What Mathis being named starter means …

About this time five months ago, new Temple head coach Stan Drayton gave tepid praise to incumbent quarterback starter D’Wan Mathis, saying this:

“We’re going to bring in some guys to compete with him.”

If Mathis can become a fan favorite in Georgia, he can do that in Philadelphia too.

That was after the Cherry and White game. Nice game for Mathis, but nothing special.

True to his word, Drayton brought in those guys–Elijah Warner and former Virginia Tech starter Quincy Patterson–and, after a healthy competition, Mathis retained his job.

At least for the Duke opener.

Thursday, Mathis was named the starter for the Duke game one week from tonight and that can only mean one thing.

Former Michigan State, Ohio State, and Georgia commit D’Wan Mathis is shown here starting the 2020 opener for Georgia.

Mathis, a former Elite 11 four-star quarterback, rose to the occasion to beat out Patterson, a former Elite 11 four-star quarterback.

We’ve checked the game notes of the other 10 AAC teams and none of them have an Elite 11 quarterback.

Temple now has two.

Duke has none and that’s one reason why you’ve got to like Temple’s chances a week from now (7:30 p.m., ACC Network).

It’s not even fair to say Mathis showed flashes of his Elite 11 quality in the 2021 season.

He showed flash as in one, the Memphis game. If Mathis showed flashes, maybe the Owls steal a win or two in the other AAC games. It was a damn good flash (35-for-49, three touchdowns) but it was a one-and-done nonetheless.

We needed to see more and it’s an even better sign that Drayton needed to see more.

Now he has.

Maybe he’s a guy who needs a fire lit under him and, in Patterson, that’s a lot of lighter fluid.

Patterson went 7-0 as a North Dakota State starter last year and, except for Cincinnati, you can make a strong argument that North Dakota State would have beaten every other AAC team, including Houston and UCF.

He’s a nice insurance policy to have should Mathis falter.

So far, Mathis has shown no signs of faltering and that’s a good thing. This is the third-straight year that Mathis has won a starting job. He started for Georgia in the 2020 home opener and Temple in the 2021 opener at Rutgers, beating out another Elite 11 quarterback (Re’al Mitchell) for the honor.

Memphis was objectively a better team than Duke last year so is 35-for-49 and three touchdowns out of the question next week?

Certainly not and, if Mathis puts up those numbers again, the Owls are guaranteed to have a nice flight home.

Monday: All’s Quiet on The Southern Front

Friday: Temple-Duke Preview

Saturday: Duke Game Analysis

Temple running out of time on a new quarterback

“You’re out of touch
I’m out of time
But I’m out of my head when you’re not around”

_ Temple grads Darryl Hall and John Oates in a 1984 No. 1 hit.

With the untimely departure of Lew Katz in an airplane crash and Bill Cosby in a scandal, Temple grad John Oates is probably the richest person alive who has publicly stated he cares about Temple football.

In a 2015 interview, Oates–who lives in Colorado and is reportedly worth $30 million–said he “watches every Temple game on TV” and is “thrilled with how far the program has come since I went there.”

Katz, who loved Temple football more than any rich guy ever, amassed a personal fortune of $467,000,000 before he died. Cosby’s last fortune estimate was made in the 2008 Time Magazine piece when “America’s Dad” had $365 million in his checking account. Katz’s son, Drew, is on the Temple Board of Trustees but doesn’t share the same enthusiasm for Temple football his dad did.

That leaves Oates.

Had to think about John, who was basically the lyric writer in the famous music duo, when researching Stan Drayton’s post-Cherry and White game promise about bringing in “a couple of quarterbacks” to compete for the job with current starter D’wan Mathis.

Even if Elijah Warner is one of the “couple of guys” Drayton promised to bring in to compete for the QB job, that leaves out a guy. Who is that guy?

“I’m out of time but I’m out of my head when you’re not around.”

Back in mid-April, had to be thinking about Florida portal guy Emory Jones and Pitt portal guy Davis Beville looking for a team where they could start right away.

They were available for Temple then. They are not now. Jones signed with Arizona State and Beville went to Oklahoma, where he might be the starting quarterback at Temple in 2024.

Temple?

Holding an empty bag so far.

What, exactly, did Drayton mean when he said “I’m bringing in a couple of guys” to compete for the starting job?

Even if you concede one of those guys was incoming freshman Elijah Warner, son of the current richest Temple football dad (Kurt, who, like Oates, has $30 million stashed away) that leaves us short a guy.

Listen, I like Mathis. I love his skill set.

I don’t like his history of fragility nor do I like what Temple currently has behind him.

Without insulting those kids by name, they are Villanova-level backups, not Temple-level starters.

Surely, Drayton must realize this.

That begs the question: What does Drayton have in mind?

We will find out soon or not at all. It’s the next big story on the Temple football horizon and it needs to be written.

We are running out of time and they (or he) is not around.

I’m not out of my head yet but will be if he’s not around on September 2.

American Underdog: We’ve Come Full Circle

Saturday night usually is movie night for me so, being a Temple football fan, I scanned through the new offerings of Amazon Prime and found out I could purchase “American Underdog.”

It was the best $19.95 I’ve ever spent, not quite bringing me as much bang for the buck as the $125 I spent for a bus trip to the AAC championship game of 2016 (that included tickets) but close. Hell, a championship is worth a million, not a mere $125.

With the signing of Elijah Warner less than a week ago by new head coach Stan Drayton, this seemed like a pretty good time to revisit the story of his dad, 2017 NFL Hall of Famer Kurt Warner.

In the movie, it was funny to hear coaches at several levels call Kurt “Pop” referring to one of the greatest coaches of all time who made two schools (Temple and Stanford) famous for football back in the day. We’ve come full circle now that his kid has “fallen in love” with Temple, whose President played football at Stanford. His winning Super Bowl coach with the Rams was Dick Vermeil, a West Coast guy who fell in love with Philadelphia and still lives a figurative stone’s throw away from Temple.

Vermeil believed in Kurt, a true American Underdog who was bagging groceries at the Iowa equivalent of “The Ac-a-Me” (or Shop-Rite) before the Rams signed him.

Kurt, Elijah and Brenda on signing day.

Evidently, others believe with me. The movie gets a solid 75 percent from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, beating by almost 20 points my second favorite movie of this calendar year “Don’t Look Up” which has quite a few more A-list stars. The 98 percent rating from viewers is off the charts.

It’s easy to see why.

American Underdog was extremely well done and should resonate well here, not just because of the Temple/Warner/Vermeil/Philadelphia angle.

There are so many wired storylines in this family, Philadelphia, and Temple to shut down a Texas power grid.

Something tells me this “Warner Era” at Temple is going to work out. Elijah, like Kurt, experienced his share of rejection along the way, only to be told by other schools he was “their guy” one day who then called that they signed another guy the next day. Drayton said he liked Elijah because he had that same “chip on his shoulder” his dad did after getting rebuffed by the Packers only to prove himself in the Arena Football League and again with the Rams.

In that case, Drayton might be Temple’s Dick Vermeil.

As a big recent fan of thoroughbred horse racing, I’ve long been a believer in bloodlines of champions. The best horse in the business right now is named Flightline, who is the product of the great Tapit. Temple is the one school that has success with bloodlines. Temple NG Joe Klecko’s son, Dan, was Big East defensive MVP at Temple. Jim Bright, a 1950 fullback with the Owls, sired a 1979 Garden State bowl MVP, Mark Bright, also a fullback. Zach Dixon, a terrific 1,000-yard running back with the 1978 Owls, sired future NFL defensive end Raheem Brock.

Now we get to adopt a Northern Iowa son, just like Kurt adopted Brenda’s son, Zach, in the movie. (If the “I pick you” line doesn’t get you in the feels, you don’t have tear ducts.)

Unless the son of John Elway, Dan Marino or even Tom Brady walk through the E-O door, Temple is going to do no better from a gene pool standpoint than Warner.

Not many schools are.

I’ve never seen his mom throw a football but I’ve seen his dad chuck it several thousand times.

If Elijah wings it the way his dad does and both Tapit and Flightline run it, the Owls should be in pretty good shape.

Somewhere up there, the real Pop Warner is looking down and smiling.

Friday: The Case For the Defense

Temple football: Dog hunting season

Hopefully, Drayton does turn out to be a home run for Temple.

That old saying a “hungry dog hunts best” certainly could apply to new head Temple football coach Stan Drayton.

The outsiders, objective people supposedly in the know about college football, rated the Temple coaching hire pretty low on the totem pole and maybe Drayton will use that disrespect and work that much harder to prove the doubters wrong.

What he needs now is players and this is the week to get them.

Heaven knows the Owls need some dogs, the fighting kind and not the laying down kind.

The national sports website Yardbarkers rated the Temple hiring 25th between Sonny Cumbie (Louisiana Tech) and Jon Sumrall (Troy).

Maybe Drayton is hungry enough to prove the doubters wrong. Or guys like Cumbie and Sumrall will prove to be hungrier.

Whatever, the way college football works these days, we could know as soon as December because the transfer portal has proven to turn some mediocre teams to winning ones in a year. For instance, Western Kentucky recruited a portal quarterback out of Houston Baptist, Bailey Zappe, and his 61 touchdown passes helped turn the Hilltoppers from 5-7 to 8-5 in a few months.

Co-DC Ola Adams teased some good news with this Sunday tweet.

Can Temple go from 3-9 to 8-5?

Probably not, but certainly a bowl is within reach in an era where there are more good players in the portal than available scholarships across the 130 FBS programs. It’s a buyer’s market, not a seller’s, and the teams that shop best off the field produce best on it. Recently, defensive back George Reid left the Owls and declared for the portal. Nice player, but there are upgrades all over the place out there and one of Drayton’s jobs is to find one for Reid, and another for record-breaking wide receiver Jadan Blue, two of the few who left.

Already, Drayton got a South Carolina cornerback to commit and a Florida linebacker visited this weekend and Kurt Warner’s son, Elijah, “fell in love with the place” (Temple) and committed. While Warner is only 5-foot-11, the more important numbers associated with him are 26 (touchdowns) and eight (interceptions). That’s a more than acceptable ratio when you consider the Owls’ starting quarterback, Dwan Mathis, had 20 touchdown passes to 11 interceptions in his last full high school year. G5 football proved much tougher as Mathis had only nine touchdown passes against six interceptions and that was nowhere near good enough for either Dwan or Temple.

In fact, only two other recent Temple recruits had more touchdown passes as a high school senior than Warner did and those were Anthony Russo (Archbishop Wood, 2015) and Adam DiMichele (Sto-Rox, 2004), both with 35 each. Even the great P.J. Walker (Elizabeth, N.J) had only 24 touchdown passes his senior year. If Warner produces at Temple like Russo, Walker and DiMichele did, I will sign for that now. It’s not the only metric but consider this: Vaughn Charlton (Avon Grove) and Chester Stewart (DeMatha) had nine and 17 touchdown passes, respectively, their senior years and they were at Temple what their record said they were in high school.

Subpar would be a kind word.

Still, it’s hard to figure that Warner, right now, is anything more than a replacement for Justin Lynch, who transferred to Northern Illinois. Maybe a couple of more years down the road he can be a starter at Temple.

One immediate starter probably will be at running back, where the Owls upgraded their room with the addition of Texas A&M portal transfer Darvon Hubbard.

Definitely fits the profile of a fighting dog, not a passive one.

The Owls need a few more who fit the description. By Wednesday, we will know how hungry Drayton turned out to be.

Friday: Reaction to Signing Season