New Year’s Resolutions: Don’t Sweat The Big Stuff

On the first day of the New Year, some sanity was restored to college football when Grayson McCall reconsidered his decision to enter the transfer portal and announced he was returning to Coastal Carolina for what most likely will be his final college season.

Good for him. Good for college football.

Maybe sanity will be restored to the game. Maybe McCall’s story is an outlier.

That’s the big stuff in college football and the kind that you nor me nor really any college football fan can control. John Chaney used to have a phrase for it. “Control the known and don’t worry about the unknown,” he would say.

So with that in mind, I will leave the “big stuff” for the Presidents, athletic directors and conference commissioners to sort out.

The overall theme of my New Year’s Resolutions is to enjoy the game as much as possible with four specific ones here:

Celebrate E. J. Warner: As good as Coastal Carolina fans have to feel about McCall coming back, Temple fans have to feel better about E.J. Warner, who stayed committed to Stan Drayton’s championship visions. The light bulb went on for Warner in the second half of the Navy game. Consider this: In his first five games, Warner averaged 206 yards. Including Navy, he averaged 358.4 yards a game in his final six and that’s even with a season-low 167 against Cincinnati.

Recalibrate Expectations: Last year we thought if everything went right, the Owls would go 6-6 under Drayton the first year and challenge for a championship the next year. Pretty sure Drayton and Company are setting their sights on a championship this year (I’d be disappointed if they weren’t) but fans probably should be satisfied with 6-6.

Jordan Smith scores touchdown here against Rutgers. (Photo Courtesy Zamani Feelings)

Get Excited About the New Additions: With one of the top prep receivers in Florida joining the fold, as what one writer called the steal of the transfer portal in Dante Wright, the already good receiver room at Temple already has been upgraded. Amad Anderson had two of the greatest catches in Temple history in the second half of the season and he’s back as is the rapidly improved Zae Baines. Temple has the two best tight ends in the league in Jordan Smith and David Martin-Robinson. Also, on defense, I thought Tra Thomas was the best linebacker on the team when he went down with an injury against Rutgers but, since then, Layton Jordan and Jordan Magee took that standard and even bettered it.

Take One Game at a Time: The focus should be on winning the opener at home against Akron. But it’s OK if some time in the next eight months is given to game planning the next foe, Rutgers. The Owls were trending upward at the end of the season and Rutgers was spiraling downward. Temple was a 3d and 1 midfield quarterback sneak away from beating bowl champion East Carolina while Rutgers finished with a 37-0 whimper against Maryland.

If those trends continue through the offseason, the short trip up the turnpike should be fun again and coming back home 2-0 would go a long way toward filling the seats in the remaining home games.

Friday: Four to Score

5 Plays We’d Like to Have Back

Quincy Patterson right after scoring against Rutgers. We think he would have gotten the first down against ECU. (Photos Courtesy Zamani Feelings.)

Over time, the players who Stan Drayton added to the Temple University football fold will contribute in their own way to the future success of the Owls.

What was apparent with the 24 new signees is that Drayton and company have a plan to address the needs of the organization and those needs might be fixed judging on five 2022 plays we’d like to have back, in no particular order:

The Tipped Pass _ The tipped pass against Rutgers that resulted an interception that beat the Owls, 16-14, before a large Homecoming Crowd wasn’t the result as much of E.J. Warner’s small stature as it was of a pass rush that got up on him too fast. The Owls addressed that need with some beef on the offensive line, including California JUCO Diego Barajas (6-6, 300), St. Peter’s Prep’s Eric King (6-3, 314), Wyoming Seminary’s Melvin Siani (6-4, 275) Clearwater Central Catholic’s Kevin Terry (6-5, 260), and St. Mark’s Luke Watson (6-5, 272).

The 1st and Goal Call _ More of a coaching problem than a recruiting one, that could be chalked up to Everett Withers taking over at the Navy game. With the Owls down by 3, a great catch by Amad Anderson set them up in ideal position to go ahead and win the game in the final minute (against a triple-option team) with a touchdown, not a field goal. First and goal at the Navy 5 and you’ve got to use some imagination there. They had trouble moving the ball all day on the ground and yet the first play was a handoff into the middle of the line for no gain. Had they rolled Warner away from the rush and tried a throwback pass to the tight end across the field, that probably would have resulted in 1) a touchdown; 2) a holding call in the end zone and Temple probably wins that game, 24-20, instead of losing it 27-20 in overtime. Maybe the new offensive linemen help but better awareness of play call and personnel was probably more responsible for that loss.

The 3d and 1 Call _ Against ECU, trying a pass at midfield on a 3d-and-1 play was a real head scratcher. The Owls have a 6-4, 252-pound player who might have gotten the first down with a quarterback sneak but decided not to use that skill set. Had to think Drayton, by calling a pass on third down, had already decided it was four-down territory but, after a Mike Houston timeout, changed his mind and punted. Bad news both ways because, by that time, Drayton knew he was kicking it to a team that already scored more than 40 points. A team that doesn’t have confidence in getting a yard down by running on third down probably deserves to lose and the Owls did that day. A championship team can’t be forced to pass on 3d and 1 going forward.

The Kickoff Return _ In the same ECU game, the third-down call would have been moot had they not given up a kickoff return for a touchdown. While the special teams covered relatively well, every other team in the league had a kicker who was at least 70 percent on touchbacks. Temple only had 28 percent of its kickoffs driven through the end zone and that’s a problem that needs to be addressed. There are plenty of kickers who can boot it consistently through the end zone. Temple is aware of the problem as they tried to recruit Hawaii specialist Kyler Halvorsen. If they can’t get him, they need to get someone of his caliber.

The Clock _ At Houston, the Owls had a first down with 2:13 left in the game. They scored with 1:22 left on a fourth-down pass to Zae Baines. If they had done a better job killing more than that minute or so between the downs, Baines might have scored with 22 seconds left, rather than 1:22 and Clayton Tune’s job might have been that much harder.

Those plays were the difference between a bowl bid and a second-consecutive 3-9 season. The Owls addressed some of the issues from a personnel standpoint last Wednesday, but they still need a kickoff specialist and a big-time running back.

Fortunately, the Owls have four scholarships left and the portal is still open.

Friday: Numbers Game

Temple Signing Day: A Golden Night

Roughly about the same time the most consequential Temple football class since Al Golden’s penultimate one was being signed on TV, down the dial iconic anchor Jim Gardner was saying his final goodbyes to Philadelphia.

From a ratings standpoint, bad timing.

Overnights had the 6 p.m. Action News broadcast at 540,000 viewers which was the highest rated 6 p.m. Action News since Sept. 11, 2001.

You all know what happened on that day.

Sorry, Jim, but I eschewed the local news that day for another down the dial, the Temple Football Signing Show (ESPN+, also 6 p.m.). Probably only the 20,000 or so hardcore Temple football fans joined me. Maybe a sliver of the 20,000 or so “softcore” Temple fans did as well.

The reason was simple: Action News goes on and on for another 46 years with or without Jim Gardner.

Temple football is always looking over its should for the axe.

Fortunately, due to what happened, the Owls future looks bright on paper and any rumors of their demise are, as Mark Twain would say, premature.

We have to say on paper because this is the highest-rated class since the second Steve Addazio class (52) after the big 2011 New Mexico Bowl win over Wyoming.

In fact, it ranks with Al Golden’s first two classes which were the top ones in the MAC.

Back then, Golden would host Temple fans for a night on campus to watch the film of the new recruits and take questions afterward. He always embraced the fact that the Scout.com and Rivals.com services had his recruiting classes ranked No. 1 in the league.

Golden never won a MAC title because recruiting classes have to cycle through the system for a full four years in order to win a league title and he left for Miami before that. A strong argument could be made that his recruiting got the Owls in a position where they were able to make a move up in leagues from the MAC to the Big East. Golden promised to build a house of brick, not straw,

Golden kept his promise and I had to laugh when all the stories about Matt Rhule being hired at Nebraska said it was Rhule, not Golden, who revitalized Temple football. Temple disagrees. Golden is in the Temple Sports Hall of Fame for a reason and Rhule is not.

Golden was the guy who did all the heavy lifting. Rhule benefited from it.

Now it appears that Stan Drayton is following the Golden Template, not the Rhule one, and the organization is better for it.

Drayton realizes his hard work has Temple ranked high up the Group of Five recruiting food chain and has, like Golden, embraced recognition.

The Owls had this chip once. They need to get it back.

Temple put out a couple of social media posts backing up its hard work and that’s smart. Every staff pats themselves on the back and thinks they did a great job but it’s nice to know impartial observers do as well.

For this post, we won’t go through every individual signee (there are plenty of days between now and Cherry and White to do that), but we will note that Dante Wright was a first-team freshman All-American wide receiver in 2019 and the first-team All-American freshman quarterback in 2022 was E.J. Warner.

Put those two on the field together in 2023 and the potential is there for the Owls to turn the Lincoln Financial Field scoreboard into an adding machine. Freshman running back Joquez Smith is considered by most Florida prep writers to be the best running back in that talent-fertile state and his 55 touchdowns over the last two years provides the receipts. Edward Saydee had 53 touchdowns in three years at Penn Charter. Inter-Ac football is good, but it’s not on a 6A Florida level like Tampa Jesuit is. Saydee will give Smith a run for his money but we’ve got to think on pure logic alone Smith wins the job.

Plus, Amad Anderson and Zae Baines made huge receiving strides in the second half of the season and Richard Dandridge, perhaps the best wide receiver in the state of Florida, joins that room. Hands down, Temple has the two best tight ends in the AAC in David Martin-Robinson and Jordan Smith and having those two on the field at the same time only serves to jumpstart what had been a subpar running game. The offensive line has been upgraded so we probably won’t see a pass on a 3d and 1 next year. Gosh, I hope not.

The safest passenger on the bus home in 2016.

Defensively, although Darian Varner made a dumb decision to leave for Virginia Tech (didn’t he learn anything from Jadan Blue last year?), defensive coordinator D.J. Eliott says Layton Jordan (the better Owl edge rusher) is all in and will return. Drayton got Jordan plenty of pass-rushing help and look for Jordan and Jordan Magee to have years next year that put them high up in NFL draft conversations. Staying at Temple will probably make Layton and Jordan millions in the NFL draft. Just ask Haason Reddick.

Jim Gardner might have been the big story on Action News Wednesday but what happened down the dial was the best news for Temple football we’ve seen since The Golden Era.

Afterward, Drayton talked championships as the Temple standard. Channel 6 can have the ratings. I will take riding home on a bus with the AAC championship trophy over that any day of the week. Wednesday made that day a lot closer.

Monday: Five Plays We’d Like to Have Back

Friday: Five scholarships left

Cincy: Temple’s Super Bowl

Everyone please give this video a thumbs up and subscribe. These are three good dudes.

One of the nation’s best prognosticators, Kyle Hunter, of Kyle Hunter’s picks, had this reaction when I told him Temple hasn’t punted in the last two weeks.

“That’s a fantastic stat, Mike, love it,” Hunter said. “E.J. Warner. You can’t stop him. You can only hope to contain him, apparently.”

Temple had gone 134 years punting at least once in every game. The only exception was the 110-0 win over Blue Ridge in 1927. A lot of the credit for this little bit of significant Temple football history goes to a true freshman quarterback, E.J. Warner.

“You can’t stop him. You can only hope to contain him.”

Yeah, I know it’s a line borrowed from Michael Jordan’s days with the Chicago Bulls, but it has applied for the last two weeks.

Suppose it does so again tomorrow (4 p.m. start, ESPN U) against Cincinnati. In that case, Temple will have officially returned to relevance on the national college football scene because it’s hard to envision a scenario where the Owls don’t punt and lose to the Bearcats.

That’s because the Bearcats don’t generate much offense on their end and, in six AAC games, haven’t been able to get the kind of separation from league foes that teams like Memphis (37-13 over Navy), ECU (34-13 over UCF), SMU (77-63 over Houston) and Houston (38-20 over Navy) have done.

Even though the Bearcats are still in contention for the AAC title, their largest margin of victory was by 10 against Tulsa and Navy. They toughed out a 28-24 win over a USF team that Temple hung a 54-burger on in a 54-28 win. To their credit, they were able to beat a Navy team, 20-10, at home after the Owls lost to the same team on the road in overtime.

Considering all that, a 17-point predicted spread seems a little high and most of the smart money agrees.

On a cold, blustery day that doesn’t figure to get out of the 30s, Temple has a puncher’s chance. Cincinnati quarterback Ben Bryant is no more than a game manager and his downfield passing is suspect. Last week, he was only 1 for 8 in passes over 15 yards. He doesn’t have the mobility of Houston’s Clayton Tune and he’s the kind of stationary pocket passer the Owls’ defense thrives against.

On offense, no one expects the Owls to go puntless but just by moving the ball, they can certainly stay in this one. They have to prove that after a month of producing only around 10 points a game their 54- and 36-point outbursts of the last two weeks represent the lightbulb going on over the offensive coaching staff’s heads and not consecutive outliers bulking a season-long trend.

Defensively, they will have to do a much better job against the running game than they did in their last home game, a 27-16 loss to Tulsa. They will have to get to Bryant, put him on his backside, strip him of the ball or force tipped interceptions. Relentless pressure is Job One.

Head coach Stan Drayton stood in front of the team earlier this week and told them they will be champions. Not this year, but soon. Temple can either let the close losses to Navy, Houston and Rutgers that kept it out of a bowl game fester or it can push forward to let the rest of the world know Drayton was right in his hunch.

That’s because, unlike Temple, Cincinnati will be in a bowl game this year and Temple has a chance to show by winning it can beat a bowl team now, not later. So this is the Owls’ Super Bowl.

Drayton asked the Owls to eliminate the things “that are slowing us down” earlier this week.

The team responded, “yes, sir.” Words are nice. Deeds are nicer. The Owls have a very good chance of turning those words into deeds by no later than 7 p.m. tomorrow.

If they do, they will send a clear message to the rest of the college football world that Temple football is back now instead of some sort of theoretical championship future their head coach envisions.

Late Saturday Night: Game Analysis

Temple’s football No. 1 Lesson: Prime-time guys need help

Over in Munich, Germany, the old saying “Temple Owls are Everywhere” was on display in a hotel room a couple of days ago.

We can now say that both Kurt and Brenda Warner are by association Temple Owls, along with their son, E.J. Both were probably the only people in that 600-room hotel that were watching the Temple game that kicked off at 3 p.m., Philadelphia time, 2 p.m. Houston time and 9 p.m. Munich time.

That’s prime time and E.J.’s numbers were worthy of the Munich hour, passing for 486 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions.

Maybe we will see Kurt and Brenda at a Temple tailgate soon but until then we can only thank them from afar for sending their son our way.

When it comes to prime-time players, E.J. has proven to be one. On offense, both Adonicas Sanders and David Martin-Robinson qualify. Maybe you can throw in Edward Saydee off his last two weeks. Amad Anderson is trending that way and so is DMR’s tight-end buddy Jordan Smith. On the line, Adam Klein, Victor Stoffel, and Isaac Moore might not be prime time but certainly solid afternoon performers.

On defense, end Darian Varner is prime time. So are linebackers Layton Jordan, Jordan Magee and cornerback Jalen McMurray.

If Temple needs to do something to break through as an AAC title contender next season–and that should be the goal–those guys need help.

Owls will certainly need to add a bookend pass rusher with Varner’s skills, somebody who can cover receivers on the other side with McMurray-level talent and interior line pieces to stop the run and get off the field. Next year, there can be no more teams who score 43 and 70 points on the Owls.

Make that 486, not 436 (typo no doubt).

Offensively, while Saydee is improving it would be nice if the Owls could add someone with the ability to bounce off that first tackler like Alcorn State running back Jarveon Howard, listed as a senior but still has a year of eligibility left after this as a grad player. The former Syracuse recruit has 1,174 yards, 11 touchdowns, and a 5.2 yards per carry average. Before you think Temple has no chance at him, just remember that head coach Stan Drayton is considered a running back guru, and NFL players like Ezekial Elliott can pick up the phone and recruit Howard for him. The pitch could be that Drayton’s tutelage is the best route to a high NFL draft pick.

The “Cherry Rhino” … I like that nickname

Saydee had one good game but could use the competition. He might become a prime-time player down the road, but Howard is that now. The Owls haven’t had a running back strike consistent fear in the opposition since Ryquell Armstead, Jahad Thomas, Bernard Pierce, and Montel Harris, just to name a few. Howard would certainly do that on Day One as a Prime Time Player.

So are Warner, Varner, and a few others named above. They could use a good kick returner, too. They haven’t had one since Matty Brown but current Harrisburg High recruit Kyle Williams could be that player.

To break through and hold that championship trophy next season, Temple needs to add a few of those types of players. It doesn’t have to be a whole team of transfers, just one plugging in some holes and areas of need. The good news is they won’t have to wait on high school players. There is immediate help in the portal and how well Temple uses it is probably the difference between a 6-6 year next season or a 9-3 one.

Or better.

Friday: Cincinnati Preview

TU-Houston Football: Tune and Fine Tune

Anyone who has watched Houston football the last couple of years knows Clayton Tune is an NFL quarterback biding his time in college football.

Nobody who throws 30 touchdown passes–as Tune did last year–escapes the notice of NFL scouts. Tune has the size (6-3), arm and escapability that the NFL is looking for but he was outplayed in a statistical sense by someone who is going to be a very good college quarterback and might never get a sniff from the NFL.

Yet Saturday’s 43-36 win by Houston over Temple showed the difference between a very good college quarterback and an NFL one. E.J. Warner, whose size will keep him out of the NFL, outdid Tune in every area but the most important one.

The scoreboard.

Tune almost single-handedly led his team to the win and hit on a clutch touchdown pass that won it with 42 seconds left in regulation.

That was the story from the Houston side.

From Temple one, this game showed that the Owls have a lot of “fine-tuning” to do before the Owls can get the signature win that has escaped them so far in the Stan Drayton Era.

I was confident Temple would cover the 20-point spread (see my exchange with “College Football Picks” above). I wasn’t as confident the Owls could take this across the finish line. I was right both times but would have gladly accepted being half-right if the Owls could have avoided the loss.

After taking a 36-35 lead with 1:22 left in the game, Job One for the defense is to keep everything in front of you. How the Owls let a guy beat their defense by 10 yards for the game-winning touchdown was a real head-scratcher.

Had that guy caught a pass over the middle, broken a couple of tackles, and made his way into the end zone would have been one thing. Letting him get behind the defense cannot happen.

Period, end of story. Can’t happen. Shouldn’t have been allowed to happen.

Drayton called it a “misfit” and we have not heard that word since the run-game defense was torched for 300 yards in the 27-16 loss to Tulsa, It’s not just the kids. It’s the coaches. Some terrible play-calling on a first-and-goal from the Navy 5 cost Temple a win two weeks ago.

Another “coaching misfit” came on Saturday when the Owls, up 7-0 and driving, decided to call a bomb on a 4th-and-2.

Why?

You need two lousy stinking yards to move the sticks. That’s a simple pass-and-catch from E.J. Warner to Adonicas Sanders. If the Owls call that, they might go up 14-0 and put themselves in a better position to win than going down 14-7.

Before this, there were a lot of “misfits.” There were at least a couple in other areas at Houston. You can’t fumble a kickoff, which the Owls did. You can’t miss an extra point, which the Owls did. You can’t go for two early in the game, which the Owls did. You can’t do it and expect a win that would send a message to the nation that Temple football is back.

All those things can’t happen going forward and it’s one of the things that Temple is going to have to fine-tune before it can register a signature win.

There are two opportunities left to achieve that goal.

The next one is Cincinnati.

Eliminate the turnovers and the coaching and player “misfits” and that’s just the kind of fine-tuning that will finally put Temple back on the national football map. Cincinnati is good but, like Houston, beatable.

Tune won the last game. Fine-tune and Temple could win the next one.

So close.

By Saturday, we should know how far away.

Monday: One Priority

Game over, season over

If you’ve learned one lesson from every football game, it’s a good thing.

Temple learned four big lessons on Friday night in another embarrassment on national television, a 27-16 loss to visiting Tulsa and it is only a good thing if the Owls do something about it.

One, to win in big-time college football, you need a dual-threat quarterback.

Another, enough of Edward Saydee at running back. He’s just not fast enough or good enough to be the feature back at a school whose recent history includes Ryquell Armstrong, Jahad Thomas, Bernard Pierce, Matty Brown, Tanardo Sharps, Stacy Mack, Jason McKie, Sid Morse and Paul Palmer.

Four, drop the Temple TUFF moniker at least until you can put the “greater than” sign in front of the Navy moniker.

Navy tough > Temple tough.

The last lesson might have been the most important one of the night because, evaluating all of the available analytics, Navy was behind Tulsa in the next most-likely possible Temple win. After all, Delaware–a one-time whipping boy for Wayne Hardin–beat Navy, 14-7, in the first game of the season.

Navy has gotten much better with each game. Temple has gotten much worse.

That’s mostly coaching.

Ken Niumatalolo is a great coach. The jury is still out on Stan Drayton before we can answer that question truthfully. Navy held Tulsa to 25 rushing yards that day and Temple gave up more than 300 yards on Friday night.

If Navy can beat Tulsa, 53-21, and Temple can’t, what does that tell you about the rest of the season?

That Temple is going to finish 2-10, that’s what. That was even lower than the Whale Shit expectations of Vegas, which had the Owls at 2.5 wins.

Hate to take off the Cherry and White glasses, but that’s the truth.

On Saturday the fifth, South Florida comes to town. Do you really see the Owls hanging with a USF team that lost close games against ranked Cincinnati and Florida?

I don’t.

Very few others do.

Drayton can talk all he wants about each game being a “learning experience” but a lot of that learning should have been done before the season, not during it.

For example, the coaching staff should know down by 24-16 to go for the extra point and not the two-point conversion halfway through the fourth quarter. Going for the two, as Andre Ware correctly pointed out, should be reserved for the tying touchdown, not the penultimate one if that was indeed the mindset behind the decision. Even then, got to go for the extra point there and the extra point after the next touchdown to send the game into overtime. That’s Coaching 101.

When the coaches have to learn to do their jobs during the season, not before it, how can the players expect to learn their jobs?

The answer to those questions and the ones posted initially should be fairly obvious to any logical football fan.

Monday: Excuses or Reasons?

Saturday’s college football TV schedule

Possible solutions to Temple’s offensive woes

We will know by about midway through the second quarter on Thursday night if Temple made the most of its bye week or frittered it away.

By then, if Temple “gets it” the Owls would have tried:

1) at least one so-called trick play (halfback pass, reverse, double-pass, flea-flicker, Statue of Liberty, a shovel pass, jump pass to the tight end in the red zone, etc.)

Our picks this week

2) a short passing game in lieu of establishing the run;

3), a fake off a fourth-and-two punt at midfield;

4) a run game based on sending multiple blockers to the point of attack (i.e., a tight end in motion);

5) a “passing series” for so-called running quarterback Quincy Patterson.

That’s what we know at this point, six days before a vital league game at UCF.

Central Florida has scouted the Owls. It knows when Patterson is in to defend the run and when E.J. Warner is in to defend the pass.

It would be prudent for Drayton to screw up those preconceived notions by sending Patterson in for a passing series. Just a thought.

Making Gus Malzhan throw that scouting report in the trash by the end of the first quarter should be Priority No. 1 with the Edberg-Olson brain trust this week.

Oh to be a fly on the wall the past few days at the $17 million Edberg-Olson Complex.

I have my hopes but I also have my doubts.

Hopes, because first-year head coach Stan Drayton so far has pushed all the right buttons on the key decisions a CEO needs to make. The film from last year indicated to a lot of Temple fans and, ultimately to Drayton himself, that he needed to bring in a quarterback to compete with D’Wan Mathis. Six touchdown passes against four interceptions is not the ratio any winning team is looking for but that’s the ratio Mathis had last year. The same film also indicated that the Owls needed a serious upgrade at running back and Drayton brought in portal transfers to beat out the holdovers and they’ve shown more promise than the holdovers.

Doubts, because for the first five games Temple has done the equivalent of banging its head against the wall on offense.

How about OUR Warner pitches it to Trey Blair, who throws it back to him, who finds Sanders for six? If it’s a choice between that and a handoff to Saydee for 2 yards, I’m taking that play every time.

The same failed schemes and the same failed game plans. Zero points against Duke was nauseating, 31 points against Lafayette was not good enough and 14 points against Rutgers was putrid. Toledo put 55 on UMass and Temple struggled for 28 against the same team. Three points at a Memphis team that gave up 32 to that power North Texas was telling.

There has been a notion circulating on social media that this is the best we can expect from the offense because “the offensive line is not good enough” and “as soon as Drayton recruits his people” the Owls will start to move the ball.

That assumes next year the Owls will get two offensive linemen as good as Adam Klein and Isaac Moore who will not be here next year. Do you know who might dispute that? Current offensive line coach Chris Wiesehan who coached those two when they were, along with second-round NFL draft pick Matt Hennessy, the best offensive linemen on Geoff Collins’ 8-5 team.

They were also the best linemen on a Rod Carey 8-5 team.

They are the best linemen on Drayton’s first team.

Getting the most out of their talents means scheming plays behind their blocks and sending a good blocking tight end like David Martin-Robinson to help jump-start the running game. Logic dictates if you send three good blockers to an area where two good defenders are, there will be a hole to run through.

Establish a run game and Warner’s play-action passing game becomes that much more effective. Toss in a wrinkle or two and a defense that plays Temple will have its heads spinning. No need to have trick plays on every series but would it kill Temple to have a couple of “trick plays” in a game?

Certainly not.

We haven’t seen that so far in a 2-3 season.

If this season is going to flip from bad to good, we will need to see things we haven’t seen while the Owls were banging their heads against a wall. That’s a good way to send a once-promising season to the Emergency Room and it’s an awful habit that can easily be stopped right now.

Update on above picks: Went 4-0 with a nice return on investment in this four-team parlay.

Monday: Temple-UCF Preview

A Warner Primer for Finding Your Roots

Bobby Salla Jr., son of the one-time Temple career interception leader of the same name, is the latest in a long line of legacy players at Temple. (Photo courtesy Zamani Feelings)

Someone needs to give Henry Louis Gates the phone number, email, or Twitter handle of Kurt Warner.

Gates is the Harvard professor whose “Finding Your Roots” on PBS is low-key one of the best shows on television. In the show, notable guests discover their family roots based on genealogical research and DNA results.

Now we don’t know if Kurt Warner is related to Pop Warner but it would be a terrific story if he was.

The storyline goes like this: Gates turns the page only to show Kurt a photo of Pop Warner, the legendary Temple coach, and reveal that Pop is his third Great Uncle.

Or something like that.

Kurt leans back in his chair, puts his hands behind his head, and lets out a big: “Wow.”

Come to think of it, Pop bears a slight facial resemblance to Kurt Warner (or Harry Chapin).

The TV screen then shows photos of Pop coaching Temple and Kurt’s son, E.J. playing for Temple and both Kurt and Pop being inducted into their respective Halls of Fame.

“I guess it was meant to be,” Kurt might say.

What we do know is that Kurt and Pop were born exactly 100 years apart. Pop in 1871, in Springville, N.Y., and Kurt in 1971, in Burlington, Iowa.

(Ironically, both of Kurt’s current college sons, Kade and E.J., started their careers in Pop Warner football.)

If so, Temple can somewhat claim E.J. as a legacy player in the long line of guys who succeeded relatives who made a name at the school.

I don’t think a single school has the history in that area that Temple does.

Almost in all instances, at least at the college level, the sons exceeded the contributions of the fathers. Even Joe Klecko’s son, Dan, arguably did more at Temple from a recognition standpoint than Joe did. Dan was named Defensive MVP in the Big East, then a Power League on the par of all the current Power 5 schools. Dan has three Super Bowl rings. Dad will be the one going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in January, though.

Temple defensive end Raheem Brock, the son of 1,000-yard rusher Zach Dixon (1978 Owls), also became an NFL player.

Mark Bright, the 1979 Garden State Bowl MVP, is the son of Jim Bright, the starting fullback for the 1950 Owls who tied Penn State. When the younger Bright was a fullback at William Tennent, he had no offers. Then Jim sent Wayne Hardin his film. Hardin knew Jim played at Temple and offered him on the spot.

Temple opened the checkbook to hire Warner away from Jason Wingard’s alma mater, Stanford.

“At Temple, we take care of our own,” Hardin said at the time.

Mark more than repaid the scholarship.

Those are just a few examples. There are at least a couple more, including kickers Jim Cooper and Jim Cooper Jr. Mike Walsh, a three-year starter at tackle for the Owls in the mid-70s, is the son of Bud Walsh, a former tight end for the Owls in the late 40s.

The latest is Bobby Salla Jr., the son of Bobby Salla, who at the time he graduated (1977) was the all-time interception leader at Temple. Salla Jr. is only getting started, a true freshman who was in on the kick coverage team when De’Von Fox blocked three kicks a week ago.

Judging from history, his best contributions are yet to come. Only a possible future Finding Your Roots episode will reveal if one of his current teammates is a legacy guy, too.

Friday: UMass Preview

Sunday: UMass Analysis

Monday: Optics

No such thing as a moral victory … but

Stopped at Vincent’s Pizza in Rockledge on the way home from the Temple game on Saturday and a couple of young girls at the counter looked at my Temple Football Forever T-Shirt.

One of them said: “Were you at the Temple game today?”

“Yes.”

Not much to choose between these two teams.

“We were too. We were at the student tailgate. It was so much fun. We only saw a little of the game because we had to get back to work here.”

“Good. I hope you guys are fans for life like me.”

“Oh we are.”

That was their first Temple football game. It was my, by rough estimation, 612th going back to the time I split as a grade school youngin between Penn and Temple football games.

When Wayne Hardin came to Temple, I gave up the Penn fandom altogether.

One school in Philadelphia had the best coach in college football and it wasn’t Penn.

Sometimes the lifelong fandom comes as much in a loss at much as a win. I’ve always said there is no such thing as a “moral victory” but maybe an exception came in a 16-14 loss to unbeaten Rutgers on Saturday afternoon.

A lot of Rutgers fans said they were going to “take over” Lincoln Financial Field. Far from it. There were at least 70 percent Temple fans there, as one of their “honest” fans said.

These Rutgers fans were on the money.

More importantly, Temple was without its best offensive lineman (Adam Klein), best linebacker (Tra Thomas) and two top running backs (Texas A&M transfer Darvon Hubbard and Illinois transfer Jakari Norwood) and played Rutgers to a virtual standoff.

Of course, a real standoff is preferable to a virtual one but the point is all of those guys will be back for the more important conference games.

The Owls were in this game against a Big 10 foe until the very end and there are a couple of “should-have, would-have” plays both fan bases can point to as keys. On the RU end, Temple’s first play from scrimmage should have been a pick 6. On the Temple side, Nathan Stewart dropped a perfectly thrown touchdown pass from E. J. Warner.

Stuff happens. A few plays here and a few plays there make the difference.

On the way out of the stadium, Tony Russo–Anthony Russo’s dad–tapped me on the shoulder. Anthony Russo is one of the top four quarterbacks, statistically, in Temple history. He was 6-4. Warner, as a 6-footer, can’t be blamed for not picking up the danger that lay ahead in a real Pick 6.

“I really like E.J. Warner,” I told him, “but if he was 6-4 like Anthony, he wouldn’t have given up the pick 6. He would have seen over the defense.”

“He’s going to be a real good player here,” Tony Russo said.

“Yeah, I think you’re right.”

Pretty good endorsement from the dad of a former player. Kurt Warner should have been there to hear it.

Minus that play, Temple wins, but it shouldn’t have come down to that.

Temple had a nice little drive going from its own 10 in the final four minutes that would have set up Rory Bell to be the hero with a field goal.

About the second play in, I was hoping for Stan Drayton to throw the halfback pass. All the mental telepathy fell on deaf ears sadly. I think it would have worked. Trey Blair, his halfback, was a terrific quarterback in high school. Pitching it out to Blair might have suckered in the RU defense just enough that Blair could have found a wide-open Adonicas Sanders behind the defense for the win.

Maybe Drayton didn’t know Blair played quarterback in high school or maybe he’s saving that play for a conference game that puts him in the championship. My guess is that the new Temple OC doesn’t realize Blair was a damn good high school quarterback and the play was not in the books.

Hardin would have thrown that halfback pass against Rutgers. Maybe it would have worked, maybe it wouldn’t but he wouldn’t have left it on the table knowing it might have worked.

Moral victories meant even less to him but if Rutgers turns out to be the best team on the Temple 2022 schedule and the Owls use that to win the rest, this will be only “moral victory” we’ve ever seen at Temple.

Monday: Legacy Analysis