Halfway through: Horseshoes and hand grenades

Another five days to wait for a game and five more days of listening to the nation bash the Temple football Owls.

That seems to be the story of this football season, though.

If Arthur Johnson hired Stan Drayton to be the horseshoes and hand grenades head coach at Temple instead of the football one, real progress would be shown in at least five of the first six games.

Close doesn’t cut and, last week, the proverbial hand grenade blew up right in the Owls’ locker room in a 70-13 loss. Seventy points and 737 yards can’t do much for the team’s confidence moving forward and destroyed any good feelings about the team among whatever remains of the fan base.

Lot K will be taken over by Phillies fans on Friday night and much of the Temple-Tulsa in-game ESPN discussion will focus on what is happening across the street.

That’s what happens when you lose, 70-13.

Close against Rutgers when last year the Owls got beat 61-14 was a step forward, as was holding Duke to a pair of second-half field goals. Beating Massachusetts by about the same score MAC contender Buffalo did was nice but Lafayette got shut out by a Penn Quaker football team that doesn’t even have spring practice so maybe the Leopards should not have been on the schedule.

Some fans like to compare Stan Drayton’s first season to Matt Rhule’s first one, which resulted in two wins but the difference between then and now is Rhule’s team battled UCF down to the wire and UCF beat Baylor in a bowl that season and, in Week 7, Rhule’s team beat Army, 33-14.

It is now Week 7. Time to win.

A 33-14 win over Tulsa would be just what the doctor ordered but this team appears on life support right now.

The so-called national experts nailed the Owls going into the UCF game.

Bud Elliott of CBS Sports’ Cover Three podcast said: “I’m not buying that the Temple defense is any good. They have good numbers in terms of points allowed but look who they did it against: Lafayette, a FCS team; Rutgers, a team that fired its offensive coordinator, UMass, which has trouble scoring against everybody.”

Fellow podcaster Chip Patterson replied: “Did anybody say the Temple defense was any good?”

Danny Kanell, the former Florida State quarterback, said “Temple is unbelievably bad.”

The Youtuber Depressed Ginger said: “There is no salvaging Temple football. They are just so, so bad.”

This is the kind of bleep Temple fans have to listen to and swallow all season long.

And that was all BEFORE the UCF game.

You want to shoot back at those arguments but your team isn’t giving you much ammunition.

When the real season started–the league one–the Owls took two very large steps back. They lost to a Memphis team they scored 39 points on a year ago and, if you thought getting beat by 42 points to UCF last year was bad, getting beat by 57 was much worse.

It’s hard to swallow that Rod Carey did better against two league opponents in a year that got him fired than Stan Drayton did. Drayton upgraded the talent at running back and wide receiver but it doesn’t seem to have made a difference in the only metric that matters.

Winning.

The only way to change the national perception is by winning but, based on a half-season of results so far, it’s hard to imagine the Owls winning another game.

Are they going to beat Tulsa, a team that hung with Cincy and Ole Miss? They better hope the Tulsa team that shows up at Lincoln Financial Field on Friday night resembles the one that lost at Navy, 53-21. If it does, they have a puncher’s chance.

Maybe Navy is another possibility but that team, unlike Temple, has improved as the season has progressed.

Temple’s coaches and players can change the narrative but the only way to do it is by winning. Being close won’t cut it anymore.

Friday: Tulsa Preview

Somewhere, Rod Carey’s got to be talking to himself


It’s impossible to find a single photo of Rod Carey laughing and joking with Temple players like Matt Rhule does here.

The game has passed Rod Carey by and somewhere, deep down, the Temple University head coach for the next couple of games has to know it.

For the last few weeks, Carey has been on a loop at these post-game press conferences with statements like “our offense didn’t give us a chance to win” or “our defense played well enough to win” or “we’ve got to coach better.”

Deep down, even if he doesn’t say it, Carey knows what really happened. In the offseason, he harped on the “next man up” mantra but, in college football, you run out of next men up who are good enough to replace the previous men.

If he was honest with himself, he’d come to this conclusion:

“I’ve never been a player’s coach and, since the portal came, this is the worst time to be a hard ass.”

Or:

“We lost 15 good players in the transfer portal and I just didn’t do a good enough job of replacing them. I guess I just rubbed those guys the wrong way but that’s just my personality.”

That’s the Gosh-honest truth, whether he wants to admit it or not.

Even Steve Addazio was popular with Temple players.

While Temple had a mass exodus of players leaving, plenty of other G5 schools had nobody leave. CUSA champion UAB had nobody leave for Power 5 schools. Sun Belt champion Coastal Carolina had nobody leave. AAC champion Cincinnati got more players in the transfer portal than it lost. Do you think Coastal quarterback Grayson McCall could have improved his draft status by transferring to a Power 5 school? Sure. But he was happy where he was and the way he was being used.

Not true for Anthony Russo, a pocket passer who this staff tried to remake into an RPO quarterback. It would be naive to think that players like Vince Picozzi, the team’s best offensive lineman last year, or Arnold Ebiketie, the team’s best pass rusher, felt they were being utilized to the best of their abilities as well. If they were, they might have stayed.

The difference not only was that those teams were championship caliber but had coaches who were popular enough with the players and fostered a culture where everybody–both the good players and the next men up–were all in. At Temple, only the next men up were all in and that was the downfall.

Think about it. There are plenty of photos of Temple players laughing and joking with Matt Rhule, Al Golden and Steve Addazio. I have not seen a single one of a group of Temple players laughing and joking with Carey. At Temple, under Golden, Rhule and Daz (and even Geoff Collins), football was both fun and business.

Under Carey, things are pretty grim and there are fewer grins.

Temple was the hardest-hit G5 school in the transfer portal by far and the reason is as plain as the nose on Rod Carey’s face. It has shown on the field.

In a place like Northern Illinois, there was no transfer portal, Carey could hold things together because those players had no options.

Now things have fallen apart and even Humpty Dumpty can’t put it back together again.

Do you think Temple has the same mass exodus of talent with, a popular players’ coach like Matt Rhule or Al Golden?

No.

That’s a lesson for the administration when they look at the type of personality they want to bring in to replace Carey at the end of the season.

For Carey, though, the days of his style of coaching might be over and, when he talks to himself at night, that’s probably a realization he’s come to as well.

Friday: Temple-Tulsa

Memo to new AD: No More Wagners

Notre Dame is the kind of team TU should play, not Wagner

Somewhere in the new few days, the person who will be Temple’s new athletic director will sit down with the President and the Board of Trustees and discuss a vision for the future of the Owls’ athletic program.

Memo to that guy or gal:

Tell the BOT that you won’t be scheduling Wagner in football anymore or, for that matter, Stony Brook or Bucknell and you will work to get Lafayette and Rhode Island off future Owl schedules.

Temple can deliver the 4th largest market only if it gets bold with the schedule

The reasoning is simply this: The entire goal of the Temple athletic department should be to get in a Power 5 Conference. That ship may have already sailed but just in case it returns to the Port of Philadelphia, the university should be positioned for a promotion, not a demotion.

The way to do it is this: Schedule four Power 5 schools and beat two of them on a regular basis. Create some juice on the sidelines and in the stands. If this coaching staff can’t do it, find one that will.

This streak ended under Carey.

When the story of Pat Kraft is written at Temple, he will be known for a formula that puts a FCS team on the schedule every year, two Power 5s and another G5 school. He will also be known for giving the Owls Geoff Collins for two years, Manny Diaz for 18 days and Rod Carey for probably a short time as well.

It’s not a good look.

The new AD should have a bolder mission for Temple sports and that’s to put the Owls on course to be a winner in their two major sports.

Around the time the Owls are thumping Wagner in a glorified practice, Diaz’s Miami team will be playing Central Connecticut State. My educated guess is that Diaz will put an 81-0 thumping on CCS, the alma mater of former Temple head coach Steve Addazio. About a thousand miles North of that game, Temple will probably beat Wagner somewhere on the order of 61-7. The most competitive game Wagner played this year was a 21-19 loss to Central Connecticut State.

What do both games prove?

Absolutely nothing.

That’s a wasted weekend from the standpoint of program branding. Consider this: Four years ago, Wagner played UConn to a three-point loss. The next week it lost by 10 to East Stroudsburg University, a Division II program. When I went to Temple, that school was known as East Stroudsburg State Teachers College.

Miami’s brand can survive a game against Central Connecticut State and Penn State’s brand can survive one against Villanova. Temple doesn’t have that luxury.

Temple should never play a team that had a Division II team on the schedule so recently, let alone lost to it.

The argument in the interview room should be two-fold: One, play the Power 5 and have some success against them and put fans in the stands and get television ratings in the largest available market that doesn’t have a P5 team; two, if you need to beat a FCS team to get to six wins when 130 teams play FBS football, you need to get out of the football-playing business.

Temple does not need to get out of that business but needs to rejuvenate the product by winning.

Because the Owls have proven they can win big in football under Matt Rhule and Al Golden (and to a lesser extent Addazio and Collins) and draw huge TV ratings, that should be the new AD’s vision again. Golden is out there, but if he doesn’t want the job, surely there are young Al Goldens out there who can recapture the magic of Temple TUFF.

It has been done before and it can be done in the future.

That’s the bold vision the BOT needs to hear and a plan to execute it should be outlined.

Their next words should be:

“You’re hired.”

Latest update: Picked Wyoming to beat UConn, 41-7 (it won only 24-22), picked Toledo to beat Ball State 24-14 (it won 22-12), Western Michigan to beat San Jose State, 31-21 (it won 23-3), Boston College to beat Missouri, 24-21 (it won, 31-24). With that 3-1 record against the spread, we are 10-5-1 (with the push being Wyoming-NIU) ATS this season.

Picks this week: Liking 3 favorites and 1 dog this week. Wyoming 41, UCONN 7 (Wyoming favored by 29.5), Toledo 24, Ball State 14 (Toledo favored by 5), Western Michigan 31, San Jose State 21 (Western Michigan favored by 3), Boston College 24, Missouri 21 (Missouri favored by 1.5).

Last week’s update: Tulane let me down, but Wyoming easily covered, Northwestern lost, Tulsa covered, Purdue lost and Michigan State not only covered but won outright. So so far for the season 7-4-1 against the spread.

Late Saturday: Game, such as it is, analysis

5 Famous Temple coaching lines

Rod Carey’s best Temple highlight was beating Geoff Collins. We expected more and hope to get it.

Pouring over the things Rod Carey has said since his arrival at Temple I was quite frankly stunned by this statement repeated many times over the last few months or so:

“We dealt with Covid and, quite frankly, Covid won,” Carey said.

That got me to thinking.

If Carey goes 2-10 this year (as expected by most of the outside experts), that will probably be the one statement he will be remembered for here. That’s because even with a lame duck Temple administration and questionable athletic leadership, I cannot imagine Carey surviving a 2-10 season at Temple.

Could it happen?

Sure, because his current boss survived a 9-22 season Temple. The difference, though, is that boss gave Temple three-straight league championships and this one did not.

The other difference is that schools from metro AAC cities like Memphis and Cincy and Tulsa also had to deal with Covid and were able to wrestle Covid to the ground.

Was the City of Philadelphia’s response to Covid more draconian than Memphis, Cincy or Tulsa? Perhaps but not enough to be the difference between Cincy’s 8-0 and Temple’s 1-6.

If Carey loses this season, he’s going to have to come up with a different excuse or that quote is what he will be forever remembered here.

Let’s go over what the prior Temple coaches will be remembered for saying, in no particular order:

Steve Addazio: “”I love the feel of Philadelphia. This place fits my personality . The more I’m here, the more excited I am.”

Translation: Boston also fits my personality, especially after a 4-7 season.

Al Golden: “We’re going to build a house of brick, not straw. “

Translation: Thanks, Al. You were one of the few Temple coaches who delivered what he said he would deliver. Golden could have taken a shortcut and recruited a team of JUCO All-Americans who might have gotten him the UCLA job after year one or two but he recruited from the ground up and it took him five years to right the ship.

Matt Rhule: “For me, it means a promise has been fulfilled. Temple University has been unbelievable to my family and I. Ten years we have spent here, and it has been nothing but class. Tremendous people from the Board of Trustees to the administration to the people I work with day-to-day in athletics. The people who have stood by my side. The true thing for me is to have these players who call themselves champions because that is the way they live their lives. When you win this conference, you have done something special. This is a fantastic conference with great teams from top to bottom. We have tremendous respect for everyone that we play. We can say that we did it. That is the accomplishment.”

Translation: That’s all Temple fans could ever ask for and Matt Rhule will be forever remembered as an icon because of that title.

Geoff Collins: “We will compete for championships, we will provide a world-class student-athlete experience and education, and we will represent the community with pride.”

Translation: Competing for championships doesn’t mean winning one, like Rhule did.

That brings us to our favorite quote this week from Temple offensive lineman Isaac Moore, courtesy of OwlsDaily and a tip of the hat to that site’s Shawn Pastor: “It’s Temple. You cannot lose here. Everyone knows that.”

Thanks, Isaac, for providing the mantra going forward.

Since that best represents my fervent hope for the fall of 2021, that’s my favorite Temple quote of the year. If losing to Covid in 2020 means refusing to lose in 2021, that’s a trade I’m willing to accept.

Monday: Setting the Bar

Did You Ever Get the Feeling?

Figuring out Temple football gave Matt Rhule this kind of living space

Every comedian has a shtick, a routine, style of performance associated with that particular person.

Temple football today reminds me of a 1950s and 60s comedian named George Goebel. He started a series of jokes with “Do you ever get the feeling?”

He had the whole comedy thing figured out in how it would work given his circumstances. He knew the room.

Matt Rhule definitely did not have the Temple football room figured out until after his first two years and, largely to figuring it out, he’s sitting on millions of dollars and, on top of that, trying to sell at $2.5 million home in Waco after moving on to the Panthers.

Rod Carey would do well taking notes.

Do you ever get the feeling that this is the year Carey figures how to succeed at Temple? I have my doubts but we shall see.

How did Rhule figure Temple out? After the first two years, he scrapped the spread and went to a more conventional pro offense using two backs. In this interview with USA Today’s Paul Myerberg, Rhule capsulated the Epiphany beautifully. The scheme fit the school. Temple TUFF, 10th and Diamond, run the ball, with two backs, make explosive plays off the play-action passing game, play great defense and special teams.

This the key quote in that story:

Said Rhule, “How do we differentiate ourselves? How do we make ourselves hard to prepare for? Put two backs on the field. Put two tight ends on the field.

“This is what your roots are. These kids have made themselves really tough. And that’s the only way we’ll ever win. By being a really, really tough football team.”

Let’s analyze that. What does “put two backs on the field” mean? Two halfbacks? Two fullbacks? Three quarterbacks? It means exactly what he did: Put a fullback in front of a tailback, establish the run, bring the safeties and the linebackers up in run support and use deft play-faking to the backs in throwing to wide open receivers for explosive downfield plays. It was what we were pleading for him to do in this space for the first two years of the Rhule Era.

Carey, to me, is a good coach but Rhule made the leap to great when he went from to a more traditional NFL-style offense.

Temple has the offensive line to run such an offense, experienced, talented and averaging 300 pounds across the front. Use, say, Tayvon Ruley (6-0, 216) as a fullback in front of Ray Davis and that’s even an extra blocker at the point of attack for a shifty cutback runner. Throw one more blocker in the area of defenders and Davis has a bigger hole to cut through. The Owls have a quarterback known for an accurate and big arm and not for his legs. Those are the essential elements of a play-action focused offense, not an RPO one. Great coaches adjust to their personnel; they don’t make the personnel adjust to them.

Is Carey comfortable with just good or does he want to be great?

This season Temple fans should find out if the Owls play at least nine or more games. If Carey is still living in a modest home in South Jersey next year and driving a pickup truck, he will have done things his way and gone 4-4.

If, on the other hand, he reads the room better than a year ago, he will be 9-0 or 8-1 looking for a $2.5 million mansion somewhere, maybe even Waco.

It’s the difference between being good and great.

Now let’s go have a season and find out.

Friday: The AAC After Week One

Portal: Someone’s Getting Bad Advice

About the time Russell Conwell founded Temple University, he was the best-known lecturer in the United States, playing to sellout crowds who wanted to hear his story of the man who traveled the world in search of riches only to find “Acres of Diamonds” in his own backyard.

russell

The formula in the last decade has worked particularly well for Temple football, as the Owls have mined their own backyard and found a few diamonds that helped elevate their program to a national profile.

No one knows if Russell’s theory works in the opposite direction, but there appears to be a “Conwell Curse” on the few players who have left these acres searching for not diamonds but gold. Once you’ve solved the Conwell puzzle and found your diamonds right in your backyard, it’s bad Karma to stray.

 

There is not much data to work with on what happened to players who left Temple for so-called greener pastures but there is enough evidence to suggest it won’t necessarily end well for the two most recent departures.

Consider this: Temple had two linemen drafted in the NFL first-round in the last decade: One was Mo Wilkerson and the other was Haason Reddick. Staying at Temple did not hurt those last two so Quincy Roche leaving for ostensibly a high-end Power 5 school is a real head-scratcher.

Maybe he will be drafted in the first round next year, maybe not, but in our preview of the North Carolina game we wrote that “Quincy Roche and company getting to Sam Howell early and often is the only way that Temple has a chance to win this game.” Quincy did not get to Howell early and often. He didn’t get to him at all. Not only that, his key offside on a blocked field goal for a touchdown cost the Owls a possible 17-14 deficit at halftime instead of a 17-6 one.  If the way a 6-6 Power 5 team blocked him was any indication of how 9-3, 10-2, 11-1 or even 12-0 Power 5 teams will block him, he will not be a No. 1 NFL draft pick. That’s not sour grapes. That’s a simple fact.

If, on the other hand, Roche followed up his AAC Defensive Player of the Year with another great year at Temple, he would have had the same chance Wilkerson and Reddick had to be drafted No. 1 by an NFL team. Also, Roche had a breakout year not under Geoff Collins but under the tutelage of line coach Walter Stewart. Had he stayed for another year under Stewart, there is no reason to believe that he wouldn’t have continued along the same trend line.

reddick

Somehow, I don’t think Roche reasoned the above logic into his transfer decision or somebody is giving him very bad advice.

The same goes for tight end Kenny Yeboah. At Temple in 2019, Yeboah–a Parkland High graduate whose family made the easy trip down to see him play every home game–caught 19 passes for 248 yards and five touchdowns.

The total number of passes caught by tight ends at Baylor in 2019: Five. That’s right. Five passes caught by all of the tight ends in the Baylor program. Does anyone really believe that Matt Rhule, if he even remains at Baylor, is going to drastically change a system that worked for him in Waco to accommodate the needs and wants of a transfer from Temple? I don’t. My money is on Yeboah catching fewer than 19 passes, getting fewer than 248 yards and five touchdowns at Baylor next season. For his sake, I hope they change the offense but Rhule would kick himself if he changed something that gave him an 11-2 regular season for any level of uncertainty.  What happens is Rhule leaves for the NFL? That leaves Yeboah a thousand miles away from home without the support system of coaches and teammates who know and love him, not to mention family and friends who won’t be able to travel to his home games.

When it comes to leaving Temple, look at kicker Austin Jones. Before Jones was cheap-shotted on a kickoff at Memphis, he made 17-straight field goals at Temple over a two-year period that began in 2015 when he was 44 for 45 in extra points and 23 for 28 in field goals. Before the cheap shot that robbed him of finishing a championship season, Jones was 10 for 12 in field goals (he missed two in the Memphis game after getting 17 straight). Then he grad transferred to Alabama, where he really only saw the field as a cheerleader on the sideline. His stats at Bama: 1 for 2 in field goals and 1-3 in extra points. The two missed extra points soured Nick Saban on Jones and he was relegated to the bench for the rest of the season.

Another tight end, Kip Patton, downgraded from Temple to Tennessee Tech and got in trouble with the law. At Temple, the only trouble Patton caused was to opponents and his best season was in 2015, catching 12 passes for 168 yards. If he had stayed at Temple, things might have turned out differently.

Marshall Ellick, a wide receiver, transferred from Temple to Stony Brook for the 2018 season. At Temple, he caught 22 passes for 234 yards. At Stony Brook, he caught 22 passes for 311 yards. Hardly worth packing the stuff and moving to New York.

Maybe things will turn out great for Yeboah and Roche, two men who found their Acres of Diamonds right here and got greedy for more. Maybe they should have asked Jones, Patton, and Ellick first. Better yet, maybe they should have read the founder’s book.

Conwell is probably looking down and saying I told you so.

Monday: Turning It Around

 

Ed Foley: Gone, but Not Forgotten

In my lifetime which  (unfortunately) is getting to be sadly very long, there have been very few Temple sports lifers.

Sports Information Director Al Shrier, for one. Baseball coach Skip Wilson, for another. Basketball coach Harry Litwack. Fencing coach Dr. Nikki Franke. Athletic director Gavin White.

That’s maybe it.

Even the great John Chaney started somewhere else.

There have been no Temple football lifers and the last possible one, Ed Foley, has just left the Edberg-Olson building for a job at Baylor. Not even the great Wayne Hardin, who stayed here 13 years, could be considered a lifer.


You don’t get rid
of one of the best
special teams coaches
in the country who is
admired and respected
at Temple by everyone,
alumni, fans, current
and ex-players,
without some pushback

Foley did not start at Temple, but I certainly thought he would finish here. After being a 7-15 head coach at Fordham, he arrived at Temple with Al Golden and helped resuscitate a brain dead program by breathing some CPR into it.

On April Fool’s Day, 2017, he filmed the video at the top of this post with Kevin Copp and said: “I don’t want to really be anywhere else.” I believed him then. I believe him now.

As a recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach for Golden, he helped recruit three of the top five MAC classes and that led to Temple getting a promotion to the Big East (now the AAC). As special teams coach for Steve Addazio, Matt Rhule and Geoff Collins, he had the Owls’ consistently rated in the top 10 in blocked punts and field goals.

This guy loved Temple. He loved Philadelphia. He wasn’t my choice to be head coach either time because a 7-15 record in his previous head coaching job does not represent the credentials needed to do the same job at Temple. He was not a great head coach as a 14.5-point favorite in an interim capacity against Wake Forest in 2016. Against Duke, he again proved my point that you can be the best assistant coach in the history of the world and a terrible game-day head coach. In fact, he proved that at Fordham when his 7-15 was sandwiched between two of the most successful head coaches in that school’s history, Dave Clawson and Joe Moorhead.

Still, he did everything that was asked of him at Temple and more. I know for a fact that he turned down an assistant coaching job at Purdue a couple of years ago to stay at Temple and he probably turned down other offers I did not know about.

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

So that’s why it was so shocking to hear the news–first reported by Owlscoop.com–that Foley left to join Rhule in an off-the-field capacity at Baylor. He was already in an off-the-field capacity at Temple the last few months so it seemed odd to leave one job at a place he loved for another in a place he was unfamiliar with.

Maybe this quote in Saturday’s Marc Narducci story explained everything: “I don’t have an official title, but will be working with somebody I like and trust,” Foley said about Rhule.

Hmm. Translation: “I don’t like and trust Rod Carey.”

That seems to be abundantly clear. In the same story, Narducci said Carey was “unavailable for comment.” Unavailable for comment? Who is he, Howard Hughes?

Look, I LOVE the Rod Carey hire and I understand that he’s got to live and die with his own hires but this isn’t a good look. Foley has been able to get along with a divergent list of personalties, from Golden to Daz to Rhule to Collins and do it in a professional manner. You don’t get rid of one of the best special teams coaches in the country (face it, giving him a paper-pushing job is getting rid of him), a guy who is admired and respected at Temple by everyone, alumni, fans, current and ex-players, without some pushback. Especially when you bring in a guy from SMU whose special teams weren’t rated as highly as Foley’s. I have never run into a single person who said a negative word about Ed Foley the man. That is a truly rare individual.

Let’s hope Carey is able to explain this in a satisfactory manner sometime in the near future. Right now, it doesn’t pass the smell test.

In fact, it reeks.

Saturday: AAC Media Day

Monday: AAC Head-Scratchers

Isaiah Wright: Temple’s Answer

wright

There are not many vexing questions out there regarding the Temple football team for 2019.

The Owls appear to be even more loaded next year than they were this year with the exception of one sore thumb question:

“Who is going to replace Rock Armstead as the elite featured back?”

The answer is right under our noses: Isaiah Wright.

matt rhule, temple football,

“If we didn’t have Jahad Thomas or Ryquell Armstead at tailback,  Isaiah Wright is capable of playing the position and I’m sure he would do a great job.” _ Matt Rhule, 2016

This is what Matt Rhule said about Wright after the then true freshman gained 48 yards on seven carries in a 38-0 win over Stony Brook in 2016: “The great thing about Isaiah is his versatality. If we didn’t have Jahad Thomas or Ryquell Armstead at tailback, Isaiah Wright is capable of playing thet position and I’m sure he would do a great job. The challenge, really for me, is to get him the ball a lot more.”

Rhule could never follow through because Thomas and Armstead were there to block Wright’s progress as a running back but at least he instituted The Wildcat for him. (I don’t like the Wildcat because everyone knows Wright is going to run when he comes out in it. The Wildcat is effective only if IW throws it 50 percent of the time and runs it the other half.)

Getting the ball to Wright was a challenge inherited by the Geoff Collins staff and, quite frankly, they have not been up to it. Wright doesn’t get the ball nearly enough even though Army coach Jeff Monken called him “a touchdown waiting to happen” in his assessment of the Owls before the 2017 game at Army.

saturdaypicks

Our picks for today’s games

For the record, I like Jager Gardner as well but, for some reason, Gardner has disappeared as the Armstead backup. He did score a nice touchdown at UConn. Gardner and Wright should battle it out as Armstead’s replacement and the Owls will be in good shape, but I think that’s a battle Wright would win given a fair opportunity. Tyliek Raynor as a third-down back (a Dave Meggett-type) would give the Owls a terrific trio of running backs next season.

First, though, Wright has to have every opportunity to grab the No. 1 job in spring ball.

The Owls can afford to move Wright from receiver to tailback because they are so deep at wide receiver. Randle Jones and Freddy Johnson return, as does this year’s true freshman Sean Ryan. The Owls have plenty of options at wide receiver.

“Armstead is the toughest running back in our league to stop,” Houston head coach Major Applegate said after the Owls won, 59-49, in Texas.

Putting Wright back there would give the Owls that same important advantage next year as well.

 

Now for the Bright Side

Maybe it was being spoiled by the two years BGC (Before Geoff Collins).

Maybe it was the six weeks spent in the Top 25 one year, followed by seven weeks in the Top 25 the next.

As I saw it then, Matt Rhule set up GC pretty well for the next two years. The talent level was going to be Top 25 caliber for awhile and the momentum seemed to be there to keep the ball rolling.


The major difference
between the coaching
transitions at UCF and
Temple was that Josh
Heupel did not change
a thing about the
offensive identity
of his team, while
Collins allowed Patenaude
to completely gut an
offensive identity that
worked just as well
for Temple

In the prism I look through, every year Temple should do exactly what those 2015 and 2016 Temple teams did (either compete in or win the AAC championship game). Temple is the only school in its conference playing football in the exact geographic center of 46 percent of the nation’s population and should, in my mind, be able to recruit enough great football players to dominate a league of teams from places like Hartford, Greenville, Tampa, New Orleans, Orlando and Dallas on that fact alone.

Mix in the fact that Temple is a great university–one-sixth of the nation’s professionals are educated here–in the only World Class City (as named by the International Heritage Foundation) in any college football league, either P5 or G5. Stir another tidbit,  that most “regular” students in all surveys prefer a city environment for college to a rural one for their college experience, and Temple is in a most attractive position for recruiting.

Temple should dominate this league.

Something happened in between and, in my mind, it was abandoning the offensive scheme that these players were recruited to excel under (three-down fullback, two tight ends, establish the run and use play-action fakes for explosive plays in the downfield passing game).

birmingham

Birmingham still remains in play as a possible bowl destination for the Owls

It won’t dominate the league this year because its much-ballyhooed defense on Thursday night couldn’t tackle a drunk fat guy stumbling out of a bar at 2 a.m. It won’t because its offense could score only six in the second half after scoring 34 in the first half and the OC seemed more satisfied with the first half than disappointed with the second one (see video at the top of this post and thanks to Bob for supplying it). It would seem to me that scoring more than six points in the second half against the 91st-ranked rushing defense in the nation should not be all that hard, especially with backs like Ryquell Armstead, Jager Gardner, and Tyliek Raynor. Give those guys a caravan of blockers in the form of H-backs, fullbacks and tight ends in motion and it’s a pretty good bet that the Owls don’t have the red zone problems they suffered from in the second half.

Now you say it’s still mathematically possible for the Owls to win the league but too many difficult things need to happen. First, the Owls have to run the table. That’s the minimum. Second, either Navy, Cincy, and/or USF would have to beat UCF.  Central Florida would have to lose twice. (I could see Cincy beating UCF but not USF or Navy.) Cincy could run the table and have the same loss in the AAC East that Temple has and Temple would be playing in the title game, but that’s not happening.

So what is the bright spot?

sharga

The bright spot is simply this: Even IF the Owls had won the AAC, there is probably no way they would represent the G5 in an NY6 bowl and, if you win the league, you should probably go to an NY6. The Owls forfeited that slot with two brutal opening losses where they were outcoached by a team that started 0-4 in an FCS league. Nobody is going to pick a G5 team with an FCS loss for any New Year’s Six bowls.

So what could happen?

A strong argument could be made that Temple could even lose to Houston and win the next two and still be in the same kind of bowl game with a 7-5 record that it would be with an 8-4 one. Hell, Temple could have probably won the league and not received a better bowl with a 9-3 record that it could with a 7-5 one.

That’s the bright side. The league would probably allow the Owls to pick from the either the Military Bowl (where they could play a beatable ACC team like Syracuse or Virginia Tech) or the Birmingham Bowl (where it could play a 6-6 SEC team) and that would probably be the best bowl matchup for Temple since UCLA in 2009.

And probably a lot warmer in Birmingham than Annapolis.

Next year, we can all get back to looking into that tunnel and demanding that the Owls take their first games as seriously as they are taking the last few and play in the same championship games they did in consecutive years before the current staff got here. The major difference between the coaching transitions at UCF and Temple was that Josh Heupel did not change a thing about the offensive identity of his team, while Collins allowed Patenaude to completely gut an offensive identity that worked just as well for Temple.

That’s the Top 25 baton the Matt Rhule staff handed off to the Geoff Collins’ one and, so far, it’s been dropped twice.

How many times do we have to say “maybe next year” for a return to the Top 25?

Wednesday: The Dark Side

Friday: The Houston Side

Sunday: Game Analysis 

Silver Linings (Stadium) Playbook

badurban

Color me totally underwhelmed by this projected stadium design.

Sometimes the worst decisions are the impulsive ones.

General Robert E. Lee, holding the advantage pretty much everywhere on the Gettysburg Battlefield on the first day, ordered a charge of General Pickett’s 30,000 troops right into a heavily defended Union position. They pretty much got wiped out.

Had he waited a day and covered both the left and right Union flanks instead of going up the middle, we might all be speaking with a Southern accent right now.

Pretty much that’s the way I feel about the Temple Stadium situation.

martin

Temple fans would tire fast of a glorified high school stadium like this one at Northeast.

Even the most ardent “shovel-in-the-ground-by-August” guys are believing that this is more a dead deal than a done one.

It’s been what I’ve been writing in this space since the March 6 Mitten Hall meeting fiasco. Nothing has changed since then except the goal posts have been moved from, say, 2018 until 2030 or even later.

The neighbors don’t want this, never have, never will, and Temple is dead set on getting the neighbors’ support before proceeding on this project. Since that’s the case, we might have to wait until the neighborhood becomes fully gentrified before proceeding. That probably won’t be before 2030. That’s a more likely scenario than trying to convince Social Justice Warriors to abandon their platform of the moment.

Russell Conwell, the Temple founder, was on the other side of that Pickett’s charge as a Union captain. He survived and so will his beloved Temple.

There is a Silver Lining in the way this play ended.

Building a 30-35K stadium that looks only a little nicer than Northeast High’s Charlie Martin Memorial Stadium would only make those 200 or so fans who think that having “TEMPLE” and “OWLS” spelled out in the end zones every week would more than make up for the bare-bones cheap stadium they would be forced to sit in six times a year.

Building an Akron or a FAU stadium does Temple no good and probably commits Temple to a life sentence of being as irrelevant on the college football landscape as, err, Akron or FAU are now.

Wait and build something like Houston has now is the perspective Temple should have. Swallowing hard and extending the Linc deal is the only way to go. After all, as Bill Bradshaw once said, Temple plays in the nicest football stadium in America. It’s a pro one, but it’s still the nicest.

Otherwise, the 2018 version of  the 1863 Pickett’s charge is an impulsive decision Temple doesn’t need to or even can make right now.

That’s the only silver lining in this otherwise dark cloud.

Monday: He Said What?

Wednesday: Here’s What Villanova is going to (try to) do …