Stories from a magical Cherry and White Day

Brian Krulikowski and Kurt Warner will have plenty of chances to re-enact this photo.

Plenty of good stories abounded at Saturday’s magical Cherry and White Game.

Magical, because as “blah” as the last few games seemed to be, the first Stan Drayton Extravaganza made us all forget those ones.

That’s a good thing.

Another was the fact that many former Owls made the trek back to the Edberg-OIson Football Complex, including guys like Nick Rapone.

Brian is keeping some pretty good Temple company here.

Catching up with Nick–Bruce Arians’ defensive coordinator–was a blast.

Rapone was not only a big-time assistant coach for one Temple coach but he handled the special teams under Bobby Wallace at Temple.

I reminded Nick how Arians called a timeout in the last two minutes of a 35-30 win at Rutgers (the same RU team that beat Penn State) and berated Nick.

“Nick, what did he say?” I asked.

“He wanted us to get out of a prevent defense and go to an all-out blitz,” Rapone said. “They got to our 30. After we went to a blitz, we pulled off three-straight sacks and they ended the game back on their 30. We did the same thing against the Rams (this year) in the NFL playoffs. It didn’t work but that’s Bruce. You know what he always said, ‘No risky, no bisky.’ I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s why Bruce is a Super Bowl champion.”

Wayne Hardin’s players toast the great John Belli (RIP) at Saturday’s Cherry and White Game.

I told Nick I thought he should have been picked to get the Temple head coaching job after Matt Rhule left and mentioned that one of his former Temple players, Cap Poklemba, told me that “Nick Rapone was the best coach I ever had.”

“I love Cap,” Nick said. “Tell him I said hello the next time you see him.”

Did not get a chance to talk to Kurt Warner but his presence at the Cherry and White Game probably means a pre-game reunion in Lot K with former Arena Football teammate (and great Temple Owl) Brian Krulikowski is likely in a future Temple game.

Too bad we could not get a recreation of the photo that tops this post on Saturday, but there will be plenty of opportunities ahead.

Joe Greenwood, Nick Rapone and Eddie Parker.

Drayton’s appearance at Joe Greenwood’s Lot 10 tailgate cannot be underestimated, too. He promised to “get this thing back to the way you are used to it” and received a standing ovation from Greenwood, Sheldon Morris, Eddie Parker, Alshermond Singleton, Keith Gloster and just about every former Arians’ player.

Drayton said it in a manner that made you believe he meant it. His wife, Monique (the First Lady of Temple Football), connected with everyone at the tailgate, making a point to hug every single fan. That’s the kind of connection we haven’t seen here since the Matt Rhule and Al Golden Days when Al and Matt were doing the hugging (or at least shaking of hands).

Moreso, Drayton’s promise to bring in “other quarterbacks” to compete with D’wan Mathis for the starting job indicates that he won’t coddle fragile personalities if it stagnates the advancement of the organization as a whole and that’s the way it should be.

Finally, the Wayne Hardin Crew took time out to propose a toast to departed tailgate leader John Belli.

John will be honored this fall with an empty chair with his name on it before every home game. Hopefully, members of his family, particularly son Andrew, will grace us with their presence this fall because we know where that’s where John’s spirit will be.

Monday: A Story to Look Out For

Cherry and White tradition fading

Had to go downtown for my bi-monthly haircut on Saturday and caught a glimpse of Temple football practice both ways.

The 9:51 a.m. train from Fox Chase to Suburban Station sped by the Edberg-Olson Football Complex a little after 10 with only a couple of soft tosses going on down on Chodoff Field.

On the way back, I caught a longer glimpse because the Fox Chase train had to wait for a Warminster-bound train. From what I could see, there were a lot of guys wearing green jerseys on top of Cherry and White ones and something I have not seen since the Steve Addazio days:

Actual hitting.

The thought occurred to me on any other third Saturday in April I would be down there with a few thousand other Temple fans getting excited for the upcoming season. There would be tailgating before and after and some good-natured arguments about which team or which player was better.

I posted that Saturday would have been Cherry and White on Facebook and former Owl great Joe Greenwood (who I think should be in the school’s Hall of Fame) posted back.

“Yep,” he said. “All the memories are on my facebook memories.”

Memories are all we have now. Temple and the AAC should do something like what the Big 10 and Michigan State is doing tomorrow. The Spartan spring game will be on the Big 10 network (2 p.m.) while Owl fans have really no way to watch what is happending at 10th and Diamond.

That didn’t happen last year because of COVID and it didn’t happen this year pretty much for the same reason.

Two years ago, it happened in a modified version where players essentially ran drills and there was no game or any hitting involved.

Maybe Cherry and White will happen next year, maybe not, but the Cherry and White as we’ve known it (with a real game) probably will never return.

I don’t know if we’ll ever have the same level of fan participation, either.

Several fans mentioned to me in 2019–many of them former players–that, if the Cherry and White game has been reduced to a couple of players hitting a punt returner with a foam rubber object, they would probably opt out.

That’s too bad because I remember the 2017 game where a freshman named Jadan Blue burst onto the scene with a couple of touchdown receptions against some pretty good Owl cornerbacks at the time.

That got the fans excited to see him and other Owls who played well that day.

Now all we have of Cherry and White is the memories and, under this staff at least, it’s going to have to be enough.

The good news is if they win their method will be proven right. If they lose, maybe another guy comes in and revives the tradition.

Monday: Reading The Clues

A Logical Place For Spring Game

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When you are journalism major at Temple, as I was, they make you take 75 percent of your other courses as electives. The reasoning behind that in the 1970s—I do not know if the practice exists today—was  that if you knew a little about everything,  you could report on anything.

Maybe they should adopt the practice for sports administrators.

complex

Today’s required Course Monitoring for Temple’s administration should be Logic 101.

The discussion should be centered on just why the university is intent on squeezing 5,000 pounds of fans into a 100-pound bag when a 2,000-pound bag became available in the offseason.

The latest poster on the Cherry and White Day came out and there it was, right there for everyone to see: Cherry and White Game, Saturday, April 22, 1 p.m., Edberg-Olson Hall.

Hmm.

Bringing portable seats for 500 people when, on a nice day, you can get 5,000 people into a little over 100-yard square area made sense when you had no place else to go.

Not this year.

The soccer facility some four blocks south opened in the fall and the place has 2,000 permanent seats and they can still move those portable E-O seats to that location.

South Florida, which also plays in a NFL stadium, moved its spring game from its football complex to its soccer complex last season and it was an unqualified success. All the Bulls had to do was line the soccer field with football yard lines, put a couple of goal posts in and away then went.

Plenty of seating for the fans and a great experience had by all because the sports administration there applied logic to the situation and came up with a better conclusion.

Right now, the TU administration is trying to fit a square Cherry and White game peg into a round hole when there is a square hole just down 12th Street.

As our favorite alien, Mr. Spock, would say, that’s illogical.

Monday: Fizzy Meets Coach Collins

Practice Concerns

 

P.J. Walker is ready for a big senior year in 2016.  Interesting that Adam DiMichele (background) is never far away.

So far, I haven’t seen the word “ameliorate” as a word of the day at the end of the Bill O’Reilly show, but it is a good word as any to describe how the Temple football practices have evolved this spring.

The definition of the word is “to make or become better, more bearable, or more satisfactory” and, since head coach Matt Rhule has not canceled any practices in the last two weeks, the trend has to be interpreted that, in his mind, things have gotten more satisfactory.

cherryweather

Weather could not be better.

Rhule canceled practice a couple of week ago citing concerns about both senior leadership and the speed the redshirt freshman were learning the system.  Since Rhule the football CEO, we fans—the shareholders—should have been concerned that he had practice concerns. Since those concerns have “ameliorated” we have less to worry about.

The senior leadership has gotten markedly better and hopefully they will show the red shirt freshmen the way.

There is not much about this team I worry about. I think it is a double-digit win team but that doesn’t mean it is perfect. A little more girth in the middle of the defensive line would help. Not all that concerned about the linebackers, safeties or corners.

On offense, I have confidence in the line as tackle Dion Dawkins is the next NFL draft choice and Brendan McGowan has proven to be a capable replacement for Kyle Friend and there is a whole lot of talent battling for the remaining spots.

The running backs are deep and talented and I have a gut feeling that Jager Gardner is a future star.

In the passing game, I would like to see P.J. Walker able to fake it into the line, sucker up the LBs and safeties to the line of scrimmage, and float a long ball in stride for six. I haven’t seen that since Jalen Fitzpatrick (UConn, Penn State) in 2014. Maybe Cortrelle Simpson is that guy; maybe it’s Marshall Ellick. I was somewhat surprised Robby Anderson ran a track 4.37 on pro day, because he didn’t show it on the field last year. Maybe a guy like Ellick, who runs a track 4.5, runs a football 4.37.

On special teams, would be nice to see a Delano Green, a guy who can flip the field position all by himself, and fewer fair catches. Maybe, out of Sean Chandler, Simpson and Kareem Ali, one guy will emerge.

Either way, since it snowed last Saturday and will be 70 and sunny this Saturday, any other concerns have been, well, ameliorated.

Friday: Good Guys vs. Good Guys

Two Ways To Look at Cherry and White

Not much to take from the Cherry and White game other than this:

Either the defense is much improved or the offense has a lot of work to do. I’m leaning toward the former. I liked the play of the safeties and I’m not concerned about P.J. Walker’s “off” game, if it really was that.

P.J. Walker is a proven commodity. The Owls’ defense is not. However, if you put two safeties in the middle of the field and are able to find two good cover corners that the defense is 100 percent improved. I have a feeling Cequan Jefferson could be a better cover corner than anyone Temple had last year.

What I don’t like about the offense is that Temple seems to have two similar-type players as receivers. I’d prefer a tall receiver, a Rod Streater-type, to go along with a Jalen Fitzpatrick-type. Maybe that will happen, but there is just as good a chance that both Khalif Hebin and Fitzpatrick will be on the field at the same time. To fix that, I’d move Herbin to a running back and hopefully have one of the taller freshman wide receivers win the WR spot opposite Fitzpatrick.

Plenty of time to fiddle. Hopefully, the Owls will put the right pieces in the right spots.

Why We Post Rant.com stories:

Before the Cherry and White game, I received a few inquiries about why readers have to click on a Rant.com story to get to a post I would normally put on Temple Football Forever.

The answer is simple: For every click on Rant.com story, TFF gets a very minimal fee, as small as a penny and as high as 5-10 cents. Since we’ve only had two donations so far this calendar year (one at New Year’s and the other a couple of weeks ago), we’ve used this method to generate income off the website. This is a labor or love but, with two other jobs, putting time into this has to generate some income. Thanks for supporting TFF however you can.