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

Temple-Duke a statistical toss-up?

The best thing about the last Temple-Duke game was this pass blocking by current Owls’ Adam Klein and Victor Stoffel.

(Photo and ID courtesy of Zamani Feelings)

Gotta give credit where credit is due so OwlsDaily.com gets a big nod here for finding this gem from ESPN’s Bill Connelly.

OwlsDaily editor Shawn Pastor gets mad at me when I say his shit is better than the Brand X site shit (he wants to keep the peace with the other site) but his shit is objectively better. One site has a trained journalist with 30 years plus of Temple experience and the other relies (mostly) on student writers.

Game, set and match.

Sorry, Shawn, for the unsolicited compliment.

Finding and highlighting stat guru Connelly’s analysis of Temple vs. Duke on Sept. 2 (ACC Network, 7:30 p.m.) is just another example.

If you asked me to analyze Temple vs. Duke a day after Temple’s last football game, I might have said Temple losing by the same 56-27 score it lost to the same team in the Independence Bowl might be the best the Owls could expect.

Things have changed since the last guy left the building and now outside people like Connelly are crunching the numbers together and noticing.

Summer workouts have already begun for the Owls at Edberg-Olson.

Here’s what OwlsDaily.com wrote less than two weeks ago:

“Temple’s season-opening game at Duke should be a coin flip, based on updated SP+ preseason projections for 2022, which ESPN college football writer Bill Connelly released on Monday.  The Owls are rated 118th and the Blue Devils are rated 119th in the new rankings, which Connelly adjusted from the initial 2022 projections that he released in February.  The new numbers are based on transfer portal movement over the past three months and updated rosters for most college teams, Connelly wrote.

“Temple has moved up one spot after being rated 119th in February, while Duke has dropped two spots from 117th to 119th.  Across the entire 2022 schedule (and the entire American Conference), the biggest change over the past three months was Houston dropping from 35th to 44th in SP+.”

The key wording above is “the new numbers are based on transfer portal movement and updated rosters for most college teams.”

Here’s the difference between now that bleak Sunday morning after a 38-14 loss to Navy:

Temple has significantly upgraded its roster since that game and Duke has not made the same splash with impact portal guys as good as Darvon Hubbard, Quincy Patterson and Adonicas Sanders to name a few. Patterson beat a team much better than Duke (UNC) as a starting quarterback and Sanders caught the game-winning touchdown pass for a bad Georgia Tech team in a win over Duke last year.

What we don’t know is the gameday coaching ability of Mike Elko and Stan Drayton since neither has been a head coach anywhere.

On Sept 2., in a toss-up game, that could be the difference.

Hmm.

Pat Kraft hired both Manny Diaz and Rod Carey. His first choice was Mike Elko, who turned him down.

If Elko is anywhere near the equal of Diaz or Carey, bet the house and the farm on Temple.

Especially if the Owls are getting any points.

My guess is that they will be getting at least three before game time, probably more.

Connelly, who has a good history of knowing his stuff, seems to feel it will be closer.

Hell, I hope he’s right and will go one step further. I hope the Owls win as a road favorite at a Power 5 school, which would be the first such win since Vandy in 2014.

That probably won’t happen since the public’s perception of Temple over the last two seasons was sullied by a failed Indiana grad hired by another failed Indiana grad proving only one thing.

Indiana guys should stick to hoops.

Monday: Early game-by-game predictions

Three-month sprint to Duke

Now the summer begins, the fastest three months of the year for almost all of us except the few cold-weather lovers.

For Temple football, it’s a sprint, too.

In roughly 90 days, the Owls will travel to Duke for a shot at redeeming the national perception of the program which was good three years ago but reached nearly Bottom 10 status the last two.

The last guy dropped the baton and the Owls have a lot of running to get to the finish line but the line will be there whether they beat Duke to it or not.

Temple head coach Stan Drayton has pushed all of the right buttons so far, upgrading the two areas of need in quarterback and running back. He’s probably not done in the talent acquisition department, either.

Owls were 4-15 the last two years and that did not sit well with anyone around here.

Is it enough to beat Duke?

The Blue Devils have their own problems they have to fix and, like Temple, a new head coach. They lost to arguably a team with less talent than Temple, UNC-Charlotte, so they are beatable.

Ironically, one of the storylines during the opener would be surrounding that coach, Mike Elko, who was Pat Kraft’s first choice to replace Geoff Collins. Elko turned down the Owls to get a pay raise in Texas.

Since Kraft has made two horrible choices for that job since (Manny Diaz and Pat Carey), Elko’s hiring for Duke could bode well for Temple.

Maybe Elko would have been an equally bad hire for Kraft as Diaz and Carey turned out to be.

If that trend holds up in September, Stan Drayton could look very good in comparison.

Any Temple fan has to hope so. Whatever the case, will win find out in a blink of an eye because these next three months usually go like that.

Fizzy’s Corner: The Green Monster

weinraub

Fizzy here at the Boca Raton Bowl, where 6,000-plus Temple fans attended and because of this Independence Bowl fiasco that might be the last time where Temple has more than a hundred fans at any bowl game.

Editor’s Note: Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub, a former Temple player, brings up the interesting concept in this piece that can simply be boiled down to this: If you are going to have a bowl game with no Temple head coach, no Temple star players, then get ready for no Temple fans in the future. 

By Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub

Our two best players quit. Our best offensive player, Ryquell Armstead, and our best cornerback, Rock Ya-Sin, who was supposed to cover Duke’s best receiver, both quit and didn’t play in the bowl game.  Instead of coming clean, coach Ed Foley came up with some claptrap about this was a medical staff decision.  If you believed that, then you must also believe that the Eagles’ Jim Schwartz is a great defensive coordinator.

Why?

nothappy

Temple fans were not happy with the two Rocks

Both players accepted invitations to the Senior Bowl on January 26th, and Rock will also play in the East/West game on January 19th. That’s why they declined to play; it’s called the green flu.  I sure it’s because they thought they might get hurt and ruin their chances to be highly drafted by the NFL.  Two tough as nails football players let their brothers down after fighting with them through thick and thin. If you don’t think that had a major effect on the outcome of the game, you’re just naive.

I was at a friend’s house watching the game ( I left after the third quarter.), and when I got home I told my wife what happened.  My wife knows very little about college football, but Cheryl’s first words were, “Why does that surprise you?  Their coach quit.”  Yes indeed, their coach did quit as did the previous three before him. Is it any wonder it was only a matter of time before this, me first – screw you, attitude filtered down to the players.  Thinking back to the guys I played with, it’s unimaginable to me that a teammate would do this.  But then again, I’m now sure I’m the one who’s naive.

As far as the coaching, well, I’m so pissed right now that the coaching seems relatively unimportant.  The butchering of the last sequence of plays right before the end of the first half with three timeouts left should go down in the hall of shame. Slowing down the blitzing in the second half only allowed a great pro prospect QB all the time in the world to catch fire.  Of course, we dropped untold passes.

So in college football, the coaches quit on their teams, and now seniors quit on their teams.  When is it our turn?  It’s been sixty years of Temple football for me now. Maybe it’s time I say, “Fer who, fer what?”  How about those who spent a few grand to travel to the game, only to see a half-assed effort?  What about the undecided recruits? Major college football is now as much “pay to play” as the NFL.  I wanna go back to the last century.

P.S. The only good news, was great news. Marc Narducci reports unsubstantiated sources say that Temple’s offensive coordinator, Dave Patenaude, is going to Georgia Tech with Geoff Collins.  Thank you, oh great omnipotent being.  Maybe our Broad Street Offense can become the Philly Soft Pretzel Offense, under the new guy. (You want some mustard on that?)

Wednesday: The Cleanup Begins

 

Bowl Game: Keeping Up With The Joneses

chronicle

The closest thing Philadelphia drive-time sports talk radio got around to talking about the Temple’s impending bowl game tomorrow was on the Mike Missanelli Show two days ago.

Missanelli was making a point about trading Carson Wentz for a No. 1 and keeping Nick Foles to run the show and mentioned the name of the Duke quarterback as a draft possibility should the Eagles designate Foles as a placeholder for the next couple of years.

“They could even draft a guy this year,” he said. “Let’s look at the list of projected No. 1 NFL quarterbacks. How about that Daniel Jones of Duke? If you reject the notion that Wentz is the last franchise quarterback the NFL draft will ever produce, and I do, then now is the time to get rid of Wentz and get something for him. You can draft a guy like Daniel Jones, have him learn from Foles for a couple of years and then he could turn out to be as good as Wentz. You never know.”

Silly me.

templenews

My 40-year-old Temple News jersey did not survive as well as Mr. Russo’s 40-year-old Bishop Egan jersey

I thought that was a lead-in to talking about the Temple-Duke game, but Missanelli beat about 20 other Eagles’ topics to death and left Daniel Jones floating out there. Philly talk show hosts probably don’t even know Temple is playing in the Independence Bowl against Duke (1:30 p.m., ESPN) tomorrow but the Owls can certainly open some eyes with a big win.

First, there will be a lot of draftniks watching Jones to form their own opinion of him and, second, there is another very talented quarterback on the field named Anthony Russo who can establish a reputation of his own with a good game. There was a terrific story by Marc Narducci on Russo’s wearing a 40-year-old Bishop Egan jersey that his dad wore as a QB there. I also have a jersey over 40-years old–my game jersey for The Temple News’ intramural basketball team–but it has not survived as well so I don’t know how he preserved it.

comey

Shreveport’s Channel 3 is calling for an 80 percent chance of AM rain and 70 degrees by the afternoon.

Jones still has a year of eligibility but it would be crazy for a projected first-round pick to come back to college. Jones checks all of the boxes. Like Wentz, he’s 6-foot-5 and, like Wentz, he can do damage with his feet. He had two runs in excess of 60 yards in a 42-35 win over North Carolina. Jones will be looking to move up the draft board with a strong game against Temple because he hurt his prospects some in a 59-7 loss to Wake Forest in his last game. He was 17-of-36 for 145 yards and a Pick 6.

He’ll be motivated but facing a Temple secondary with two NFL hopefuls in safety Delvon Randall and corner Rock Ya-Sin. Since Duke coach David Cutcliffe is adept at breaking down film, expect Jones to try to attack Linwood Crump Jr.’s side of the field. Crump has been pretty solid as well, but sliding over Randall in help is probably the way interim coach Ed Foley is leaning.

Temple is a four-point favorite, but there’s very little to base that upon since there are no common foes. Interestingly enough, this fall Duke owns wins over both the incoming Temple coach (20-12 at Miami) and the team the outgoing Temple coach (28-14 at Georgia Tech) is taking over so there will be bragging rights to be had for the Owls. Another twist is that Duke beat Baylor and Matt Rhule, for what that’s worth.  If the Owls can pull this off, it will be their most prestigious bowl win since beating California, 28-17, in the 1979 Garden State Bowl so there is plenty at stake.

If Temple controls the clock behind Ryquell Armstead and Russo is effective in the short passing game, Jones won’t be able to do too much damage.

Friday: Game Analysis

Monday: Infante Impact

 

Temple vs. Duke: Made For TV

deadster

Watching ESPN talk about 4 teams for the first hour was a little like this yesterday.

Not having watched many bowl selection shows (but just about every March Madness one), I figured the program for the day would go something like the basketball one.

You know, the brackets get released, comments are made, and the show moves along at a brisk pace.

The football version was like four hours in a dentist chair.

shreveport - Copy

This is the stadium the Owls will be playing in, once known as “State Fair Stadium.”

Beat the same dead horse about the relative merits of the top six Power 5 teams for over an hour, rehashing pretty much the same arguments that we’ve heard over the last month or so.

As Deion Sanders might say, “C’mon Man!”

This was my favorite tweet at the time:

 

 

A better show would have been to build up to the championship talk by listing every non-NY6 bowl game and keep the thing moving along. People would have waited for the Final 4 discussion later on and teams like Temple and Duke would have got the information they wanted up front.

I put down the remote at about 1:05 and headed for the gym, periodically checking my phone for twitter updates.

bowlberth

Owls finally get the bowl bid they lost out on in 1990 when Louisiana Tech tied Maryland, 34-34

The winner for the first “Temple vs. Duke” pick was college football reporter Brett McMurphy, who tweeted that Independence Bowl matchup at 4:38 p.m. The first Owlscoop.com tweet confirming that came across at 4:51.

As far as the game itself, it will be a made-for-TV affair on Thursday, Dec. 27 (1:30 p.m. kickoff). The only people in bars watching it will be fans of either team who took the day off or just plain alcoholics who occasionally look up at the TV while passing out at the bar.

Not very many Temple fans will be able to make it nor should they be blamed for it.  There are no direct flights from Philadelphia to Shreveport. The cheapest indirect flight I could find was $700 with a layover in Atlanta.

No thanks.

Temple would have drawn roughly 6-10K real fans to the Military Bowl, but because that bowl did not want any repeat teams from the last three years they picked Cincinnati instead. Cincy won’t bring more than 1,000 to D.C., if that. VT will pack the place so the MB probably won’t need Cincy’s fan support.

A lot of Temple fans would have been willing to spend that coin for a flight to Texas to face Baylor in the Frisco, Texas or Armed Forces Bowl but that opportunity went out the window when Oklahoma made the playoffs. The Big 12 didn’t have enough teams to fill their bowl affiliations and that was that.

As far as the game itself, Duke is a team to be respected but I expect Temple will be a slight favorite. Duke lost its last two games and was beaten, 59-7, by Wake Forest in its last game. Still, the Blue Devils beat two ranked teams–Army and Northwestern–and that’s one more ranked team than the Owls were able to beat.

Beat a team that beat Northwestern and Army and the Owls will take a lot of momentum into the 2019 season so coach Geoff Collins’ goal should be to go light on the air hockey, beach volleyball and bowling and heavy on the game prep.

After all, Duke did beat Baylor, so beating Duke would be the next best thing and give the Owls transitive property bragging rights when Collins gets on the horn with Matt Rhule.

The Baylor fan base looks a little less diverse than ours. 🙂

Wednesday: Atlanta Closure

Friday: The Elephant In The Room

Monday: An Argument That Cannot Be Won

Wednesday: Comparing Seasons

Friday: Swapping the Bowls Out Fidrych-Style