Cherry and White: It’s going to be a show

Near the two-thirds part of this interview (conducted Saturday), Stan Drayton talks about the transfer portal.

To be a fly on the wall of the Edberg-Olson Football Complex and hear what the Temple football coaches really think about the recent changes in college football would be a fascinating experience.

My guess and it’s only that is a lot of the guys who were here for the success under Al Golden, Matt Rhule and Geoff Collins are cursing the transfer portal and the NIL rules but they are living with it.

Dick Vermeil stopped by practice on Saturday and took the opportunity to hug the son of a quarterback who won the Super Bowl for him. (Photo from Temple football’s twitter page)

Others, like long-time defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, probably had enough of the college game and left for the NFL where there is no such red tape.

Meanwhile, the show must go on and the next viewing of the Temple football Owls will be on Saturday, April 8, 3 p.m. on campus.

Head coach Stan Drayton has done what I think is a remarkable job keeping most of the team together for a run at the AAC title, if not this year, then next.

Had this been, say, the last guy there is no doubt that half the team would have left.

What do we know now about the team is that Drayton hasn’t been pleased with the tackling so far on defense but the run game has looked a lot better than we expected. Maybe one has something to do with the other.

We probably won’t know a whole lot about the Owls even after the spring game but we do know that Drayton wasn’t pleased with the quarterback room after spring ball last year and went out and acquired a former P5 starter, Virginia Tech’s Quency Patterson. The Owls are down to three scholarship quarterbacks but I guess, in a pinch, former 4* recruit Dwan Mathis can be moved over from wide receiver.

We should know by Saturday if the running game is really improved or that Drayton feels the need and gets a former P5 starter at RB, if one indeed becomes available. The Owls will enter this season knowing they have one of the best quarterbacks in the country in E.J. Warner, a guy who definitely has the “it” factor. They have guys with similar ability at wide receiver, defensive end and pass rusher so the known factor going into this season is a plus.

Meanwhile, the team itself showed significant improvement over the last dozen months and if that improvement is the same a winning season should be the minimum expectation.

Friday: 5 Cherry and White Players to Watch


Other schedule storylines: Why not us?

Not a whole lot of respect for Temple from this Miami fan. He didn’t have much respect for MTSU either

Posted the other day on Facebook this simple thought.

“If Middle Tennessee State can beat them in Coral Gables, Temple can beat them in Philadelphia.”

Obviously, I was referring to MTSU’s demolishing Miami, 44-21, in one of the more shocking college football results of 2022.

Was it really, though?

One of my Facebook friends, who shall remain nameless, immediately tried to temper my thought with this response:

“Yeah, but they are a much different team this year.”

Perhaps the most perfect spiral ever in the history of football was thrown by E.J. Warner here in an otherwise routine practice on March 2, 2023. Zamani Feelings captured this image.

I took the bait and turned it into a 360:

“Absolutely right, Temple is a much better team with E.J. having one year under his belt.”

There is a significant defeatist part of the Temple football fan base that we need to defeat this year along with our opponents.

Obviously, my friend was referring to Miami being “different” and “better” but why can’t those adjectives refer to Temple as well as Miami?

Why not us?

Why indeed?

The same people who set the bar as low as 6-6 for Temple in 2023 are already counting games like Miami and Rutgers as losses.

That type of thinking has to end now.

MTSU didn’t think going into spring practice a year ago it would lose to Miami because the Hurricanes were “better” or “different” than the 2021 season due to Mario Cristobal replacing Manny Diaz.

Nor should Temple now.

Cristobal was the guy who applied for the Temple job and was considered the leading front-runner until he called then-athletic director Bill Bradshaw from the airport and asked for directions to Temple. Bradshaw then told other Temple people that was the moment he heard Al Shrier’s voice in his head, “Bill, listen to me. Hire Matt Rhule.”

Bradshaw told Cristobal to cross the Platt Bridge, find Broad Street and head north. In those 45 minutes, he decided to do what Shrier told him to do.

Hire Matt Rhule.

It was a key moment for Temple football.

Nobody thought going into the 2014 season (at least among the Temple fan base) that the Owls were going to win at Vanderbilt. Fortunately, Matt Rhule didn’t let those Owls think that way and Temple came away with a 37-7 road win over an SEC team.

Guaranteed Stan Drayton is taking that same kind of mindset into spring practice currently going on at 10th and Diamond.

One game at a time means Akron is the most important game of the season as it should be.

That’s the job of the coaches and players.

Peaking ahead to the other teams left on the schedule is the job of the fans and not a single Temple fan should be thinking there is not a single Temple opponent the Owls can’t beat.

Not true last year, but certainly this one.

Monday: Spring Practice Thoughts

How Temple’s offense looks like the Super Bowl winner

The Kansas City passing offense and Temple’s are so similar it’s uncanny.

Everyone has a blind spot.

For me, it’s the rear-view mirror on the driver’s side. There’s about a four-foot gap where I can’t see anything coming up on the left.

I’ve learned to deal with it by not getting into the left lane on a super highway.

For Stan Drayton and Temple football, though, that blind spot apparently is the running game.

The Owls didn’t put a premium on getting a big-time back in here and it MAY cost them at least one game, maybe more, in 2023.

Everyone remembers the 3d-and-1 call at midfield against ECU, which was a pass.

Obviously, Drayton and company had no confidence in a running back getting the first down and the “tush push” quarterback sneak that the Eagles do so well is not in the Temple playbook.

Had the Owls gotten the first down there late in the fourth quarter, they might not have scored–although after scoring 46 points that’s not a given–but they almost certainly would have been able to run out the clock and win the game.

No worries.

Temple and Kansas City don’t run similar passing games, they pretty much run the exact same offense.

We thought Drayton would go out and get a big-time back in the transfer portal and that just hasn’t happened.

With only one open portal window left (after spring football), it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. You are not going to get anyone better than Edward Saydee or Joquez Smith at this point. Let’s hope Saydee takes a leap forward. If Owl fans noticed one thing about recent running backs like Bernard Pierce and Jahad Thomas, they never let the first guy tackle them. Hell, that goes all the way back to Paul Palmer and even before him.

Notice how Paul Palmer never lets the first tackler bring him down in this game against Alabama

Too many times, Saydee let the first guy tackle him.

That needs to change this season if the Owls are going to double their win total.

Imagine if the Owls had the quarterback “tush push” in this playbook with someone like 330-pound Freddy Booth-Lloyd pushing E.J. Warner ahead for a yard.

Obviously, Drayton will go into the 2023 season rolling the dice on the same offense that (mostly) worked in the second half of the 2022 season.

That’s great if you want to put up points but not so great if you need to get a yard on 3d and 1.

We’ll see.

What we do know is that the Temple offense we saw in the second half very much resembled from a schematic standpoint the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense that baffled the Eagles so much in the Super Bowl.

Simply, it’s a short passing game that neutralizes the pass rush.

That was enough to win the Super Bowl.

Will it be enough to get a 3d and 1 at midfield next year at ECU? Or at Rutgers in Game Two? Or really any other game?

That’s a question that will probably be the difference between six and eight wins for the Owls this season.

Friday: Other Schedule Storylines

A couple of telling storylines in Temple football schedule

The complete AAC schedule

Hard to find a Temple football schedule in recent memory with the number of storylines this recently released one has.

We’ll just cover a couple with this post. There are many more to talk about latter.

For now, we’ll concentrate on the opener–which we hope Stan Drayton’s staff is doing.

Joe Moorhead, the Akron coach, was one of those names floated for in the search for a Temple head coach after Rod Carey was fired.

We don’t know how much interest Temple had in him or Moorhead had in Temple, but we do know this:

Moorhead has experience taking a less talented team and beating a more talented Temple team. He did so in 2013 as head coach at Fordham, which probably was the most disappointing Temple football single outcome in the last 20 years.

On the other hand, a worse Temple coach–Carey–was able to beat a better Akron team, 44-24, on the road with a worse Temple quarterback (Justin Lynch) than the one the Owls have now.

This Akron team, despite last year’s 2-10, is no slouch.

It finished strong, beating a decent Northern Illinois team, 44-12, and losing, 24-22, to a Buffalo team that made a bowl game.

Temple SHOULD win, but we’ve seen too many Temple games in the last few years where Temple hasn’t won the winnable games.

That’s just one storyline.

The next week, at Rutgers, provides another.

E.J. Warner was starting his first game as a college quarterback and looked decent. He was 19-for-32 with 215 yards, adding a touchdown and an interception.

After that game, Temple head coach Stan Drayton said:

“Back in fall camp, I knew he had the potential to be a leader and a really good quarterback.

“He studies the game, he understands the game. He came into our program already knowing our offense. I knew it would be a matter of time, I didn’t know it was going to be this soon. He really earned our trust in fall camp.”

There can be no doubt, though, that Warner improved significantly in every subsequent game and against two arguably better teams than Rutgers (really, inarguably in my mind), Houston and ECU.

Look what Warner did in both of those games:

Warner had the Owls on the precipice of a big win at Houston, grabbing a 36-35 lead with 1:22 left on a touchdown pass to Zae Baines. For the day, he had 42 completions in 59 attempts for 486 yards and three touchdowns.

Against East Carolina two weeks later, he was much better throwing for five touchdowns and 527 yards in a 49-46 loss.

Both of those games, although the outcomes Temple didn’t want, provide a glimpse into the future.

Both of those teams–Houston and ECU–would have blown the doors off of Rutgers in November.

He was a much more poised, confident, quarterback in those games than he was against Rutgers.

The fact that Warner has that year under his belt and that the great majority of the Temple team returns is a clue that the Owls can get off to a 2-0 start.

If they do, the sky’s the limit for this team.

This won’t be the team that opened the season walking on eggshells in a 30-0 loss at Duke and that is the best reason why Temple fans should be excited about the schedule just released.

Monday: Temple’s offensive concepts

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 and 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.


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