Temple football: You are here

You’ve seen those maps in every mall in the country, an arrow pinpointing your location with the words: “You are here.”

In Temple football’s case, “here” means simply this: You have a football team with a winning defense and a losing offense, and the faster you can match one with the other, the better the shopping haul for wins will be.

At some point, the defensive players will ask themselves, maybe subconsciously, what is the point of busting our ass if the offense isn’t going to help out?

Maybe the play on that side of the ball erodes as well.

What’s abundantly clear, though, is that the “easy” part of the season is over. It only gets tougher from here on out. The Owls weren’t competitive when it mattered against Duke and maybe the good effort against Rutgers wasn’t as impressive as originally thought. UMass almost beat Eastern Michigan (which did beat Arizona State) so the Owls getting 28 points on that team was encouraging.

The remaining Temple schedule

Temple is significantly better than it was a year ago but so is the rest of the AAC. The UCF team that Temple faces next hung with a good Louisville team and blew out a Georgia Tech team that just beat Pitt.

Navy, which lost to Memphis by a worse score than Temple did, follows UCF.

After that comes a Friday home game against Tulsa, which played competitive games against two ranked teams, Ole Miss (35-27) and Cincinnati (31-21). Then a home game against USF, a visit to Houston, home against Cincy and East Carolina.

It’s hard to find more than two wins left on that schedule and, even then, those two wins figure to be a battle well into the fourth quarter.

“Rock Steadwell?” Toddy Centeio with the key block here.

The offense–which has some explosive players (Adonicas Sanders, Amad Anderson, Quincy Patterson, for example, produced at places like GT, Purdue and Virginia Tech before coming to Temple)–needs to get the ball in the hands of those guys and others in space. It needs to establish a representative running game to keep its freshman quarterback from getting killed and create space for playmakers.

Easier said than done.

Temple has some time to figure that out but the Owls have only 10 days to get significantly better than what they showed two days ago or the results of this season will be about the same as the last one.

You don’t need a map to remind you that wasn’t a good place to be.

Friday: Possible solutions

TU Offense: Most predictable in college football

One of the many “trick plays” that put Temple football on the college football map.

Any Joe Blow who watched Temple football over the first five games can tell you three things:

If D’Wan Mathis is in the game at quarterback, expect a fumble. If E.J. Warner is in the game, expect a pass. If Quincy Patterson is in the game, expect a run.

That’s called telegraphing a play.

The “original” Philly special

If Samuel Morse was still around today, he’d be the Temple offensive coordinator. (Inventor of the telegraph for those who don’t know.)

Former Temple running back Sid Morse (who then play-by-play guy Don Henderson called “Morris”) probably would do a better job than Danny Langsdorf.

That is a shame because as good a job D.J. Eliot is doing as defensive coordinator, that’s more than negated by the poor job Langsdorf has done as offensive coordinator.

You can add the “swing and gate” jet sweep (see above video)

There used to be a time when Temple would dictate the narrative on offense.

When Al Golden was head coach, the Owls used a jump pass to the tight end to win a game at the fake Miami. (Little did we know at the time Golden would become head coach at the real Miami.)

Also with Golden in charge, Adam DiMichele used a fake kneel down to throw a touchdown pass in the waning seconds of the first half at Navy.

Under Matt Rhule, Temple changed the momentum in a 27-10 win over Penn State with the first “Philly Special”–a pitch from then quarterback P.J. Walker to former high school quarterback John Christopher (a Temple wide receiver) who found Walker for a key first down. The Owls were down, 10-0, at the time and that play changed the whole game.

When the Eagles used the same play in the Super Bowl, Doug Pederson said “we got the play from watching a college game.”

He never gave credit to Temple. That’s not cool, Doug, so we hope you lose Sunday.

The real sad thing is that Temple has players with unique skills suited to what current head coach Stan Drayton calls “gadget plays.” Mathis can throw the ball on the reverse or a double pass. Running back Trey Blair is more than capable of a halfback pass.

“You want, North Philly, North Philly?”

Five games in, Drayton nor Langsdorf has taken advantage of those unique skills. No halfback pass. No double pass. No pass off a reverse. No pass off a fake kneel down. No jump pass to the tight end. No shovel pass to a running back in the red zone.

No nothing.

Instead, what every Joe Blow knows every highly paid coach in America knows and that’s probably why Temple is having a tough time scoring points right now.

Temple has a couple of choices. It can put Patterson in the game and have him throw (UCF won’t expect that) or it can jump-start an offense whose battery is dead by drawing up innovative plays.

Or it can keep what it has been doing and hope to win games by field goals.

That’s not a good plan. Eleven days to dictate the narrative on offense or keep up with the failed plan of the first five games.

Even Joe Blow can tell Temple that. We will find out soon enough if the Edberg-Olson brain trust is listening or has intentionally put fingers in their ears.

Monday: AAC Landscape

Temple offense: Time to take off the gloves

Temple running back Trey Blair throws a couple of damn good passes in this 2017 video.

There are three major computer-simulated websites that supposedly put in all the known data and come up with a final score for your weekend college football games.

The most accurate one beats the Vegas point spreads 9.6 percent of the time and has made a lot of, err, investment strategists big-time money.

That one has the final score of tomorrow’s Temple at Memphis game (noon, ESPNU) 37-26 in favor of the bad guys.

Must admit that one has me scratching my head a little bit because I’ve watched all eight games involving both teams and I don’t see: a) Temple scoring 26 points OR b) Memphis scoring 37 points in this one.

First, Temple’s defense has shown signs of being ahead of the offense. Holding Duke to two field goals in the second half was impressive and the 14 points against Lafayette were off turnovers. In addition, holding a Big 10 team to no offensive touchdowns indicates that the Owls might have something here and could hold Memphis in the 20-point area.

Or less.

That’s where the rub comes into play.

Our picks this week

The key point is all of the “known data.” What we don’t know, at least from a Temple perspective, is how willing Stan Drayton wants to show a hand he has not so far this season.

The so-called trick play.

Drayton alluded to as much in his AAC pre-game press conference Monday when he said “outside of the gadget plays” he doesn’t know what former quarterback D’Wan Mathis’s contributions could be to the offense.

Just by saying “outside of the gadget plays” indicates that the word “gadget” has entered Drayton’s mind. If you are Memphis right now, you are probably thinking this: E.J. Warner tosses a backward pass to Mathis, who draws the corners inside so much that Adonicas Sanders is running free down the sideline. Mathis tosses it and Temple gets six.

If you are Memphis, you might think that.

What might Temple think that Memphis isn’t?

How about this?

Warner tosses a backward pass to Mathis, who throws it across the field to Trey Blair–a former damn good high school quarterback–who finds David Martin-Robinson wide open over the middle (because the free safety bit on the fake) for six.

Memphis probably doesn’t know Blair was a quarterback but certainly knows Mathis was. That would involve thinking one step ahead of the bad guys.

Memphis has no idea that Trey Blair can throw a pass. That’s the best reason for him to do so tomorrow. (If you are a Memphis coach, he’s wearing No. 10.)

It would also involve taking the gloves off both figuratively and literally.

First, Blair has worn gloves on every single one of his plays as a running back this season. He needs to come in for at least a few plays before the gadget without wearing those gloves and run a couple of times to sell the play. The reason is simply that you can’t throw as good a pass with gloves on as you can with them off.

It’s worth a shot.

In a game where I see in the 24-17 range either way, a trick play–what Drayton calls a “gadget” play–might make a difference. We know what gadget play Memphis might be expecting. We guess they aren’t expecting double-trickery.

What Temple’s offense did not show anyone, including the simulated computers, has been innovation on offense.

This game might be a good place to start.

It’s time to take the gloves off and throw the computer for a loop that could blow a fuse or two.

Picks this week: Like four favorites and two underdogs. The four favorites are Fresno State to cover the 23.5 at UConn, NIU the 3.5 at Ball State, Ole Miss the 6.5 against visiting Kentucky and Kent State the 11 against visiting Ohio. The dogs are Navy getting 15 at Air Force and UMass getting 20 against an EMU team that gave up 50 to Buffalo last week.

Last week: 2-3 against the spread. Update: A 2-3 week (missed a push in the Kansas game by a point). Won on JMU and Rice and lost on Memphis, Duke and Eastern Michigan. That puts us at 7-7 for the season.

Late Saturday: Game Analysis

Monday: AAC Reaction

Temple football: Work in progress

One of the recurring themes of every Stan Drayton press conference is that the Temple football Owls are a work in progress.

That’s usually what happens when the last owner of the house put a propane tank in the driveway, tossed a match over his head and did his darndest to blow up the whole place down before taking the keys in his pickup truck and driving home to Illinois.

The key stat in football is turnovers and TU won that battle

Drayton’s Owls rolled up their sleeves and swept some of the embers out of the driveway in the second half of a 30-0 loss to Duke, laid a nice foundation in a win over Lafayette, and started to put up a few sturdy walls in a 16-14 loss to Rutgers.

What happened on Saturday in a 28-0 win over UMass represented some nice windows and a front door.

Next week, maybe the roof gets put on in Memphis. This is real work, not a pre-fab job, so maybe we as fans are expecting too much, too soon.

What is apparent, though, is that any win in college football is pure Gold and the Owls mined a couple of nuggets on Saturday.

Ask Miami (Fla.), which lost to Middle Tennesee State. The Hurricanes are spending $8 million per year on Mario Cristobal (after eating $14 million of Manny Diaz’ contract) and their return on investment is questionable at best. I imagine those Cane fans are nowhere near as satisfied today as Temple fans are.

Progress is the operative word here.

Temple ate $6 million on the arsonist’s contract and is paying Drayton $2 million per.

The trend appears that Temple might be getting more ROI than Miami by the end of the season, but we shall see.

There were at least a couple of good signs on Saturday.

One, their really good tight end, David Martin-Robinson, made his first appearance of the season and was a factor in the success of both the run and the passing game.

Two, the defense posted the first Temple shutout since 2016 (three that year). If that weren’t a good-enough sign, Temple won the AAC championship that year.

As work days go, not perfect but more got done on Saturday than on the other three work days. They finally got the turnovers they needed but there remains a lot of work to be done in their own running game. That piece looked a lot better when Quincy Patterson came in at quarterback.

A week from now, the Owls will be facing a Memphis team in revenge mode so maybe that day won’t be as productive as this one.

That won’t stop the Owls from building and, if they hammer fast enough, they could get a presentable front porch done by the end of the week. If they win, they can set up the grill and party on it once the final seconds tick off.

Monday: Optics

TU-UMASS: Road to relevancy begins here

The next step for the Temple defense: Recover fumbles and take interceptions to the house

Quick, jot down this number: 119.

That’s where Temple football got rated nationally after nearly beating a Big 10 team last week. Moving five lousy stinking spots up the national ladder isn’t going to make anyone outside of Philadelphia notice.

Quick, jot down another number, 20,111.

After 33,297 attended Homecoming, that’s probably the number–give or take 1,000–that Temple will announce after tomorrow’s game against visiting Massachusetts (2 p.m., ESPN+).

The needle after a 16-14 loss to Rutgers hasn’t changed things much. Temple Homecoming fans are usually not football fans, but Temple fans. If Temple had won, they would keep coming back. If Temple had lost, they were gone until next year. That’s what the numbers show based on past history and those numbers never change. Temple lost so it’s tough sledding getting those fans back.

Homecoming fans are not nuanced enough to know there is real improvement in Temple football this season. Regular fans?

Definitely.

Temple could have, probably should have, won, except for a fluke tip interception that went the other way.

The perception to those of us close to the program has changed. Obviously, nationally, Temple football has a long way to go.

Kyle Hunter, one of the nation’s best prognosticators, wrote, “Temple-UMass is the sicko game of the week.”

To many nationally, it is.

Sad, really, how far the program has sunk from an outside perspective thanks to the last guy.

To Temple, though, this game represents the starting point of the road to relevancy.

If Temple wants to make the right turn, it needs to hammer UMass tomorrow and start a winning streak now.

Something on the order of 31-19 would do the trick (49-7 is preferable) and maybe wake a few national people up. Even that won’t move the needle much. To get even a couple thousand of those Homecoming fans back, Temple will need to win at Memphis the next week.

Our picks this week

First things first, though.

The SP+ 2022 computer model has Temple winning 31-19, and has Temple has one of its four best locks of the week. The computer has a 76 percent success rate against the spread. That’s a higher success rate than IBM’s Watson had against Brad Rutter on Jeopardy (72 percent).

I really believe Rutgers would beat Toledo and Toledo hung a 55-10 number on Massachusetts.

Still, UMass fans think they can win and, you know what, the Minutemen definitely can. Put it this way: If freaking Incarnate Word can beat both Nevada and Southern Illinois and Southern Illinois can beat Northwestern, UMass can beat Temple.

If the Owls play on defense like the mad crazed dogs they did against Rutgers, UMass won’t. Rutgers is about 50 points better than UMass. Had D’Wan Mathis not put the ball on the carpet twice, Temple probably could have been 50 points better than Lafayette. Had he not played so poorly in the first half against Duke, that might have been closer. We will never know.

It’s a new beginning now for Temple.

UMass will not come into the Linc with the Owls receiving the same kind of frenzied support from their fans as they did a week ago. So maybe the Owls won’t pummel the Minutemen like they should. The Owls will have to create their own atmosphere by making plays and those of us who are there wearing the Cherry and White will have to pump up the volume.

The blueprint for this trip is clear: Temple must run the ball better than it has in the first three games and its defense must take the ball away.

UMass will try to run and, if the Temple defense plays the way it did a week ago (and in the second half against Duke), it will be forced to do something uncomfortable: Pass. When that happens, Temple defenders must treat that ball like it is theirs.

Temple hasn’t really had a stud running back since Bernard Pierce but it doesn’t need a Pierce this year. It needs a Ryquell Armstead and, in Darvon Hubbard, he has shown that more in real games than any of the other backs. If he or Jakari Norwood is back against UMass, one of those two need to dicate the tempo.

It will be nice to see what D’Wan Mathis can bring to the receiving game and that piece should be available for all to see on Saturday.

It’s too bad the casual fans won’t be there. Some of them will be back if the Owls rip off a modest winning streak that starts here. If it’s an immodest one, all of them will be back.

Picks this week: Went 2-2 last week and, after a 3-2 start against the spread two weeks ago, sit at 5-4 against the spread. We like two underdogs (Duke at Kansas and JMU at App. State) getting a touchdown and Houston’s Rice Owls getting 17.5 against crosstown rival Houston. Also like two favorites, Memphis laying the 12.5 against visiting North Texas State and Eastern Michigan laying the two field goals against visiting Buffalo.

Update: A 2-3 week (missed a push in the Kansas game by a point). Won on JMU and Rice and lost on Memphis, Duke and Eastern Michigan. That puts us at 7-7 for the season.

Sunday: Game Analysis

Monday: Optics

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?”

“Yes.”

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

TU-Lafayette: Warts and All

An old friend of mine who was able to get into the locker room after Temple’s 30-14 win over Lafayette on Saturday noticed something odd about the celebration.

“A little over the top, if you ask me,” he said. “I mean, I’ve seen some pro teams celebrating championships that were compatible. It was Lafayette, after all.”

I told him that’s the half-empty way of looking at it.

The half-full way is this:

First, Temple had the second-longest losing streak in the country going into the game and finally shook that monkey off its back. That had to fuel the intensity of the celebration.

Two, the team has bonded with the new coach, Stan Drayton, the way it never did with the prior coach and had to revel in Drayton’s special first win.

Three, the Lafayette piece might be over exaggerated because a year and a week ago the same Leopards’ team traveled to Colorado and played to a similarly respectable 35-14 score against Air Force. A year ago, the Falcons beat Navy (23-3), Boise State (24-17) and Louisville (31-28).

Prior to that, last September, that was a Falcon team that came into the game a 40.5-point favorite against a Lafayette team that last year was not quite as good as this year’s version.

By comparison, this year’s Temple team was an 18.5-point favorite over Lafayette early last week but that line dropped to 13.5 by game time.

Even a 10-3 Air Force team wasn’t able to blow out Lafayette and that USAF team is considerably better than this Temple team (or even this year’s Rutgers team for that matter).

That’s not to say the Owls should be excused for their numerous warts but there were enough smooth spots to be encouraged.

Temple took care of business 92 years ago against a Lafayette team that tied Penn State, beat Rutgers, and had a winning season. Not quite the same result two days ago but a win is a win.

It’s hard to beat any team, FBS or FCS, losing four fumbles and that’s a part of the game Temple needs to rectify going forward.

This was not the Wagner of last year Temple played. Wagner has now lost 22-straight games and has the longest losing streak in FCS. Lafayette is a legitimate contender for the Patriot League title with Holy Cross, a team that beat Buffalo on Saturday night. 

Who knows would have happened if the Owls had taken care of the ball better or had they remained with the run after Darvon Hubbard ripped off 50 yards on four-straight carries? For some reason, the Owls decided that throwing the ball four-straight times after that success was a good idea. 

Maybe they were on their way to a 66-7 type win like the one Rutgers had over Wagner. Maybe not.

We will never know but they held Lafayette to just 110 total yards and that has to mean something. Also meaning something is that De’Von Fox broke the Temple record of blocked punts in one game with three. Update: According to Shawn Pastor of OwlsDaily.com, Sharif Finch had two blocked punts against East Carolina in 2015. What Fox’s performance and the overall tightness of that part of the game means is that special teams, which Al Golden (correctly) said is a third of your team is now that important again.

That means a lot because the prior guy didn’t think it meant 1/100th of a team.

It should also mean something that a 10-3 Air Force team of a year ago wasn’t able to do much better and that’s a half-full glass worth raising. At least at the Rutgers’ pre-game tailgate.

Wednesday: Temple’s Homecoming Crowds

Lafayette: The game Temple needs

Stan Drayton went easy on his squad in the post-game but I guarantee you a lot of Temple fans were thinking this after the FIRST half on Friday night.

Anyone who has followed this space over the years knows our position on playing FCS teams.

Simply this: Power 5 teams can afford the body bag games but Group of Five teams looking to move up can’t. They must recruit to beat P5 teams, schedule them, and beat them.

It’s a hard road but it’s the only way a G5 team will ever find the P5 Promised Land.

For those staying at home, the Temple game will be on ESPN+ at 2 p.m. Saturday.

All that said, though, after last week, Lafayette might not be the game Temple wants but it most certainly is the game Temple needs right now. Nine months of optimism pretty much went out the window for much of the fan base after Duke handled the Owls, 30-0, on Friday night.

This wasn’t Bama, Georgia, Ohio State or even Vanderbilt. It was Duke, perhaps with Northwestern the worst P5 team a year ago. The Temple players and coaching staff might not be shellshocked but certainly a significant part of the fan base is.

Our picks this week, going with all underdogs to cover except UTSA, who we like to win by at least a FG at Army.

The expectations for Saturday’s game against the Leopards range from a Delaware State-type of beatdown (59-0) to roughly a 21-7 Owl survival. Those few thinking it will be a 50/50 ball should relax. There is only one player on Lafayette who COULD start for Temple but he’s a very good one in 6-3, 246-pound defensive end Malik Hamm, who is a four-time All-Patriot first-team lineman.

We will say this. Hamm needs to have about 20 sacks in this game for the Leopards to have any chance of winning. He has 23.5 for his career. He wears No. 99. He should be easy to find. Run away from him and the Owls should be good.

To be honest, maybe a few of the players have a slight case of shellshock, too, after nothing the coaching staff did against Duke worked. There was too much East/West running, too few North/South plays and no passes of any significant distance. Getting a very good blocking tight end, David Martin-Robinson, back (he’s day-to-day) should help. It might also benefit the Owls to put Adam Klein at center and use both Victor Stoffel and Isaac Moore at tackles to stabilize a shaky offensive line. This might be a game to make that experiment.

Malik Hamm would not only start at Temple, but be a pretty good player for the Owls who have to be wary of him Saturday.

Also, IF D’Wan Mathis starts (Drayton said on his radio show that competition is day-to-day), he must put points on the board. Drayton can’t keep rolling out a quarterback who consistently posts three-and-outs. It sends a bad message to the rest of the team.

Defensively, “simulated” pressure must become real pressure but that’s more for down the road and not Lafayette. The Owls figure to get numerous sacks from their regular front this Saturday.

No predictions of a score this week other than it must be time well-spent to get ready for the more significant challenges down the road.

Saturday Late Night: Game Analysis

PIcks Update: Went 3-2 against the spread. Won on UTSA barely covering the -2.5 at Army (winning, 41-38); won on App. State covering the +17 at Texas A&M (App State won outright); won on Duke covering the +9.5 at Northwestern (Duke won outright) and lost on Old Dominion at ECU and Wake at Vandy.

Last week: 3-2

YTD: 3-2

Temple at Duke: Confident, not cocky

Don’t bet your house, but taking Temple might get you another farm if you have a spare farm.

Given the dwindling number of Temple fans still living who spent a significant amount of time around the two most successful Owl major sports coaches in history (raising my hand here as one), it’s pretty apparent the general approach both would take tonight.

Defend and attack the known. Don’t worry about the unknown.

Wayne Hardin and John Chaney took that approach and, if Stan Drayton does tonight (ACC Network, 7:30 p.m.), I fully expect Temple to be a winner.

Don’t see Temple scoring 38 but certainly think the Owls outscore Duke by double digits.

Confident, not cocky. In other words, don’t bet the house but if you have a farm to spare, it’s worth the investment.

That’s because we don’t know a lot but we do know a couple of important things:

One, the Duke quarterback starter, Riley Leonard, has started exactly one FBS game in his career and is a three-star recruit.

Two, both Temple quarterbacks, starter D’Wan Mathis and backup Quincy Patterson, were four-star recruits. Between the two, those players have 17 college football starts, 10 at the FBS level. Patterson is 9-1 in all of his starts at the two levels.

Mathis rose to the occasion when Drayton brought in Patterson to compete with him in summer camp and is playing the best football of his career according to insiders who have watched every August practice. Put it this way, highly paid coaching staffs at Iowa State, Michigan State, Ohio State and Georgia evaluated Mathis and put their salaries on the line by offering scholarships to him. Mathis at one point accepted offers from all schools before bouncing around and ending up at Temple.

He can make plays with his arm and his feet. Big-time players make big-time plays and Mathis has that quality. Leonard, on the other hand, is a pro-style quarterback who might be a more stationary target for pass rushers than either Mathis or Patterson. Might? More like is.

Patterson, in one of his three FBS starts for Virginia Tech, put up 47 points in a wire-to-wire spectacular performance against a North Carolina team that held an eight-win Temple team to just 13 points.

On the flip side, Drayton has said the strength of the Temple team so far is a defensive line led by a very good coach in Antoine Smith. Last year, Smith’s Colorado State defensive line finished in the top 10 in sacks and Smith says this Temple line is more talented.

If this version of the “Wild Boyz” can get after Leonard, put him on the ground, separate him from the football and cause a couple of picks, I cannot envision a scenario where Temple loses this game.

When Temple won at Vanderbilt, 37-7, to open the 2014 season, relentless pressure by a defensive line led by Averee Robinson caused the Vandy quarterback to hear footsteps the entire game.

That Temple team was coming off a two-win season. This one is coming off a three-win season but is invigorated by the new coaching staff. This 2022 Duke game has a 2014 kind of Vandy vibe. This game could be a 24-21 type deal but I think the defensive pressure the Owls put on Leonard enables them to win the game rather comfortably.

That takes care of the defensive piece.

Offensively, you’ve got to like the two players Temple has holding the reins better.

In horse racing, if two horses have relatively the same odds, the play is to go for the one with the better jockey. It doesn’t work all the time but it’s a safer play.

Temple has two better jockeys than the one Duke has and that’s a significant known.

We don’t know a lot about this game but we know enough. We’re guessing Drayton does, too.

Temple 27, Duke 17.

Confident, not cocky.

You read it here first.

Tomorrow: Game Analysis

Drayton offers some clues behind the digits

If these pictures say more than 1,000 words, just a few of them will be that this is a team that will play with passion and one Temple fans can be excited about.

Napolean Bonaparte was first credited with the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” but Temple football’s modern-day Napolean, the similar-sized Stan Drayton, might have illustrated it best with a memorable Monday night at the Edberg-Olson practice complex.

That’s where Temple’s first-year head coach didn’t need more than an hour or so to drop a couple of clues that might indicate what’s to come for the program.

No truth to the rumor that Fizzy played in this game.

Drayton departed from the Rod Carey Regime on many occasions this calendar year but none more than Monday night when he honored just six players with the coveted Temple football “Temple TUFF” single digits.

One, unlike Carey, Drayton took the decision away from the players and put it in the hands of the coaches.

Two, Drayton didn’t willy-nilly give the honor away but instead limited it to the six toughest guys.

What does that say?

First, the inmates are not running the asylum anymore. If you go 1-6 and 3-9 you forfeit any ability to name the other tough guys. That’s a good thing. Win, and get that privilege back.

Second, everyone gets a new start to impress a new coaching staff and the six players have earned it.

Third, it kind of indicates a surprise starter in cornerback Jalen McMurray and that means this coaching staff has an open mind.

Plus, McMurray has shown an uncanny ability to break on the ball for the last two years and that’s something that is more talent than taught.

The other five have been warriors who are established figures.

One, outside the program, Adonicas Sanders, who started 14 games for a Power 5 team before coming to Temple and has been a hero in at least a couple of them. He will wear Jadan Blue’s No. 5 and probably turn out to be an upgrade over Temple’s single-season leading receiver who set that mark in the 2019 season when the Owls finished 8-5.

The others are offensive linemen Adam Klein (a starter since he came here five years ago from Episcopal Academy) and Isaac Moore. In a 56-27 loss to Duke in the Independence Bowl, the blocking of those two were the highlights of that game for Temple fans. With their OL coach from that game returning, Chris Wiesehan, expect them to take that game to an even higher level this season.

Darian Varner, whose motor never stopped in a 3-9 season, is another single digit at DE (No. 9). He will wear the same number New York Giants’ Quincy Roche wore when he was at Temple and expect the same amount of pressure on the QB. It says a lot when a single player never quit in a season when a number of players quit on their head coach and Varner stood out as someone who played with pride.

Temple fans certainly noticed last year. It’s a good sign that Drayton has the same football IQ.

The other telling statement is that Jordan McGee (a linebacker who wears No. 6) will be a guy the Owls will inch to the line of scrimmage in blitzing situations in order to make life miserable for any bad guy’s quarterback. McGee has both the speed and the inherent hatred of quarterbacks to make it happen.

Those are a lot of statements about the immediate future of Temple football but none of those statements say as much as the photo at the top of this page does. These kids love each other, love Temple football, and will play with a passion we haven’t seen here in a while.

That last sentence contained 19 positive words. You can find 981 more by looking closely at the photos at the top of this post. One thousand words indeed.

Monday: A Hall of a Deal