Temple at Duke: Confident, not cocky

Don’t bet your house, but taking Temple might get you another farm if you have a spare farm.

Given the dwindling number of Temple fans still living who spent a significant amount of time around the two most successful Owl major sports coaches in history (raising my hand here as one), it’s pretty apparent the general approach both would take tonight.

Defend and attack the known. Don’t worry about the unknown.

Wayne Hardin and John Chaney took that approach and, if Stan Drayton does tonight (ACC Network, 7:30 p.m.), I fully expect Temple to be a winner.

Don’t see Temple scoring 38 but certainly think the Owls outscore Duke by double digits.

Confident, not cocky. In other words, don’t bet the house but if you have a farm to spare, it’s worth the investment.

That’s because we don’t know a lot but we do know a couple of important things:

One, the Duke quarterback starter, Riley Leonard, has started exactly one FBS game in his career and is a three-star recruit.

Two, both Temple quarterbacks, starter D’Wan Mathis and backup Quincy Patterson, were four-star recruits. Between the two, those players have 17 college football starts, 10 at the FBS level. Patterson is 9-1 in all of his starts at the two levels.

Mathis rose to the occasion when Drayton brought in Patterson to compete with him in summer camp and is playing the best football of his career according to insiders who have watched every August practice. Put it this way, highly paid coaching staffs at Iowa State, Michigan State, Ohio State and Georgia evaluated Mathis and put their salaries on the line by offering scholarships to him. Mathis at one point accepted offers from all schools before bouncing around and ending up at Temple.

He can make plays with his arm and his feet. Big-time players make big-time plays and Mathis has that quality. Leonard, on the other hand, is a pro-style quarterback who might be a more stationary target for pass rushers than either Mathis or Patterson. Might? More like is.

Patterson, in one of his three FBS starts for Virginia Tech, put up 47 points in a wire-to-wire spectacular performance against a North Carolina team that held an eight-win Temple team to just 13 points.

On the flip side, Drayton has said the strength of the Temple team so far is a defensive line led by a very good coach in Antoine Smith. Last year, Smith’s Colorado State defensive line finished in the top 10 in sacks and Smith says this Temple line is more talented.

If this version of the “Wild Boyz” can get after Leonard, put him on the ground, separate him from the football and cause a couple of picks, I cannot envision a scenario where Temple loses this game.

When Temple won at Vanderbilt, 37-7, to open the 2014 season, relentless pressure by a defensive line led by Averee Robinson caused the Vandy quarterback to hear footsteps the entire game.

That Temple team was coming off a two-win season. This one is coming off a three-win season but is invigorated by the new coaching staff. This 2022 Duke game has a 2014 kind of Vandy vibe. This game could be a 24-21 type deal but I think the defensive pressure the Owls put on Leonard enables them to win the game rather comfortably.

That takes care of the defensive piece.

Offensively, you’ve got to like the two players Temple has holding the reins better.

In horse racing, if two horses have relatively the same odds, the play is to go for the one with the better jockey. It doesn’t work all the time but it’s a safer play.

Temple has two better jockeys than the one Duke has and that’s a significant known.

We don’t know a lot about this game but we know enough. We’re guessing Drayton does, too.

Temple 27, Duke 17.

Confident, not cocky.

You read it here first.

Tomorrow: Game Analysis

Duke-Temple: A unique storyline

When Pat Kraft went to look for a new head coach after Geoff Collins quit, he reportedly zeroed in on Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko.

Elko allowed his name to float in the new Temple head coaching conversation and days later accepted a pay raise to remain at Texas A&M.

Some say he used Temple.

Either way, the game on Sept. 2 offers probably the most unique storyline of the opening weekend.

Elko turns down Temple job, gets raise to stay put, and then Kraft turns to the other DC, Manny Diaz, who stuck around for all of 18 days.

That led to a panic hire of fellow Indiana football alum Rod Carey, who was just a bad fit here.

Good storyline but there’s more.

Since Carey took over Temple, the Owls and Duke had one decent year (2019) and two horrible seasons.

Duke and Temple both had three wins a year ago and, arguably, Duke had both a worse loss than anything Temple had (Charlotte) and probably not a win as impressive as the Owls owned (Memphis).

All that under the backdrop of probably the worst locker room atmosphere we’ve seen at Temple since the Bobby Wallace Era. There was an open rebellion of Temple players, leading to many more good ones leaving than could be replaced.

All offseason signs point to problems at Duke that do not exist at Temple. For instance, its starting quarterback transferred down (FIU) and now they have a competition for the top job between primarily a running quarterback and a passing one.

Sound familiar?

That’s the same scenario at Temple with Dwan Mathis and Quincy Patterson. The difference is that both Temple quarterbacks have started and won FBS games and the two at Duke have not.

Duke and Temple both lost their leading receivers (Jake Bobo to UCLA for Duke and Jadan Blue to Virginia Tech for Temple) so that area appears to be in Temple’s favor simply because the Owls were able to entice the guy who caught the game-winning touchdown pass against Duke (Adonicas Sanders) to come to Philadelphia.

On defense, Duke was ranked 130 among all 130 FBS teams last year. The Blue Devils allowed 40 points per game last year (and 518 yards per).

Although Duke is a 7-point favorite now, this is a very winnable game from the Temple perspective.

If the Owls pull it out, the story the next day could be Arthur Johnson’s first choice for Temple head coach was better than Pat Kraft’s first choice to replace Collins.

It would not come as a surprise, let’s put it that way.

Friday: Behind The Digits

Temple-Duke a statistical toss-up?

The best thing about the last Temple-Duke game was this pass blocking by current Owls’ Adam Klein and Victor Stoffel.

(Photo and ID courtesy of Zamani Feelings)

Gotta give credit where credit is due so OwlsDaily.com gets a big nod here for finding this gem from ESPN’s Bill Connelly.

OwlsDaily editor Shawn Pastor gets mad at me when I say his shit is better than the Brand X site shit (he wants to keep the peace with the other site) but his shit is objectively better. One site has a trained journalist with 30 years plus of Temple experience and the other relies (mostly) on student writers.

Game, set and match.

Sorry, Shawn, for the unsolicited compliment.

Finding and highlighting stat guru Connelly’s analysis of Temple vs. Duke on Sept. 2 (ACC Network, 7:30 p.m.) is just another example.

If you asked me to analyze Temple vs. Duke a day after Temple’s last football game, I might have said Temple losing by the same 56-27 score it lost to the same team in the Independence Bowl might be the best the Owls could expect.

Things have changed since the last guy left the building and now outside people like Connelly are crunching the numbers together and noticing.

Summer workouts have already begun for the Owls at Edberg-Olson.

Here’s what OwlsDaily.com wrote less than two weeks ago:

“Temple’s season-opening game at Duke should be a coin flip, based on updated SP+ preseason projections for 2022, which ESPN college football writer Bill Connelly released on Monday.  The Owls are rated 118th and the Blue Devils are rated 119th in the new rankings, which Connelly adjusted from the initial 2022 projections that he released in February.  The new numbers are based on transfer portal movement over the past three months and updated rosters for most college teams, Connelly wrote.

“Temple has moved up one spot after being rated 119th in February, while Duke has dropped two spots from 117th to 119th.  Across the entire 2022 schedule (and the entire American Conference), the biggest change over the past three months was Houston dropping from 35th to 44th in SP+.”

The key wording above is “the new numbers are based on transfer portal movement and updated rosters for most college teams.”

Here’s the difference between now that bleak Sunday morning after a 38-14 loss to Navy:

Temple has significantly upgraded its roster since that game and Duke has not made the same splash with impact portal guys as good as Darvon Hubbard, Quincy Patterson and Adonicas Sanders to name a few. Patterson beat a team much better than Duke (UNC) as a starting quarterback and Sanders caught the game-winning touchdown pass for a bad Georgia Tech team in a win over Duke last year.

What we don’t know is the gameday coaching ability of Mike Elko and Stan Drayton since neither has been a head coach anywhere.

On Sept 2., in a toss-up game, that could be the difference.

Hmm.

Pat Kraft hired both Manny Diaz and Rod Carey. His first choice was Mike Elko, who turned him down.

If Elko is anywhere near the equal of Diaz or Carey, bet the house and the farm on Temple.

Especially if the Owls are getting any points.

My guess is that they will be getting at least three before game time, probably more.

Connelly, who has a good history of knowing his stuff, seems to feel it will be closer.

Hell, I hope he’s right and will go one step further. I hope the Owls win as a road favorite at a Power 5 school, which would be the first such win since Vandy in 2014.

That probably won’t happen since the public’s perception of Temple over the last two seasons was sullied by a failed Indiana grad hired by another failed Indiana grad proving only one thing.

Indiana guys should stick to hoops.

Monday: Early game-by-game predictions

Three-month sprint to Duke

Now the summer begins, the fastest three months of the year for almost all of us except the few cold-weather lovers.

For Temple football, it’s a sprint, too.

In roughly 90 days, the Owls will travel to Duke for a shot at redeeming the national perception of the program which was good three years ago but reached nearly Bottom 10 status the last two.

The last guy dropped the baton and the Owls have a lot of running to get to the finish line but the line will be there whether they beat Duke to it or not.

Temple head coach Stan Drayton has pushed all of the right buttons so far, upgrading the two areas of need in quarterback and running back. He’s probably not done in the talent acquisition department, either.

Owls were 4-15 the last two years and that did not sit well with anyone around here.

Is it enough to beat Duke?

The Blue Devils have their own problems they have to fix and, like Temple, a new head coach. They lost to arguably a team with less talent than Temple, UNC-Charlotte, so they are beatable.

Ironically, one of the storylines during the opener would be surrounding that coach, Mike Elko, who was Pat Kraft’s first choice to replace Geoff Collins. Elko turned down the Owls to get a pay raise in Texas.

Since Kraft has made two horrible choices for that job since (Manny Diaz and Pat Carey), Elko’s hiring for Duke could bode well for Temple.

Maybe Elko would have been an equally bad hire for Kraft as Diaz and Carey turned out to be.

If that trend holds up in September, Stan Drayton could look very good in comparison.

Any Temple fan has to hope so. Whatever the case, will win find out in a blink of an eye because these next three months usually go like that.

The next big thing: Conventional wisdom

Mike Elko greets the Cameron Indoor Stadium crazies at a basketball game last month.

There is conventional wisdom versus regular wisdom.

For Temple fans, they have to hope the hiring of Stan Drayton was a wise one, maybe even better than conventional wisdom.

The validation so far has come to the fans of the program by the way Drayton has handled things.

Kids who didn’t buy in under the last guy have bought in under him. Nationally, it’s another story.

The “conventional wisdom” has it that one of the two combatants in the September opener for Temple made a great hire in Mike Elko and the Drayton hire has yet to appear on the national radar.

Such was the case last week in this article putting the Elko hire at the top of the list of eight new coaching hires.

Drayton?

Not even mentioned.

Of the 131 FBS teams, 27 have new head coaches and the Temple opener will be Drayton’s first chance to make a statement that he, too, should have received some props.

To be fair, the ranking of the new head coaches reflects the overall media bias slanted toward Power 5 schools. Also, P5 schools have the kind of money to buy the best head-coaching candidates so it’s only logical that they are mentioned over the new G5 hires.

Still, history has shown the best new hires have been about an even split between the G5 and the P5 schools. Not very many people on the national level gave Temple high marks for picking Al Golden or Matt Rhule but one was responsible for turning a 20-game losing streak into the school’s first bowl appearance in 30 years and the other was responsible for consecutive 10-win seasons.

If Drayton’s accomplishments here are similar to theirs, even Mike Elko might be hard-pressed to top those numbers at Duke.

Ironically, Elko turned down the Temple job before Pat Kraft turned to Manny Diaz for 18 days. He either didn’t believe he could get it done here, didn’t like Philadelphia or thought staying at Texas A&M gave him a better shot at career advancement.

Drayton believes. That’s just half the battle.

If he beats Elko in the opener, he will win the full battle–at least when it comes to the national media giving Temple some credit for this hire.

Friday: Help is on the way