Temple Football: Business As Usual Six Feet Apart

The world stops occasionally for most of us but not for a Division I football player.

At least not a Division I football player who expects to be successful. Guys lift and run 365 days a year and those who don’t fall behind.

We assume that’s what guys like Jadan Blue, Anthony Russo and Ray Davis are doing right now even in this national health crisis with the rest of their teammates, only this time six feet apart. I would assume this can be done at the E-O but really lifting and running can be done anywhere.

They have to because they have to assume the guys from Miami are doing the same thing and they want to avoid beginning the next season the way they ended the last one. David Feeley, the strength coach there, was the strength coach at Temple and the Owls who were around then now he’s not letting up on the guys down there. The lifting and the running and the passing drills are done at least six feet apart.

That’s what we’re hoping for right now.

So we’ll soldier on here as well and try to keep posting a couple of times a week until summer camp starts.

What we do know is this: Miami has a substantial lead in terms of preparation against Temple on top of a substantial advantage in adding talent via the portal. Miami added a quarterback (D’Eriq King) who accounted for 50 touchdowns in his last full season at Houston and a defensive end from Temple who was a first-team All-American and turned down fourth-round NFL money (or above) to essentially do his part to beat his old teammates. The school that basically stole a head coach from Temple and a strength coach from Temple now has stolen an All-American from Temple.

That’s what we’re up against.

Temple has added crumbs in comparison while getting hit hard in the subtraction department. The preparation part is this: Miami was able to complete a full week of practices before suspending things while Temple was able to get in one day.

The Owls have to do a lot to catch up to both. Hopefully they will have the time to do it. All indications are that there will be an opening day but this time the opponent won’t be anything like Bucknell.

Friday: Comparing Successful Seasons

Why 2020 Could Be a Step Back

 

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In our last post, we’ve noted that ESPN college football analytics guy Bill Connelly is likely to stick a 6-6 prediction on the 2020 Temple football Owls.

After consecutive eight-win seasons piggybacked on top of consecutive double-digit-win seasons, that’s just another step back after a pretty good run.

From the perspective of this fan, it’s hard to argue with Connelly.

A lot of things happened since the end of the year, including four pretty valuable players with Temple eligibility left giving up that eligibility for, in no particular order, the NFL, the first Temple opponent on next season’s schedule, and Ole Miss.

It’s hard enough for a team to overcome expected losses (senior leadership) when you pile on top of that the four best juniors on the team.

When there are only 129 FBS teams and ESPN predicts you to be the 72d-best one, you don’t have to be Andrew Yang to know that you are closer to the bottom than the top. That’s a pretty bitter pill to swallow after 36 wins in the past four seasons so, yes, that’s a huge step back after steps forward.

On top of that, the head coach, Rod Carey, in a recent interview said nothing would fundamentally change in the offensive and defensive philosophy of the team. When asked in that same interview if he was concerned about the number of talented players jumping ship, he brushed it off by saying: “We want people who want to be here.”

Extrapolate that logic just a little bit by imagining this: If your entire first team left for “greener” pastures and the scout team wanted to stay, are you really better off?

Err, no.

For 2020 expectations to rise, the talent pool has to get better and the Owls went from an Olympic-sized one to a kiddy pool. An awful lot of good coaching will be needed to overcome those losses.

Monday: Possible Reasons for Optimism

LFF Deal kills the on-campus buzz

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If Temple built the stadium here (enough room if the Maxi’s row and Sullivan Hall behind it were knocked down), the entire stadium would have been inside Temple’s footprint and the neighbors would not have been affected.

Whenever a deal is signed, it’s always advisable to look at the fine print.

To me, what to look for in the most recent Lincoln Financial Field extension Temple signed this week was that option.

A five-year deal with no option probably meant that Temple University was close to putting up a stadium of its own. A five-year deal with a five-year option probably meant not close.

The fine print suggests not close.

In Marc Narducci’s Philly.com article–that somewhat surprisingly made the front page of the Inquirer’s sports section–the key words to me were this: “the deal includes a five-year option for the Owls beyond the first five seasons.”

The architect for the earlier project, Moody Nolan, says it should take no more than three years from the time the first shovel is put into the ground to opening day and noted that the typical stadium construction is usually no more than 12-18 months.

So do the math.

If Temple’s administration thought they needed an additional five years on top of the five years they got, it means they are not even close to a shovel-in-the-ground date. If they were close enough to announce a date in, say, the next couple of years, they would have probably shunned the option.

What’s it all mean?

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A future stadium that looks like this with the fans right on top of the field would be more of a home-field advantage than the original concept of Moody Nolan.

The good news is that the ugly Moody Nolan concept is probably a thing of the past and that a new stadium in another place on campus gives Temple a chance to go over some more attractive stadium concepts than the glorified high school stadium look Nolan presented.

The bad news probably means there won’t be a stadium on the campus for another decade if that. Temple is no longer in a hurry to get this done.

That’s bad news for those of us who want to live long enough to see a real home-field advantage for Temple. You know, the kind where the opposing quarterback looks over to the sideline and tells his coach “I can’t hear.” I remember that as a young kid at Temple Stadium only on a couple of occasions–the 39-36 win over West Virginia and the 34-7 win over Boston College in the 1970s.

Other than that, Temple’s really never had that kind of home-field advantage and that’s kind of sad.

At the Vet and the Linc, while it could get loud, it wasn’t the same as what the Owls experienced on the road in places like Cincinnati last year and ECU when the Pirates first came into the AAC.

Maybe someday, but a decade is a long time for a lot of us.

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The original glorified high school stadium design

As Martin Luther King once said, “I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land.”

Temple might or might not get to the promised land, but the talk of this stadium that began well over a decade ago will continue to be talk for another decade and there are a whole lot of us who might never get to that promised land. It’s a shame because if the stadium had been built where the library is now and the library put at 15th and Norris, the neighbors who have held up this project for so long would have had no say.

That’s what you get when you hire two guys from Bloomington to run a Philadelphia university as CEO and CFO. Hopefully, the university has learned something from that mistake.

Monday: The Ones That Got Away

 

Tougher loss than any game: Kevin Grady

 

Screenshot 2020-01-11 at 9.29.11 PMThere have been plenty of tough losses over even an otherwise good period for Temple football.

The last two bowl games come to mind as does the most recent debacle at Cincinnati.

You can get over those kinds of losses. What has been tougher and tougher to deal with are the more permanent ones.

Kevin Grady was the latest of our tailgaters to pass away last week and, in that one package, there was not a more gentle soul or fierce football player than the running back for Temple from 1973-75. I started watching Temple football around that time and became a big fan of Grady, who could interchangeably play both halfback and fullback.

I didn’t know Kevin then, but in more recent years he showed up Saturdays at the Steve Conjar tailgates–and it was more often than not– I got a chance to talk to him and each time it was a pleasure. This year, I hadn’t seen much of him and was wondering why.

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The numbers only told part of the Kevin Grady story

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Brian Slade’s numbers, although that TE designation is 1983 is misleading

Evidently, he had some health problems that prevented him from attending. Then, last week, I heard he was gone. Temple tailgaters went through a similar loss a few years ago when former kicker Wes Sornisky died in a fire in Delaware at 64 years of age. Unfortunately, these occurrences are going to happen at a more rapid pace than we would like in the next few years. Bruce Arians’ players lost a similarly tough runner in Brian Slade in 2015 and, even before that, even Al Golden’s guys weren’t immune when both Kee-Ayre Griffin and Anthony Ferla passed away far too soon.

Grady is just the latest and deserves to be remembered for both his on- and off-field character.

Until Jager Gardner’s 94-yard touchdown run from scrimmage, Grady had the longest run from scrimmage in the history of Temple football. He was also part of the most successful two-year run in Temple history–his team went 9-1 one year and 8-2 the next–and over those two years, Temple had the longest winning streak in major college football (14).

That’s right. Temple. Among those wins was West Virginia and Boston College when both programs were very good.

Who knows if Temple will ever have a 14-game winning streak again? The way college football has evolved (devolved, in my mind), the chips are stacked so much against G5 teams like Temple that it is extremely doubtful.

Kevin Grady had an even more impressive streak of his own–65 years as an incredibly good person–and someone who made a positive impression on everyone he met. That’s a streak that probably won’t be duplicated any time soon, either.

Friday: Fandom in 2020

Turning it Around: Reseeding AAC bowls

Mike Aresco, AAC commissioner,

Mike Aresco, AAC commissioner, probably is going to seed the bowls differently next year.

Somewhere in the Rhode Island office of the league this morning after a long vacation,  AAC commissioner Mike Aresco is kicking himself.

The AAC started out 1-3 in the bowls but finished 4-3. That’s better than two Power 5 conferences but could have been even more impressive. UCF fans were salty that Temple and not it was playing a Power 5 team in a bowl game and, in retrospect, it looked like those fans were right. The thought process probably was then that Temple would draw better to the Military, but the thought process was skewed because, to this league, prestige means more than money at this point.

If Aresco had to reseed the bowls, we’re going to guess he might have gone with these matchups instead:

Military Bowl _ UCF vs. North Carolina. The speed of the Knights would have been a much better matchup against the Tar Heels than Temple would have been. While UNC put up 55 on the Owls, UCF put up 62 and, if it traveled pretty well to Philadelphia (it did), it would have done the same to Annapolis. UCF, 39-35.

Gasparilla Bowl _ Temple vs. Marshall. Cincinnati went to Marshall and beat the Thundering Herd, 45-13. Temple traveled to Cincy and would lose a 15-13 game it would have won if it had an even marginally passable special teams. Temple, 35-14.

Birmingham Bowl _ SMU vs. Boston College. SMU finished 10-2 in the regular season and was “awarded” with that trip with a game against FAU in the Boca Raton Bowl. That game was played on FAU’s home field and an unmotivated SMU team lost big-time. Had SMU played a BC team that Cincy beat, 38-6, got to think that the result would have been similar. SMU, 28-7.

Aresco could have done nothing about the Cotton Bowl because Memphis earned its spot and Navy’s beating of Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl was definitely a feather in the league’s cap.

Also, the Armed Forces Bowl that saw Tulane beat former rival Southern Mississippi was a good matchup. That said, the best the AAC could have done was gone 6-1 and we’ve got to think that’s probably why Aresco is kicking himself now because, with a little better forethought, that’s exactly what would have happened.

Thanks to a 55-13 loss, Temple will probably be sent to bowl hell next year if the Owls even make a bowl and it will be a well-earned sentence.

Friday: The Other Side of The Portal

 

Fizzy: A new month and a short wait

 Editor’s Note: Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub, a weekly contributor, is a former Temple player who once dated Bill Cosby’s college girlfriend while both were teammates (but not while she was Cos’ girl). Maybe he’ll write about that later this season. 🙂

By Dave (Fizzy) Weinraub

The summer after Jayson Werth jumped to the Washington nationals, I saw the best sign of all times in the stands.  “Was it Werth it?” the sign read.  I wonder if coach Collins has any of those thoughts today?  Of course, he had a few million other reasons to consider.

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Before I get to a brief review of the Georgia Tech game, I’d like us all to consider a mystery of life question.  How is it Temple can secure so much outstanding talent when supposedly, we’re being out-recruited by all the schools that get the three- and four-star high school athletes?   Surely, we’ve had more talent than Maryland and Georgia Tech, two of the lousiest Power Five teams.  And Buffalo, who beat us the last two years, also seems to support this question.

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Other than the top six or eight teams in the country who have unbelievable depth, there’s been a great evening out of the talent. On any given Saturday, the outcome of a game between any other of the 115 top football schools many times comes down to the coaching and/or one or two significant plays or errors. One answer obviously is that it’s very difficult to predict which players are going to succeed at the next level.  Another reason is that more talent is getting into college than ever before.  That’s because, if we’re honest, a coach of a big-time football program can now get just about any recruit he wants to be admitted to his university. (See the number of people who are going to jail because they bribed coaches to say their kid was an athlete.)  Lastly, it’s as it’s always been, great coaches attract great talent. So for whatever the reason, Temple has been most fortunate.  It remains to be seen if Coach Carey can continue this recruiting success.

Now to the game.

This was a woulda, coulda, shoulda game for Georgia Tech.  Their very costly quarterback fumbles turned the game around. The first was one foot from the end zone, the other was at the tail end of a very successful drive towards the Temple goal.  Had they scored on both of those occasions, and not given us a lengthy fumble recovery for a touchdown, the game would have been a nail biter.  On the other hand, our defense kept them scoreless on at least five trips into our red zone.  So, congratulations to our defense once again.

As I’m the world’s greatest football nitpicker, I could isolate on a number of things.  But this is going to be Fizzy light.  I would like to congratulate wide receiver Branden Mack and quarterback Anthony Russo for finally running the hook pass just past the first-down chains, successfully.  The offensive line did a hell of a job, and running back Re’Mahn Davis timed his bounces to the outside perfectly. Before he was hobbled, Jager Gardner really pounded inside.

However, one bootleg or keeper wasn’t called for Russo, although they were wide open all day and we’ve still yet to see a speed sweep by Wright, or gasp, a reverse.  I still look forward to the day when Russo is damn near perfect.

It’s now conference time.  Take a nap on Thursday afternoon.

additional editor’s note… and now for shits and giggles … 

Thursday: Game Night

Friday: Game Analysis

Game Day: Revisionist History

 

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Maybe the Owls’ defense will finally show Collins what Mayhem looks like this afternoon.

You never like to say a guy is lying but, for two years, Geoff Collins stretched the truth a lot of his time at Temple University.

None more than earlier this week in the formal press conference leading up to today’s game (3:30, Lincoln Financial Field) when he answered a question this way:
On whether there’s familiarity in the Temple roster after being the coach there previously:

“The entire two-deep either played for us for the last two years or we recruited them.”

Hmm.

Not exactly a lie, but not exactly the truth either. The truth part is that “the entire two-deep either played for us” is correct. That’s to be expected, though. What was Collins supposed to do when he arrived at Temple? Play guys who weren’t there previously? The recruited part? Not so much.

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Checking the two-deep released in the pre-game notes against the recruiting charts of both Scout.com and Rivals.com, as many as 17 starters in today’s game were recruited not by Collins but by Matt Rhule and one (Harrison Hand) was recruited by Rod Carey.

Less even last year when only two starters–both offensive line tackles–were recruited by Collins.

When he arrived, Collins promised defensive Mayhem. If you count your own players not staying home on cutback running plays as Mayhem, he delivered. If not, and I don’t, Mayhem never arrived.

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Pre-game watching at the Steve Conjar tailgate …

OK, Geoff, whatever you say.

The bottom line of the Collins Era at Temple is that he underachieved with the talent he inherited and wasn’t the dynamic recruiter everyone expected him to be when he arrived in Philadelphia. Rhule, who won 10 games in consecutive years, left Collins with 10-win talent both seasons and Collins underachieved by roughly five games.

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Just a Cherry-colored tank top or t-shirt needed today. Hopefully, everybody goes in from the tailgates and cheers their lungs off for the Owls.

That’s not to say Collins–an engaging bull-crapper, no doubt–won’t be able to sweet-talk recruits to attend Georgia Tech.

It is to say that it did not happen for him here.

For Temple to win today, it will have to do something that Rhule put a premium on–protecting the football. The Owls have to treat it like Gold and, if they win the turnover battle, they should be all right. That should be the lesson of Buffalo going forward.

Something tells me Carey understands that better than the snake oil salesman who is someone else’s problem now.

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Post-game watching at the Steve Conjar tailgate (although I think he will be packed up long before the 10 p.m. game)

Tomorrow: Game Analysis

Tuesday: Fizzy’s Corner

Thursday: ECU Preview

Friday: Game Analysis

Fizz: Buffalo was a team loss

Editor’s Note: Made only slight changes to include two first names on the first reference that were left out.

                                        By Dave (Fizzy) Weinraub

Wow!  Anthony Russo was over, under, in front and in back all day.  Then, when there were good passes in key situations, a lot were dropped.  Russo continues to look directly at his primary receiver as soon as he gets the ball.

All the while, both the offensive and defensive lines were outplayed to say the least, and we couldn’t stop the outstanding Buffalo running backs. (Number 5, Kevin Marks, reminds me of Brian Westbrook.)   The “targeting” calls didn’t help, and they were both questionable.  I guess it all depends if it was your quarterback or not.

There was no way we should have won the game, and we didn’t.  It’s a shame because we could have faced Georgia Tech undefeated, and a win would have us definitely ranked.

So let’s look at the coaching decisions that affected the game to some, but not a major degree.

  • There was a poorly executed screen pass where it didn’t seem to be a middle screen or an outside screen, and Russo threw right into the crowd.  Coaching?
  • Whoever has outside responsibility on our left defensive side, continued to penetrate and allow key yardage and a touchdown to go outside.  The defense should have been adjusted.
  • As it became apparent in the second quarter we had trouble stopping their running game, we should have started to run-blitz then. We did in the fourth quarter.
  • The long snapper was finally changed after another miscue which gave the momentum to Buffalo, but the punting is still only satisfactory with another shanked kick in the second half. Perhaps our punter, who could also be changed, should get practice fielding ground balls.
  • Down two scores at the end of the first half, why take a knee with 22 seconds left?
  • Someone on the coaching staff must have had a very low score on his math SAT’s.  I overlooked us going for two against Maryland when we shouldn’t have, and then we did it again against Buffalo.  In the fourth quarter, if we had kicked the extra point after a score, we would have been down 21 points.  The best we could have hoped for at that time, was a tie and overtime, so why risk being down by 22?
  • After Buffalo didn’t get a first down in our territory in the fourth quarter, we refused to take a 15-yard penalty before they punted.  Why?

So, cracks are starting to appear.  If we come back and beat the “Ramblin Wrecks from Georgia Tech,” there still won’t be enough seats on the bandwagon.

Thursday: Just What the doctor ordered

Saturday: Game Day

Sunday: Game Analysis

Temple Nation Needs to Show Up

The Temple fans made LFF a house of horrors for Penn State in 2015.

The first time I ever heard the phrase Al Golden uttered it a few years into probably one of the most impressive rebuilding jobs I’ve ever seen:

“Temple Nation needs to show up,” Golden said.

The coach really was four years into the rebuild and the place to show up was Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington, D.C. for the Eagle Bank Bowl in 2009. It was the school’s first bowl in 30 years and it was against a marquee opponent and since one school was 200 miles away and the other 3,000, bowl organizers were counting on a big walk-up from Philadelphia.

If Temple Nation needed to show up then, it certainly needs to show up even more now. Full disclosure: This post wasn’t scheduled to be published until Thursday but we felt this plea was important to make early in the week to set the wheels in motion in the school and in the alumni ranks for a big home crowd against Maryland (noon, Saturday).

I don’t know what the crowd is going to look like but if the Owls got a legitimate 35,004 against Army in 2016 (and they did) and a legitimate 35,786 against Tulane in 2015 (and they did), and a legitimate 33,026 for Cincinnati last year (and they did), they are going to have to move that needle close to the 40,000 range for Maryland.

The stakes are that high.

The Owls–who received two votes in “others under consideration” in the Top 25 coaches preseason poll–can crack the Top 25 with a win over Maryland on Saturday. It’s not all that outrageous that a win puts the Owls there. Last week, Maryland was outside the Top 25 when it beat No. 21 Syracuse. This week, Temple is outside the Top 25 when it hosts No. 21 Maryland.

People have to get up on whatever equates to a soapbox at the Student Activities Center, the Bell Tower, the Olympic Complex or whatever place on campus to get a significant portion of the 40,000 fulltime students to attend on Saturday. A solid representation of the 279,000 alumni–almost 200,000 who live within an hour’s drive of the stadium–have to be accounted for as well.

If it can happen for one school, it can happen for another.

Temple Nation?

I never heard of the concept until two weeks before that Eagle Bank bowl.  Hell, Temple isn’t a state or a city let alone even a nation. Yet whatever Temple Nation was responded to that call when an estimated 20,000 of the 23,000 fans in the old baseball stadium cheered their throats out to see the Owls lose to 30-21 to UCLA.

“There were so many Temple fans here I really hated it,” a UCLA vlogger said afterward.

A year ago, Temple handed both Maryland and Cincinnati their first losses of the season. It didn’t need a home crowd to beat Maryland, but it did need a very loud one to beat Cincinnati.

“I couldn’t hear because of the crowd,” Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ritter said after fumbling a key snap in overtime that allowed the Owls to win.

The Owls will need that crowd again on Saturday and it will have to be loud and involved to help them crack the top 25 this early for the first time ever.

Even if it’s a mid-size nation, it can still make an impact on the college football globe in a few days.

Saturday: Game Day