. Three and nine and umpteen blowouts give us no satisfaction.

Now Houston visits Temple (noon tomorrow, ESPN+) and nobody will be surprised if the Cougars return the favor by scoring 59 points of their own on the road. Before the game last week, we wrote this game had 35-7 written all over it and the Owls sadly exceeded even those low expectations with a 45-3 loss. The only way this one doesn’t have 59-7 written all over it is if the Owls do something drastic and put all eight defenders in the box from the get-go. There is no sense of urgency from this coaching staff so I expect them to do the same things they’ve done to get them beaten by 52-3 and 45-3 scores. Nothing.

Over 30,000 Houston fans saw Temple rout the Cougars three years ago and the 59-49 score was not as close as the final indicated. The Owls led, 59-35, in that one and the game was never in doubt. Ryquell Armstead ran for six touchdowns (one short of the school game record of seven set by Montel Harris). If as many as 12,000 Temple fans attend tomorrow, I will be shocked.

The fans are disgusted with Carey and for good reason. A 1-6 season has been followed by a three-win season and one of those was over Wagner, so it should not count.

That’s how far we’ve fallen.

The Temple administration should be taking notes.

Back then, there was a commitment to the run. Temple ran the ball, chewed a lot of clock and stayed away from the 63-21, 55-13 49-7, 52-3 and 45-3 losses that have been a hallmark of The Rod Carey Error.

Today, the run is an afterthought.

Not coincidentally, blowouts are at the forefront.

Sad indeed.

While Dana Holgorsen is firmly established in Houston, Carey is a dead man walking in Philadelphia.

Big-time Temple donors have been told Carey will “be evaluated” at the end of the season but that might be too late. Temple has done the man no favors by making him take what is essentially a “perp walk” on the fly in Saturday morning at 9:30. I’ve been the biggest Carey critic since the Military Bowl of 2019, but my plea for the Temple fans today who go is to leave the man alone.

Let him walk by and cheer the kids, who we never criticize here.

He’s gone and he knows it and it will be an excruciating walk-in for him otherwise so let him be.

If you want to chant “FIRE CAR-EY” during the game, that’s OK but any up-close and personal attack as he walks by fans is and should be out of bounds.

Meanwhile, the lesson of three years ago is pretty damn clear. Rid yourself of these coaches who don’t relate to the kids and get one who the kids like and will restore the Temple brand of running first, then taking advantage of play-action for explosive downfield plays. Eight-minute drives are better than four-minute ones. Don’t give these other teams a shot to score 52, 49 and 45 points in these games.

That’s the only way Temple will ever be successful.

Three years ago now seems like 30 years and having a running back dominate the opposition like Bernard Pierce, Jahad Thomas and Rock Armstead should be the blueprint for the next few years. If that’s a lesson taken from the RCE (Rod Carey Error) it will be the only plus out of this unmitigated disaster.

A nice 10 percent ($267) contribution to the Owl Club is coming if I hit on this 12-team parlay. Everything is the money line, except RU getting 6.5 at Indiana, ODU getting 6 against visiting FAU and Troy getting 7.5 against visiting Louisiana Lafayette. Winners are Boise, Houston, Michigan, Cincy, SMU, K-State, Utah, Western Kentucky and App. State. Nice return on a $10 investment. (Err, the donation is contingent on Temple firing Carey in a noon press conference Monday; double if they make it right after the game. If they wait until the end of the season, Temple is getting nothing and all other potential donors should probably do the same.)

Picks This Week: Only like a few teams against the spread, all underdogs: ODU getting 6 against visiting FAU, UCF getting 7.5 at SMU, RUTGERS getting 6.5 at Indiana and TROY getting 7.5 against visiting LL.

Latest update: Went 2-2 again, losing on Air Force and Wake and winning on San Jose State and Marshall, bringing our record ATS 22-18-1.

Even later update: Went 2-2 again for third-straight week, winning on ODU and Rutgers and losing on Troy and UCF bringing our season ATS record to 24-20-1. As of 8:25 p.m., the Troy loss cost us $2,678.97 (really, 10 bucks) but the Owl Club isn’t out $267 because they are sitting on their freaking hands about firing Rod Carey and would have lost the money anyway without a noon Monday press conference.

Sunday: Game Analysis

Fizzy’s Corner: The Houston Win

By Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub

Lot’s of play-action on first down, QB keepers, and mostly pin-point passing kept Houston off-balance.  It was an aggressive Temple football team that immediately took charge against a very good Houston team.  Quickly, the coaching staff found that Houston’s Achilles heel was their missing all-American defensive tackle, Ed Oliver, and Ryquell Armstead went to work amassing 210 yards on 30 rushes, behind outstanding blocking.   Oh, I almost forgot, he scored six touchdowns, too.  Along the way, Ventell Bryant broke the Temple all-time receiving record and now has 2,277 yards.

cherryhelmets

Defensively, we contained the explosive Houston offense pretty well.  Blitzes from the get-go, a blocked punt, and an assertive man-to-man pass coverage kept award-winning Houston QB, D’eric King, as much under control as possible.  With 10:22 left in the game, we had a three-touchdown lead and it was time to relax; right?  Not on your life.

In previous weeks, we had great coaching for 30 minutes, last week for 45 minutes, and last night for 50 minutes.  We’re improving.  Don’t get me wrong, it was a marvelous win, one that should get us some top 25 votes.  If we win out, there’s a possibility we could end the season ranked.  (It’s one hell of a long way from when I thought we might not win a game after losing to Buffalo and Villanova.) That’s important because it would mean a good bowl slot against a power-five conference team, giving us tremendous recruiting exposure – instead of playing Sarah Palin University of Nome, Alaska, who’s premier win was against the Ute’s of Saskatchewan.  That bowl game, by the way, is scheduled to take place in Philadelphia, Mississippi, near the Choctaw Ridge. (Y’all remember Billy McAllister?)

So there are ten minutes left against Houston and we’re up 21 points.  On offense, there’s a dilemma.  Do we run the ball and the clock, or do we maintain our aggressive play calling and do some play-action on first down?  Well, we did throw some, but it was our run calls that got too conservative. They were mostly just straight down Broad Street, and then we’re giving the ball right back to Houston.

But it’s the defense I totally didn’t understand.  Why in the world were we still playing man-to-man pass coverage?  Our pass defenders were dog tired, and we lost one of our best to a dubious targeting call.  (The penalties mostly evened out, though.) In that situation, we should be rushing four, and playing various protective zones with the other seven guys, and there should always be a deep safety, last resort guy.  Instead, we got beat for two cheap touchdowns on thirty-some yard passes.  They should have been held to short-yardage gains which would have exhausted the clock.

Three other things as I nit-pick.  We still cover three wide-outs with two pass defenders and a half of a linebacker who cheats that way.  If I was throwing against that alignment, I’d go down the field with ten-yard passes.  (Don’t let South Florida see this write-up.)  Our coverage on the on-side kick was terrible, and we wasted time-outs on a field goal, punt, and kick-off.  (I’m so glad we didn’t need them.)

However, we’re 6 – 4, with a chance to go 8 -4.  The growth of this team has been remarkable and noticed by everyone connected to college football.  Tally-Ho!

Thursday: USF Kryptonite 

Saturday: Tribute To The Seniors

TU-Houston: Making History?

Temple_Houston_TV_Series-308014659-large

Temple Houston was the name of a fairly underrated short-lived TV series in the 1960s. Temple Houston, played by the actor Jeffrey Hunter, was the real-life son of Texas founder Sam Houston and a successful 19th Century lawyer.

Temple versus Houston is also a short-lived football series, so one-sided that most sets are turned off by halftime in a lot of the games.

Maybe that will change by Saturday night.

A regular football season usually consists of 12 games, a lucky 13th if your school is listed in the upper 2/3ds of 130 teams.

Rarely does a single game, even a bowl one, offer an opportunity to do something that has never been done before but that’s the chance in front of Temple’s football team on Saturday (7 p.m., CBS Sports Network).

Beat Houston.

houston

Since Temple began playing intercollegiate football in 1888 (four years after its founding in 1884), the Owls have never beaten Houston.

They were the victim of an incredibly bad interference call on an interception by Mike Jones that might have given them that victory last year but that was then and this is now.

They’ve only had six chances but you’ve got to figure that the odds of winning one will eventually go their way.

Vegas certainly doesn’t, as the oddsmakers set the line at 4.5 on Monday. By Tuesday, some Temple money drove the line down to 4 but now it has settled back to the original 4.5.

cherryhelmets

Owls are unbeaten in Cherry helmets this year and 20-7 with them over the last three. This is the helmet of choice for Houston Saturday night.

Fortunately, the game is not played in Vegas and the Temple kids have a chance to prove the experts wrong and do something that has never been done.

The Owls have more than a puncher’s chance. By comparative scores, they are more impressive than Houston except for one game. Three weeks ago, they beat Cincinnati, 24-17, and the week after that Cincy went down to SMU and won. Houston, on the other hand, wasn’t able to what Cincy did last week at SMU and lost 45-31. Temple beat East Carolina, 49-6, while Houston also beat East Carolina, 46-20. Temple beat Tulsa, 31-17, while Houston also beat Tulsa, 41-26 and both teams also won at Navy (the lone time Houston’s score against a Temple opponent was more impressive).

So, at least from a comparative score standpoint, the numbers indicate there is not that much to chose between the teams. As anyone who knows football can tell you, every game is different and that’s why Saturday night is a relative toss-up.

The game is at Houston, that’s one thing in the Cougars’ favor. So is history unless the Owls are fired up enough to make some history of their own.

In a season where this team has not separated itself from any great prior Temple team, this is the legacy the TU kids can establish if they can tackle just a little better than they did last week in Orlando.

Sunday: Game Analysis

Collins Needs To Hold QB to Same Standard

At a press conference a couple of weeks ago, Geoff Collins dropped some jaws in the room when he said this:

“If you turn the ball over, you don’t play,” the Temple head coach said. “No exceptions.”


The worst part
is that a Temple
quarterback can
produce zero points
in a half and still
be allowed to start
the second half

I guess the “no exceptions” part means the “no exceptions unless you are the quarterback.”

Collins has a credibility problem going forward if he doesn’t keep his word and give someone else a chance to play quarterback next week. That someone else should be the one guy who has not turned the ball over yet, Anthony Russo.

Three interceptions and a bonehead intentional grounding call from Logan Marchi is not the worst part, although it should trigger benching clause in Collins’ verbal contract.

The worst part is that a Temple quarterback can produce zero points in a half and still be allowed to start the second half. That shows the players that the coaches have zero sense of urgency at a halftime when urgency should have been the No. 1 priority. Amazing not a single reporter asked Collins why after the turnovers and the goose egg on the scoreboard that he saw fit to send the same quarterback out in the second half.

vested

Your job as a quarterback and an offensive coordinator is to turn the scoreboard into an adding machine. Since the offensive coordinator is not going to fire himself, and since Collins sees no need to, the only way to energize that side of the ball is to try someone else at quarterback. If it doesn’t work, you can always go back.

You don’t know it won’t work until you try.

Since we have it on good authority that the coaches have decided to preserve Toddy Centeio’s redshirt that means either Frank Nutile or Anthony Russo. We’ve already seen what Marchi and Nutile can do, what harm would it be to try Russo?

None.

Marchi has produced 16 points in two games, 13 in one and zero in one (the USF game saw a defensive touchdown scored by the Owls) in four of the five games he started. That’s just not good enough.

Turning the ball over should cause you to sit.

Geoff Collins said so.

Or he lied.

Lying is not a good way to start a head coaching career.

Geoff, the truth will set you free.

It also might give the offense the spark that has been missing for what is now nearly half the season.

Tuesday: Fizzy’s Corner

Two Ways to Look at This

pitchtwo

Look how far off the boundary corner is. One 3d and 3, Anderson had the same cushion on the other side  later in the game. Take it, and Owls have a new set of downs with 7:18 left and a possible 24-21 deficit.

 

There are two ways to look at Temple’s 24-13 loss to Houston on Saturday.

There is the Kumbaya view and the real world view. The Kumbaya view seems to have carried the day in the post-game Matt Rhule press conference and on much of social media. You know, “I’m proud of the kids” and “this is one of the greatest days in Temple football history” and “we’ve gone from point D to point A.”

real

That’s born out of T-ball mentality. You know, there are no losers and everybody gets a trophy for participation. Little Johnny goes home with a pat on his head. The coaches are great. The kids are great. We’re all just so darn proud of everybody.

Kumbaya.

Ugh.

Then there is the real world view. You know, the “what the hell is going on out here?” view.

The last quarter was a cluster, err, bleep that made you wonder what goes on at the $17 million Edberg-Olson Complex the other six days of the week. In the last seven minutes, Temple showed itself either unwilling or incapable of running a functional two-minute drill that every high school, college and pro team seems to run efficiently.  (If you don’t believe it, take a look at the way St. Joseph’s Prep runs it. The offensive line sprints to the ball. Plays are called at the line, not looking over to the sidelines, with the emphasis on a short passing game to get out of bounds and stop the clock. Prep coach Gabe Infante is only seven blocks away. Invite him over this week.)

tickets

That was a blown opportunity to win a championship due to a number of brain cramps by the coaching staff.  There is no guarantee that the Owls will be back in the title game next year and, if they aren’t, the coaches have no one but themselves to blame for a number of perplexing offensive miscues.  With four minutes left, they seemed incapable of running a true two-minute offense, taking precious seconds off the clock on every play by having the kids stare over to the sidelines for plays. Those 20, 30 seconds a play add up and, before you know it, the game is over.

That wasn’t the worst. This is the worst.

After closing the gap to 24-13 with 7:18 to go in the game, the Owls had a 3d and 3 at the Houston 38 but inexplicably attempted a long pass into the end zone. The call was made even more confounding because Houston was playing 10 yards off Temple wide receiver Robby Anderson on the play.  A simple pitch and catch would have moved the sticks.

Moving the sticks then would have cured a lot of earlier self-imposed ills. Early on, the players had just as much to do with it as the coaches did but after fighting back they deserved a coaching staff that was more focused. The Owls have been a team all year whose motto was to not beat themselves by turning the ball over, but on their first drive of the game, quarterback P.J. Walker threw an interception. That resulted in a 7-0 lead. The Owls were driving for a tying touchdown when Anderson—who caught 12 passes for 150 yards—was fighting for yardage and fumbled the ball on the Houston 5-yard-line. That led to a 10-0 lead.

Had the Owls moved the sticks on 3d and 3, instead of taking the shot into the end zone, they might have scored to make it 24-21 and that would have left seven minutes to bleep around with the dog stare offense. Instead, they followed that botched call with a clinic in mismanaging the clock and never had a chance to find out what would have happened.

While the physical errors by the unpaid amateurs could be forgiven, the mental ones by the well-paid professionals cannot.

Tomorrow:  Thoughts on the Bowl Lotto

Tuesday: …. But the Big Story on Action News Is …

Wednesday: Houston Photo Gallery

Thursday: One Wacky Throwback

Friday: Matakevich’s Special Moment on ESPN

Saturday: A Look at the Other AAC Bowls

Sunday: Welcome Criticism

Monday (12/12): 5 Things the Owls Have to Clean Up

Tuesday: The Fallacy of the Fall Off

Wednesday: The Problem With Watch Parties

Thursday: The Pitt-Navy Monkey Wrench

Is It Saturday Yet?

 

We’re from Philadelphia and we fight, or something like that.

While we do not know which team will win on Saturday, fans of both Houston and Temple have confidence in their favorite players and rightly so.

Is it Saturday yet?

A lot of things make the Saturday matchup even more compelling than it being the first-ever G5 title game that results in a NY6 Bowl reward, but it starts with the unstoppable force (Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr.) meeting the immovable object (Temple linebacker Tyler Matakevich).  In games like this, it’s often the unknown guy who makes a big play or becomes the big player. File that thought away in the memory bank.

Right now, the known is Ward and Matakevich.

piazza

Official watch party at Piazza. Crowd will probably not be this large. Hopefully, the sound will be up.

Matakevich was named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year and, in a 27-3 win over Connecticut to clinch the AAC East title, he widened the gap between his top competition for both the Chuck Bednarik Award and the Bronko Nagurski Award.

After the final game of the regular season for all of the schools, Matakevich is the clear leader from all of the available empirical evidence. One of his top competitors, Penn State end Carl Nassib, has missed the last two games with an injury.  Matakevich is up for the Bednark with Nassib and Shaq Lawson, while he is up for the Nagurski with both of those guys and two others. This is the complete list with updated stats:

nagurski

Clemson DE Shaq Lawson: The 6-foot-3, 275-pound junior has 48 tackles in 12 games, 19.5 for losses with 8.5 sacks and no fumble recoveries and no interceptions. He is the best player on one of the best defenses in the nation, but doesn’t produce in the all-important turnover area.

Carl Nassib, Penn State (DE):  The walk-on from Malvern Prep in the suburbs of Philadelphia has had a superb season for the Nittany Lions. In 10 games, Nassib has 46 tackles, 19.5 for losses, including 15.5 sacks. He also has one interception and returned it for 10 yards and forced six fumbles. He played only the first three snaps on Saturday against Michigan before being removed with an undisclosed injury.

Reggie Ragland, Alabama (LB):  In 12 games, the 6-2, 252-pound Ragland has 90 tackles, 6.5 for losses with 2.5 sacks, no interceptions and two forced fumbles. He almost has no impact, though, on the opponent’s passing game as he has no interceptions this season.

Jeremy Cash, Duke (SS):  The 6-2, 210-pound is projected as a strong safety on the next level, but has played both strong and free safety for the Blue Devils. This year, in 12 games, he has 100 tackles, 18 for losses with 2.5 sacks. After recording two interceptions a year ago, he has none this season.

Tyler Matakevich, Temple (LB):  No one seems to be nearly as qualified for the Nagurski hardware as does the 6-1, 232-pound Matakevich, who is only the sixth player in FBS history to record fourth-straight 100-tackle seasons. He is also the only player in college football this season to lead his team in tackles in every game. He has 118 tackles, 14.5 for losses, 4.5 sacks and five interceptions.

Throwback Thursday: Temple-Houston

Temple_Houston_TV_Series-308014659-large

When the Temple Owls land in the Wild Wild West today, they would be wise to take a page out of a long-forgotten Western called “Temple Houston” when they put the finishing touches on a game plan.

commons

Common scores indicate this is going to be close.

The Western lasted only two years on NBC television and it was about the son of Sam Houston, a lawyer named Temple.  It was a “Who Done It” on horseback, with Temple delving into clues and solving cases without the benefit of modern tools like video and DNA.

The Owls do not need video or DNA to know how to solve this case. The bad guy is Greg Ward Jr. and they know they have to arrest his  development. They also know that they have had a tough job with similarly mobile quarterbacks in the past and, if they expect to stop Ward, they cannot do the same thing they did against Quinton Flowers of USF and DeShone Kizer of Notre Dame.

They played both of those guys like pocket quarterbacks, often rushing three. What happened more often than not was the three-man rush was not getting to either guy and they were able to make plays downfield with their arms.

Even Temple Houston, played by Jeffrey Hunter, in his day would be able to solve this problem. The Owls need to utilize a 5-2.  Rotate the speedy Haason Reddick and Nate D. Smith at left end and do the same with Sharif Finch and Praise Martin-Oguike at right end. Put two-time Pennsylvania heavyweight wrestling champion Averee Robinson at nose guard where his gap leverage skills would cause a nightmare for the Houston center and flank him with Hershey Walton and Matt Ioannidis as the tackles.

fivetwo

Those guys alone have the physical talent to overwhelm the Houston offensive line and disrupt things while in the backfield but, just in case, use one of the safeties as a spy in case Ward tries to escape the inevitable problems.

Temple Houston struggled in the TV ratings back in 1964 because it went opposite The Flintstones on ABC and Rawhide (Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Yates) on CBS. This Temple-Houston figures to have no such ratings’ problems because it is the nationally featured noon game on ABC and Philadelphia is the 4th-largest TV market. Houston is the 10th-largest TV market and there is plenty of interest in this game in the other AAC markets, all in the top 36.

While Temple has prided itself on doing what it does to get to this point, it will have to swallow some of that pride and tweak some things on defense to stop this quarterback. You don’t have to be a 19th-century sleuth to figure that out.  If you see a three-man rush, time to change the channel to something like reruns of Rawhide or The Flintstones.

Twenty-Twenty Vision for the Houston Game

wardster

Temple is going to have to hit Greg  Ward a little harder than this.

Before just about every Temple football game, I have tried to crunch the numbers, look at things from all angles, and come up with about as close to an objective opinion as I can get.

I had Temple beating Tulane, 37-9. Temple won, 49-10. I had Temple beating ECU, 24-10. Temple won, 24-14. I had Temple LOSING to Notre Dame, 21-17. Temple lost, 24-20. I had Temple beating UConn, 29-10. Temple won, 27-3. For all of the other games, nothing added up so I did not make any predictions.

For this all-important Houston game, I have crunched all the numbers, looked at things about objectively as I can, and have come away with one score and one score only and  I know it  is wrong.

Twenty-twenty, that’s right, 20-20.

I cannot get past that score.

tickets

OK, who is getting  tickets for $20?

Houston is a 7-point favorite and the teams have played six common foes. Temple has beaten those foes by exactly three more points than Houston has. Give Houston the three points for home field advantage that Vegas usually gives home teams and it is even Steven.

Unfortunately, as much as I’d like a Temple blowout, I think it enters overtime and it will probably come down to Mr. Dependable, sophomore Austin Jones, calmly lining up and hitting a field goal and giving Temple a 23-20 lead.

Will Tyler Matakevich and company hold?

I, quite frankly, do not know. I will say this:  How fitting would it be for a tipped ball to land in the hands of Matakevich in the end zone? Somebody’s got to tip the ball and I cannot for the life of me know who will.

Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to me and you but I can’t make a prediction for this game in good faith. I don’t have the same strong feeling I had for ND, Tulane, ECU and UConn and I had a numb feeling for the other games.

So I guess we will all have to tune in and see if the final is 23-20 or 26-20. It should make for riveting television about 3:07 p.m. on Saturday. That’s my prediction and I’m sticking to it.

Tomorrow: Throwback Thursday

Friday: The Tyler Sweepstakes

Saturday:  The Robby Anderson Effect