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

5 Guys Who Should Thrive Under Drayton

During the second half of his third spring ball press conference, only a few sentences in, new Temple head football coach Stan Drayton singled out a position group a lot of fans might not have given a lot of thought to before now.

Tight ends.

That said a lot because, up until now, wide receiver seemed to be a much deeper position but Drayton bemoaned the early lack of leadership in that group and heaped some praise on the tight ends.

There is some logic to that.

David Martin-Robinson is a 6-5, 255 redshirt junior and has always performed when he number was called. He, in my mind, is a leader. He leads a group at TEs at least three deep who could cause damage to opposing defenses this fall.

So were Randle Jones and Jadan Blue for the wide receivers.

Robinson is one of the five guys who should thrive under Drayton because, even at this early stage in practice, Drayton is understanding a basic philosophy we’ve preached here for over a decade: Coach to the talent you have, not the talent you want.

The coach who shall remain nameless forced round pegs (an NIU system) into square holes (Temple talent) for much of his three years.

Jose Barbon in the 2019 win over a Maryland team that beat Rutgers, 48-7.

Now, at least from what Drayton says, the square pegs are going into the square holes. You read here first that DMR will be a first-team all-AAC player at TE this year.

Here are four others who could challenge for league honors under this sensible system:

Jose Barbon, wide receiver _ The 6-0, 185-pound receiver filled in admirably whenever Jones and Blue went down with injuries over the last two years and caught a lot of difficult balls in traffic. He seems a logical starter at one of the WR positions and should shine.

Ronnie Stevenson, wide receiver _ The Owls have lacked a red zone lob pass threat since Branden Mack left and the 6-5 Stevenson with reliable hands provides that threat.

Trey Blair, running back _ The redshirt freshman was a superstar quarterback at Haverford High and the best punt and kickoff returner in that school’s history. Temple hasn’t had a dangerous punt or kickoff returner since Isaiah Wright was the 2018 AAC Special Teams Player of the Year and there may be a STPY Award for Blair in the future, if not this year, then maybe next. We screamed for Big 33 starting quarterback Jalen Fitzpatrick to throw a pass for Temple in this space for over a year and, when Matt Rhule relented, his first pass went for 86 yards and a touchdown against SMU. We did the same for the last staff with Blair and they were as blind as Stevie Wonder on the specific talent of their players. If Drayton allows Blair to throw a halfback pass, it will be for six. We won’t guarantee it but it’s got a 50/50 shot.

Adam Klein, offensive tackle _ The 6-5, 290-pound redshirt senior from Episcopal Academy has played here on a high level so long consider this: His blocking probably was the key factor in Ryquell Armstrong’s seven-touchdown performance in a 59-49 win at Houston. The RPO system the last guy championed probably didn’t highlight Klein’s run-blocking prowess but the downhill running game that made Drayton a Little All-American at Allegheny College will probably take hold at Temple. He earned his first career start in Sept. of 2018 against Tulsa and has been a fixture on the line since. Downhill blocking in the running game is his forte and that’s a philosophy Drayton can get behind here.

At least we can hope.

More on that after we take in the Cherry and White game on April 9.

Monday: Data vs. Feelings

Friday: A Tradition Unlike Any Other