Unfinished Business: Perfect Slogan for 2016

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Of all the Vince Vaughn movie titles the Temple football team could have used for a 2016 slogan, the final choice was Unfinished Business.

Since Swingers and Return to Paradise did not seem like appropriate themes for a college football season, it was probably the best choice for a couple of reasons. Unfinished is a nod to the notion that the 3-4 finish of 2015 was unacceptable and admitting the problem is the first step to solving it. A lot of the problem was the result of a knock-down, drag-out, game against Notre Dame but a team  that trains as hard as Temple should have been able to physically respond from a physical game and that is something the Owls have to fix going forward.

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There were other issues that caused the 3-4 that need to be fixed, preferably by the mid-April spring game. The team needs to find a better method to contain dual-threat quarterbacks. Nobody contained Houston quarterback Greg Ward, but even a mediocre Maryland team contained South Florida’s Quinton Flowers and Temple will have to study what Maryland did in a 35-17 win and try to copy that against all other dual-threat quarterbacks. More unfinished work is fixing an inefficient offense. Having to look to the sideline in the final quarter of the Houston game for the AAC championship robbed them of the chance of making that game competitive. It has to be ditched for a more streamlined approach when trailing in the final quarter of games.

The business part of the slogan is a reminder that bowl games are going to have to be business trips. The fun in bowl games is lifting that trophy at the end of the game, not bowling, kayaking or beach volleyball that the Owls overdosed on at the Boca Raton Bowl.A little birdie (Owl) told us that there was open curfew the night before the first practice and that many of the players got into their hotel rooms at 3 a.m.  They had to practice at 8 a.m. and there was throwing up on the field and much joking about it. That, in my mind, was a wasted practice. Judging from what happened on the field against Toledo, it may not have been the only one. Temple fans who stayed at the Toledo hotel were reporting fewer such side trips and late night curfew busting the Rockets. Perhaps not coincidentally, Toledo won the game, 32-17.

The 2015 slogan “Leave No Doubt” served this past team well because it was an original slogan born out of a heartfelt speech by departing senior Kenny Harper a year ago when the team wasn’t picked for a bowl despite qualifying. Harper’s message to his teammates was “leave no doubt” by finishing with such a good record that bowls would have to choose the team. That part of Harper’s speech stuck and was the 2015 rallying cry.

This year’s “Unfinished Business” is a recycled one done by a number of teams before. Recycling saves energy, though, and the Owls certainly ran out of that commodity at the end of the season so maybe this slogan will help sustain them through what they hope will be a longer season in 2016.

 

 

Boca Raton Bowl: The Final Game Day

You won’t see much two-minute drill practice here.

Now we have arrived at the final “Leave No Doubt” Game Day and the kids who will be playing in it are safely tucked away in their beds, I have a confession to make: I do not have a good feeling about this game and I usually have a good feeling about every Temple football game.

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No predictions, but this has all of the makings of an ambush. Without a doubt, I feel Temple is the better team in this matchup with Toledo (7 p.m., ESPN) but we all know that the better team doesn’t always win. Just ask Alabama after its loss to Mississippi.

There are other factors, like psychological ones, that have to go into the equation. To me, Toledo sees Temple as a team from a better conference that it could make its season with a win against. I don’t think the feeling is reciprocal from Temple’s end. A lot of things have already made Temple’s season, like tying a school record for wins (10), an extended run in the national top 25, a win over a Power 5 in-state rival (Penn State) and an appearance in a league championship game. Toss in Game Day showing up,  the top TV-rated game of  the Saturday night season, which featured a close loss to a NY6 iconic team, Notre Dame, and you’ve crammed 134 years of Temple accomplishments into three months.

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Temple fans might not be biting their fingernails over this matchup, but some appear to be biting their lips.

Toledo had a short stay in the top 25, no parallel win over an in-state Power 5 rival (beating Ohio State would have been the Rockets equivalent), no school record for wins and no appearance in a league championship game.  No national  TV and no Lee Corso, either. To Toledo, Temple is big, bad Temple and, to Temple, Toledo is just a team from a conference the Owls used to play in before being “promoted.”

New Toledo coach Jason Candle will want to prove to his administration that their confidence in hiring an unproven assistant was well-founded. Temple coach Matt Rhule has nothing to prove to the Temple administration, which already has full confidence in him.

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Today’s Metro has caught Temple fever, something LaSalle grads and Philly.com writers Mike Sielski and David Murphy never will.

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Stir in the Temple season motto “Leave No Doubt” and there is some added doubt. That motto was born in a post-season meeting when the Owls were told they would not be awarded a bowl appearance despite being bowl eligible. Kenny Harper told his teammates to leave no doubt about a bowl invitation next year by their play on the field during the regular season. Harper forgot to make up a slogan for the team when it got to the bowl.

You have to wonder, at least subliminally, if the team is just satisfied by appearing in a bowl. One way to artificially change the mindset would be by, say, a surprise onsides’ kick on the opening kickoff that would say, “Hey, we’re here to win this.” That might get everybody pumped up. Passing out pickle juice in the heat might also help.

I just hope I’m being a worry wart and I’m as wrong as Donald Trump ends up being after his “facts” are checked.  Yeah, that might be it. We should find out long before the clock strikes midnight on this Cinderella season.

Tomorrow: Game Analysis

Finishing Near Bottom of Bowl Lotto

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As someone who occasionally dabbles in the lottery, the selection of Temple vs. Toledo in the Boca Raton Bowl today reminded me very much of a Super 7 lotto ticket I purchased around 21 years ago.

The Super 7 no longer exists and I think I know why.

My selection of 1-3-6-13-19-20-21 was just one number off the jackpot of $2 million. If I had 26 instead of one of the above, I would have won $2 million.

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The second-place prize was $90. No, that’s not a misprint. That’s the way the old Super 7 was set up. When I explained the situation to my father, who was living at the time, he simply said: “Shouldn’t the second-place prize be halfway between $90 and $2 million?”

No, dad, it’s a bleep-up game.

I thought about that bleeped-up game today when I heard the opponent for my beloved Temple Owls in the Boca Raton Bowl would be Toledo. My first thought that the bowl selection game is just as bleeped up when the second-place team in a good conference like the AAC gets short-shrifted in comparison to several teams it beat, some in its own conference.

No offense to Toledo, who I really believe is better than most of the Power 5 teams the Owls would have faced in the other bowls, but beating Toledo does absolutely nothing to advance the Temple brand. Before that Super 7 pick, I won at least $90 before in another lotto game (Cash 5), but I was in this thing for the big payout.

A 10-win Temple team should get a better payout than this, both literal and figurative.

Toledo? Been there, done that, too.

Beating Auburn, who the Owls could have faced in another bowl, would have. So would have beating Georgia, who is facing Penn State.

In fact, Penn State, Cincinnati and Memphis are getting to play in better bowls than the Owls are and that’s the reward the Owls get for beating all three.

Being in the Boca Raton Bowl is nice, but it’s a little like winning $90 when there was $2 million on the table. The payoff should have been much more.

Tomorrow: The Big Story on Action News