Game Day Forecast: Great weather, uncertain outcome

Temple is not getting much respect from the prognosticators.

Fanciers of sports talk radio pick up on the catchphrases of various successful hosts.

Mike Francesa of New York has “wait a minute, wait a minute!” but today’s signature that applies to the noon kickoff between host Temple and Maryland goes to another Mike, Missanelli, who says: “the line is telling me something.”

The opening line was Maryland favored by four.

It has since adjusted to around a touchdown.

web_7day_1280x720

No rain, just a beautiful day for football

Shocking, because after last week, I thought the line would open with Temple a mid-teen double-digit dog.

The line should be telling you that Vegas feels that Temple is a whole lot better than Syracuse–which was ranked No. 21 last week–but elsewhere the signs are that there is little respect for the Owls.


“Maryland travels to Temple
this coming Saturday before
a well-placed bye week ahead
of its first significant
test: a nationally televised
home game on Sept. 27, a Friday
night, against Penn State”

_ Ross Dellenger, National College
Football writer
What?
Temple NOT a test?
Bulletin Board material

Only Sports Illustrated said to jump on the Owls but that was to cover, not to win, and I haven’t found a viable prediction service who is picking Temple to win outright.

I won’t but I won’t pick Maryland to win, either, because I think there are too many variables going into this game.

First, Bucknell might be the worst FCS team in the history of college football and I don’t think that game adequately prepared the Owls for this one. That’s not on the kids or coaches but on the Temple administration. To me, even a full-contact scrimmage between the first and second Temple units under game conditions would have been a better way to prepare and certainly a game against another FBS team would have also been better. I’m still very concerned that not a single Temple running back was able to take a handoff from deep in his own territory and outrace that entire Bucknell team for a touchdown.

That’s one strike against Temple.

On the other hand, many of the key players who starred in last year’s victory for Temple–notably Kenny Yeboah, Anthony Russo, and Shaun Bradley.–have not gone anywhere and they all figure to be the same kind of a nightmare for the Terrapins that they were a year ago. Russo was great in his first-ever college start, finding Yeboah for a touchdown, while Bradley had a pick 6.

That’s one strike against Maryland.

The second strike could be coaching but that’s also up in the air. Temple should have an advantage there because Rod Carey entered this season with a 52-30 record as an FBS head coach while Mike Locksley entered this season as a 3-31 FBS head coach. Last week, Locksley had to outsmart only Dino Babers (19-20 as a head coach coming into this season). It should be tougher against Carey. Still, I have a question whether Carey is married to a read-option offense. If he is, that’s playing into Maryland hands by giving the Terrapins more possessions than they should have and, with that kind of speed, that’s a high hanging curveball. If he’s flexible enough to adjust to attack the Terrapins’ weakness–run defense–by establishing the run first and throwing off play-action fakes, that could be a home run for Temple.

This morning it’s the bottom of the ninth and one team is down to its final strike.

We won’t know who swings and misses until 3 p.m., but that’s what makes sports great and just maybe a big and loud home crowd becomes the kind of closer Mariano Rivera was.

Picks this week (record 0-0 against the spread, 0-0 straight up): North Carolina State laying the 6.5 at West Virginia, Penn State laying the 17 against visiting Pitt, Eastern Michigan getting 8 at Illinois, Iowa laying the 2.5 at Iowa State, Buffalo laying the 4.5 at Liberty and Georgia State getting 10.5 at Western Michigan

Tomorrow: Game Analysis

Temple Nation Needs to Show Up

The Temple fans made LFF a house of horrors for Penn State in 2015.

The first time I ever heard the phrase Al Golden uttered it a few years into probably one of the most impressive rebuilding jobs I’ve ever seen:

“Temple Nation needs to show up,” Golden said.

The coach really was four years into the rebuild and the place to show up was Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington, D.C. for the Eagle Bank Bowl in 2009. It was the school’s first bowl in 30 years and it was against a marquee opponent and since one school was 200 miles away and the other 3,000, bowl organizers were counting on a big walk-up from Philadelphia.

If Temple Nation needed to show up then, it certainly needs to show up even more now. Full disclosure: This post wasn’t scheduled to be published until Thursday but we felt this plea was important to make early in the week to set the wheels in motion in the school and in the alumni ranks for a big home crowd against Maryland (noon, Saturday).

I don’t know what the crowd is going to look like but if the Owls got a legitimate 35,004 against Army in 2016 (and they did) and a legitimate 35,786 against Tulane in 2015 (and they did), and a legitimate 33,026 for Cincinnati last year (and they did), they are going to have to move that needle close to the 40,000 range for Maryland.

The stakes are that high.

The Owls–who received two votes in “others under consideration” in the Top 25 coaches preseason poll–can crack the Top 25 with a win over Maryland on Saturday. It’s not all that outrageous that a win puts the Owls there. Last week, Maryland was outside the Top 25 when it beat No. 21 Syracuse. This week, Temple is outside the Top 25 when it hosts No. 21 Maryland.

People have to get up on whatever equates to a soapbox at the Student Activities Center, the Bell Tower, the Olympic Complex or whatever place on campus to get a significant portion of the 40,000 fulltime students to attend on Saturday. A solid representation of the 279,000 alumni–almost 200,000 who live within an hour’s drive of the stadium–have to be accounted for as well.

If it can happen for one school, it can happen for another.

Temple Nation?

I never heard of the concept until two weeks before that Eagle Bank bowl.  Hell, Temple isn’t a state or a city let alone even a nation. Yet whatever Temple Nation was responded to that call when an estimated 20,000 of the 23,000 fans in the old baseball stadium cheered their throats out to see the Owls lose to 30-21 to UCLA.

“There were so many Temple fans here I really hated it,” a UCLA vlogger said afterward.

A year ago, Temple handed both Maryland and Cincinnati their first losses of the season. It didn’t need a home crowd to beat Maryland, but it did need a very loud one to beat Cincinnati.

“I couldn’t hear because of the crowd,” Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ritter said after fumbling a key snap in overtime that allowed the Owls to win.

The Owls will need that crowd again on Saturday and it will have to be loud and involved to help them crack the top 25 this early for the first time ever.

Even if it’s a mid-size nation, it can still make an impact on the college football globe in a few days.

Saturday: Game Day

Owls Know The Way to Beat Maryland

Perhaps no score in college football surprised the so-called experts more than Maryland’s 63-20 win over Syracuse on Saturday.

Sure, Maryland was a 2-point favorite at home against the No. 21-ranked Orange but Hurricane Dorian-type level of devastation was the thing that opened some eyes.

One thing the Terrapins established is they are a quick-strike team with plenty of speed on offense.


While Maryland has revenge
motivation that can’t be
discounted, Carey has all
the cards in his pocket in
terms of strategy. As a head
coach on the FBS level,
Carey is 53-30; as a head
coach on the FBS level,
Maryland coach Mike
Locksley is 5-31

Those three hours gave Temple head coach Rod Carey a pretty good template for devising a game plan to beat the Terrapins.

Like the old Dean Smith four-corners pre-clock era basketball offense of North Carolina, play keep-away.

The way to control a big-strike type team, as Maryland is, is to run the ball, control the clock, bring the safeties and the linebackers up to the line of scrimmage, and hit some key third-down plays in the play-action passing game. Keep the ball for at least eight minutes of each quarter and score some points and that limits the opportunities Maryland has to touch it.

While Maryland has revenge motivation that can’t be discounted, Carey has all the cards in his pocket in terms of strategy. As a head coach on the FBS level, Carey is 53-30; as a head coach on the FBS level, Maryland coach Mike Locksley is 5-31. Plus, the Owls had an extra week to prepare so Carey knows what the deal is. Last year, the Owls put their tight ends in motion as blockers for NFL fifth-round pick Ryquell Armstead, got some turnovers on defense, and came away with a 35-14 win.

All  Locksley has to go by on Temple is a game film that showed a spread offense without a fullback or two tight ends and that’s pretty much what he’s planning to stop.

If Carey came out in two tight ends, and a fullback, pounded the ball behind running backs Jager Gardner and Re’Mahn Davis (with a healthy dose of Isaiah Wright misdirection), that’s something Maryland coaches would definitely not be prepared to face.

Running the ball behind extra blockers was also that strategy that Steve Addazio employed to beat Maryland, 38-7, in 2011:

As a bonus, it is also the best strategy for Temple in that the Owls’ strengths as a team are their offensive line, quarterbacks and linebackers. If Wright is the full-time running back, you could also say that position would be a strength of the team as well.

With Josh Jackson instead of turnover-prone Kasim Hunt at quarterback, this is not the same Maryland team that lost to Temple 35-14 a year ago in College Park, Md.

This isn’t the same Temple team, either.

It’s better-coached than it was a year behind a guy who is 4-2 against the Big 10.

Whether he goes 5-2 will be determined by his willingness to adjust his scheme to exploit the weakness of his opponent.

We will find that out in six days.

Tuesday: Owl Nation

Saturday: Game Day

The Listerine Bowl: It’s Not Bucknell

listerine.jpg.optimal

The late great Arthur Ashe once said it best: “You are only as good as your last game.”

I don’t know if Ashe said it first, but some versions of it have been quoted by players and coaches since and I have not found anyone who said it before Ashe.

The last game Temple football played was a 56-27 loss to Duke in the Independence Bowl. That was not Temple football by any means for a number of reasons and left a lingering feeling of bad breath on the mouths of anyone who cares anything about the program.

It’s like having that taste and not being able to find a bottle of Listerine in any store and living with it. The Owls do not play football again until August against Bucknell but does anyone really believe knocking the snot out of the Bison will do anything to eliminate the memory of Duke?

I certainly don’t and you can make that reason No. 1,267 why playing Bucknell is a bad idea for Temple and, really, playing any FCS opponent is a bad idea for a league trying to establish a football identity like the AAC. Temple probably should have scheduled a P5 road game for its opener, but that’s a debate for a different day.

Moving back to the Temple aspect of this argument, that’s why it’ll be a long time to wash out the taste of Duke. Maybe three weeks later.

You can talk “take-this-one-game-at-a-time” thing all you want but that’s for the coaches and the players.

For the fans, it’s different and should be.

That’s why Temple fans have to circle Sept. 14, 2019 on their calendar. A fired-up Maryland team comes to town to try to take revenge on the Owls for suffering a 35-14 embarrassment. Beat a Big 10 team in consecutive seasons and that will show me something. Remember the last time Maryland came to town it was fired up to win after a 38-7 loss to Temple in 2011 (one of the Terps said “we took last year personal”) and beat the Owls, 36-27. So beating a P5 team in revenge mode and we will finally be able to get the taste of Duke out of our mouths.

It was a particularly bitter pill to swallow because Duke’s best player, the highest-rated NFL prospect on both teams, decided to play with his brothers one last time and the two highest-rated Temple players said “nah, I’m good” and were seen more than once laughing on the sidelines as their brothers got pounded.

Not a good look to take into the offseason.

Now, Temple goes forward at full strength and should be back to the Temple football we all know and love by mid-September.

At least that should be the plan.

Listerine shots for all in the post-game tailgate.

Sunday: A Contrast of Styles

Tuesday: The 2020 Draft and Temple

Maryland: Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde

hyde

Editor’s Note: Fizz checks in on his thoughts about the Maryland game.

By Dave (Fizzy) Weinraub

In the original story, a lawyer named Gabriel Utterson investigates the prominent physician Dr. Jekyll, who transforms into the murderous Mr. Hyde.  In this version of the story, I will take the place of lawyer Utterson.  The dual personalities of Jekyll and Hyde will be played by Dave Patenaude, the Temple offensive coordinator.

power

Utterson (to Inspector Hodges):

“It was most remarkable. During the first three offensive possessions, Mr. Hyde was running the offense.  It was the same old Broad Street Offense… handoffs up-the-gut on first down, followed by straight passes with no fakes from an open backfield.  When the passes failed, it was up-the-gut on third and long.

Hodges (to Utterson):

“Then what happened?”

Utterson:

“From what I heard, there was a timeout and Mr. Hyde went to the men’s room. When he came back to the coaches’ box, he was most composed and dapper.  He’d morphed into Dr. Jekyll, and the offense was completely different.  All of a sudden there was deception in the backfield.  Receivers and running backs were going in motion and coming back to QB before the snap, sometimes getting the ball and sometimes faking. There were even tight-end screens and the defense didn’t know what was happening.  Then, QB Russo started to roll out which gave him plenty of time to  look downfield and throw very accurate passes (except for the time when he looked directly at his receiver doing a sideline pattern and was intercepted for a pick six.)   Amazingly, I saw what may be the best offensive call in Temple’s history.* On a fourth and two, Temple ran a fake punt and a reserve QB threw a touchdown pass that changed the game.”

Hodges:

“Wow!  Was that all?”

Utterson:

“Not by any means.  Russo threw a touchdown pass on a designed play where the wideout broke to the sideline and jumped up and down drawing his man and the safety. Meanwhile, the tight end ran a stop and go and was wide open down the sideline.  This is the first time since this new coaching staff took over last year, that we’ve seen imaginative and deceptive play design.”

Hodges:

“So it was a cake walk after that?”

Utterson:

“Unfortunately, no!  It was really strange.  There was a TV timeout with six minutes left in the third quarter, and Dr. Jekyll’s assistant left the booth.  When he came back, he was so startled he had to change his shorts because Mr. Hyde was once more looking at the field.  Everything then reverted back to the Broad Street Offense.  It seems that Mr. Hyde was once more playing not to lose.  Two of the most curious play calls occurred on third and on long, deep in Maryland’s territory.   On both occasions, he ran his famous up-the-gut play for no gain, and I thought he was trying to set-up a field goal.  But no, he then threw deep from a straight drop-back on fourth down.”

Hodges:

“So what clinched the game?”

Utterson:

“Well, again it was weird.  Maybe Mr. Hyde rubbed off some on the defense which had played so aggressively and outstandingly to that point and not allowed any points.  The defense seemed to relax a little, used some three-man rushes, and Maryland began to be effective with both the run and the pass. The game was saved from being a nail-biter by linebacker Bradley who had an 83-yard interception return for a touchdown.”

Hodges:

“So what’s your conclusion in regards to the coaching staff?”

Utterson:

“Inspector, if you arrest Mr. Hyde and lock him in the basement of Conwell Hall, perhaps this coaching staff will finally learn to be aggressive at all times.”

* This author made mention that the fake punt on fourth and two was possibly the best offensive call in Temple’s history.   Undoubtedly, the worst call was when I was handed the ball against Delaware in 1959, and lost three yards.

Tomorrow: What We’ve Learned

 

 

 

Shocked and Amazed (in a good way)

Sometimes you are shocked and appalled.

Others you are shocked and amazed.

Count a significant—maybe a majority—of the Temple football fanbase into that latter category today after a 35-14 win at Maryland. For the first two games, shocked and appalled would have been the more apt adjectives.

Raising my hand here because this is the team I thought I would see from the jump but due to so many head-scratching decisions of the coaching, err, brain trust we have not.

Until Saturday.

teamstats

The tight end position made a spectacular reappearance into the Temple offense as the Owls used Kenny Yeboah and Chris Myarick not only to catch key passes in the game but to essentially play the role of a fullback leading the way for Ryquell Armstead.

Anyone who has followed Temple football since Armstead arrived knows he is as good a back as any in the league while following a lead block. He does not do well when lined up in an otherwise empty backfield where the bad guys can send a blitzing linebacker at him.  The coaching staff did not give him a lead block until Saturday and they gave him several as the tight end lined up as an H-Back on Armstead carries and was put in motion with Armstead following the motion.

Why that wasn’t there from the jump is a mystery to me.

Better late than never.

It might also be helpful to use a blocking fullback in addition to the H-Back block, but maybe that’s asking for too much. Maybe Ed Foley and Adam DiMichele can talk OC Dave Patenaude and HC Geoff Collins into that.

predelicksions

Maryland site had the score right but the teams wrong

Love to see it in action on Thursday night (7:30 p.m., ESPN) against a Tulsa team that got hammered by Arkansas State last night. If it works, keep it in the offense going forward.

Anthony Russo, an Elite 11 quarterback, looked like the guy Trent Dilfer said he would be years ago.

He probably did enough to earn the job under center against Tulsa and, should he improve, keep it going forward.

Hopefully, an ancillary benefit from yesterday’s Owl win will be getting the Prodigal Son fans to return.

Some undoubtedly will be back for the Tulsa game. If the Owls can build a winning streak, more will come back and maybe, just maybe, this season will be the one we expected at the beginning.

My game watch plans were an absolute nightmare as the North Bowl location where the Temple Engineering grads had a party did not get the Big 10 Network on their TVs and instead pumped an internet feed onto a faraway screen behind the bowling alley with no sound. At halftime, it was onto Chickie and Pete’s in South Philly where the game was on two large screens in (empty) private rooms with no sound. I was the only Temple fan in there. They might as well made it a padded room because I was going nuts.

A very nice young lady ducked her head into the room when she saw me being there to cheer alone for the Owls.

“My son plays for Temple.”

“Who?”

“No. 40.”

“Yes,” I said. “Todd Jones, St. Joe’s Prep.”

She seemed shocked that I knew him.

“My mother passed this morning so I could not go to the game.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. My condolences.”

The first to congratulate Freddie Johnson in the end zone on his fake touchdown catch from Toddy Centeio?

Todd Jones.

I hope that made his mom proud on an otherwise sad day.

Monday: Fizz Breaks Down Maryland

Tuesday: What We’ve Learned So Far
Thursday: Tulsa Preview
Friday: Game Analysis

Scoreboard Watching Could Get Interesting

guest

The scoreboard you can get building a $130 million stadium

In a perfect world, one of these days the little guy rises up to bite the big guy in the butt.

That seldom happens because the deck is always stacked against the little guy because the big guy usually makes the rules.

Nothing reflects that reality these days more than the monopoly called big-time college football.

Yet there is a miniscule chance the impossible happens so it’s nice on a late May day to dream.

bernie

The view Maryland defenders had of Bernard Pierce in a 5TD game in College Park

For Temple football, that boils down to two sports this season: Watching the Owls’ scoreboard and watching those of particularly two other guys: Boston College and Maryland.

You can only control what you can control and, if the Owls control things and win another AAC title, then the secondary sport of scoreboard watching comes into play.

Boston College is supposed to be good this season. If head coach Steve Addazio gets out of his own way and allows Scot (one t) Loeffler to call the plays, it could be very good.

Maryland is supposed to be better and any team that defensive coordinator Chuck Heater goes to usually gets a lot better during his first year on the job.

How much better will be determined if BC can beat Purdue and Wake Forest before getting to Temple and Maryland can beat a Texas team bent on revenge.


There’s nothing more
idiotic than a fan
saying, “Let’s beat UCF,
USF and Memphis first
before we start thinking
about Maryland and BC.”

Either way, the Owls should be underdogs in their two Power 5 games but I don’t see that number rising to double-digits so winning those games is a realistic goal.

Then it’s hoping that either BC wins the ACC or Maryland wins the Big 10. Not likely, but necessary if that miniscule chance of Temple ever making a big national splash is to occur.

As always while discussing these scenarios, we have to address the “let’s take one game at a time” of a lot of our fans. There’s nothing more idiotic than a fan saying, “Let’s beat UCF, USF and Memphis first before we start thinking about Maryland and BC.” Fans don’t have to take a game at a time. Fans can look ahead to any game they want to because fans looking ahead doesn’t cause the team to lose.

Taking one game at a time is the job of the paid professionals, the head coaches and their staffs, to pound that point home to the scholarship athletes under their guidance. It’s always good to remember that Buffalo, for instance, is taking the same approach to the Temple game that the Owls are taking to BC and Maryland.

As fans, it’s our job to get excited about all of the aspects of the season and, for this one at least, scoreboard watching is one of those pursuits.

Monday: Gambling on the G5

Wednesday: How The Tokyo Trip Helps

Friday: FBS Pecking Order and The Owls

2018 P5 Opponents: Maryland and Boston College

tentative

As Central Florida found out this season, nothing makes a statement for a Group of Five program than a win or two over Power 5 teams.

The first statement—a 38-10 win on the road over a Maryland team which beat Texas (which beat USC)—was impressive enough, but beating an Auburn team that beat the both Alabama and Georgia took it to another level.

Not enough to finish in the top four, but a statement on the way to an unbeaten season nonetheless.

Temple, in its own way, has a path to such a statement by wins against the aforementioned Maryland team and Steve Addazio’s Boston College squad.

Hard, but doable.

marylandsked

That’s what sets the 2018 season apart from the 2017.

The Owls play both Maryland and Boston College and, with those wins and a win over a Power 5 team in a bowl game, would restore a brand closer to what Matt Rhule left after a pair of 10-win seasons than the hit that took a slight hit with a 7-6 one in Geoff Collins’ first season.

If the Owls will be, as Collins has said, a “ridiculous” team next year, there is no reason to believe they can’t pull those two wins off. I assume Collins means ridiculously good because he talks the kids’ lingo.  Call me skeptical about the Owls replacing two great wide receivers, two good edge rushers and an 3/4s of a defensive secondary. Losing the “best fullback in the country” probably not will be as devastating as I thought it was going to be four months ago because the Owls’ brain trust did not use him over the last two months.

Maryland made it a lot harder by hiring former Temple defensive coordinator Chuck Heater. Taver Johnson, the Owls’ current coordinator, doesn’t have a resume approaching Heater’s—the last Temple DC to post consecutive shutouts and a guy who Urban Meyer called a “Miracle Worker” leading the defense of his 2010 Florida Gator national championship team.

Boston College, despite a solid season last year, could be a relatively easier nut to crack simply because of the matchups. BC lost to a Syracuse team that lost to Middle Tennessee State, so anything is possible. Any Temple fan will tell you that Addazio’s affinity for the run game borders on obsession and Temple, if anything, should have a good run-stopping defense next  year and be vulnerable to the pass. If Daz follows the pattern he set at Temple—run, run, sack, punt—the Owls should be in good shape. Still, Boston College won five of its last six games to earn a Pinstripe Bowl bid.

So there are signs that this is probably not the Daz we know and hate.

Either way, both Maryland and BC add some spice to a schedule that has been peppered with too many Stony Brooks and Villanovas over the last couple of years.

Scheduling P5 teams is one thing but, if you are going to schedule them, you might as well follow Central Florida’s lead and go ahead and beat them.

Wednesday: Commitment Issues

Friday: Housecleaning Questions