Cooking With Gas

Somewhere near the bottom of yesterday’s post, I wrote:

“If Temple wins 41-10, then we are cooking with gas.”

Well, it was 34-10, and probably would have been 41-10 had Geoff Collins not called off the dogs on the final six-minute drive.

So where does that leave us?

Cooking with gas, which means a lot of the more realistic goals for the season are in sight.

Before yesterday, it would have taken a lot to get a spark by rubbing two sticks together.

No one—not even me—expected the Owls to repeat as AAC champions, but, with six games remaining in a 3-3 season, a bowl game and a bowl win are something even the most pessimistic among us feel is possible.

Really, the only game I feel the Owls will be in over their heads is the UCF game, but they can win four or five of their last six. Five would get them to eight and that would be an outstanding season. Splitting the final six would be a minimum expectation.

There were plenty of things to be happy about and only a couple of questions but we’ll get to those in the Tuesday post.

The positives:

  • Logan Marchi finally played like the quarterback Dave Patenaude thought he was with two touchdown passes and over 300 yards of passing. There is some promise there and plenty of room to improve.
  • Keith Kirkwood’s one-handed catch on a crucial third down was another ESPN Sports Center highlight.
  • The defense showed a relentless pass rush, led by senior Jacob Martin.
  • Walk-on fullback Rob Ritrovato showed that the position will not die with the graduation of Nick Sharga, who was strangely AWOL during this game but played well (as he usually does) the few opportunities he got.
  • Third-down back David Hood showed that he can ball on first and second down as well and he has an uncanny knack for staying on his feet after the first hit, even using his hands to regain his balance.
  • Unlike the better part of the last three years, when Temple got a comfortable lead, the second-string quarterback was allowed to come in and he moved the team. That is a nice insurance policy should any injury to the starter take place. Let’s face it, had P.J. Walker gone down in any game last year, there would have been no championship season. Marchi’s development probably wouldn’t have been stunted had he had the same game reps in the last two seasons.

Since Temple beat ECU, 34-10, and ECU beat UConn, 41-38, that bodes well for a nice Homecoming if the team continues to improve. (Heck, even Lafayette—a team that Villanova smoked, 59-0, beat a Holy Cross team UConn struggled against.)

The pre-game burgers should be tasting pretty good and, if the Owls play next week like they did this one, so should the post-game ones. After that, it’s about improving each game.

Fire up the Kerosene.

Tuesday: Missing Without Action

Collins Needs To Hold QB to Same Standard

At a press conference a couple of weeks ago, Geoff Collins dropped some jaws in the room when he said this:

“If you turn the ball over, you don’t play,” the Temple head coach said. “No exceptions.”


The worst part
is that a Temple
quarterback can
produce zero points
in a half and still
be allowed to start
the second half

I guess the “no exceptions” part means the “no exceptions unless you are the quarterback.”

Collins has a credibility problem going forward if he doesn’t keep his word and give someone else a chance to play quarterback next week. That someone else should be the one guy who has not turned the ball over yet, Anthony Russo.

Three interceptions and a bonehead intentional grounding call from Logan Marchi is not the worst part, although it should trigger benching clause in Collins’ verbal contract.

The worst part is that a Temple quarterback can produce zero points in a half and still be allowed to start the second half. That shows the players that the coaches have zero sense of urgency at a halftime when urgency should have been the No. 1 priority. Amazing not a single reporter asked Collins why after the turnovers and the goose egg on the scoreboard that he saw fit to send the same quarterback out in the second half.

vested

Your job as a quarterback and an offensive coordinator is to turn the scoreboard into an adding machine. Since the offensive coordinator is not going to fire himself, and since Collins sees no need to, the only way to energize that side of the ball is to try someone else at quarterback. If it doesn’t work, you can always go back.

You don’t know it won’t work until you try.

Since we have it on good authority that the coaches have decided to preserve Toddy Centeio’s redshirt that means either Frank Nutile or Anthony Russo. We’ve already seen what Marchi and Nutile can do, what harm would it be to try Russo?

None.

Marchi has produced 16 points in two games, 13 in one and zero in one (the USF game saw a defensive touchdown scored by the Owls) in four of the five games he started. That’s just not good enough.

Turning the ball over should cause you to sit.

Geoff Collins said so.

Or he lied.

Lying is not a good way to start a head coaching career.

Geoff, the truth will set you free.

It also might give the offense the spark that has been missing for what is now nearly half the season.

Tuesday: Fizzy’s Corner

Fizzy’s Corner: Breaking It Down

fizz

Editor’s Note: Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub played football at Temple and has watched the Owls for longer than most any single fan. He’s seen a lot of bad and some good, so he knows how to separate the two by now. Here is his latest contribution.

                                                                   By Dave (Fizzy) Weinraub

Well, we’re 2 & 1, just like everyone thought we’d be at the end of the exhibition season.  But I’m not ever going to curse the football gods again because it’s a very deceptive 2 & 1.  Consider this, if Villanova receivers hadn’t dropped five balls, and the Massachusetts kicker would have made his three “gimmes,” we’d be 0 & 3.

The Offense

There was some improvement vs. Mass.  A new quarterback came in with an option offense for a few plays, and Marchi ran a few options, and a two QB draws.  There was more throwing on first down than previously, but still from straight drop-backs and not play-action.  However, there still is the same run the ball on the first two plays in the red-zone  philosophy (first possession), and run the ball up the gut on the first two plays, even after passing got us into Mass. territory in the fourth quarter. Once more, probably for the second time in college football history, our offensive coordinator shut down our passing game on the opposition’s forty-something yard line and ran the ball on second and third downs to set up (this time) a fifty-two yard field-goal attempt.  Who  does this?  Even in the NFL they don’t do this unless it’s the last few seconds of a tie game.  Are you kidding me?

Time management was again brought to question.  For the second week in a row, we had to call time out after an injury time out, to get the play in.  Hello!

Almost every coach says “we’re gonna play smash-mouth football.” The strength of this year’s team, however, is in the accuracy of our QB’s arm, and the wonderful skills of our receivers, both in catching and running after the catch.  This offense should be based on throwing the ball, short and long.  This team has to pass to set up the run.  Gun and then run!  We don’t have a Paul Palmer or a Khalid Thomas to bail us out. If we don’t play to our strengths as all great coaches do, it will be a long season.

The Defense

Alas, and woe is me.  For the third week in a row, our pass defense was porous.  Even though we blitzed a lot more, and it helped, we got burned when the backs came out, grabbed a short pass, and ran to daylight.  It’s obvious our linebackers are mostly lousy on pass defense.  They are slow to recognize their responsibility, and slow to cover.  Be aware though, this is one of the toughest responsibilities in defensive football.

After three weeks of pass defense failure, this tells me we need to add a different type of defensive scheme.   My suggestion is to have the four down-linemen and the middle linebacker be responsible for the run and pressure on the passer.  Then, I’d have four defenders in a zone across the field at ten yards deep, and two deep safeties, one on each side. This way, the defenders can see who’s coming out, read the QB’s eyes, and see the ball in the air. (Please remember, I’m 92% accurate in my play-calling from the stands. I keep my own stats, by the way, so trust me.)

AND NOW WE WAIT TO SEE THE WIDE-OPEN OFFENSES IN OUR CONFERENCE

P.S. – Call me crazy, but I don’t know when in football history and which defensive genius decided to have the pass defenders chase the receiver with their back to the QB.  We were always taught to stay behind the receiver until the ball was released, for many obvious advantages.  Maybe after all the offensive coordinators got together and agreed to run the same plays, the defensive coordinators met and decided this was a good thing.  Wait; I know.  It was the officials, so they could call more interference penalties.

Tomorrow: The Lost Letter

Thursday: USF Preview

Friday: USF Game Analysis

 

When Sixteen Is Anything But Sweet

Sixteen is usually a pretty sweet number, an indication that growing up is just around the corner, a time to get a driver’s permit or time for a great birthday party.

In football, the number 16 is anything but sweet because that’s the number, despite all of the offensive weapons Temple football has, that Logan Marchi has put up in each of the last two weeks as Temple’s quarterback.

It’s the quarterback’s job to turn the scoreboard into an adding machine and 16 points in each of the last two games does not cut it now and will not cut it going forward.

mattryan

Matt Rhule with Anthony Russo.

The audition is over. Logan Marchi is just OK in my opinion with a limited ceiling and we have seen that ceiling. It’s a 16-point ceiling with 48-point talent around him. It’s not getting any higher nor is he getting any taller.

It’s time for Anthony Russo to take over.

Russo, in my mind, is the perfect quarterback for this offense and he’s got a high ceiling.

He’s tall enough to see the field and has a big enough arm to make all of the throws.

marchi

Our post-game ND analysis called for a quick QB change should the Owls struggle to put points on the board against Nova. Freaking Lehigh put 35 points up on Nova. It’s the quarterback’s job to put points on the scoreboard.

One play stood out in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s 16-13 win over Villanova with the Owls having a third-and-four. Logan Marchi stepped into the pocket and threw a pass that may or may not have been complete but we will never know because the pass was blocked at the line of scrimmage.

lesmiles

Les Miles with Anthony Russo.

That’s going to happen when you have a small guy with an average arm.

The Owls have NFL-quality wide receivers in Adonis Jennings, Ventell Bryant, Keith Kirkwood and  Isaiah Wright. They need someone who has a big arm, is tall and can make all of the throws.

Russo is that guy.

On the day Anthony Russo committed to Temple, he received a visit in the cafeteria at Archbishop Wood from then LSU head coach Les Miles. All Russo had to do was make an official visit to LSU and he would have a scholarship. Anthony, being a man of his word, said that he had given it to then head coach Matt Rhule. He previously de-committed from another Power 5 school, Rutgers, to play in his hometown. Coaches like Miles don’t hop on their private jet from Baton Rouge to fly to Warminster without wanting to close the deal. Miles, Matt Rhule and Rutgers all saw big-time in Russo. For some reason, maybe it’s because he’s Matt’s recruit, Collins does not want to give Russo a fair shot. At least that’s my opinion. I saw Russo play many times in big games. He’s fearless and he’s a winner.

Russo is a big-time quarterback, a state champion who tossed 35 touchdown passes in his senior year of high school. The Owls need a guy who can throw touchdown passes, and not just move the offense to get field goals.

They need to go to No. 15 to get over that 16-point ceiling they seem to be stuck on this season.

Or they can score 16 points against UMass and hope the defense delivers again.

To me, that’s a pretty sour option when they have a sweet arm on the bench.

The Owls should be turning these scoreboards into adding machines with that talent and 16 points in each of the first two games is squandering their weapons. The Owls have nothing to lose by giving a proven winner a shot.

Monday: Fizzy’s Corner

Tuesday: What Happened to Mayhem?

Thursday: UMass Preview

 

QB Casting Call

The Temperors held the first of two closed scrimmages on Saturday as even the Temple fans are getting ready. This should be on the Jumbotron pregame for Villanova (our suggestion).

If hint-dropping is taken into account, Frank Nutile would be under center when the Owls travel to Notre Dame on 9/2/17.

Hint 1: Nutile has been taking MOST of the snaps with the first team during camp so far. When Keith Kirkwood, Adonis Jennings and Ventell Bryant are all on the field at the same time, it has been Nutile throwing the ball to them.

Hint 2: On Media Day, Collins said “the team seems to move the ball better with him in there” and “guys tend to gravitate to him when he’s in the room.” That was all on a question about how he got the nickname of Frankie Juice.

Of course, Collins could be throwing us all for a loop and saying these things to throw the speculation one way and then call a play that goes the other. He does not strike me as that kind of guy, though. He did have his first of two closed scrimmages on Saturday night and the word was that “all four” quarterbacks looked equally good.

What Collins does have is not unlike a director looking for a lead man. He has four distinct types.

jimnutile

FRANK NUTILE_ Much more of a “Jim Plunkett” type than the other four quarterbacks. Not very mobile or flashy, but gets the throws where they need to be. Plunkett won a Heisman Trophy and two Super Bowls, so the strong silent type could be what Collins is looking for right now.

ANTHONY RUSSO_ Definitely more flashy than Nutile and called “the light who brightens up a room” by no less a quarterback authority than Trent Dilfer. Russo has been compared to the Atlanta Falcons’ Matty Ryan, because he is a similar “type” quarterback with functional mobility (the ability to get out of trouble in the pocket to make a throw downfield). Ryan, like Russo, is from one of the three Philadelphia City Leagues (Inter-AC, Catholic, Public) and Russo had the better high school stats against better competition. Getting Russo to stay home at Temple was, as Joe Biden might say, a big f’ing deal and Russo’s success with the Owls might have a Pied Piper effect. Temple tried to recruit two players from the Catholic and Inter-Ac Leagues before, one was Ryan and the other was Rich Gannon. Both became NFL MVPs. Russo had a more outstanding Philadelphia scholastic career than those two and his getting on the field sooner than later might to out to be a big benefit for the Owls.

russo

LOGAN MARCHI _ When a group of Temple fans first saw Marchi’s high school film, they pretty much agreed that they were watching Johnny Manziel. The then Texas A&M quarterback used to duck out of trouble, like Marchi did in those clips, and make something happen with his feet—like a big gain in the run game or an explosive play in the passing game, even if the pass was thrown off the back feet. Marchi threw a couple of those back-feet passes in the spring game and was intercepted. Maybe it was more of an aberration than the norm, but he’s had to catch up since.

TODD CENTEIO _ Reminds me particularly of the guy they are trying so hard to replace, Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback Phillip “P.J.” Walker. Like Marchi, he has more than functional mobility in the sense that he can get out of the pocket and make a big gain in both the running and the passing game. Walker looked to run a lot in his first two seasons, but enjoyed more success when he became a pocket passer in his final two seasons. Now the Owls are desperately seeking a guy like him and may be forced to burn a redshirt to get another version of Walker.

The first scrimmage, or reading, is in the books. It may take a second casting call before all the characters in this movie are aligned.

Wednesday: Ringing In The New Year

Friday: Perception Versus Reality

 

 

Summer Practice: Picking Up That Can

crew

As a matter of comparison, what has happened at the quarterback position since the departure of P.J. Walker has been simply a case of kicking the can down the road.

More precisely, four cans.

This summer’s practice isn’t all about picking up the can with the best ingredients but it will be the most intriguing development.

Collins, correctly, postponed the decision on starter until the summer practice that begins in a couple of weeks.

It probably won’t be announced on the first or second week, but probably settled on by the third or fourth week. No one would be surprised if it was revealed a few days before the Sept. 2 game at Notre Dame. Game notes being what they are, and a national television audience being what it is, the crew of the game probably would want to do their homework on the Temple starter on something other than the morning of the game. So don’t expect a game day surprise.

As it sits now, I cannot tell you who will start.

Collins probably couldn’t either.

That’s because no one really has separated themselves from the other in the four weeks of spring practice. Will it happen in the summer? Possibly, but it’s also possible that the talent level will be so close other factors have to be considered.

In Toddy Centeio, the true freshman from Florida, the Owls have a high upside guy. Maybe the highest. Still, when was the last time a true freshman led a team to a P5 or a G5 title? That’s probably the best reason for a redshirt year that includes time leading the scout team, building up muscles in the weight room and loading the head with modern offensive concepts in the film room.

That leaves Anthony Russo, Logan Marchi and Frank Nutile.

In Russo, the Owls not only have their highest-ranked quarterback recruit since Ron Dickerson was able to convince Kevin Harvey to take his Parade All-American certificate to Temple, but one of the top three recruits of any school from one of the three big Philadelphia City Leagues. Russo has a better pedigree that even a couple of NFL MVPs, Rich Gannon (St. Joseph’s Prep, Delaware) and Matty Ryan (Penn Charter, Boston College). Both Gannon and Ryan had 20 touchdown passes in their final year of high school play; Russo had 35. Same level of competition.

The Owls could go to Nutile, a game manager type who was nowhere near as effective a high school quarterback as Russo.

The appeal of Marchi is that he has the mobility none of the other three have and he’s a year farther along than Russo. Given offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude’s stated fondness for a dual threat quarterback, Marchi might be the slight clubhouse leader at this point.

Collins and Patenaude will kick these cans down the interstate as long as they can, but somewhere between here and South Bend they will have to settle on one. Right now, they would prefer one of the guys to be so much better than the other three that the player, not the coach, decides.

That’s what summer practice is for but it’s also to make the tough coaching calls if a player doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity.

Friday: Class Warfare

Monday: House Money

 

 

QB Departure Might Offer Clue for Leader

reps

             Logan Marchi is getting more reps with the ones.

In a program as large as Temple’s, there are all sorts of comings and goings even in the best of times.

The Owls are the right fit for most, but they can’t be the right fit for everyone.

That’s why last week’s five-quarterback race is now down to a four-person one with the departure of Overbrook (N.J.’s) Tommy Wyatt.

Although there is no official depth chart, we’ve been told from reliable sources that Wyatt was the fifth quarterback. In a case like that, reading that handwriting on the wall is an important skill and Wyatt’s transfer to Rutgers probably was the best move for all parties.

Right now, the battle for the starting position seems to be between three players—Anthony Russo, Logan Marchi and Frank Nutile—and true freshman Todd Centeio probably could benefit from a redshirt year, which he is likely to get.

Although media members are allowed to only see the final 10 minutes of practice, leaks from others who do see the entire practice say that Marchi is getting most of the reps now. Unless that changes, he is on a straight-line path to be the starter at Notre Dame.

It might be reading too much into the situation, but that appears to be the direction Patenaude is headed this spring.

We won’t know for sure until Cherry and White Day, but my guess is that Marchi will be quarterbacking one team and Russo the other and, if one guy separates  himself that day, the sooner the starter will be named.

If it’s a photo finish, then the issue won’t be decided until the summer.

Friday: Cherry Flags

Monday: Red Flags

Wednesday: Playing Poker

 

Recruiting Season Begins This Weekend

Logan Marchi’s style reminds me of a one-time Texas A&M quarterback.

There are three seasons in college football, the real one in the fall, spring practice and recruiting season.

At Temple, without a bowl, the Owls are in recruiting season in earnest. A few Owls are set to visit today and this weekend including a couple of guys from Timber Creek, lineman Greg Webb and defensive back Kareem Ali.

Then there is the story of Connecticut quarterback Logan Marchi. He is here to visit and sign or both, but the headline writer and story writer for 247.com sports were really confusing on this one. One says Logan will sign; the other says he will visit.

Visit or sign? Headline says one thing; first sentence in story says another.

Visit or sign? Headline says one thing; first sentence in story says another.

I guess we will know for sure by Dec. 17, the early signing date.

One thing that is for sure is that the Owls could sure use him. While he probably will not unseat P.J. Walker as the Owls’ starting quarterback in the fall, there is a good chance for significant playing time because he has more mobility than the other quarterback the Owls brought in last year, Frank Nutile. Anyone who has seen the Owls’ offensive line this past season knows mobility is a must.

Nevada OC Nick Rolovich checking in? We can only hope.

Nevada OC Nick Rolovich checking in? We can only hope.

Since the Owls need more protection for the quarterback than they have given him, on the wish list should be a blocking fullback to provide additional dropback protection. Both Kenny Harper and Marc Tyson will graduate, so maybe the Owls can get that type of player out of the JUCO ranks.

Then they will have to commit to using him or risk seeing whoever plays that position running for his life next year.