TU-UMASS: Road to relevancy begins here

The next step for the Temple defense: Recover fumbles and take interceptions to the house

Quick, jot down this number: 119.

That’s where Temple football got rated nationally after nearly beating a Big 10 team last week. Moving five lousy stinking spots up the national ladder isn’t going to make anyone outside of Philadelphia notice.

Quick, jot down another number, 20,111.

After 33,297 attended Homecoming, that’s probably the number–give or take 1,000–that Temple will announce after tomorrow’s game against visiting Massachusetts (2 p.m., ESPN+).

The needle after a 16-14 loss to Rutgers hasn’t changed things much. Temple Homecoming fans are usually not football fans, but Temple fans. If Temple had won, they would keep coming back. If Temple had lost, they were gone until next year. That’s what the numbers show based on past history and those numbers never change. Temple lost so it’s tough sledding getting those fans back.

Homecoming fans are not nuanced enough to know there is real improvement in Temple football this season. Regular fans?

Definitely.

Temple could have, probably should have, won, except for a fluke tip interception that went the other way.

The perception to those of us close to the program has changed. Obviously, nationally, Temple football has a long way to go.

Kyle Hunter, one of the nation’s best prognosticators, wrote, “Temple-UMass is the sicko game of the week.”

To many nationally, it is.

Sad, really, how far the program has sunk from an outside perspective thanks to the last guy.

To Temple, though, this game represents the starting point of the road to relevancy.

If Temple wants to make the right turn, it needs to hammer UMass tomorrow and start a winning streak now.

Something on the order of 31-19 would do the trick (49-7 is preferable) and maybe wake a few national people up. Even that won’t move the needle much. To get even a couple thousand of those Homecoming fans back, Temple will need to win at Memphis the next week.

Our picks this week

First things first, though.

The SP+ 2022 computer model has Temple winning 31-19, and has Temple has one of its four best locks of the week. The computer has a 76 percent success rate against the spread. That’s a higher success rate than IBM’s Watson had against Brad Rutter on Jeopardy (72 percent).

I really believe Rutgers would beat Toledo and Toledo hung a 55-10 number on Massachusetts.

Still, UMass fans think they can win and, you know what, the Minutemen definitely can. Put it this way: If freaking Incarnate Word can beat both Nevada and Southern Illinois and Southern Illinois can beat Northwestern, UMass can beat Temple.

If the Owls play on defense like the mad crazed dogs they did against Rutgers, UMass won’t. Rutgers is about 50 points better than UMass. Had D’Wan Mathis not put the ball on the carpet twice, Temple probably could have been 50 points better than Lafayette. Had he not played so poorly in the first half against Duke, that might have been closer. We will never know.

It’s a new beginning now for Temple.

UMass will not come into the Linc with the Owls receiving the same kind of frenzied support from their fans as they did a week ago. So maybe the Owls won’t pummel the Minutemen like they should. The Owls will have to create their own atmosphere by making plays and those of us who are there wearing the Cherry and White will have to pump up the volume.

The blueprint for this trip is clear: Temple must run the ball better than it has in the first three games and its defense must take the ball away.

UMass will try to run and, if the Temple defense plays the way it did a week ago (and in the second half against Duke), it will be forced to do something uncomfortable: Pass. When that happens, Temple defenders must treat that ball like it is theirs.

Temple hasn’t really had a stud running back since Bernard Pierce but it doesn’t need a Pierce this year. It needs a Ryquell Armstead and, in Darvon Hubbard, he has shown that more in real games than any of the other backs. If he or Jakari Norwood is back against UMass, one of those two need to dicate the tempo.

It will be nice to see what D’Wan Mathis can bring to the receiving game and that piece should be available for all to see on Saturday.

It’s too bad the casual fans won’t be there. Some of them will be back if the Owls rip off a modest winning streak that starts here. If it’s an immodest one, all of them will be back.

Picks this week: Went 2-2 last week and, after a 3-2 start against the spread two weeks ago, sit at 5-4 against the spread. We like two underdogs (Duke at Kansas and JMU at App. State) getting a touchdown and Houston’s Rice Owls getting 17.5 against crosstown rival Houston. Also like two favorites, Memphis laying the 12.5 against visiting North Texas State and Eastern Michigan laying the two field goals against visiting Buffalo.

Sunday: Game Analysis

Monday: Optics

Our long national nightmare is almost over

Even though Mathis announced he was coming back, do expect Rod Carey to be a prick and not play him.

The college football schedule has Navy at Temple listed right there at noon is and it is available on any television set whose owner wants to pay for it (ESPNU) Saturday.

Just one game.

“It will be a cold day in hell before Temple fires a head football coach” is what we’ve heard for years. Well, losing 42-7 to a subpar Navy team at home is hell and it will be cold enough that even Lazygote remembers the gloves on the way out the door.

Just the seventh of seven nightmares that a rapidly dwindling Temple fanbase will be forced to watch, either on TV or in person.

A program that averaged eight wins a year for the decade prior to Rod Carey’s arrival has slipped into oblivion for the last two. It was a program that played with a swag and a well-earned reputation for “TEMPLE TUFF.”

No more.

Fortunately, it will be over soon and picking the right guy to restore the tradition will be of paramount importance.

It ain’t Carey and the Temple administration has finally come to that expensive conclusion.

There are clues everywhere and a big one came earlier this week when Dwan Mathis returned to the team after announcing he was transferring.

The complete Saturday college football television schedule

My guess is that there was some type of phone call involved in this decision.

Scenario One:

“Hello, is this Dwan Mathis’ dorm room?”

“Yeah, I’m Dwan.”

“I can’t promise you anything except that we will play hard and be a team you can be proud of.” Two promises made, two promises broken.

“Good. Dwan, I’m Arthur Johnson, the new athletic director at Temple.”

“Yes, Mr. Johnson, I’ve heard of you.”

“Thanks. I just wanted to call you and tell you to not go anywhere. We’re going to have a great coach pretty soon and you are going to love playing for him.”

“Who?”

“Can’t say, but it won’t be Carey.”

“I’m back.”

“Thanks, man, I will talk to you later.”

“Thanks for calling, Mr. Johnson.”

Scenario No. 2:

Dad: “Dwan, this is dad.”

Dwan: “Hi, dad.”

Dad: “Son, did you know you can’t transfer to another FBS school without sitting out a year?”

Dwan: “Huh?”
Dad: “It’s there in the fine print. It’s either FCS for you next year or sit out a full year.”

Dwan: “How do I play FBS football next year?”

Dad: “Stay at Temple.”

Dwan: “I’m back.”

Temple needs a winning coach who the Owls will love the way Liberty loves Hugh Freeze.

Temple fans have to hope Scenario No. 1 is closest to the truth because, in my mind (and I’ve lived through both), the last six games have been the most embarrassing to watch as a Temple fan ever.

Yes, that includes The Jerry Berndt Error, The Ron Dickerson Error and The Bobby Wallace Error because then unlike now you saw teams trying and beating Big 10 teams (Berndt), and future ACC teams Pitt (Dickerson) and Virginia Tech (Wallace).

Another clue is that Johnson will have an “informal” meeting with the parents at K36 Saturday morning. Having been graciously invited to many parents’ tailgates over the last three years and listening to them, I’m guessing nobody is going to be defending this coach. In fact, if I’ve learned anything, it’s why the kids are leaving.

Johnson will get a similar earful.

These last six weeks under Rod Carey have been a complete collapse after guys like Al Golden and Matt Rhule supposedly restored a solid foundation. We could see it coming from a mile away (at least a few months) when we posted that the Owls would not be favored in any game not named Wagner or Akron.

It’s not going to get any better under this head coach.

Unfortunately, all of the smoke signals say that even though Mathis is back, Carey will be playing his midwestern boy Justin Lynch.

Good because that will be the final nail in the coffin of Rod Carey. Nothing against Lynch, who I think will be a capable quarterback in a couple of years, but it’s more indicative of Carey’s relationship or lack of same with Mathis (and most other Temple players) than anything else. He’d rather lose than play a more talented player if he feels that Temple player screwed him in some way.

Really, the only hope Temple ever had to beat Navy (slim and none) was for Mathis to duplicate his three-touchdown, 300-yard game against Memphis–the last time that Temple looked like a legitimate FBS team.

Shockingly, the Middies are “only” 12.5-point favorites.

We think this game has 42-7 written all over it.

Temple will do what Temple always does–come out in a three-man defensive front–and Navy will do what Navy always does–use the fullback to gouge the center of the field, setting up the quarterback and the pitch man for big gains.

Look for Navy to get about 40 minutes of possession to Temple’s 20 and for Carey to be shown the exit sometime Sunday or Monday.

For Temple fans, that means they get their team back on Tuesday after Carey nuked it on the way out the door.

It’s not perfect, but it’s waking up from a nightmare some thought might never end.

Picks this week: PENN STATE -1.5 at Michigan State, ARMY +4 at Liberty, and PURDUE -15 at Indiana.

Update: The strategy of picking only three games worked to break our 2-2 rut of the prior three weeks. RU let us down against Penn State but Louisiana-Lafayette not only covered at Liberty but won outright and Minnesota covered the meager 6.5 at Indiana to go 2-1 bringing our seasonal record to a more than respectable 26-21-1.

Sunday: Game Analysis

North Philly’s Five Fastest Humans

As anyone who follows the SEC knows, speed kills.

It’s important to be big but it’s more important to be big and fast.

Since the end of the Al Golden Era, we’ve been trying to get 40 times of the Temple football Owls with mixed results. At the season-ticket holders’ party, I collared then head coach Geoff Collins and asked him a couple of random questions.

One: “Who is the fastest guy on the team?”

Geoff: “Jeremy Jennings ran a 4.3 40, a couple of other guys a 4.4. We’ve got a few in his class.”

Bernard Pierce posted a 4.55 in his 40-time in the NFL combine and that, plus his numbers on the field at Temple, got him a third-round draft pick. That was an interesting time for Pierce because, when he was a senior at Glen Mills, his 10.8 indoor time in the 100 meters was the best of any high school athlete in Pennsylvania that year. It might have been a disappointing combine time for Bernard, but the league didn’t seem to think so.

Haason Reddick was even faster (4.54) in the combine and that was a ridiculous number for a linebacker/DE, faster than even Pierce’s NFL combine.

That got him a first-round pick.

Now the 2021 Owls seem to have some serious speed especially if Collins’ claim about Jennings was correct.

Hmm.

Haason Reddick’s speed caused this fumble at Memphis in the 2013 game. Reddick wore three numbers at Temple (33 in 2013), 58 the next two years and 7 his senior year.

If so, the latest speed figures above (only noted as 20s on the Owls’ football twitter site) show some guys with better speed numbers than Jennings. It’s probably not 20 yards or 20 feet, but a series of times converted into MPHs.

If Jennings was the fastest on the team in 2018, it shows Georgia quarterback transfer D’Wan Mathis is right there in the same ballpark, as are Kadas Reams, M.J. Griffin and D’Von Fox.

When was the last time Temple had a quarterback who was the fastest guy on the team?

Err, maybe never. Walter Washington was a great running quarterback and P.J. Walker was more than adequate, but neither one was close to the fastest guy on the team.

Mathis might be.

That means that, in one of those RPO plays head coach Rod Carey likes to run, instead of pitching it to Iverson Clement, Mathis is able to turn the corner and go to the house on just about any play.

That could make things interesting this fall.

Other fast Owls seems to be Jennings, who converted from WR to DB in the offseason,, backup wide receiver Fox, safety Griffin and wide receiver Reams.

Those aren’t the only fast guys. We all know Jadan Blue and Randle Jones can fly, as can corner Freddie Johnson, among others.

They are probably among the fastest humans, not only around 10th and Diamond, but probably in all of North Philly. Hopefully, that speed translates to some serious playmaking starting Sept. 4.

Friday: The best words out of spring practice