ECU-Temple: A Fork in The Road

When late night TV wasn’t as political and arguably more funny, Johnny Carson had a few notable characters.

One of them was an infomercial guy named Art Fern who talked about forks in the road.

“How do you get there? Let me tell you friends, how do you get there! You take the San Diego Freeway to the Ventura Freeway. You drive to the Slauson Cutoff, get out of your car, cut off your Slauson, get back in your car, then you drive six miles till you see the Giant Neon Vice-Squad Cop. When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

Well, Saturday’s noon showdown against visiting East Carolina is the ultimate “Fork in the Road” game for Temple.

This is how Temple used to dominate East Carolina, with a fullback (Nick Sharga), leading the way for an elite tailback (Jahad Thomas). Now the Owls don’t even use a fullback and the elite tailback has seen enough of Rod Carey’s RPO offense to transfer out in the middle of the season.

The two teams have similar records (1-5 for Temple, 1-6 for ECU) but are seemingly headed in different directions. ECU has been on an upward swing against AAC opponents, certainly more competitive than Temple has been. The Owls have slowly been on the decline and their 1-5 is considerably less impressive than the Pirates.

Temple TUFF: Sharga (4) leads the way for Armstead (25)


Everybody has COVID issues and the Owls have got to stop using that as an excuse and just win a damn game.

Consider this: In the last four games, the Owls have lost by double digits. In their last seven games of the 2019 season, the Owls lost four and three of them were by double-digits. Before now, the last time the Owls lost four consecutive games by double digits was in Steve Addazio’s final season, 2012, when they lost to Rutgers (35-10), Pitt (47-17), Louisville (45-17) and Cincinnati (34-10).

On the other hand, in two of its last three games, ECU has been more competitive than Temple in losses to some good teams–Tulsa (30-34) and Tulane (21-38) before being blown out by Cincinnati, 55-17. ECU beat South Florida by 20 and the Owls needed a miracle fumble left on the carpet to beat USF by two.

There’s no disgrace losing to Cincy, either. A lot of good teams have been blown out by the Bearcats this season and Temple won’t play Cincy until the final game next week.

Fork in the road indeed. Apparently ECU, under former James Madison head coach Mike Houston, is headed in the right direction while someone needs to tell Rod Carey Temple needs to upgrade its GPS system.

Is it any wonder, then, that the Pirates are a 3.5-favorite against a program that it has never beaten in American Conference play?

The Owls have a true freshman quarterback in Matt Duncan, but Tulane also had a true freshman quarterback and did not use that as an excuse. The Owls have rolled out two quarterbacks since Anthony Russo and, frankly, none is an acceptable AAC-level quarterback.

Duncan’s got to put the big boy pants on and lead the Owls to a win or this entire program is about to go down the wrong road and hit a wall. If they total their ride, it will be a long time before they get back on the road to respectability again.

Friday night pick: Usually never go for a 32.5-point favorite, but really like a solid FAU Owls’ squad to lay the wood on UMass.

Saturday picks: Coastal Carolina laying the 6.5 against visiting App. State, Liberty getting the 3.5 at NC State, and Georgia State laying 3 at South Alabama.

Update: Evened the season record at 3-3 by going 2-1 against the spread. FAU easily covered the 8.5 as did Wisconsin the 3.5. Only loss was Nebraska beating PSU. LT and Rice postponed due to COVID. Record this week: 2-1. Overall: 3-3.

Late Saturday Night: Game Analysis


FIU-Temple: A Test of The Hiring Method


There is no written hiring test when evaluating future Temple football head coaches, post-Geoff Collins Era, only an outline of “types” in this current convoluted system, a copy of which should be emailed to every Group of 5 athletic director.

Even the person who sees things through Cherry and White glasses know Collins could not be long for Temple, hopefully for the right reasons, but at least a measure of stability could be achieved with a different hiring model going forward.

For the time being, as long as only the Power 5 can have the coaches they want, the G5 schools that include Temple will be left to pick among these three types:

THE HOT COORDINATOR–Collins himself falls into this category. This is the high-risk, high-reward method. Since the “hot coordinator” usually has never been a head coach, no one knows how he will react once he has a clipboard in his hands. Temple has tried this route with its last three head coaches and that has turned the coaching door at the E-O into a revolving one. Maybe it needs to re-evaluate that thinking in the future.


THE PROVEN FBS HEAD COACH–FIU’s Butch Davis falls into that category.  Coming off 5-7 and 4-8 seasons, Davis’ first year as FIU coach is an impressive one. He turned 5-7 and 4-8 talent into eight-win talent. Compare that to Collins turning a solid core from a 10-win team into a six-win team, and you have evidence that this could be the way to go for Temple in the future. Davis did not have to learn how to be a head coach on the job; he already was a championship coach at Miami and knows how to push the right buttons. He has already seen what life is like chasing the big bucks in the NFL and college football and is more likely to stay and build something than the first type.


THE FCS CHICKEN SALAD MAKER–This is a guy who does more with FCS talent than the current Temple coach does with Temple talent. There are a few of those guys out there who can turn “chicken shit into chicken salad.” For brevity purposes, we will mention two here: JMU’s Mike Houston and Elon’s Curt Cignetti. Last year, Houston led JMU to a 14-1 record and the national championship. At the Citadel, he led that team to a Southern Conference championship and, before that, led Lenoir-Rhyne to three first-place finishes. This guy has winner stamped on his farhead. This year, Houston has JMU ranked No. 1 in the nation and his team beat ECU and Villanova worse than Temple did. At Elon, Cignetti–a former Temple assistant–also had a more comfortable win over Villanova than Temple did. In his first year as head coach there, he turned what had been a 2-9 team in 2016 into an 8-4 team this year.

So one of the questions to be answered in a little over a week is if Temple hired the right type. Winning or losing that one game should give Pat Kraft a very large insight into if he made the right choice or not.

Wednesday: A Closer Look at FIU