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.”
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.
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.
“You’re out of touch I’m out of time But I’m out of my head when you’re not around”
_ Temple grads Darryl Hall and John Oates in a 1984 No. 1 hit.
With the untimely departure of Lew Katz in an airplane crash and Bill Cosby in a scandal, Temple grad John Oates is probably the richest person alive who has publicly stated he cares about Temple football.
In a 2015 interview, Oates–who lives in Colorado and is reportedly worth $30 million–said he “watches every Temple game on TV” and is “thrilled with how far the program has come since I went there.”
Katz, who loved Temple football more than any rich guy ever, amassed a personal fortune of $467,000,000 before he died. Cosby’s last fortune estimate was made in the 2008 Time Magazine piece when “America’s Dad” had $365 million in his checking account. Katz’s son, Drew, is on the Temple Board of Trustees but doesn’t share the same enthusiasm for Temple football his dad did.
That leaves Oates.
Had to think about John, who was basically the lyric writer in the famous music duo, when researching Stan Drayton’s post-Cherry and White game promise about bringing in “a couple of quarterbacks” to compete for the job with current starter D’wan Mathis.
“I’m out of time but I’m out of my head when you’re not around.”
Back in mid-April, had to be thinking about Florida portal guy Emory Jones and Pitt portal guy Davis Beville looking for a team where they could start right away.
They were available for Temple then. They are not now. Jones signed with Arizona State and Beville went to Oklahoma, where he might be the starting quarterback at Temple in 2024.
Holding an empty bag so far.
What, exactly, did Drayton mean when he said “I’m bringing in a couple of guys” to compete for the starting job?
Even if you concede one of those guys was incoming freshman Elijah Warner, son of the current richest Temple football dad (Kurt, who, like Oates, has $30 million stashed away) that leaves us short a guy.
Listen, I like Mathis. I love his skill set.
I don’t like his history of fragility nor do I like what Temple currently has behind him.
Without insulting those kids by name, they are Villanova-level backups, not Temple-level starters.
Surely, Drayton must realize this.
That begs the question: What does Drayton have in mind?
We will find out soon or not at all. It’s the next big story on the Temple football horizon and it needs to be written.
We are running out of time and they (or he) is not around.
I’m not out of my head yet but will be if he’s not around on September 2.
Season One of the big four-star transfer to Temple had mixed reviews.
Mixed might have been a generous way to describe the reviews of Dwan Mathis’ first year as the quarterback with the Temple football Owls.
Those expecting the 2020 Georgia opening-day starter to become one of the better AAC quarterbacks right away were sorely disappointed. A lot of that wasn’t Dwan’s fault as he missed too much time with injuries.
Except for one glimpse of brilliance in a win over Memphis, Mathis underperformed. Six touchdown passes against only four interceptions won’t get any AAC all-star votes.
Now, new head coach Stan Drayton said after the eighth practice that he “is bringing other quarterbacks in” to compete for the job.
Before camp, Drayton said he would wait until after the Cherry and White game so evidently he has seen enough.
That leads to the question “who da man?” and, for now, the answer still has to be Dwan Mathis.
Mathis certainly has the talent to rise above whatever competition Drayton brings in here but he has to win the job fair and square. Shortly before camp last year, the coach who shall remain nameless said Mathis was going to be the starter.
Competition at all positions makes the team better and that seems to be Drayton’s thinking now.
According to the latest NCAA database, another former Georgia starter, J.T. Daniels, is still in the transfer portal but he was rumored to be leaning toward West Virginia. Sports Illustrated said former Florida starter Emory Jones is “open to everyone” and that could be an option for Drayton to consider. Jones has more experience than Mathis, having tossed 19 touchdown passes against 13 interceptions in limited time as the Gators’ QB. He’s a similar dual-threat quarterback, having run for more than 800 yards in Gainesville.
Drayton could also dip into the FCS ranks. There are a number of former starters there looking to be an FBS starter and Temple could provide that opportunity. That avenue worked for Western Kentucky. The Hilltopppers tabbed Bailey Zappe out of tiny Houston Baptist and he helped them turn a 5-7 season in 2020 into an 8-5 season in 2021 by tossing 60 touchdown passes. Now Zappe is projected to be as high as an NFL No. 2 draft choice.
If the Owls can find someone like that, the whole outlook changes around here and that’s a good thing because quarterback is the most important position on the field. If competition makes Mathis a better QB, the organization will be better off.
Something is happening here and what it is seems very clear.
First-year Temple football head coach Stan Drayton has seen enough to come to this conclusion after only the eighth full practice of the spring.
Drayton: “I’ve got quarterbacks coming in to compete for that position. So I’m going to give them an opportunity to win that spot.”
That’s the quote Drayton gave to OwlsDaily.com (and probably anyone else who stuck a tape recorder in his face) after the eighth spring practice.
This seems to be the key phase of that first sentence: “I’ve got quarterbacks coming in …”
Quarterbacks coming in means that they are not already here. It also means that Drayton is showing signs that he gets it when it comes to that position and if it gets it evaluating that most important position, that probably means the process at the other positions is pretty much on point, too.
At this time a year ago, the former guy was so impressed with grabbing a Georgia starting quarterback he named him the opening-day starter even though there were five months between then and opening day.
Dwan Mathis may have been the opening-day starter at Georgia in 2020 but, in that game, he tossed twice as many interceptions as he did touchdowns (2-1). Six touchdown passes and four interceptions for Temple in 2020 is nothing to write home about so, unless Mathis survives a real competition in the late summer and gives Drayton a reason to award him the job, Temple faces major questions at that spot.
It’s better to have an exclamation point than a question mark so the fact that Drayton is bringing competition in is only a good thing. The ego of individual players be damned, the betterment of the organization should be the No. 1 priority.
The fact that Drayton understands he needs to bring in guys is another sign the organization is in good hands.
Now the only question is who might be out there and what that person’s qualifications are. That’s a story for another day.
If someone gave Rod Carey a blueprint to destroy Temple football on the day he was hired, it would be this:
“Hey, Rod. How about firing the best special teams coach in the country and giving the defense an extra coach on the field?”
“Yeah, Joe (or Fran or Pat), that sounds like a pretty good idea to me.”
Some time later, Carey had this conversation with Ed Foley:
“Sorry, Ed. Gonna have to move you upstairs. We need another defensive coach on the field.”
Ed: “Fuck that. I’m outta here.”
Carey: “See ya.”
Since then, Temple has has been a national embarrassment on special teams. That’s a nice way of putting it. Probably a better way would be the Owls suck royally.
That certainly wasn’t the reason for Temple’s 52-3 loss at Cincinnati on Friday night but it definitely was the reason why the Owls gave up 14 early points that they could absolutely not afford if they were to have any confidence going forward.
In a potential blowout game, you need some early confidence and Temple got none of that.
In a 61-14 opening-day loss to Rutgers, Jadan Blue routinely let the ball go over his head on the 30 and allowed it to bounce inside the 5. Blue, my favorite CURRENT Temple player, showed absolutely no interest in advancing the ball and that’s his job.
Against Cincy, he muffed a punt that led to six.
That got him pulled.
Love the guy, but it should no longer be his job.
His replacement, Amad Anderson, muffed another one a short time later than led to another Cincy six.
When you are a 29.5-point underdog, can’t make those plays.
Why doesn’t Cincy muff punts? Why didn’t Temple under Matt Rhule?
Those were not plays Ed Foley’s special teams made.
Foley’s teams routinely returned punts for touchdowns and blocked the bad guys’ kicks for touchdowns the other way.
Again, not the reason for a loss but certainly the reason that it wasn’t a 31-3 loss or even more cosmetic. Those 14 points in terms of the Owls’ confidence in winning were worth much more, say, 28 points.
Temple fans deserve to have a kind of team that locks down the “most easy” of the three phases of the game and Rod Carey in his capacity as CEO has failed to do that nor has he shown any interest in fixing it. Special teams are 1/3d of the game. Carey thinks they are 1/10th.
Hopefully, new AD Arthur Johnson was taking notes in Cincinnati on Friday night. If not, he will get an earful from Temple fans once the team plane lands in Philadelphia.
Right now, it’s pretty clear what the planned ESPN TV narrative will be for tonight’s game, Temple at Cincinnati (7 p.m., main network).
Group of Five team returns home to adoring fans ranked No. 5 in the country with a real hope of being the first team of the sub-FBS group to make the four-team playoff.
Narratives can change, though, depending upon what happens once the ball is kicked off.
For Temple, nothing would be better than the narrative to change to the play of former Elite 11 quarterback and five-star recruit Dwan Mathis.
Owl fans caught a glimpse of what Mathis can do–maybe on the regular–when he took a simple zone read for himself instead of handing to a running back and went 39 yards in a 34-31 win over Memphis. Mathis was too fast for the defensive end and juked the defensive back to pick up a big gain. Mix in 35 completions for 322 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions and the Homecoming crowd of 28,356 got a nice glimpse into the future.
Remember, he did not play at all in a 28-3 loss to Boston College and that game was 21-3 with two minutes left in the fourth quarter.
“If that’s what he looks like on an 80 percent ankle, I’d like to see what he can do on a 100 percent one,” former Georgia starting quarterback Hudson Mason said while doing the game as an ESPN analyst last week.
Hell, maybe Mathis went from 80 percent to 100 percent this week.
We will find out in a few hours.
Like Mason, Mathis is a former starting quarterback at Georgia.
Unlike Mason, Mathis has world-class speed and can turn a simple tuck-and-run into an 80-yard touchdown on any given play.
By comparison, Cincinnati faced a pair of statues in the two Notre Dame quarterbacks it pummeled a week ago. Murray State didn’t have a quarterback like Mathis nor did Indiana.
Mathis can turn around this narrative pretty fast, especially if the Owls’ experienced offensive line and staple of good-but-not-great running backs have a modicum of early success. If the Bearcats go for the running back, Mathis has shown a pretty good instinct for keeping the ball when he sees a lane.
It might not translate into an 80-yard touchdown, but if it keeps enough drives alive for the Owls to get their share of first downs, it won’t have to be. This is the kind of game that the Owls might be better off rolling the pocket and throwing to the best wide receiver tandem in the American Athletic Conference. Watching the Owls on film, Luke Fickell hasn’t seen Mathis take off that much nor throw on the run. He hasn’t seen running back and former quarterback Trey Blair throw a pass off a pitchout, either.
This would be a good time for head coach Rod Carey and offensive coordinator Mike Uremovich to rip off those pages in the playbook and tape them to Mathis’ arm.
Then the narrative changes to how good Mathis and how good Temple can be and not so much Cincy-centric. Right now, everyone is assuming Cincinnati will breeze through the remainder of its schedule and, as UCF found out at Navy last week, assuming anything is dangerous.
Instead of the assumption that Cincy runs the table, a good Temple start could have the announcers talking about Al Golden’s presence for the second-straight game (after not being at a Temple game in a decade) and what a good-luck charm he has become for the Owls. Maybe a sideline reporter pulls new Temple athletic director Arthur Johnson aside for a chat about his vision for Temple’s athletic future.
Maybe even someone brings up the fact that Temple would deliver the nation’s fourth-largest TV market for any Power 5 conference which might be interested in addition to competitive football and basketball programs.
If the Owls win, ESPN will be talking about Temple beating Cincinnati in five of the last six football meetings. Since Cincy is playing for Big 12 prestige, not the AAC’s, nothing would please most of the current members of the league than that narrative supplanting the one ESPN has planned.
Picks this week: I never bet Temple (to win or lose) but the 12.5 over/under in points scored seems way too low. Think the Owls score at least 17, maybe more, but won’t include it in my official picks.
Official picks: IOWA (-2) over visiting Penn State, MEMPHIS (+3.5) at Tulsa (Vegas overreacted to the Temple loss, think Memphis not only covers but wins this game outright), COLORADO STATE (-1.5) over visiting San Jose State and MICHIGAN STATE (-5) in a revenge spot at Rutgers. (CSU’s win over Toledo was more impressive than SJS’s loss to Western Michigan and MSU now has a big-time running back that it did not have last year.)
Latest update: Won on Iowa (23-20), lost on Memphis, won on Colorado State (32-15), won on Michigan State (31-13). For the weekend, our 3-1 record ATS brings us to 15-9-1 ATS on the season.