The Math Just Got Easier for Russo

Who would have thought that both of these guys would finish 1-2 in stats as a Temple quarterback?

As far as we could determine, this quote about numbers and people was first attributed to Matt Holloway, but we’re sure someone slipped it into a figure of speech sometime before then.


If the quarterback position
was meant for
a runner then we’d
still be playing
the single wing
 

“Numbers don’t lie, people do.”

The numbers for Anthony Russo to pass P.J. Walker as the consensus all-time best Temple quarterback were challenging coming into this season. Even with a full season this year, and that’s doubtful, Russo would have to pull 40 touchdown passes to knock off the toughest record ahead of him: Walker’s career touchdown list. Not impossible, since LSU’s Joe Burrow tossed 60 touchdowns last season, but not likely, either.

Now, though, with Russo stating in an OwlsDaily.com story quoting Anthony that he will be back for not only 2020 and 2021, all of Walker’s records become not only fair game but well within reach, especially his career yard total of 10,669. (OwlsDaily.com is well worth the subscription.)

That’s assuming a lot of things, though, among them that the current coaching staff is not so wedded to a read-option that it might ditch the better passer for the better runner. They do that to their own peril, though, and coaching staffs usually don’t commit career suicide. If the quarterback position was meant for a runner, then we’d still be playing the single wing.

Interesting that Russo had 10 more TD passes in two years than Mike McGann had in five (medical redshirt).

The other assumption is that the Owls will get a minimum eight and a maximum dozen games in this season and that could be problematic considering the science, politics and general angst over public health in relation to big-time sports.

All that aside, though, all Russo will have to do the next two seasons is do what he did in the 2019 regular season in touchdown passes (21) and yards (2,861) and he will have two significant career quarterback records at a school that began playing football two centuries ago.

He already has 15 wins in nearly two full regular seasons (missing the first two and the final UConn game in 2018). Walker had four full seasons with two wins his first year, six his second and 10 each in his junior and senior seasons. If Russo goes 15-6 in the next two regular seasons (we’re not counting bowl games because only a handful of Temple quarterbacks have played in one), he beats what in my mind is the most important stat a quarterback can have.

The “people lying” part of this equation was on display on the same OwlsDaily board when someone wrote: “Russo had a better season in 2018 than 2019.”

Huh?

He had 14 touchdowns against 14 interceptions in 2018 vs. 21 and 11 in 2019. The numbers said he got better, not worse.

Since people often lie when they move their lips and the numbers on the page always remain the same, I will take the latter over the former when discussing anyone’s legacy.

If Russo’s passing remains as on target the next two years as the last two, that legacy will be unsurpassed.

Friday: Projected Offensive Starters

Monday: Projected Defensive Starters

Two Guys To Be Thankful For This Season

rodster
“Even if I was with the Patriots, I’d be asking Tom Brady to read the option and run every once in a while. Yeah, I know it probably wouldn’t work there, either, but that’s the only offense Mike knows how to run.”

There are plenty of things to be thankful for as Thanksgiving rolls around today. This season flew by and there is at least one more chance to get together with my football friends on Saturday, so there’s one thing.

Maybe a bowl game if it’s in D.C. or NYC as well.

Keeping this post to football, though, I’m thankful for two people this year what I believe is far too much criticism on social media: Our quarterback and head coach.

First the quarterback.

Screenshot 2019-11-26 at 9.23.17 AM

Adam DiMichele’s first two full years at Temple were 2006 and 2007

As Temple fans, we can pretty much agree on the following:

Steve Joachim, Henry Burris, P.J. Walker, and Adam DiMichele were great quarterbacks wearing the Cherry and White.

Screenshot 2019-11-26 at 9.13.49 AM

Anthony Russo’s first two full seasons at Temple compares favorably with any of the great quarterbacks at the school, even with a full game left in the regular season.

Guess what?

Anthony Russo’s first two years at quarterback–with a full game to go–stacks up with the first two years of any of those above quarterbacks and he still has another year to go, so that’s something to be thankful for.

Screenshot 2019-11-26 at 9.12.07 AM

Henry Burris’ first two full years at Temple were 1994 and 1995

I’d love to see Russo run a similar offense to Joachim (the veer), Burris, Walker and DiMichele (NFL-type pro sets) but his stats in variations of the spread have been pretty darn good. Give him a more traditional NFL-type offense than a college one and he would thrive. Nobody asks those NFL quarterbacks to run with the exceptions being the Jacksons and the Wilsons.

To me, the No. 1 stat for a quarterback is wins and losses. Russo was 7-2 last year as a starter (losses to Villanova and Buffalo went to Frank Nutile and the win over UConn to Todd Centeio) and is 7-3 this season and about to finish 8-3. That’s 15-5 and only Joachim, the Maxwell Award winner as a national college football player of the year (1974) was better in his two seasons (17-3).

No other quarterback was close in modern Temple history and that’s pretty rarified air.

Screenshot 2019-11-26 at 10.35.50 PM

Steve Joachim’s first two (and only) seasons at Temple were 1973 and 1974. Surprisingly, he had a much better passer rating at Penn State (162.5) than he did at Temple (141.7).

The next most important stat is touchdown/interception ratio and Russo improved on his 14/14 line with 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this season.

In the area of cold statistics, Russo completed 418 passes in 721 attempts for 5,049 yards with 33 touchdowns and 25 interceptions. Compare that to Joachim’s first two seasons (208 completions in 380 attempts, 3,262 yards with 31 touchdowns and 23 interceptions).

Henry Burris and Adam DiMichele could not compete in the area of wins but put up some impressive, albeit, inferior statistics to Russo. Henry, a legend in the CFL, completed 354 passes in 709 attempts for 4,720 yards with the same amount of touchdowns (33) but four more interceptions.  ADM? 273-443, 3,113, 22 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in his first two full seasons.

P.J. Walker had 20 touchdowns to 8 interceptions in his first season but never had a better TD/INT ratio after that. He did throw for nearly 3,000 yards in each of the years after Rhule ditched the spread option for more of a pro-style attack using a fullback. That led to a championship appearance one year and an outright championship the next. There is still time for Russo to do that but he will need to get some help from Carey in the form of an offense more suited to his passing skills than his running ones.

Screenshot 2019-11-28 at 10.47.40 AM

P.J. Walker went from 20 TDs and 8 INTS to a sophomore slump of 13/15. He threw for nearly 3,000 yards ONLY after Rhule switched to a fullback-oriented play-action passing game in P.J’s final two seasons.

For someone who remembers and cringes thinking about the quarterbacks of the Al Golden Era and before that, I’m glad that Anthony Russo is my quarterback.

Carey has deservedly received some criticism here because he did not tailor his offense to the talents of his players but I’m also glad he’s my head coach for one reason.

Manny Diaz could have been.

Screenshot 2019-11-26 at 11.06.53 PM

This was our blog post on the day Temple hired Manny Diaz. We were off only about 348 days.

Diaz lost to a team, FIU, last week that lost to both Tulane (42-14) and FAU (37-7). He lost to a Georgia Tech team that Carey beat 24-2.


I have to laugh at the
criticism of both guys,
Russo and Carey. Guess what?
Jalen Hurt and Nick Saban
are not walking through that
door to quarterback and coach
Temple. If you don’t like
Carey as Temple coach, who
would you have hired instead?
Chris Creighton? Lance Leipold?
I don’t think either would
have done appreciatively
better here.

Despite my criticism of Carey’s blind spot (not running a play-action run-oriented offense to open up passing lanes for Russo), I’m also glad he’s my coach because there is no way Temple beats Georgia Tech, Memphis and Maryland with Diaz as my coach.

I have to laugh at the criticism of both guys, Russo and Carey. Guess what? Jalen Hurt and Nick Saban are not walking through that door to quarterback and coach Temple. If you don’t like Carey as Temple coach, who would you have hired instead? Chris Creighton? Lance Leipold? I don’t think either would have done appreciatively better here.

To me, if Carey had run a pro set with a fullback and two tight ends and established the running game against Cincy, Russo would have had plenty of time to find receivers on play-action fakes and thrown four touchdown passes in a 40-15 win instead of a 15-13 loss. Scoring points on Cincy with the talent Temple has on offense (Russo, Ray Davis, Jager Gardner, Jadan Blue, Isaiah Wright, Branden Mack, Kenny Yeboah, etc.) should not have been that hard. The system has to be designed around the talent and this system does not do that. That’s what I believe now and that’s what I believed after Matt Rhule’s first two years of doing the same exact thing before Matt adopted our suggestions in Year Three. (Matt admitted to me in a phone call that he read this blog the entire year he was an assistant at the New York Giants. I doubt he stopped once he became Temple head coach.)

Maybe Carey will have a similar Ephinany after his first year like Rhule did after his second. I think Rhule was more pliable but I hope Carey surprises me.

Is there room for improvement for both coach and player?

Yes.

That’s why next year is an important one for both and a major reason we should give thanks today and be excited about the future.

Saturday: Two Proper Sendoffs

Sunday: Game Analysis

P.J. Walker Appreciation Day

newestpj

P.J. Walker will have nearly every Temple QB record.

Old habits are hard to break but because of my admiration and appreciation of the young man, I tried to grant P.J. Walker’s request to call him Phillip.

For a while, I was able to do it.

No more. He will always be P.J. to me, Matt Rhule and I suspect the great majority of Temple fans. I am no more able to call him Phillip than a Saints’ fan is apt to call Drew Brees “Andrew” or, more precisely, a Giants’ fan is likely to call Y.A Tittle “Yelberton Abraham” Tittle.

So he is going to be P.J. henceforth, period, end of story, but that’s not why today is P.J. Walker Appreciation Day in this spot. It’s because he is the only winning quarterback (25-18) over a four-year period in Temple history and, to me, that’s the most important statistic.

Here are some others:

walkergraph

To be good enough to be a four-year FBS starter in college football is almost unheard of these days because three-year starters usually head to the NFL early, so that’s one point. For a school that has played college football since 1894, being the only four-year starter and one of the few winning quarterbacks in that school’s history is a really special achievement.

That’s the brand he has established, and it is not a bad one to have. Going to the numbers, a strong case can be made that he is the greatest Temple quarterback of all time. While some will say Walker is a compiler as much as an achiever, I will say that his sophomore year was wasted by an ill-advised multiple wide receiver scheme that often left him in an empty backfield unprotected by a fullback or a tailback and running for his life. I told P.J. as much on Chodoff Field after the next Cherry and White game and told him to keep his head up, that help was on the way and he would become an all-time Temple great. He shook my hand and thanked me for believing in him.

That all has come true with two games left in his final regular season.

The numbers do not lie. If you want to make a case for Brian Broomell, who really only started two years (1978 and 1979), no one can argue with you because Broomell was 17-5-1 as a Temple starter and that’s a higher winning percentage than Walker. The same case can be made for another two-year starter, Maxwell Award-winner Steve Joachim, who was 17-3 as a Temple quarterback.

Still, Walker’s resume is superior to everyone else near the top of the list. The Owls have a special quarterback in Walker and, if he hoists the overall AAC trophy in December, he will have the most important trophy none of the other great Temple quarterbacks have and that will be a league championship.

Phillip schmillip, P.J. is a mighty good name to me and always will be.

Wednesday: What Have We Done (Part II)?

The Path Forward

Thanks to Paul Palmer for the audio file and Ricky Swalm for the YouTube work.

For someone who never used a drug harder than an occasional Coors Light and never understood the power of drugs or addiction, I’ve been overdosing on a couple of things over the last 48 hours.

Strawberry (I call them Cherry) Twizzlers and the 32-second drive.

I can’t get enough, eating the Twizzlers and snorting the video below. There are a couple of things worth noting in the video, the smarts and sheer courage of Ventell Bryant in both getting out of bounds and getting up and staggering to the line of scrimmage before the final play and the presence of mind of his teammates to get him lined up. If Bryant stays down, a 10-second runoff happens and the Owls lose. Also, P.J. Walker made four great throws and the last one under a significant amount of duress and, of course, the Keith Kirkwood great catch. Also, Anthony Russo’s participation in the celebration is noteworthy. One whiff of any of those things creates a significant high combined with the munchie Twizzlers.

My addiction, though, is harmless. If the team and the coaches have not moved on from Saturday night’s high, going to rehab will be a necessary trip on the way to a six-win season. What the victory on Saturday purchased in currency was very valuable, their own destiny, with regard to an American Athletic Conference championship and a possible double-digit-win season. They need not rely on anyone else but themselves to win the title. If they had lost, they would have needed help.

That cannot be understated because of what is ahead of them in the very next game.

South Florida will come into Lincoln Financial Field on Friday not only as the preseason favorite to take the AAC East title, but as six-point favorites over the Owls. If the Owls can somehow make one more play than USF, like they did against UCF on Saturday night, the path to an AAC title opens as wide as a six-lane highway in rural Montana. USF is the toughest game left and the teams after USF, like Cincinnati and UConn, have serious flaws than USF doesn’t have. If the Owls can somehow win out—and there are only five games left—they will LIKELY host the AAC title game in Philadelphia. (West contenders Houston, Navy and Memphis could not each other out of hosting the game.)

Houston, which was ceded the title by most a few weeks ago, does not seem so unbeatable anymore. Navy beat the Cougars two weeks ago and Tulsa—a team that struggled against SMU—probably should have beaten them on Saturday night.

The Owls’ defense appears to be coming around, shutting out a UCF offense over the last two quarters (19-0) that scored 47 on ECU.

Anything is possible if the Owls focus on Friday and stay away from the munchies and that anything might be a championship.

Thursday: Game Preview

Saturday: Game Analysis

Greatest. Win. Ever.

When I was just a kid, I got on a trolley, an EL and a bus to go to a Temple night game only because I begged my late Sainted father, a Villanova grad, and told him I would be OK.

(Previously, I had watched Temple only on television and fell in love with the football Owls.)

That night, Temple beat a ranked West Virginia, 39-36, before 14,000 in a 20,000-seat stadium thanks to two long punt returns by Paul Loughran.

On the way to the K bus, I heard the chant “We Want Nebraska!” (Nebraska, on that night was the No. 1 team in the country.)

That was the night I became a Temple fan for life, so much so that I turned down a full academic ride to be one of the first 24 males in a school of 1,300 females at Cabrini College so I could work my way through Temple.

That’s how much I loved Temple University in general and Temple football in particular. My male friends who know how much I also loved females told me that’s how crazy I was, but Cabrini also did not offer Journalism so I could rationalize my position that way.

For many years, I thought that was the greatest victory in Temple football history until last year when I saw the look of utter dejection on the faces of Penn State fans and joy on the Temple side and thought that was better.

Nothing, though, like last night when Temple football, in my mind, scored the greatest win in its history, 26-25, at Central Florida. First, in my 40-plus years of crazy Temple fandom, I do not remember winning a game on the final pass or a game by scoring a touchdown in the last second.

I have a pretty good memory and I do not think that is wrong.

Second, I do not remember one of my favorite Temple quarterbacks of all time going 4-for-4 on his final drive and eschewing a spike for a game-winning touchdown pass. My favorite Temple quarterbacks are, in order, Brian Broomell, Steve Joachim, Adam DiMichele, Doug Shobert and P.J. Walker.

I’m not saying they are the best, but they are certainly my favorites and one of my favs has been unduly criticized lately and I was so happy to see him shove it in his critics’ faces.

Walker was forced to throw from the pocket almost exclusively last night, despite us PLEADING with the coaches to roll him out for the last six weeks. Despite that, Walker found a way to get things done on the final drive.

To me, that’s not the only reason why this was the greatest win ever but because the program was at a crossroads before this game. Win, and the Owls still saw a path to the AAC championship; lose, and the Owls were staring at a 6-6 “type” season.

Look at it this way. Temple beat a team, UCF, that won at ECU, 47-29. ECU beat NC State, 33-30. NC State beat Notre Dame, 10-3. UCF took a Maryland team into overtime that beat Purdue, 50-7. It could not take Temple into overtime. Temple overcame a 25-7  lead and won on a literal last-second pass.

Not, mind you, a Hail Mary, but a last-second pass. For Temple, that’s as close as it has ever gotten and a the first repayment for all of the Hail Mary’s completed against the Owls.

Greatest Win Ever?

If the Owls turn this into an AAC title, it will be. For now, the measurables (25-7 deficit, last-second pass)  make it something that has never happened before and that has to be good enough.

Tuesday: The Path Forward

5 Reasons To Roll P.J. Out

Click on this great photo of P.J. Walker for details.

When I first saw P.J. Walker play quarterback for Temple University, I had two overriding thoughts.

One,  he reminded me of a fellow AAC quarterback at the time, Teddy Bridgewater, and, two, I thought there was a good chance he would be gone by his senior season.

That’s how good I thought he was and that’s how good I thought he was going to become. He took over as a starter a few games into his true freshman year and compiled 20 touchdown passes against only eight interceptions. If the numbers kept going up, I imagined he’d have 25 touchdowns as a sophomore and 30 as a junior and 30 touchdown passes is a ticket to getting drafted.

A couple of things happened on the way to him not declaring for the NFL draft a year early. One, he was the victim of a horrific coaching scheme as a sophomore that gave him no pocket protection from a tailback or fullback and plenty of empty backfields. It was not his fault that he regressed to 13 touchdowns against 15 interceptions. (And I told him that after the next Cherry and White game.) He bounced back nicely as a junior with 19 touchdowns against eight interceptions, but that was in 14 games. He had better stats in nine games his freshman year and he started only seven games that season.

That was P.J. Walker and I want the old P.J. Walker back. As Phillip Walker, he has only eight touchdown passes against nine interceptions. To get the old P.J. back, the Temple coaches are going to have to roll him out—if not all of the time, at least 80 percent of the time.

It should be a no-brainer and should have been done about six games ago.

friendwalker

Here are five reasons why you do that:

He Sees The Field Better

At 5-foot-11, when he drops back, guys who are 6-foot-5 are running  and jumping at him. It’s only logical that he sees the field better when he leaves the pocket and rolls out to his right. It also opens up the other side of the field for wheel routes and throwback passes to the tight ends (hint: Central Bucks School district products Colin Thompson and Jake O’Donnell).

The Threat of Running

By rolling out, P.J. brings up the linebackers and the safeties to cover the threat of him running.  The linebackers and safeties have to make a quick decision. Quick decisions lead to bad decisions.

If Temple rolls the pocket and throws off play action, it will win. If it keeps asking P.J. to throw into tight windows, it will lose. Simple as that.

If Temple rolls the pocket and throws off play action, it will win. If it keeps asking P.J. to throw into tight windows in the pocket over taller linemen, it will lose. Simple as that.

Coverage Mismatches

Those linebackers and safeties have pass coverage responsibilities and, by coming up on run support, they leave the Temple receivers they are assigned to cover. P.J. can then see the field and toss the intermediate pass to Temple tight ends or wide receivers who now are running free through the secondary.

Spacing

By rolling out, P.J. is no longer the sitting duck he is when protection breaks down on a more conventional dropback pass. He now has the option to run in open space and pick up a first down should the linebackers and safeties stay back. That leaves the No. 1 reason why P.J. should roll out.

Red Zone Offense

USATSI_7560520_149008644_lowres

Nothing drives defenses more insane than the threat of a running quarterback near the goal line. They are damned if they come up in run support because the option of throwing to the back of the end zone is always there. They are damned if they do not come up on run support because P.J. has the speed to get to the pylon.

Temple becomes a much better team if the Owls stop trying to jam Phillip Walker into a square Tom Brady peg when P.J. Walker fits more nicely into a Russell Wilson hole.  The sooner the Owl coaches realize that, the better their chances of getting out of the quicksand of mediocrity where Phillip and his teammates are mired now.

Thursday: Meet Your New Kicker

Coaches Still Slow On The Uptake

nottd

Big 10 replay officials blew this call as proven by this Glenn Tinner photo.

Sitting around with a smaller-than-usual post-game tailgating group after the Stony Brook game, my longtime friend Mark asked me a question.

“Mike, are you going to the Penn State game?”

“No.”

“No? Why?”

“If they had beaten Army, I would have. My feeling is if this coaching staff can’t scheme for the teams they should beat, I have no confidence in them scheming for a team that might be on their level or a little above so I don’t want to go all the way there and then have to make the trip back all pissed off.”

“C’mon, bro,” Mark said, “How many years have you been following Temple football?”

Too many, I said.

Mark’s point was that I should accept disappointment by now. I had, and still have, a different take.


Making Walker a
dropback passer
is trying to fit
a square peg into
a round hole.
The sooner the
coaches realize that,
the better the chances
for future success.
They have a unique
weapon and they should
use him as such.

I wanted one year, just one, that Temple beat all of the teams it was supposed to beat and maybe reached up and beat one or two teams it was not supposed to beat with a solid if not brilliant coaching game plan.

I have not seen that year since the 13 years Wayne Hardin coached the team, but I had my hopes. After a 34-27 loss to Penn State on Saturday, my belief has not changed about this staff being a little slow on the uptake about basic football principles. Before the first game of the season, we outlined here the standard operating procedure to shut down a triple option—44 stack, nose guard over the center, tackles in the A gap, eight in the box and force them to pass. If a triple option team beats you passing, you walk over and shake their hand afterward. If they beat you running the ball because your linebackers played 4-5 yards off it, you walk over to your defensive coordinator and use that same hand to slap him in the head four or five times.

This is all simple shit that even a good high school coaching staff knows. We even outlined in this post how to play Army BEFORE the game and, of course, the slow-on-the-uptake staff had to do things their way.

As we all know now, the Owls left the A gaps open, and played their linebackers 4-5 yards off the ball and they were predictably gouged by the fullback. Afterward, the kids got blamed and the coaches got a pass in the post-game press conferences conducted by, surprise, the coaches.

Slow on the uptake also could be the phrase to describe use of the Owls’ personnel.  Earlier this week, we wrote a post on our five keys to beat Penn State and the No. 1 key was “Roll That Pocket.” Phillip Walker is a much more dangerous threat to defenses when he rolls in the pocket and becomes a threat to run the ball as well as pass it. Linebackers and safeties have to come up to stop the run and Temple receivers, covered when Walker drops back in the pocket, suddenly are running free through the secondary when he is on the move. Yet new offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas insists on making Walker a Matt Ryan, dropping him in the pocket more often than not. Maybe that’s because Thomas coached Ryan with the Atlanta Falcons. You cannot turn Russell Wilson into Tom Brady, nor can you turn Phil or P.J. Walker into a Matt Ryan. Walker completed 25 of 34 passes for 286 yards, but had very limited success when he was forced to drop back. When he took that step to the outside, receivers got separation like the Red Sea parted.

Making Walker a dropback passer is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. The sooner the coaches realize that, the better the chances for future success. They have a unique weapon and they should use him as such.

Walker sees the field a lot better and has a lot more success when the Temple coaches move the pocket for him, a fact that they should have known long before yesterday. The learning curve for this staff is too long and winding and leads to too many dead ends. The process needs to speed up if this team is going to have meaningful success the rest of the way.

Until then, my blood pressure will not allow road trips.

Monday: Recalibrated Expectations

Don’t Mess With Phil

pjtm

Last year’s team leader and this year’s.

According to the website Songfacts.com, there is not a single song about a guy named Phil.

The closest thing we could find is “Don’t Mess With Bill” by the Marvelettes but, if Phillip Walker wins an AAC title with the Temple football Owls, there could be one about him around the beginning of the new year.

Phillip?

Yes, the four-year starter at quarterback officially changed his name from P.J. Walker to Phillip, at least if his twitter page is any indication.

 

It might be nothing but the whim of a college student, but it might represent the transformation a lot of us expect from the four-year starter at quarterback. During his freshman year, I thought he established himself as a future star with 20 touchdowns against only eight interceptions in a year where he did not start until after the Idaho debacle. In his sophomore year, he was as poorly protected as any Temple quarterback I’ve ever seen—more to coaching schemes than the offensive line—but he still managed to squeeze out a bowl-eligible season.

Phillip will have all of the TU QB records, with the possible exception of rating, by the end of the season.

Phillip will have all of the TU QB records, with the possible exception of rating and Walter Washington’s rushing numbers and TDs, by the end of the season.

Last  year, he became more than a game manager but less than a star thanks, in part, to some help by a coaching staff than limited empty backfields (and opportunities for the bad guys to blitz) and inserted a blocking fullback (Nick Sharga) on a regular basis. Sharga was in there ostensibly to block for lead back Jahad Thomas, but he also picked off more than one blitzing linebacker headed straight to the quarterback.

This year, I think he graduates from that gray area between game manager and star to fully-fledged star. The only way that doesn’t happen is if the Owls go back to four- and five-wides and hopefully they learned that lesson two years ago.

Don’t mess with Phil, coming soon to a record store near you.  It might not be by the Marvelettes, but it will be Marvelous.

Friday: Checking All The Boxes

There’s No Doubting Thomas

falcons

Glenn Thomas has been a positive influence on P.J. Walker.

When the Temple offensive coordinator position opened up, we put together a wish list of five potential candidates for the job, listed the pros and cons, but came to the conclusion that Matt Rhule will hire “the least sexy” person for the job, Glenn Thomas.

Now, sexy in football and sexy in real life are two different things. To me, Mike Locksley would have been football sexy because he would have locked up the recruiting in DMV (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia) and had Power 5 OC experience.

pjwalker

The goal should be getting P.J.’s QB rating over 150.8.

Sometimes, though, least sexy is good when you want to get things done. (I learned that watching Sheena Parveen doing the Tornado Watch last week when I listened to the entire forecast but realized afterward that I didn’t really hear anything because I was so distracted.)  Things were not perfect–down 11 in the fourth quarter there has to be an alternative to wasting 20 seconds looking to the sideline for a play–but there was an undeniable upward trend in 2015.

sharknado

The forecast for the TU offense is bright and sunny.

Thomas has the potential of getting things done, especially with the arrival of recruit Anthony Russo. Thomas was Matty Ryan’s quarterback coach with the Atlanta Falcons and Russo’s game is so much reminiscent of Ryan’s that guru Trent Dilfer ended up calling Russo “Ryan Russo” for a day at his Elite 11 camp.

First things first, though, and that is the continued progress in P.J. Walker’s game. For Walker not to be known as a guy who peaked as a freshman, he must slightly improve his numbers in his final year of 2016. Thomas, at least, has him pointed in the right direction. As a freshman, Walker had 20 touchdown throws against only eight interceptions. In Marcus Satterfield’s ill-advised spread formation in 2014 (when Walker got zero protection in the pocket), Walker fell to 13 touchdowns vs. 15 interceptions.  A new scheme that featured a fullback and two tight ends—ostensibly  two additional blockers for Walker—enabled P.J. to see the field better last year and go 19-8.

Ideally, against this schedule, you’d like those numbers to be around 25 and eight (or less) for 2016. If that happens, another double-digit winning season is in sight and that’s about as sexy as things get for Temple football fans.

Unless, of course, Sheena Parveen comes on the Jumbotron instead of Hurricane Schwartz.

Monday: The Case For An Exciting Name As New Slot Receiver

Temple’s Wacky, Wonderful Throwbacks

 

Did anyone notice that 1 of the 17 guys stopping Lynch on the sneak was Freddy Booth-Lloyd? The Owls’ future is bright along the DL.

One of the nation’s top quarterbacks was on display at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday afternoon.

Paxton Lynch was also there.

If a random fan not following college football was told one of the two quarterbacks had six NFL scouts watching him, they could have only assumed one thing after three hours of play:  It had to be the Temple guy, P.J. Walker.

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In reality, Lynch, of Memphis, was the guy all of the NFL scouts came to see, but he was clearly outplayed by Walker, who just might have punched Temple’s ticket to a New Year’s Six game. Walker completed 14 of 26 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns. Lynch was 25 of 34 for 156 yards, but no touchdowns. Credit that to a spectacular performance by the defense, led by Tyler Matakevich, who, with 11 tackles, recorded his fourth-straight 100-tackle season. Lynch will probably be either the first or second QB drafted in the first round, but he was the No. 2 quarterback on the field on Saturday or, from Temple’s standpoint, that’s all that mattered.

While Lynch will be headed to the pros next year, in all probably Walker will return to Temple and that will suit the Owls just fine.  They need only to beat UConn on Saturday night at home to clinch the AAC East title. While the Huskies have played better of late, Temple beat UConn last year, 36-10, and the Owls are a much better team this season.

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One of the great photos of the season, P.J. Walker with Tyler Matakevich. Photo by Morgyn Siegfried.

Stylistically, Walker’s game is very reminiscent of current Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. He can make all of the throws Bridgewater makes, and might be a little more elusive in the open field.

The Owls dominated a team that had been dominated only once before—in a 45-20 home loss to Navy—because Walker was better than the more hyped quarterback on this day. The Owls streamlined their offense down from the trendy multiple wide receiver formations most of the Power 5 conference teams use and the style seems to suit Walker well. They establish the run, pass off play action, and use the speedy Walker to get to the edge on read-option plays. It’s a style that helps them run the clock, keep opposing offenses off the field and their defense fresh. It suits the Temple TUFF brand.

It is a no-nonsense style of throwback offense derided by some, but if it helps the Owls hoist that AAC trophy on Dec. 5, it will be both wacky and wonderful. Just the kind of team that Harry Kalas would have loved.  We all should.