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

E.J. Warner: Temple Underdog

Who knew the possible sequel might involve Temple?

Driving home the other night, I turned on the Westwood One national radio broadcast of the Bills-Rams game to hear the best play-by-play guy in the business, Kevin Harlan.

After listening to the final minutes, Harlan signed off with this:

“Goodnight everyone and Let’s Go Temple and Let’s Go Kansas State!”

What?

Kurt, E.J. and Brenda Warner on signing day.

I was backing into the driveway when I heard that and almost knocked over two trash cans.

Obviously, the Temple reference was a tip of the cap to his color analyst, Kurt Warner, whose son plays at Temple.

Didn’t know until today that Warner also has a son with plays at Kansas State.

Warner’s laugh was the last thing I heard before the broadcast faded to silence.

The Warners, Kurt and Brenda, were at Kansas State vs. Missouri. After what their youngest son, E.J., did in a 30-14 win over Lafayette on Saturday, the Warners might be in Philadelphia this Saturday for the Rutgers’ game (2 p.m., Homecoming). He might even almost reunite with a former Arena League teammate, Brian Krulikowski, a pretty good former Owl player who is a regular at Temple tailgates.

Brian Krulikowski and Kurt Warner.

Warner, who started the season at No. 3 in the depth chart. was the surprise No. 2 quarterback and, while he hasn’t saved the year yet, he undoubtedly saved the day.

There is no doubt in my mind had D’Wan Mathis remained in the game and continued his horrible and disinterested play, the Owls would have suffered a 2013-type Fordham defeat. As it is, Warner was more than a game manager. Unlike Mathis, he took care of the football. Unlike Mathis, whose instinct for self-preservation trumps team preservation, he stood in and took vicious hits on two nicely thrown touchdown passes.

How bad would it have been to lose to a Patriot League team?

Ask Buffalo, which lost to Holy Cross, 37-31, tonight.

We wrote in this space a few days ago that Mathis needed to be replaced. In my 40-plus years of watching Temple football, I have seen few more talented quarterbacks than Mathis, but never a player who looks like he wants no parts of getting hit or even being out there. For all of the limited ability of recent quarterbacks like Chester Stewart, Vaughn Charlton and Mike Gerardi, there can be no doubt that all were trying their best.

I’ve never gotten the same vibe from Mathis.

We thought the logical replacement would be Quincy Patterson, who was 7-0 as a starter at North Dakota State last year, and previously led Virginia Tech to a 43-41 win over North Carolina.

Little did we realize that E.J. Warner’s career has progressed so rapidly since joining the team.

No one should know about career advancement more than Warner’s dad, who was the subject of the very best movie I’ve seen in the last dozen months. American Hero is a superb account of Kurt’s rise from college to Arena League All-Star to NFL MVP.

Mind you, we’re not saying E.J. will be an NFL MVP like his dad but, for one day, he was a Temple Underdog and that’s worth some kind of sequel. If he beats Rutgers, Temple Underdog sounds like a box office hit.

Monday: Warts and All

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

The Compelling Case for Quincy Patterson

After about five straight years of heading up to the “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” show, which had been a fun day trip every summer, I heard a familiar number five minutes after finishing the test.

There were about 200 dreamers there in June of 2011.

The show producer said “we have only two people who passed the test. Number 16 and No. 54.”

Fifty-four, that was me. I raised my hand.

Not shocked because I thought I got every question right on the 30-question grid except the one about rap music.

Then I went through an interview–sitting at a table in the front of the ABC-TV commissary and answering questions– and they said they’d call.

They never did.

I found out the reason much later. On a Reddit board dedicated to the show, someone who said she once “worked for the program” explained the interview process.

“We wanted only overly excited people,” she said. “If you weren’t jumping up and down, basically we never called. You had to show you really loved the game. If you acted like you were there for us to give you a million, we’d pass on that person.”

Patterson beat a North Carolina team that held Temple to just 13 points.

That was me. Not overly excited, just wanted the chance at the million bucks.

I thought about this story the other night after watching D’Wan Mathis play quarterback at Temple for the eighth time.

Eight is enough.

D’Wan Mathis just looks like he’s out there to get a chance at a million bucks if the NFL calls somewhere down the road. Not overly excited about playing the game itself. After Duke took a 7-0 first-quarter lead, Temple had seven second-quarter possessions and Mathis led them to six three-and-outs. Game, set and match.

The hard lesson I learned and I hope Mathis does is that you DO have to be overly excited to even get the chance at a million bucks but that’s just not his personality. Nor mine.

Nothing wrong with that but quarterback is a position where you need a fiery leader, someone who doesn’t settle for three-and-outs. Someone who instead of throwing the ball away on third down with an open lane ahead of him, takes off and runs and buys his teammates three more downs.

Mathis hasn’t been that person at either Georgia or Temple.

Quincy Patterson has been that at both Virginia Tech and North Dakota State. At least more than Mathis has in two places.

That’s one of the reasons Patterson needs to be the starter against Lafayette on Saturday.

If the Duke game were the outlier, that would be one thing. Of Mathis’ eight Temple starts, his one good one last year (Memphis) appears to be the outlier. No Temple starter since Chester Stewart or maybe Vaughn Charlton has started a career with this many three-and-outs. Temple had no other options then.

It does now.

Starting Mathis again on Saturday against Lafayette would be Fool’s Gold. He could look great in that game and lay an egg against Rutgers a week later. To be honest, Mathis did not look all that great against Wagner last year.

Starting Patterson could be doubly beneficial for the Owls. He gets a warmup game for Rutgers and has a chance to rally the team around his personality so it spreads to the rest of the Owls and gives them a better chance at winning the Homecoming game. Right now, the team has taken on Mathis’ lackluster on-field personality and that kind of malaise can be a poison pill.

Wanting to be a millionaire is one thing but you can’t get there if you aren’t jumping up and down for the opportunity. After eight games, we know that much about Mathis. Stan Drayton shouldn’t have to wait for eight more before reaching that same conclusion.

Friday: Lafayette preview

TU-Duke: An unmitigated disaster

You needed to look no further than down the dial to see the current state of two Group of Five programs on Friday night.

On one ESPN channel at halftime, G5 Old Dominion was taking care of business at ACC power Virginia Tech with a 10-7 lead.

On another ESPN channel at the same time, G5 Temple was floundering like the fish out of water Rod Carey was here in a 24-0 deficit against ACC cellar-dweller Duke.

The Owls lost that game, 30-0, but many of the same problems that existed in a 3-9 season a year ago for this once-proud Temple program surprisingly resurfaced in the first half.

We thought it would be different but it wasn’t and that’s the saddest takeaway from Friday night. Surprisingly, because we were told by the players and the coaching staff that the whole vibe has changed but on the most important day, game night, it was a rerun of a year ago. Lackluster with no energy.

D’Wan Mathis demonstrated–pretty much like he did in a 3-9 season a year ago–that he was not particularly bothered by multiple three-and-outs. That kind of laisse fair attitude spread like a pandemic to the rest of the team–special teams, defense, and offense.

You are only as good as your leaders are and that includes both the quarterback and the head coach.

To me, the first mistake of the Stan Drayton Era was sticking with Mathis after a scoreless first quarter.

I mean, why do you bring in another four-star quarterback like Quincy Patterson to compete with Mathis and settle for multiple three-and-outs in a real game?

You don’t.

If the competition is open in practice, you should be able to lose the job in a game if you don’t turn the scoreboard into an adding machine.

At the end of one quarter and multiple three-and-outs, you bring in Patterson. Send the message both to Mathis and the rest of the squad that failure in any aspect of the game is unacceptable by this new staff.

Maybe he rallies the team around him. Maybe he doesn’t.

But you don’t sit there and get your ass beat because your starter can’t make plays to keep drives alive.

After five-straight three-and-outs near the end of the first half, Drayton went over to Mathis and patted him on the back. I wouldn’t have done that. I wouldn’t have hit him in the head but I would have told him to take a seat and let Quincy see what he could do. (Nick Saban would have hit him in the head.)

The point is that if you give Mathis five three-and-outs, to be fair, you have to give Patterson the same kind of rope. Mathis cannot be the starter forever if he keeps putting up zeros on the board.

You light a fire under him and you light a fire under the rest of the team.

On the other side of the ball, you don’t let the bad guys’ quarterback sit back and pick you apart with a base defense. If you can’t get to him with four, you bring five. If you can’t get to him with five, you bring six. If you can’t get to him with six, you bring seven. Bring the entire team on passing situations. At some point, you have to make him eat dirt and like the taste.

That’s Temple football.

At least it has been in the past.

Maybe it can be in the future but, judging from Drayton’s disappointing debut, that future is a lot farther off than we previously thought.

Sunday: The Compelling Case for Quincy Patterson

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

Duke: All’s Quiet on the Southern Front

Huge track around Duke’s Wallace Wade Stadium means the fans there probably won’t be a huge factor Friday night.

Anyone who saw the 2011 science-fiction film “Another Earth” saw for maybe the first time what a parallel world might look like.

In that film, scientists on this planet find out there’s an Earth-like planet orbiting our sun.

That got us to thinking about Friday’s opener at Duke. In a parallel football world, is there a “Duke Football Forever?”

No, but google “Duke Football Blog” and one shows up. It’s called Bull City Coordinators and, judging from the paucity of posts, there doesn’t seem to be a parallel level of enthusiasm for the opening of the Duke season as there is about the Temple one.

The last post on it was dated Aug. 8. The one before that on July 4. There is no mention of Temple.

Anywhere.

Message board-wise, there is a little more interest but not as much on the two major Temple sites. On the Duke rivals’ site, in this entire month, Temple is mentioned just four times. One, talking about the 1988 basketball win over Temple (Aug. 2), another (last Wednesday) saying, “In 1961, Bill Cosby played fullback for Temple.”

Only two talked about the game.

“As of today, Duke is an eight-point favorite,” a poster named “hart2chesson” said. “But Temple is in our boat. New coach! New attitude!”

Duke doesn’t draw well. Despite playing another team from the same state, Charlotte, in last year’s home opener, the Blue Devils drew only 14,125 fans for that 31-28 loss. They drew fewer fans (12,323) two weeks later for another home game against Northwestern.

So even if only 500 or so Temple fans attend (geez, we hope a lot more), you are likely to hear a “Let’s Go Temple!” cheer or two come through your TV screen Friday night. Maybe even an acapella version of “T for Temple U” after touchdowns.

On the Duke scout board, there is only one post on the Temple game and it is by a Temple fan. Other threads are about 88-year-old former Duke (and Eagles’) quarterback Sonny Jurgensen and one about the quarterback battle for this season.

Not much discussion about Temple.

On the other hand, there is plenty of discussion about Duke on the two Temple boards.

Presumably, Duke’s players are thinking about Temple but there is not a single story quoting a Duke player talking about Temple anywhere. Plenty of Temple players have been quoted that all they’ve watched is game film not only of Duke but of the Memphis offense and the Rutgers’ defense since Aug. 18. That’s because the Duke OC was the Memphis OC the last three years (including two losses to Temple) and the Duke DC was on the RU defensive staff a year ago. Gotta wonder what film Duke players are looking at now, if any.

Texas running back films?

Kinda doubt it.

If that’s an indication of what’s to come on Friday night and Temple is more locked in than Duke, the Blue Devils could be in for a surprise.

Friday: Temple-Duke Preview

Saturday: Game Analysis

What Mathis being named starter means …

About this time five months ago, new Temple head coach Stan Drayton gave tepid praise to incumbent quarterback starter D’Wan Mathis, saying this:

“We’re going to bring in some guys to compete with him.”

If Mathis can become a fan favorite in Georgia, he can do that in Philadelphia too.

That was after the Cherry and White game. Nice game for Mathis, but nothing special.

True to his word, Drayton brought in those guys–Elijah Warner and former Virginia Tech starter Quincy Patterson–and, after a healthy competition, Mathis retained his job.

At least for the Duke opener.

Thursday, Mathis was named the starter for the Duke game one week from tonight and that can only mean one thing.

Former Michigan State, Ohio State, and Georgia commit D’Wan Mathis is shown here starting the 2020 opener for Georgia.

Mathis, a former Elite 11 four-star quarterback, rose to the occasion to beat out Patterson, a former Elite 11 four-star quarterback.

We’ve checked the game notes of the other 10 AAC teams and none of them have an Elite 11 quarterback.

Temple now has two.

Duke has none and that’s one reason why you’ve got to like Temple’s chances a week from now (7:30 p.m., ACC Network).

It’s not even fair to say Mathis showed flashes of his Elite 11 quality in the 2021 season.

He showed flash as in one, the Memphis game. If Mathis showed flashes, maybe the Owls steal a win or two in the other AAC games. It was a damn good flash (35-for-49, three touchdowns) but it was a one-and-done nonetheless.

We needed to see more and it’s an even better sign that Drayton needed to see more.

Now he has.

Maybe he’s a guy who needs a fire lit under him and, in Patterson, that’s a lot of lighter fluid.

Patterson went 7-0 as a North Dakota State starter last year and, except for Cincinnati, you can make a strong argument that North Dakota State would have beaten every other AAC team, including Houston and UCF.

He’s a nice insurance policy to have should Mathis falter.

So far, Mathis has shown no signs of faltering and that’s a good thing. This is the third-straight year that Mathis has won a starting job. He started for Georgia in the 2020 home opener and Temple in the 2021 opener at Rutgers, beating out another Elite 11 quarterback (Re’al Mitchell) for the honor.

Memphis was objectively a better team than Duke last year so is 35-for-49 and three touchdowns out of the question next week?

Certainly not and, if Mathis puts up those numbers again, the Owls are guaranteed to have a nice flight home.

Monday: All’s Quiet on The Southern Front

Friday: Temple-Duke Preview

Saturday: Duke Game Analysis

What Klecko’s induction does for Temple

Too often, the ignorant is the norm when the subject is Temple football.

Even though the Owls pretty much have had the most Group of Five players in the NFL for the last decade, occasionally you come across a comment like this yesterday on Twitter:

Very funny.

Not.

Most “regular” Joe Blow NFL fans don’t follow things like what G5 team has the most NFL players and assume that the higher-profile G5 schools dominate.

Assuming sometimes means “making an ass out of you and me” but, in this guy’s case, it was him making an ass out of himself.

Unfortunately, that’s more than the norm than the exception. At least for the general comments I see on social media.

That’s why the almost certain lock nomination of Joe Klecko into the Pro Football Hall of Fame could do more to change that than anything. Being named one of the three finalists for the Hall of Fame, that’s a Hall of a Deal for Temple and Klecko. (Joe is a virtual lock as every group of three finalist has been rubberstamped into the Hall by the Veterans committee every year since 2009.)

Klecko will almost certainly get up there and talk about the New York Jets but also expect the father who sent a son to Temple and played for the Owls to spend a significant portion of his induction speech on Temple and Wayne Hardin.

Just the other day New England Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick mentioned Temple. Belichick, unlike the Joe Blow fan, knows his stuff.

“I have some connections to Temple and, of course, Baylor, they have players,” Belichick said on Thursday in this article.

Belichick mentioned his following Temple through knowing two Owl head coaches, Hardin and Matt Rhule.

Bill and Ernie Adams, both New York Giants’ assistant coaches at the time, watched Hardin take apart Cal in the Garden State Bowl.

“Ernie and I were sitting up there watching the game, and on the first series of plays, one guard pulled deep, the other guard pulled short,” Belichick said. “And they just folded around to get the linebacker, but they pulled. And the two inside linebackers ran into each other. I looked at Ernie, and he looked at me . . .”

Did Temple just screw that up, they wondered?

“Four or five plays later, the same thing. The two linebackers,” Belichick clapped his hands together loudly, imitating the collision, “because they’re standing right next to each other. They went right into each other. [Temple ran] straight down to the safety for, like, 20 yards. They must’ve run that play six or seven times and it was 20 yards every time . . . At the time, I’d never seen that before. That was Hardin. That was his coaching genius.”

All of this should have changed the perception of Temple football nationwide but, sadly, it has not for the most part. Beating Penn State and playing Notre Dame to a nail-biter on national TV should have helped but it’s a constant battle for respect when you are Temple.

The fast track to changing perceptions is in the hands of the guys working out at the Edberg-Olson Complex.

Beat Duke in less than two weeks and everyone in America will know Temple has a football team and a pretty good one.

Friday: One Week Until Duke

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