Temple’s OT loss at Navy came down to one play

Slice it and dice it any way you want, but Temple’s 27-20 overtime loss to Navy came down to one play of one series.

Getting a first-and-goal at the 5 in the last minute of regulation, the logical move for a quarterback who has been hurried the entire day and an offense that can’t get yards on the ground is to roll the quarterback out and try to find a moving receiver target in the end zone.

What did Temple do instead?

Run straight into the teeth of the Navy defense for one yard to set up a second and goal at the 4. A lousy, lousy first down play call considering the personnel available. It wasn’t the only lousy play call. You have a former high school quarterback on your roster (Trey Blair) and you call a reverse pass for someone who never threw a pass in a game before (Amad Anderson)? Lousy call. How about a halfback pass using Blair instead? You have a proven pass-catching tight end (David Martin-Robinson) and you call a key third-down pass to the other tight end who caught only one ball all year? Don’t be surprised when he drops it. Lousy call. Incredibly bad roster awareness. Good coaches scheme to the individual talents of their players and it’s painfully obvious Temple doesn’t have enough good coaches or, worse, they don’t know what their players are capable of doing.

Now back to the most important play call of the day. Not scoring a touchdown on first-and-goal at the 5 is letting down every single kid on the team.

Talk all you want about the subsequent plays in the series, but a fake to the running back on the FIRST play, not the second one, and rolling the pocket could have bought quarterback E.J. Warner the time he needed to find someone–anyone–open in the end zone. No matter how many backup offensive linemen you might have on the field, any self-respecting offensive coordinator has to find a play to scheme a touchdown on a first-and-goal at the 5. Even if he doesn’t find someone, getting Navy on a hold in the end zone is a better outcome than a 1-yard gain up the middle.

Run on first down and the defense assumes that you’ve got to pass on the next two and adjusts the defense to suit that reality.

Navy takes the field

The difference there is the difference between winning and losing. Or Temple being up by 24-20 against a triple-option team that had to to the length of the field for the game-winner with a backup quarterback.

Chalk it up as another lesson for an offensive coaching staff that really should have the experience under their belts to not make the same mistakes they’ve been making at other places.

Stan Drayton when he gets better from this recent sickness will have a lot of difficult decisions to make this offseason and one of them should be to go in a new direction in the way of coaching staff leadership on the offensive side of the football.

Danny Langsdorf has come up microscopically small not only Saturday but the entirety of this season and it’s painfully obvious new leadership is needed on that side of the ball.

That said, the other two areas of the team–special teams and defense–contributed to Temple’s loss.

Temple’s offensive woes mean you can’t muff a punt that leads to a Navy touchdown. Defensively, in overtime, Temple has to be aware that there is literally no chance that a backup quarterback that had not completed a pass all game would complete one to beat Temple.

Temple’s defense had to be aware enough to sell out to stop the run from the 25 in overtime, kick the field goal and win the game.

For all of the apologists who say this is a moral victory (none exist in my mind), just remember that a local FCS staff with an entire team of FCS players was able to hold Navy to seven points this season.

If our local FBS team with the luxury of having FBS players was able to do the same, we’d be writing about a 20-7 Temple win today.

Whatever decent effort the players gave yesterday should have resulted in a win. They can mostly thank their coaches that it did not. Stan Drayton is the CEO and, even though he was home watching on TV, he is responsible for repairing this mess.

Monday: What Might Have Been

Fizzy’s Corner: Dissecting The Loss

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 Navy game here.

By Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub

Well, you saw the game. There could have easily been fourteen more points on the board for Temple, and the two-point conversion call at the end was stupefying. That’s not what I want to discuss. 

     Throughout last season and this year’s first game, one consistency stands out. Temple does not adjust during the game, especially on defense. The game plan you come in with is the plan for the entire game. No matter what.

      Saturday was the worst. With over a month to get ready to play Navy’s triple-option, the plan was an overshifted 4-3 with a defender (nose-tackle) head-up on the center. Guess what? It didn’t work, and Navy ran up and down the field because Temple couldn’t stop the fullback. The only time the defense changed was when Navy had third and/or fourth and short.

 My opinion is that if you stop Navy’s fullback, you destroy their offense. So one different alignment might have a middle linebacker stacked in back of the nose-tackle, and they each blitz the gaps on either side of the center. Another might be two defenders lined up in the gaps on either side of the center. You have to remember that Navy’s quarterback couldn’t run well and couldn’t throw deep. There was no risk.

     After the debacle, Inquirer reporter Mike Jensen interviewed head coach Rod Carey. Carey said the problem was, “Our pad level was too high.” Of all the poppycock excuses I ever heard, this takes the cake. What the hell does that mean? Do you have to get shorter defenders? Carey made no mention of coaching deficiencies. 

     With last year’s defensive collapses in the second half and the poorly designed defensive strategy vs. Navy, one thing is abundantly clear. Temple can’t adjust. What a waste of talent.

Friday: USF Preview

The Longest Wait is Almost Over

The Longest Wait is a book by suburban Philadelphia native Erin Lynne about three Philly friends waiting for love.

Waiting and waiting.

Lynne might have to rip that book up and write a sequel because those three friends have nothing on the thousands of Temple football fans who have been waiting for the 2020 college season to begin.

This is literally the longest wait for a season to start since 1922. From 1918 through 1921, Owl fans had a longer wait because there was no varsity due to World War I. Since the 1922 season, though, this is it.

The first chapter begins tomorrow night (6 p.m., CBS Sports Network) and whether or not it’s a compelling read should be known by, say, halftime. If the Owls use the first half to establish the run behind a veteran offensive line and a terrific running back, they should be coasting by then.

If, on the other hand, they get cute with the RPO and bubble screens and a heavy dose of throwing long bombs, they could be very lonely by the end of the evening. Logic says Navy has had trouble stopping the run all year. So logic will dictate that the Owls attack that weakness.

We shall see but, if we found out something about Rod Carey in his first year as Temple coach, it’s that he does things his way and does not necessarily tailor his game plans around the weakness of the opposition. Good coach, but a little too stubborn. At least in that first season.

When asked about the 26 passes in the first 34 plays from scrimmage at Cincinnati, offensive coordinator Mike Uremovich said “we saw some mismatches with our wide receivers that we thought we could take advantage of and that’s why we emphasized that.”

The mismatches never materialized.

Receipts

When the Owls went to the run with Ray Davis in the second half, the offense started to click but, by then, it was too late. Navy was also the last place we saw the Owls and they got their butt kicked there 55-13 by a North Carolina team that entered the game only a 6.5 favorite.

The Owls started the season by winning 56-12 and ended it by losing 55-13. They beat Bucknell in the opener and then the Tar Heels made Temple look like Bucknell in the finale.

It was not a good look.

Live and learn.

Or maybe not.

BYU beat Navy, 55-3, and Air Force beat Navy, 40-7. Navy beat Tulane, 27-24. My feeling is that the Owls probably are not as good as BYU but there is no reason to believe they are not as good as Air Force.

Does that mean they are going to win 40-7? No, because each football game is a different entity and the Owls are not going to run the fullback against Navy. That doesn’t mean they can’t win 31-14 because the film has given them a blueprint on how to do it.

Run the ball, control the clock, and THEN make explosive plays in the passing game off play fakes to Ray Davis.

It might not be as sexy as Lynne’s book, but it certainly could be the first chapter of a compelling read.

Rod Carey has the pen and paper in his hands. It could be the best of times or the worst of times depending upon what he does.

Sunday: Game Analysis

Cross: Klecko Was the Best I’ve Ever Played Against

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Randy Cross back in the day

Five takeaways from the Navy game:

In between former All-Pro Randy Cross pulling out the hairs on his head questioning both Temple football offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude’s personnel packages and play calls, he dropped this gem when a photo of Joe Klecko playing for Temple was displayed during CBS Sports Network’s broadcast of Temple at Navy on Oct. 13.

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“In my 12 years in Pro Football, Joe Klecko was the single best player I’ve ever played against, any position,” Cross said. “In my mind, he should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and it’s kind of a travesty that’s he’s not. I mean, how many players in the NFL have made the pro bowl at three different positions (tackle, end, nose guard)? I would venture to say none.”

Cross’ Temple Connection

In the interest of full disclosure, Cross said: “I have a Temple connection. My niece went there and she’s a proud graduate.” Not because of that or because of the Klecko comment, but Cross–perhaps more than any other color commentator in recent years–did his homework on the Owls and a great job on the game itself.

Not very many UCLA graduates have a Temple connection and, in December, Cross will have two when Paul Palmer is inducted into the college football Hall of Fame. Cross was inducted into the same Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Freddy Booth-Lloyd’s Recovery

Seeing nose tackle Freddy Booth-Lloyd (err, Freddy Love) writhing on the ground in pain, it looked to me like he was done for the season. He was reaching down and holding his knee and it did not appear to be a cramp but something like a tear so to see him come back into the game and play like, well, Joe or Dan Klecko in completely bottling up the Navy dive play was a miracle. Maybe one of those Blue Angel jets gave him a quick ride to Lourdes but it was perhaps the most amazing recovery I’ve ever seen a Temple player make during a single game. He should make for a great Temperor should he not make the NFL.

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Anthony Russo Should Be 5-0

Through no fault of his own, Anthony Russo chalked up the L against Boston College. That’s a little like Harvey Haddix pitching a 12-inning perfect game in 1959 and losing, but that’s what he did. Russo was not perfect against BC, but one of his interceptions was delivered right between the numbers of a Temple player, who saw it bounce off his chest and then reached up and grabbed it with both hands only to see it bounce off those hands into the arms of a BC defender. Owls were driving for a sure score there with a 21-13 lead and 5:08 left in the half and that turned the game around. Toss in a perfectly thrown bomb that was dropped (by the same Temple receiver) and a horrendous coaching call on a third-and-two play and his teammate and offensive coordinator did him no favors. Here’s how impressive that would have been: No QB in the history of Temple has ever started 5-0 and that includes Maxwell Trophy-winner Steve Joachim and bowl-winning quarterback Chris Coyer, both 4-1 and 4-0, respectively. For a guy who really hasn’t played any meaningful downs in two years, that’s remarkable.

Navy Controversy

After watching the game, I went out to the local supermarket and was able to pick up the Navy post-game show on WBAL (1080 AM), Baltimore. All they did for a good 45 minutes after the game was talk about a “bad call” that “affected the outcome.” I’m thinking, “What bad call?” Evidently, they felt a block in the back a Navy player had on Freddy Love was erroneous but the replay of the game clearly showed the Navy player used both hands to push down on FBL’s back. None of the announcers had any problem with it and it just goes to show you two sets of fans can look at the same thing and come to different conclusions. That’s a call that had to be made, though.

Thursday: A Special Homecoming

Saturday: How Good is Vegas?

Sunday: Game Analysis

 

 

 

 

Fizzy’s Corner: Could’ve, Would’ve, Should’ve

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Editor’s Note: Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub (pictured), a former Temple player and later a coach, educator, and writer, provides his expert perspective in this space every week.

By Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub

Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen of Temple University rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Armstead, Wright, Gardner, and Russo. They formed the crest of the Broad Street cyclone before which another fighting  Navy football team was swept over the precipice as spectators peered down on the bewildering panorama spread on the green plain below.

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Wait, there’s something wrong.  The master horseman wasn’t there.  Armstead was on the sideline watching the drama unfold as he was too injured to play.  Why?  Well because Coach Collins allowed him to continue to play in a blowout the week before, even after an injury in the fourth quarter.  To make matters worse, the coach refuses to address either the injury or his mistake. Yesterday when asked, he shrugged and said, “We’ll keep getting better.”

It’s the measure of a man who admits his mistakes and apologizes.  Coach Collins needs to come out front.

Now, on to the game with Navy.  For those who think I’m beating a dead horse, let’s look at the first two offensive series yesterday.  Do you think we really wouldn’t have scored with a first and goal on the half-yard line if Ryquell was playing?  Do you think we’d have fumbled the ball right back again on the second series if the master horseman was riding?  That’s a possible fourteen points and could have put the game away, right away.  As we get ready to play three top 25 teams, we need our best running back to be healthy.

To borrow a word from Grantland Rice above, there were some bewildering offensive play calls as usual.  Play fakes on third and long, two up-the-guts after a first down incompletion (borrowed from Andy Reid), a punt on fourth and one from on the Navy side of the field, throwing from an empty backfield on second and short, and the fade that was intercepted in the end-zone with two minutes to play.

On the other hand, the draw play for a touchdown was a terrific call, and we continue to see Russo roll out and run a few keepers.  I’d really like to see him run some RPO’s.

It’s very tough to evaluate the defense when it’s playing against the triple option, as there are many theories out there.  Wayne Hardin once told me his theory was to over-shift the defensive line to the strong side. Some coaches will assign one linebacker to tackle the fullback, one to hit the QB, and one for the pitch.  As Navy doesn’t throw well, man-to-man pass coverage should suffice.  I’m thankful we got ahead just in time to force them to do that.

A win is a win.  However, in Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda Land, we are now 6 – 1.

Tomorrow: 5 Takeaways From the Game

Thursday: A Special Homecoming

Saturday: How good is Vegas?

Sunday: Game Analysis

You Get What You Need

There’s no way Mick Jager could have been inspired to write “You can’t always get what you want” unless he would have stepped into the H.G. Wells’ Time Machine and watched Temple’s football game at Navy yesterday before going back to 1969.

If you are a Temple fan, you can’t always get what you want, but, at least yesterday, thanks mostly to the kids who tried all the time, they got what they needed.

A win.

That’s the bottom line but it’s not really all that mattered.

If this team is ever going to achieve the potential it both wants and needs, it is going to need fundamentally better coaching. We haven’t seen very much evidence of that in this 4-3 season. Seven and Oh talent, a 4-3 season because in part of what of the kind of head-scratching play-calling and personnel packages we witnessed on the first and penultimate drives of the game.

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What I–and I suspect a great majority–of Temple fans wanted after the Owls got a first-and-goal at the 1 on the first drive of the game was to put a fullback in the game and pound Jager Gardner behind him for the easy six. Somehow, though, offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude got his 147th brain cramp of the year and put two defensive players–Freddy Booth-Lloyd and Dan Archibong–in the game and that pushed the ball back another five yards due to an illegal procedure penalty on the second play of that series. The first play was an unnecessary quarterback sneak. The First and goal from the 1 is no time for a sneak or exotic personnel packages. Asking defensive players to rush into the game and hear a snap count they are unfamiliar with is a recipe for disaster.

Disaster went down like sewer water yesterday.

It is high time to put Nitro in at fullback (his natural position) and giving the ball to Jager Gardner for the easy six. If Gardner doesn’t get it on first down, he almost assuredly does on second or third. Don’t try to be a rocket scientist when you know basic geometry–the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

Memo to Patenaude: This SHOULD be Temple football on every first and goal. Do you think Matt Rhule ever cared what defense Cincy was in here?

But …. nooooooo … these guys are so stubborn they don’t want to use a traditional fullback behind a pretty good tailback.

Twilight Zone was revisited on the penultimate drive of the game, with 1:48 left and the Owls getting a first down at the 9. All the Owls had to do was put a fullback in the game and run Gardner behind him for three downs, using the clock, perhaps scoring. Instead, this genius from Coastal Carolina decides to throw a ball into the end zone, committing two unpardonable sins–stopping the clock and turning the ball over.

Less than two minutes left with a first down inside the 10 is not the time to get greedy.

Or stupid.

Speaking of stupid, the very smart announcing team–led by former All-Pro Randy Cross–was aghast (aghast, I tell you) about the Owls approach to running down the play clock which could be described in two words: Ignoring it. On just about every play, the Owls were snapping with 11-13 seconds left on the play clock, when they could have run that down to 2 or 3 seconds before snapping. Cross estimated that the Owls wasted “about a minute and 42 seconds” by snapping the ball early.

“What’s the rush?” Cross said.

Randy, meet Dave Patenaude, who seldom makes any sense.

The Owls got what they needed yesterday. To win a title that these kids deserve, they better start getting both what they need and what they want and that is an offensive coordinator who understands even the most basic elements of Football 101.

Monday: Fizzy’s Corner

Tuesday: What We’ve Learned

Thursday: A Special Homecoming

Saturday: How Good is Vegas?

Sunday: Game Analysis

How Good is Temple? More Clues Today

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Today’s uni … maybe they are saving the Cherry helmets for Homecoming…Photo: Zamani Feelings

A very wise sage named Bill Parcells once famously said: “You are what your record is.”

Another wise sage named Lee Corso is just as famous for his catchphrase: “Not so fast, my friend.”

As far as how good this 2018 Temple football team is, we found out a little last night and will find out a lot more today. Certainly, the Parcells’ quote does not apply to this squad because it is 3-1 since a new quarterback took over for the one who went 0-2. This is a Lee Corso-type squad.

Not so fast, my friend. As presently constituted, this is no doubt a better team than what their record is (3-3, 2-0).

Exactly how much better is a question we should have a handle on by nightfall.

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We got a little glimpse last night when USF struggled to beat a Tulsa team Temple hammered (31-17). Even though USF is unbeaten and ranked No. 23, it also struggled against an ECU team Temple dismantled, 49-6. One comparative score could be misleading. Two is a trend. Should both Temple and USF play their best, got to like Temple’s chances in that game a few weeks down the road.

First, though, Navy is up (3:30 p.m. in Annapolis, CBS Sports Network).

No predictions on that game here because Navy is always good at home, where it beat a very good Memphis squad, 22-21, earlier this year. Temple fans are in a show-me mode today. Show me you are good by beating Navy.

Still, one other game today will give Owl fans a pretty good grip on where their team stands in the overall league picture because Houston travels to ECU as a 16-point favorite. I think that line is way too high and I would not be surprised if ECU pulls this out. In an upset, I’m picking the Pirates, 27-25. That would mean Temple is very, very good.

Here are the other five in this week’s six-pack:

Toledo 21, at Eastern Michigan 14 _ Toledo is just a much-better program and will cover the two-point spread.

Georgia Tech 35, Duke 31 _ Georgia Tech, not Army or Navy, has the No. 1 rushing offense in the country and, although I like both head coaches, I like GT’s Paul Johnson (former Navy coach) more. Georgia Tech covers the three-point spread.

Notre Dame 42, Pitt 14 _ Central Florida beat Pitt, 45-14, and Penn State beat them, 51-6. If the host Irish have designs on a four-team playoff, they need similar style points. Pretty hard to convince the committee to pick them over UCF and PSU with, say, a 29-22 win. So ND easily covers the 21-point spread.

Central Florida 29, at Memphis 20 _ Memphis has shown some chinks in the armor. UCF has not. Knights easily cover the 4.5-point spread.

Texas 54, Baylor 25 _ Sorry, Matt Rhule, Texas has found another gear since losing to Maryland and should cover the 14-point spread. Rhule is getting the Bears better with a 26-7 win over a Kansas team that destroyed Rutgers and another win over Kansas State, but the Longhorns are a different animal than a Jayhawk or a Wildcat.

Last week straight up: 4-2

Last week ATS: 2-4

Overall straight up: 11-6

Overall ATS: 8-10

Today’s TV Schedule:

tvlistings

Temple-Navy: Creating Separation

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That guy closest to the Temple fans was Colin Thompson, all alone on this throwback pass from P.J. Walker against USF.

If there was anything Temple could take from the first six games of the season is not to take anything for granted.

As the Villanova debacle gets farther back in the rear-view mirror, the more devastating that train wreck looks (and it looked pretty bad when it happened). Dave Patenaude, who probably should have been fired the next morning as Temple offensive coordinator for putting up only nine offensive points against that squad, is still around so anything can happen. Patenaude has to know offensive coordinators with far lesser talent than Temple (Towson and Stony Brook) put up 45 and 29 points, respectively, against what head coach Geoff Collins then called a “clever defensive scheme.”

thompson

This is what I call separation, the end result of the photo at the top of this post.

It’s only clever if you can’t figure it out.

Since then, like last year, Temple made a quarterback change and, like last year, Temple is a completely different team since.

Really, the Owls should be 4-0 since Anthony Russo took over for Frank Nutile but aren’t because two of their eight-deep receiver rotation had the dropsies against Boston College. One of the drops robbed Russo of a beautifully thrown 80-yard touchdown bomb; the other bounced off the chest and then the hands of an Owl and into the hands of an Eagle. The Owls were almost certainly headed for a touchdown on both drives and that was the ballgame.

On Saturday, Temple’s game at Navy (3:30 p.m., CBS Sports) should be all about creating separation–not only in the league race against a respective foe from another division but the kind of separation that gets Temple receivers out of that traffic in the middle of the field and into making game-changing plays.

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Definitely a Cherry sweatshirt day

There are four things that can happen when the ball is in the air and three of them are bad–a drop, an incompletion, and an interception–but there are methods that can optimize the chances for good and minimize the chances for ill. Creating separation–which the Owls really haven’t done for Russo so far–is a must going forward. Too many of Russo’s throws are designed to throw into coverage and an Owl receiver has to make a spectacular catch to wrestle the ball away from a defender.

That’s playing with fire and Patenaude must find ways to put that fire out.

There are at least five (of many) good ways to do that:

First, establish the run. With an elite tailback like Ryquell Armstead (assuming he’s healthy), the Owls should control clock and yardage with gouging runs against a Navy defense that has been close to porous.

Second, help the tailback accomplish that goal. For reasons known only to Patenaude, he has eschewed the lead fullback block that would make things soooooo much easier for Armstead. However, he did show the blocking H-back look using the tight ends as lead blockers against Maryland, so maybe he only uses it for games played in that state. We can only hope.

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Best way to go is 301 through a small part of Delaware and a larger part of Maryland

Third, play-action. With the run established, deftly fake the ball into the belly of Armstead (or Jager Gardner), bring the linebackers and safeties up to the line of scrimmage in run support, and make the easy pass over their heads into Owl receivers running so free through the secondary that Russo won’t know which one to pick out.

Fourth, the pump fake. We’re talking about the type of play that Kenny Yeboah ran free for a touchdown against the Terps here. Russo pump fakes a quick out to Ventell Bryant, who sells the play with a 37-inch vertical leap, and both the safety and the corner go for him leaving the tight end (safety responsibility) running free down the sideline for an easy six. The fact that we’ve seen only one of these plays this season is a real head-scratcher.

Fifth, the throwback pass (see above): P.J. Walker had a throwback pass to tight end Colin Thompson that created a whole lot of separation in a touchdown against South Florida. Walker rolled right and looked in the right corner of the end zone before finding Thompson (far left in the top photo and all alone in the middle photo) for a score.

Easy peasy stuff. If Patenaude can’t figure it out for himself, maybe he should place a call to the offensive brain trusts at Towson and Stony Brook. They can draw it up and send him a fax within seconds.

Saturday: Predictions

Sunday: Game Analysis

Fizzy’s Corner: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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Editor’s Note: I was asked some new tailgate friends on Thursday night who Fizzy is. He is in the photo  showing what Swag really means. Here are his thoughts on the win over Navy.

By Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub

Wow, Temple was up over Navy by three touchdowns. Frank Nutile’s passing was pinpoint, and everyone was catching the ball. Had Dave Patenaude turned over a new leaf, throwing early and often? Lots of folks left early, and missed the conclusion. It was probably better for them.

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Graphic thanks to Brad Ford

All in all, the coaching was pretty doggone good… for 54 minutes, and then the wheels fell off… again. Up by three touchdowns with a little over six minutes left, Dependable Dave Patenaude did the same thing he did the week before vs. Army. Temple gets the ball at midfield, and Dave runs three times up the gut. Instead of trying a variety of plays and/or throw the ball to get one or two first downs and sew up the game, he starts playing not to lose. In one fell swoop, he gave the momentum back to Navy. (How many times have we all seen coaches in football and basketball slow up their offense too soon, and give the momentum back to the opponent?)

Once more, we barely had a running game. I attribute this to Dave’s, everything’s straight ahead, “Broad Street Offense.” After our ninth game and for the entire season, we’ve run one reverse, one jet sweep, and one bootleg. And where was the “Cheese-Steak” split offense? How about the “wildcat” with Wright at tailback; can’t he throw too?

The more things change, the more they stay the same. We had five, “first and goals.” On four of those, the first play was “up the gut” against a goal line defense. Finally, on the fifth try, he ran a play action pass on first down, which resulted in a touchdown. Hoorah!

The defense played spectacularly for 54 minutes, and almost completely slowed down Navy’s vaunted offense. That’s until Navy’s first string QB, Zach Abey, got hurt. His replacement had quite an arm, and if he wasn’t sacked, he easily picked apart Temple’s pass defense. There were guys open all over the place. When Navy went to a “trips-left” formation, Temple tried to cover it with one and a half defenders. How’s that possible? On some plays, our pass defenders were obviously confused, as they were at the end of the Army game. I truly believe had Navy recovered the last onside kick, they would have tied the game. This is the second week in a row, the pass defense has fallen apart at the end of the game. This time though, time expired before we did.

Tuesday: Be All You Can Be

Navy-TU: Ships Sailing In Opposite Directions

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A year  ago, the late, great Wayne Hardin gave the Owls good luck with this coin flip. He will be honored tonight.

Almost a year ago at this time, the sports talk show host with the highest ratings in the country was singing the praises of Navy’s football team.

“The one team in college football that intrigues me most is Navy,” said Mike Francesa of WFAN radio in New York. “That’s the most exciting team in my mind and, to me, that would be the one team that could throw a monkey wrench into this whole playoff thing.”

Fast forward only a couple of weeks until the AAC championship game and Francesa was still singing Navy’s praises.

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The weather has been the only good thing so far about this Temple season.

“Oh my God, they just scored 75 points on SMU,” Francesa said in an interview with Gary Daniels, a CBS sports network college football analyst. “They play Temple this week in the league championship game. I don’t know how good Temple is … “

“Temple is pretty darn good,” Daniels said, interrupting The Sports Pope.

“They better be to stay with that team,” Francesa said. “I’m going to be watching that game for sure.”

After Temple beat Navy, 34-10, to win the title, I placed my little Radio Shack transistor job—the only one that can get WFAN inside the building—on my desk at work hoping to hear Francesa sing the praises of Temple football before his vast radio audience.

Not a peep on the first day or the second day or the third. Temple was never given props at all.

Navy lost, so that was a subject Francesca conveniently dropped and went onto the next big thing that interested him, like the NFL.

“Temple punched us in the mouth,” said Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo after that game. “Usually, we are the ones punching other people in the mouth and we didn’t respond.”

Tonight (8 p.m., Lincoln Financial Field), Navy gets the rematch they have wanted a year for and they have the boxing gloves primed and ready. Wayne Hardin will be honored and, win or lose, that will be the highlight of the night for Temple fans.

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The coaches keeping Bryant and Sharga on the field would be nice for a change.

Presumably, Temple will punch back but, on paper, at least, any hope of an upset here appears to be a ship that sailed a long time ago. The speed bags Temple has been working against don’t appear to be as big or menacing as the ones Navy has been punching.

The two teams have combined for four losses in the last few Saturdays but that’s where the comparison ends. These are two ships headed in opposite directions. Nick Sharga, who was so instrumental in that championship win, doesn’t even see the field for long stretches for this team. Ventell Bryant, whose touchdown catch started a good afternoon on offense for those Owls, seems to be an afterthought for these Owls. Blame it on the offensive coordinator all you want, but the CEO (Geoff Collins) bears ultimate responsibility.

Temple lost to a lousy UConn team, 28-24, and an Army team, 31-28, that the Owls had about 10x as much physical talent as two weeks ago. The blood for the scene of both crimes leads right back to the coaching offices at $17 million Edberg-Olson Complex.

During that same time frame, Navy lost to a great Memphis team, 30-27, and an even better UCF team, 31-21.

One of the more unabashedly optimistic followers on the Temple Fans Facebook page said “the Owls will NOT make  another service academy bowl eligible.”

To use another nautical term, I hate to torpedo his optimism but that assertion just doesn’t hold water. Right now, hours before the game, as far as an upset goes, it appears these are two ships sailing in opposite directions.

As a certain Commander-In-Chief might say: #Sad.

Friday: Game Analysis