Temple offense: Time to take off the gloves

Temple running back Trey Blair throws a couple of damn good passes in this 2017 video.

There are three major computer-simulated websites that supposedly put in all the known data and come up with a final score for your weekend college football games.

The most accurate one beats the Vegas point spreads 9.6 percent of the time and has made a lot of, err, investment strategists big-time money.

That one has the final score of tomorrow’s Temple at Memphis game (noon, ESPNU) 37-26 in favor of the bad guys.

Must admit that one has me scratching my head a little bit because I’ve watched all eight games involving both teams and I don’t see: a) Temple scoring 26 points OR b) Memphis scoring 37 points in this one.

First, Temple’s defense has shown signs of being ahead of the offense. Holding Duke to two field goals in the second half was impressive and the 14 points against Lafayette were off turnovers. In addition, holding a Big 10 team to no offensive touchdowns indicates that the Owls might have something here and could hold Memphis in the 20-point area.

Or less.

That’s where the rub comes into play.

Our picks this week

The key point is all of the “known data.” What we don’t know, at least from a Temple perspective, is how willing Stan Drayton wants to show a hand he has not so far this season.

The so-called trick play.

Drayton alluded to as much in his AAC pre-game press conference Monday when he said “outside of the gadget plays” he doesn’t know what former quarterback D’Wan Mathis’s contributions could be to the offense.

Just by saying “outside of the gadget plays” indicates that the word “gadget” has entered Drayton’s mind. If you are Memphis right now, you are probably thinking this: E.J. Warner tosses a backward pass to Mathis, who draws the corners inside so much that Adonicas Sanders is running free down the sideline. Mathis tosses it and Temple gets six.

If you are Memphis, you might think that.

What might Temple think that Memphis isn’t?

How about this?

Warner tosses a backward pass to Mathis, who throws it across the field to Trey Blair–a former damn good high school quarterback–who finds David Martin-Robinson wide open over the middle (because the free safety bit on the fake) for six.

Memphis probably doesn’t know Blair was a quarterback but certainly knows Mathis was. That would involve thinking one step ahead of the bad guys.

Memphis has no idea that Trey Blair can throw a pass. That’s the best reason for him to do so tomorrow. (If you are a Memphis coach, he’s wearing No. 10.)

It would also involve taking the gloves off both figuratively and literally.

First, Blair has worn gloves on every single one of his plays as a running back this season. He needs to come in for at least a few plays before the gadget without wearing those gloves and run a couple of times to sell the play. The reason is simply that you can’t throw as good a pass with gloves on as you can with them off.

It’s worth a shot.

In a game where I see in the 24-17 range either way, a trick play–what Drayton calls a “gadget” play–might make a difference. We know what gadget play Memphis might be expecting. We guess they aren’t expecting double-trickery.

What Temple’s offense did not show anyone, including the simulated computers, has been innovation on offense.

This game might be a good place to start.

It’s time to take the gloves off and throw the computer for a loop that could blow a fuse or two.

Picks this week: Like four favorites and two underdogs. The four favorites are Fresno State to cover the 23.5 at UConn, NIU the 3.5 at Ball State, Ole Miss the 6.5 against visiting Kentucky and Kent State the 11 against visiting Ohio. The dogs are Navy getting 15 at Air Force and UMass getting 20 against an EMU team that gave up 50 to Buffalo last week.

Last week: 2-3 against the spread. Update: A 2-3 week (missed a push in the Kansas game by a point). Won on JMU and Rice and lost on Memphis, Duke and Eastern Michigan. That puts us at 7-7 for the season.

Update: Went 2-4 ATS as UConn not only covered the 23.5-point spread against Fresno State but won outright, Ball State won in overtime against NIU and Kentucky covered the spread while Kent State failed to cover. Won on Navy at USAF and UMass at EMU. 9-11 ATS on the season.

Late Saturday: Game Analysis

Monday: AAC Reaction

Temple football: Now playing with house money

Other than the one-handed ESPN Top 10 highlight reel catch by holdover Jadan Blue, almost every other big play in a 34-31 Temple football Homecoming win over visiting Memphis was made by a transfer portal guy.

Temple didn’t get a whole lot of them in the portal over the offseason but the ones it got made a difference on Saturday.

More than anything, it was a win for quality over quantity and for house money.

Georgia import D’Wan Mathis showed why he is Temple’s first quarterback “5 Star recruit” since Parade Magazine first-team All-American Kevin Harvey. He tied the record for single-game completions (John Waller against Buffalo shares it with him) with 35 and gave the crowd of 28,465 a glimpse of what an RPO quarterback could do with a tuck and run. Once Mathis ankle is 100 percent, Owl fans are going to see more of that. Let’s hope it’s sooner than later because nothing drives a defense crazier than a quarterback who can make a simple zone handoff read take it to the house on any given play.

Purdue transfer Amad Anderson sealed with the game by turning a short pass into a score.

UConn transfer Keyshawn Paul had a key fumble recovery caused by his relentless strip of the ballcarrier.

TU had 33x as many tweets as the next-best sports trend on Saturday afternoon.

Washington State transfer Will Rodgers III and Wake Forest transfer Manny Walker kept Memphis’ quarterback Sean Henigan’s head on a swivel.

Already, if you had the over in Vegas’ 2.5 over/under win total for the Owls, you’ve cashed in before the second league game and there maybe a few more wins to come because it’s really hard to figure this AAC race out below the Cincinnati level.

It’s all house money from this point out.

Memphis, which lost to Temple, knocked off a Mississippi State team three weeks ago that beat No. 15 Texas A&M Saturday.

UCF, which figured to be one of the two favorites, lost to a Navy team that lost to Marshall, 49-7.

UCF seems to be a lot more beatable today than it was Saturday.

So does nearly everybody else.

2018 Pa. broadcaster of the year Rob Vaughn was in the house

Really, with the exception of possibly Cincy, Temple can now win almost every game left on it schedule and it can lose almost every game left.

It’s simply a matter of this: Playmakers making plays. That’s how everyone has won in football since the game was invented four years after The Civil War ended.

Temple has had Blue and Jones make big-time plays for the last couple of years, but the more playmakers you have, the better the team’s bottom line.

Going into the season, it appeared the transfer portal guys were of quality but not of enough quantity to make a significant difference.

The bubble of that theory popped on Saturday thanks to the number of plays those few guys made.

The Owls have seven games left and, judging by the evidence left on the field Saturday, a lot more big-time plays to make both at home and on the road.

Cincy is next and nobody expects the Owls to win so they really have nothing to lose and can play without any pressure.

All the pressure will be on Cincy and, even though the game is on the road, house money is on Temple’s side.

Monday: A New Hierarchy

Picturing another Temple win over Memphis

Imagine for a moment if the skeptics like me and most of the college football world were wrong and the highly-paid (some say overpaid) football coaching staff at Temple was right.

Temple would beat Memphis on Saturday.

Come to a fork in the road and there is a very narrow path off to the side where we can see a Temple win.

Let’s walk down that one.

If the Owls win, Jadan Blue could be the star of this game.

It’s a narrow trail but it looks like this:

Memphis struggled to beat an Arkansas State team, 55-50. That was the same Arkansas State team that lost to Washington, 52-3. Not surprising, you say because the Huskies are a big-time Power 5 team.

Yeah, but.

That same big-time Power 5 team lost to FCS Montana, the No. 13-ranked team in that classification.

Temple has had its recruiting problems since Matt Rhule left but every Temple recruiting class in the last decade was rated significantly higher than every Montana recruiting class. Maybe the Montana coaches are better.

Duh?

Temple has a puncher’s chance in this game and, hopefully, that punch is closer to Buster Douglas in his upset of Mike Tyson than it is to Ernie Terrell against Muhammad Ali.

Temple isn’t the Temple of 2016, but Memphis is not the Memphis of two years ago. That Memphis lost only one regular-season game.

Guess to who?

Temple.

One of the reasons was that Temple had a loud, enthusiastic, crowd of over 35,000 for its win.

This Temple crowd won’t approach that due to COVID and other issues but I have no doubt that this will be the largest Temple crowd of the season, my best guess in the 28-29,000 range. They will be taking names.

Hopefully, Temple will be kicking ass.

That’s where the Temple coaching staff comes into play.

Pretty humorous reference to Temple in this at the 6:00 mark.

Somewhere along the line, maybe with snow falling outside of Carey’s office window in January, this highly-paid group sat in the coaching offices of the $17 million Edberg-Olson Complex and decided that six portal starting transfers were enough to offset the the loss of a dozen really good high-character guys who were also good football players.

The math didn’t add up to me, but I’m not making $2 million per year like Rod Carey is.

Give the guy the benefit of the doubt, which we have not done since February. (Then again, he’s done nothing to earn it.)

In my mind, both Jadan Blue and Randle Jones can be big-time playmakers and, if five-star quarterback D’Wan Mathis can get them the ball both on jet sweeps and deep, the Owls have a chance. Both are NFL players who have graciously given themselves so that their teammates can wash out the bad taste of a 1-6 record last year with a better one this season. That’s the kind of selflessness, say, a R’Mahn Davis never showed here. A good game plan is what they deserve. Trick plays (shovel passes to Tayvon Ruley and an end around pass or two) would be helpful, but we’ve never seen that under Carey. They have a unique talent in backup running back Trey Blair, who was also a damn good high school quarterback. Is there a halfback pass in the playbook for him?

Anyone?

Buehler?

On defense, Manny Walker has been a star but Will Rodgers III came in more heralded and if both make plays against the true freshman Memphis quarterback, Temple could have a defensive score in this one. Rodgers has to time to snap count better and meet at the quarterback at the same time Walker does. Maybe the ball pops loose and Amir Tyler can scoop and score it. Sean Henigan was a big-time Texas high school quarterback, but only rated as a three-star recruit. Mathis, who turned down Michigan State and Ohio State, is the only five-star quarterback in the entire AAC.

Maybe he can turn the Lincoln Financial Field scoreboard into an adding machine.

Arkansas State scored 50 on this squad. Temple will have to score 38 or more and avoid the special teams’ snafus that have played it for the last three years. I’ve maintained in this space that hope doesn’t get me to a bowl and my head tells me that this group is headed for 2-10. We said it would be 2-2 after four games and we were right. My guess is Memphis wins this something like 31-20.

It would be nice to be wrong about this team for once. Saturday would be a perfect place to start.

Picks this week: Going against conventional wisdom (and the G5) in picking host Notre Dame to upset Cincinnati, 28-24. (Cincy is a two-point favorite on the road.) ND recruits at a whole different level and Cincy had a tough game against another Indiana team, The University of Indiana. The Hoosiers aren’t nearly as good as the Irish. Also liking Oregon State as a 2.5-point underdog to visiting Washington, UAB as a 1.5-point favorite vs. visiting Liberty and Western Michigan as a 3-point favorite at Buffalo.

Lock of the week: AKRON getting 9.5 over visiting Ohio. Akron isn’t good, but Ohio (without Frank Solich) is truly putrid and nowhere near worthy of being almost a double-digit favorite. Ohio lost at home to Duquesne which, not all that long ago, was a Division III program. Akron not only covers but wins outright, 31-30.

Latest update: Lost on Notre Dame, Liberty and Akron, won on Oregon State and Western Michigan. With the 2-3 weekend, 10-5-1 against the spread is updated to 12-8-1.

Record: 10-5-1 ATS

Sunday: Homecoming Analysis

It’s Put Up or Shut Up time for the Owls

About the time the preseason prognostications came out for Temple, the chatter coming from the players at the Edberg-Olson center was picking the Owls for the bottom of the AAC was a “joke” and “completely ridiculous.” Another Owl said: “It’s Temple. You cannot lose here.”

Now is the time for the Owls to put up or shut up starting at high noon on Saturday in the Homecoming Game against Memphis.

Win that one, and a lot of skeptics, including the one here, will be won over.

Lose it and the 2.5 over/under total for the Owls looks about right.

Interestingly enough, we didn’t hear anything on that front from any of the coaches. Rod Carey was the only asked about a win total and he issued some vague responses that “we want to give our fans a team to be proud of” and “we want to play hard every game.”

Hmm.

I suspect a lot of undermanned 0-11 and 1-11 Owl teams in the past played hard (see Al Golden’s first year for evidence of that), but failed to deliver the bottom line.

Wins.

The good news for the Owls is that last year’s 1-6 team pretty much played Memphis to a standoff on the road in a game that only got away in the last four minutes of the fourth quarter. Was that mostly the result of a good game from quarterback Anthony Russo? Can D’Wan Mathis help the Owls gain 500 yards of total offense, like Russo did?

If the Owls want to prove the naysayers wrong, they have a chance to starting on Saturday.

We will find out on Saturday.

The bad news is that if any team has underachieved from a perception standpoint it’s been this one.

We wrote in this space last week that the Owls would “win 61-7” give or take 20 points either way against Wagner and they hit the exact low end of that projection, a 41-7 win. Worse, they had to fight like hell to put lipstick on that slippery pig.

Meanwhile, an average MAC team–Buffalo–had no trouble putting a 69-7 number on Wagner and the Bulls struggled to beat Old Dominion 35-34 on Saturday.

You are the company you keep and Temple isn’t keeping even Buffalo or Old Dominion company.

Can that change?

Err, doubtful, but there is hope.

Memphis doesn’t appear to be as good as it was last year. Sure, the Tigers beat Mississippi State at home but a careful review of the punt return that won it for them showed the ref waving his arms to signify the ball dead before the Memphis punt returner picked it up and went to the house.

Replay or not, that alone should have nullified the return.

Memphis lost to University of Texas (San Antonio) last week and USTA is a nice unbeaten team but not on a par with the other unbeatens. It beat Illinois but Illinois is a second-tier Big 10 squad.

Memphis is not as good as Rutgers nor it is as good as Boston College. Lock down the special teams, do not defer the opening kickoff, and the Owls have a chance to compete. Down the ball, pick it up and hand it to the ref on punts.

Then the Owls have to protect Mathis a lot better than they have and establish the run.

We haven’t seen it consistently so far but all they need to do is put everything together for 60 minutes.

Now that conference play is here, it’s time to stop talking about being good and actually show it. Hell, it probably should have started four weeks ago but better late than never.

Friday: Memphis Preview

Sunday: Homecoming Analysis

Fizzy: Success comes down to this

TU had 500 yards and 30 first downs, but still found a way to lose.

                                                                                                                        

Editor’s Note: Former Temple football player Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub brings the perspective not only of a player but a lifetime of coaching football, teaching and writing. He breaks down the Memphis game here.

By Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub

    If I could be the defensive coordinator facing Temple every week, I could be the fourth Temple guy in the College Coaches Hall of Fame along with Ray Morrison, Wayne Hardin, and Pop Warner. That’s because I know what happens when Temple gets a first and goal inside the opponent’s 10-yard line.

  1. The first play will be a run up-the-gut.
  2. The second play will be a quick-screen to the outside.
  3. The third play will be a fade to the corner of the end-zone.

     I know this because that’s what they did all of last year and the first three games of this year.

     Coaches Rod Carey and Mike Uremovich don’t understand the importance of the first and goal play call. If you run the ball and don’t get real close to the goal line, you are screwed. The defense can now assume the next two plays will be throws or trick plays. A first and goal is the most wonderful time to call a play-action pass or another kind of imaginative play.

The TU football playbook in the red zone so far has been 2 runs followed by an incomplete pass.

      Thus far in 2020, Temple has been to the goal line three times in the first half in three straight games and come away with 3 points, 6 points, and 7 points. Saturday, they had a missed field goal, a made field goal, and a missed fourth and goal. That’s why they lost. The main reason Temple is 1-2, instead of 3 -0, is they don’t know what the hell they’re doing at the other team’s goal line. Temple could just as well be 0-3. 

     Success in football depends on three essential factors, coaching, coaching, and coaching. Temple keeps making the same mistakes over and over. Do you blame the players or the coaches? 

Friday: Tulane Preview

Saturday: Tulane Game Analysis

TU-Memphis: No Mulligans Allowed

There is a school of thought out there that because of a national pandemic things like doing your job correctly should be overlooked.

That maybe this year every coaching staff in America should get a Mulligan and be re-evaluated next season.

Noble, but incorrect because other people in your same profession have no trouble doing theirs. The new head coach at Boston College is doing just fine. The Georgia State coach is doing great. The BYU coach is a sensation.

All have arguably lesser talent than Temple with the possible exception of BYU.

Whether or not Rod Carey is the right head coach for Temple University’s football team going forward is very much an open question.

What we do know based on the evidence of three games is the program is going backward.

In three games, we’ve seen the Owls allow 31 points to a Navy team that scored only 27 on a very bad ECU team, allow 37 points to a team that got beat 42-13 by Tulsa and now made some very questionable moves in a 41-29 loss to Memphis on Saturday.

If you think that’s the Temple football we have all come to know and love, think again.

We said this before the game.

Matt Rhule preached “not beating yourself” but running the ball twice after a turnover that gives you a first down at the 10 is beating yourself. Not doing the basics in the kicking game is beating yourself.

Even the best part of the team, offense, is riddled with coaching mistakes.

In the red zone, the Owls have a ready-made mismatch in 6-6 wide receiver Branden Mack against any secondary. Why not lob it to him in the back of the end zone on the first play after the turnover when the Memphis defense is not set? Your chances are a lot better of a) scoring and b) getting a pass interference that puts the ball on the 1 with a first down than what Carey chose to do. Would Rhule have thrown to Mack?

I bet he would have. That’s why he’s in the NFL and Carey is 0-7 in bowl games.

The Owls missed a chip-shot field goal their first drive. Before the game, Carey said he was “happy” with the kicking game. Any other coach in the United States would look at the results and not only say he wasn’t happy, but that “our kicking game sucks and we need to do something about it.”

Let’s see. After a comical performance in the kicking game the first two games, the Owls not only missed that chip shot field goal but also missed an extra point, had two kickoffs go out of bounds and only by a miracle missed a third kickoff going out.

When you have three kickers on the team and one of them has kicked it out of bounds twice, what do you do? Of course, try another kicker.

Instead, Carey sent out the guy who kicked it out of bounds twice for a try at a third kick out of bounds. Only by some miracle did the ball take a crazy hop and squirt down the sidelines and stay inbounds.

This happens to no other team in America yet Carey tolerates it and has done so for two years.

Sure, Anthony Russo threw three interceptions but one of them was a ball delivered perfectly to Jadan Blue that should have been caught and another came after a brutal non-call on a perfectly-thrown ball to Mack that probably would have led to a touchdown for Temple and robbed Memphis of a touchdown.

That’s a 14-point swing right there and it would have been the difference in the game.

We said before the game that the defense needed to hold Memphis to 28 points or less for the win but because they did not generate even a semblance of a pass rush, they could not.

The kicking and special teams, though, is another story and there is a minimum standard that every team must achieve and Temple is far below that standard.

It has nothing to do with COVID and plenty to do with incompetence and that’s a standard Temple cannot accept but knowing the Temple administration as I do it probably will.

Monday: Fizzy’s Corner

Memphis-TU: Can anyone here play defense?

Hold this team to 28 points again and it’s a Temple win.

Temple football came back from the dead with an injection of special teams and defense and a little binder of men written by Al Golden.

Right now, it doesn’t look like the special teams are coming back but maybe the defense will.

Temple has the best all-time record in conference play (since championship play began in 2015) and Memphis can tie with a win on Saturday.

That’s really the only hope 13.5-point underdog Temple has for winning Saturday’s noon showdown (only on ESPN+) at Memphis.

Full disclosure here: I thought going into the season that Temple’s offense was going to be the better of the three units (special teams, defense, offense) and had little hope for the special teams to improve.

Defense, I thought, was going to be a different story. I thought the defense was going to be an almost equal partner in any success the 2020 Owls would have.

So far, I’m wrong but it’s only two games.

Sure, the Owls had to replace their top nine tacklers but they had star quality players returning in tackles Dan Archibong and Ifeanyi Maijeh, linebackers William Kwenkeu and Isaiah Graham-Mobley and safety Amir Tyler along with four solid corners.

One of those corners, Ty Mason, opted out due to COVID-19 concerns on his part but three–Christian Braswell, Linwood Crump Jr. and Freddie Johnson–have plenty of solid starts under their belts.

There’s no way a team with this much talent should have given up 31 and 37 points, respectively. That has to turn around if the Owls are going to have a chance this week.

Maybe they will play up to their potential on Saturday, maybe they won’t. Maybe the first two games were the result of lack of hitting due to City of Philadelphia restrictions. Maybe the fact that the current staff never faced a triple option had to do with Navy’s success.

There’s no excuse, though, for what happened against USF and that’s concerning.

Maybe our expectations for this group are way too high but we should find out by Saturday at 3. Temple has to hold Memphis in the high 20s or low 30s for the win and score in the mid-30s.

I think they have the talent to do it but they have to start putting pressure on the quarterback and force fumbles and interceptions.

The good news is that Memphis doesn’t play any defense, either, so it should be an entertaining game nonetheless.

When Golden got here in 2005, he understood the fastest way of getting Temple from the Bottom 10 to the Top 25 was to build the defense first and then make plays on the special teams. His reasoning was that if you could keep the bad guys off the scoreboard, you could stay in every game and, if you can stay in every game, you can steal a few maybe you shouldn’t.

Stopping the run and getting after the quarterback were the hallmark of Golden’s teams. The binder of men had to do with Golden’s Eastern recruiting contacts developed as an assistant at Boston College, Penn State and Virginia. Golden went out and got physical, tough, defensive players who were mostly captains of championship high school teams.

That leadership developed the culture.

Something has happened in the last couple of years to stray from that culture. Special teams have become suspect and defense has suffered a noticeable decline. There are a lot of good players on defense but they have to play up to their potential.

What we do know is the physical and tough Temple defense we expected to see early in October has to show up now that November is just around the corner.

Or that one win we saw on Saturday might be it.

Late Saturday Night: Game Analysis

TU Homecoming 2019: Unabashed Joy

You can cash by taking the winning horse but an exacta and a trifecta always make the wallet that much fatter.

Screenshot 2019-10-12 at 8.34.14 PM

 

On Homecoming Weekend 2019, Temple football had a superfecta in a 30-28 win over Memphis:

  • Owls won
  • Owls beat a Top 25 team
  • Owls drew a season-high 34,253 beautiful and involved fans
  • Owls honored their greatest team at the end of the first quarter.

No money exchanged hands, but it was the kind of day money cannot buy.  Perfect 72-degree weather in mid-October with the good guys coming out on top and just about all of their preseason hopes still on the table.

In the end, it was pretty much unabashed joy. No complaints. Much was made in Memphis of the call that overturned a catch by a tight end that might have led to a game-winning field goal but those same fans said nothing about a worse call–a phantom hold on Temple that negated a 60-yard Ra’Mahn Davis touchdown. The film showed no hold, just a push from the front which is a legal block. Davis scores there and Magnificio’s alleged catch is just another magnifico catch to make a blowout closer. You can see both announcers say it was a catch initially but the analyst at least saying it was a great overturn after watching the ball come loose.

Screenshot 2019-10-12 at 8.04.29 PM

He’s a good man, that John Goodman

Could Temple have played better?

Yes.

Hell, I’d like to see this team have a killer instinct and turn a 23-7 lead into a 35-14 one every now and then but we’ve got to remember that the guys in the other locker room are highly recruited, too, and also have good coaches and resilient personalities.

Any time you win in college football is a good day. Mix in Homecoming and a big crowd with that and some overdue tributes and it turned out to be an outstanding day. The fact that the win made Temple the all-time winningest team in the history of AAC football games was the Cherry on top of this delicious White cake.

Hopefully, it makes this team hungry for more in the upcoming weeks.

Tuesday: Fizzy’s Corner

 

 

 

Game Day Minus-1: A Special Tribute

Some nice 1979 highlights on this reel from ten years ago.

If you blink your eye or are just a little tardy getting to your seat tomorrow, you will miss a special Temple football moment.

Maybe the most special.

Screenshot 2019-10-11 at 2.16.54 PM

Fortunately for Lazygote, no gloves needed but the tailgate should be a little nippy starting at 7 a.m., so a light jacket might be in order.

Sure, the game is as important and as high-profile as they come in this Group of Five league but what will happen during the first timeout is also a huge moment. It is the 40th-anniversary tribute to the 1979 team, a tribute we first suggested here back in the summer.

It will be a too-short tribute to a team that deserves much more, in my mind the greatest Temple team in the 100-plus year history of football at the school. Only the 1934 squad could put up an argument that it was better than the 1979 team but I will take the 1979 team all day long. First, the 1934 Sugar Bowl team lost. The 1979 bowl team won. Back then, everybody was Power 5 and Temple was in the elite of that group.

finalpoll

The 1979 Owls will be honored during that first timeout–probably the first five minutes of halftime would have been a better stage–and deserve a prolonged standing ovation. Consider this: Only two Temple teams since have won the same number of games (10) as that one but neither have those two teams won every game they were supposed to win.

The 1979 Owls captained by Mark Bright and Steve Conjar not only beat every team they were favored to beat but pulled a couple of upsets in a big way. They were not favored to beat Syracuse–with future NFLers’ Art Monk, Joe Morris, and Bill Hurley–but they destroyed the Orange, 49-17. They were not favored to win the Garden State Bowl but beat California, 28-17.

In between, they lost only two a pair of teams ranked at the time of those games: Pitt (10-9) and Penn State (22-7). The Owls led Penn State, 7-6, at halftime before what until that time was the largest crowd in the history of Beaver Stadium. For some reason, head coach Wayne Hardin abandoned a running game that was working to chew up clock and extend drives and went largely to a passing attack in the second half.

That was one of the few mistakes Hardin ever made as a head coach anywhere but 1979 was pretty darn close to a perfect season. With just 17 more points, that team goes 12-0 and wins the national championship because there was no G5 and P5 schism back then and it was a strong enough schedule to hand the Owls what would have been a mythical title.

Consider that: TEMPLE winning a National Championship in football. It was thisclose …

Those were the days in college football when there were no participation trophies. You had to be really good and not just one of the best 80 teams to earn a bowl bid. Only 30 teams were extended bowl invitations.

There are now 40 bowl games. In 1979, there were only 15. Temple won one of them. The Owls finished ranked No. 17 in both polls (then, UPI and AP).

Screenshot 2019-10-11 at 1.20.42 PM

That’s it. The entire list of bowl games in 1979

While watching my Owls lose to Buffalo this year, I had one recurring thought: Another year of Temple not beating everyone it was supposed to beat.

It won’t happen this year and we are running out of time for it to happen in the coming years.

Fortunately, I lived to see one of those years. Unfortunately, I might not live to see another. (Hell, let’s hope so, though.)

It was 1979 and Temple owes these guys a debt of gratitude that definitely deserves more than a wave and a cheer during the first timeout of the first quarter. That’s what we have, though, so let’s make the most out of it.

Predictions: Was 4-2 last week against the spread (winning with Cincy beating UCF on Friday night and going 3-2 in the Saturday games). For the season, we are now 21-7 straight-up and 17-11 against the spread. This week: Taking Virginia getting 1 at Miami (cannot believe that a ranked team is a dog to a dysfunctional Manny Diaz squad tonight) and, on Saturday, I like the following (home team in CAPS): INDIANA laying the 28 against Rutgers; Maryland laying the 4 against PURDUE; Hawaii getting the 12.5 points against BOISE STATE (Temple and the AAC needs Hawaii to win that game outright); Ball State laying the 2.5 at EASTERN MICHIGAN and Cincinnati laying the 7 at HOUSTON.

Sunday: Game Analysis

The Whole World Is Watching

world

Memphis’ Jake Elliott is the best kicker on college football.

There will be a couple of things on the television in every sports bar in America on Thursday night.

One will be an NFL game involving Cardinals and 49er; the other will be Temple football. Since the NFL game will not be on until 8:25, Temple football will be the only thing on TV in every sports bar in America between for an hour and a half. In that time, the Owls have a chance to make their game compelling television.

When it comes to Temple University and national branding, Thursday’s game at Memphis (7 p.m., ESPN) will be a chance to show the product to a wider audience than it has been since the Notre Dame game on Halloween Night last year.

memphisweather

Memphis weather.

In essence, the whole world will be watching and this will be a bigger audience than the last two Penn State games and a chance for Temple to walk away a winner, and not the gallant loser it was seen to be against the Fighting Irish a  year ago this month.

So this is a very unique chance for the kids and the coaches to show what they are made of tomorrow night. Will the nation see the sloppy Owl team that committed 120 yards in penalties at Penn State or will they see the crisp Owl team that raced out to a 34-12 lead at Cincinnati a year ago? Will the nation see a defense that was aligned improperly against Army in the opener or one filling the gaps and making life miserable for Memphis quarterback Ryan Ferguson?

Largely, that’s up to both the Temple kids and the coaches. Let’s put it this way: Probably more people will be watching Temple football tomorrow than watched the Vice-Presidential debate on Tuesday night  or at least they should because football is more entertaining than politics.

The Owls have not played their best game yet, but Thursday night will be a good time to start. They seem to be vulnerable to runs up the middle on defense, but that can be shored up by shifting backup offensive guard Brian Carter (6-1, 303) to his old familiar spot, which was as a starting defensive tackle before he was forced to move over to the other side of the ball. Fullback Nick Sharga, a tremendous run-stopper, would also probably be better-suited to play linebacker from here on out because, frankly, he’s more needed there.

Hopefully, the coaches are using their heads for more than a hat rack.

There is not a whole lot of belief in the Owls among the general public because the line jumped from Memphis favored by 6.5 to Memphis favored by 10.5. Maybe the line is telling the nation something.

Or maybe the Owls should take things into their own hands and tell the line something that cannot be printed. A statement for Temple football on a night the whole world is watching is the perfect prescription to get national respect again.

Friday: Game Analysis