Temple-Cincy: Turnovers Don’t Add Up

Even Carl Friedrich Gauss, the 16th-century mathematician considered by many the greatest ever in his field, might be crossed up by some of the numbers in AAC football this season.

Particularly when it comes to Temple.

The Owls, a team that took Navy to overtime, lost 70-13 to UCF. Navy beat UCF on Saturday, 17-14, on the road. The Owls, who had gone two weeks without punting in putting up a 45-point average, punted the first two times of the game in a 23-3 loss to Cincinnati.

They should have been the first sign it wasn’t going to be their day.

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East Carolina, which visits Temple next week, beat UCF, 34-13, but lost, 42-3 on Saturday to a Houston team the Owls had beaten until 1:22 remained in the game a week ago. In hindsight, the Owls probably needed to run off a couple of more plays before E.J. Warner hit Zae Baines for the go-ahead score at Houston.

That was last’s week’s problem, though.

Gauss might have had the answer to this week’s one, though, because he was famous for citing variables to solve mathematical equations.

For Temple, what didn’t add up on Saturday was the turnover margin.

The Owls were able to avoid turnovers at Houston.

They were unable to against Cincinnati.

Temple lost two fumbles and had two interceptions.

Game, set and match.

When a team recruits as well as Cincinnati has (four-straight top AAC classes as ranked by either Scout.com or Rivals.com), the only way to beat a more talented team by the less talented one is to win the turnover battle.

When the more talented team forces turnovers–really, from Temple’s perspective they were unforced errors–the less talented team has no chance.

That pretty much sums up what happened to the Owls on Saturday. The Owls had two reviewed fumbles (initially called down) overturned, a run by Edward Saydee and a reception by Zae Baines. One of the interceptions was a perfectly threaded pass from E.J. Warner to D’Wan Mathis but the ball went off Mathis’ hands and into the Bearcats in the end zone. Mathis wouldn’t have even been in there had not Amad Anderson been suspended for a game and he was missed. The fact that it was only a one-game suspension probably means it wasn’t anything too serious.

Still, along with the turnovers, losing players like Anderson and top pass-rusher Darian Varner (injury) really hurt. Temple can’t afford to lose good players like that.

Cincinnati wasn’t able to beat any league foe by more than 10 until it arrived in Philadelphia simply because it was not able to go plus four in the turnover margin in its prior 10 games.

It was on Saturday. That was not because of their talent but because Temple couldn’t protect the rock. Tugging on Superman’s Cherry Cape didn’t help. With the loss, dating back to the 2012 debut of Matt Rhule, Temple is 2-17 wearing black uniforms against FBS opponents (wins over only Tulsa in the Geoff Collins Era and this year’s win over UMass).

The unis were the tugging on Karma. The turnovers were spitting into the wind.

Now an ECU team that has beaten up Temple the last two years knows the way to beat the Owls is to win the turnover margin.

That shouldn’t be a secret because that’s a tried and true football axiom.

On its end, Temple knows it has to protect the football like it’s the Hope Diamond in order to go into the offseason with some momentum.

The Owls should have known that before the Cincy game but this embarrassing loss illustrates that the focus this week should be on protecting the football. Even Stan Drayton pleaded with his team earlier this week to “eliminate the things that are slowing us down.”

Against Cincy, they didn’t listen.

Maybe in seven days they will.

Logically, the Owls should be able to beat a team that lost, 42-3, at home to a team the Owls lost to 43-36 a week ago. Lose the turnover battle, though, and all logic goes out the window.

Even the brightest minds in history know that.

Monday: Some Other Numbers


The reaction: Admiration but not respect (yet)

 Regarding visual artistry, no one quite matches Temple University’s official team photographer, Zamani Feelings. The guy shoots from different angles and gets shots no one else does that are pretty breathtaking.

Telling a story, though, the champion is a fan in the stands and former Temple player Mike Edwards.

When the entire fan base was wondering if junior running back Bernard “The Franchise” Pierce would be coming back for his senior season (which would have been in 2012), a shot Edwards took captured the moment and removed all doubt.

The pre-game discussion about Pierce in the tailgates was split. Half of the guys thought had he come back for his senior year at Temple he would earn first-round money the next season. The other half said Pierce needed the third-round money now. Nobody thought he’d be higher than a third-round pick if he left after his junior year so we were looking at keys to his intentions and we got it later that day.

Pierce went over to then-head coach Steve Addazio and hugged him as if to say his Temple home career was over. Daz wasn’t happy and went out and convinced ACC Preseason Player of the Year Montel Harris to transfer to Temple in an attempt to replace the production of an NFL third-round choice.

Harris was the last Temple player to do what Edward Saydee did in a 54-28 win over USF: Gain almost a quarter of a mile on the ground. In 2012 at Army, Harris went for a school-record 351 yards and seven touchdowns in a 63-32 win.

Saydee didn’t reach that number, but getting 265 and three touchdowns was pretty darn good. On Saturday, Edwards captured the pretty neat photo at the top of this post.

So many stories in that one photo. 1) Saydee leaving both teams in the dust; 2) Adonicas Sanders way in the back with his finger in the air; 3) Isaac Moore celebrating a job well done with a block; 4) Stan Drayton reliving his All-American running back past by running for the touchdown, too; 5) A vertically challenged person holding what looks like a medical bag on the sideline (presumably oxygen for Saydee); 6) the smiles of the Temple players on the sideline.

That pretty much seems up the Temple reaction in one snapshot. As Henrik Ibsen first said, a picture is worth a thousand words.

The outside reaction, though, was somewhat less impressive. One UCF fan offered his congratulations and said he “admired” the Owls because they tried hard in a 70-13 loss.

Vegas, though, has not shown respect just yet.

If you thought the win over USF might bring down the point spread for Saturday’s game at Houston to low double digits (which I did before I checked), you’d be mistaken. Houston opened as a 20-point favorite despite having a defense that gave up 77 points on the same day Temple dropped a 54-burger on USF.

The message was loud and clear. The nation does not respect Temple quite yet and the Owls are going to have to go out and get it.

Just like Daz got Montel Harris.

Friday: Houston Preview

USF: The reason Temple hired Stan Drayton

A year ago in this space after a brutal 34-14 loss to USF, we vented.

We wrote an open letter to Temple University President Jason Wingard asking to fire Rod Carey.

Don’t know if this blog was the reason Temple did something Temple never does–eat $6 million of a $10 million contract–but losing to USF was the final straw. The Bulls ran all over Temple and it was painfully obvious Temple never hit the weight room in the offseason. On top of that, Carey’s strength coach turned out to be an alleged serial abuser of athletes and former player Iverson Clement’s video documenting the abuse made its way to athletic director Arthur Johnson’s office.

Don’t know where the money came from but that post got at least 30 eyeballs in oil-rich Kuwait so maybe we had something to do with the buyout. (I’ve checked our figures and that’s 15 more people from Kuwait on a given day who usually view this site. Maybe there’s a closet Temple football fan in the Kingdom. If so, God bless you, sir.)

Temple then hired Stan Drayton and the one thing Drayton has gotten right is the weight room. He hired two of the top strength guys away from Ohio State and, if anything, the Temple numbers in the weight room have doubled what they were under Carey.

Plus, the kids love the strength coaches.

On Saturday, it showed.

Temple was the team that pushed USF around and those numbers, finally, were reflected on the scoreboard in a 54-28 win over the Bulls at Lincoln Financial Field.

This was the Temple team we thought we’d see from the jump this year, a team capable of a 6-6 season on the way to an AAC championship run next year.

Better late than never.

Incredibly, USF entered the 2021 game as a 3.5-point favorite and won by 20. It also entered this game a 3.5-point favorite and lost by 26.

That’s a huge one-year turnaround and it’s the difference between Drayton and Carey.

There are a couple of ways to look at this game that can be put either in the half-full or have-empty category.

One, USF is so bad that this game can be viewed as an outlier. That’s the half-empty way to look at it.

Two, that Temple is improving so rapidly we can now expect a couple of more wins before the season ends. Maybe more. That’s the half-full way of looking at it.

Put us in the half-full category.

One, as bad as USF has been, Saturday was the first time it was blown out in a league game by at least 26 points. This has been a representative team against Cincinnati (a 28-24 loss), the storied Florida Gators (a 31-28 loss), 19th-ranked Tulane (a 45-31 loss) and Houston (a 42-27 loss).

Two, the Owls might have finally found their offense.

For two years, we’ve been scratching our heads wondering what two coaching staffs saw in Edward Saydee but we were told by those who watched the practices that Saydee has been by far the best practice running back for two separate staffs.

Finally, practice translated to a game in a 268-yard performance.

That took the rush off E.J. Warner and he shined with a couple of touchdown passes. Warner is a very good quarterback when he doesn’t have a hand in his face. Maybe Saydee’s emergence means he won’t for the rest of the season. We can only hope.

Three, the defense–save for one game–has been good all year and, even though the Owls gave up 28 points, that side of the ball can be counted on the rest of the way.

If now the offense joins the party, there is not a team remaining on the schedule Temple can’t beat. That could not have been envisioned even a couple of days ago.

Monday: The Reaction