Stan Drayton’s best job: Stopping the bleeding

Temple needs another Paul Palmer to have a winning season in 2023.

College football is a bottom-line business.

We won’t know for another nine or so months whether or not head coach Stan Drayton is doing a good job at Temple unless the number on the left (wins) is higher than the one on the right (losses).

For now, though, we have some clues.

The first transfer portal window is still active but, so far, the misguided decision of Darian Varner to leave Temple and the best defensive line coach he ever had (Antonine Smith) looks like it might come back to bite him and could be the only signifcant portal loss for the Owls.

Whew.

Otherwise, Temple has kept its two best players (quarterback E.J. Warner on offense and Layton Jordan on defense) and that’s a reflection of those two guys buying into the vision of Drayton. His preaching that they are thisclose to winning a championship is reaching a choir.

First things first.

Keyvone Lee played his high school ball an hour up the road from Temple and is better than anyone the Owls have now.

To win, you’ve got to keep the good guys and add other good guys and Drayton is the polar opposite of former head coach Rod Carey in that regard.

Even in these days of crazy transfer portal happenings, Temple has kept most of the good guys.

The general long-term plan for Temple has to be getting in a Power 5 conference but the specific plan now is to copy the model of success established by other G5 teams.

Keeping their players.

Notice Vinny Testaverde, Paul Palmer, and Brian Bosworth all wearing Cherry and White at the 1986 Heisman Trophy ceremony.

According to transfer portal expert Mike Farrell, the two teams that kept the most players a year ago were Troy and UAB.

Temple is at the top of that list this year after being at the bottom a year ago.

Troy went from 5-7 last year to winning a G5 title this year. UAB also had a successful season.

Can Temple success in one area improve the bottom line?

That remains to be seen but the Owls did add explosive playmakers on the outside, depth on both the offensive and defensive lines, and speed in the secondary. The Owls even added an experienced kickoff returner and a deep kickoff specialist.

All things they needed.

What’s left?

Keeping the team together is one thing.

To me, they need a big-time 1,000-yard rusher and they don’t have one now. Thinking they can turn a true freshman, Joquez Smith, into one is way too much of a risk.

They definitely need a Paul Palmer, a guy who was overlooked because he was 5-9, 165 pounds out of Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, Md. and, in Penn State portal guy Keyvone Lee, that guy is available. Paul is in his 50s right now and out of eligibility, but Lee could fit the bill.

Surely, Drayton knows.

Whether or not he sees Lee as a final piece to a puzzle almost finished could be the difference between 6-6 and 8-4 next season.

Friday: Design and Fashion

New highlight video found of Temple’s Paul Palmer

Imagine, if you will, having done nothing with your life more substantive than arranging sports trips and living within shouting distance of Mondauk Common.

You can either look in the mirror and trim that beard of yours or run to the computer, flex keyboard muscles and create hundreds of fake email addresses and criticize fellow Temple grads who actually accomplished something like nearly win a Heisman Trophy or actually did win the top sportswriting award in the state of Pennsylvania. Being that bitter and small are hours and days in your life you can never get back, a complete waste of time much better spent with family.

Said person instead of spending quality time with the wife and kids recently impugned the integrity of Paul Palmer by writing he wasn’t humble enough for his taste.

Like everything he writes, it never saw the light of day on this blog but I’m sure he’s going to waste his time creating another fake email address and name to respond.

Sometimes you have to bring out the receipts.

Hell, you can pretend to hate the only Temple football sports blog of note but never miss a single post. What’s that about? If I hated a Youtube content provider site or a blog, I would never visit it again. I wouldn’t stalk the site but that’s me. I’m not mentally ill.

Small guys who need professional help but don’t know it would. Small isn’t even the word. Tiny and microscopic might be but we won’t talk about that guy today.

To me, Paul Palmer is not only the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) of Temple football but, arguably, the most humble. (Hell, it’s him or Joe Klecko but, considering that Paul is around for every Temple game and Joe isn’t, I will give the nod to Boo.) I’ve known Paul for almost 40 years and the most impressive thing about him is not is accomplishments on the field (many, check the record books) but his humility off of it. The numbers say Palmer should have won Heisman in 1986 but regional biases opened the door for Miami’s Vinny Testaverde to edge him instead. Finishing behind Palmer in the voting that year were Jim Harbaugh of Michigan and Brian Bosworth of Oklahoma.

Paul once told me about first meeting Geoff Collins, who extended his hand and said: “Hey, coach, what school are you from?” without even knowing he was speaking to the greatest running back in Temple history.

Paul just answered the question and walked away, leaving others to fill Collins in on the deal. That doesn’t sound like a conceited person to me.

The above somewhat new video found by Zamani Feelings (thanks, Zamani) is Paul kicking Alabama’s ass in a 24-14 loss. I have to laugh when people like the sports trip guy say the 2016 team was better than Palmer’s team or the 1979 team. Any Bama team would have beaten the 2016 Temple team (and Toledo actually did) much worse. Great video. Wish Temple had done a better job creating highlight videos of past teams, but you often have to find them through other schools.

Palmer once said publicly that “Mike Gibson is My guy” but, really, Paul should be every Temple fan’s guy. Paul still holds the Temple record for most all-purpose yardage and, except for a Herculean Day by Montel Harris at West Point, would also still hold the single-game rushing record (349 yards). Harris scored seven touchdowns and 351 yards that day in a 62-39 win over Army.

Two Temple goats, no matter what any travel agents might feel.

On Palmer’s special day, a 349-yard game at Veterans Stadium against East Carolina, I filed my story for Calkins Newspapers and was rushed to the hospital the next day. Three weeks later, I was out and Paul shaked my hand and welcomed me back. In between, Temple SID (and assistant AD) Al Shrier called while I was at the hospital, as did then current coach Bruce Arians and former coach Wayne Hardin. Their words meant a lot. (I suspect Mr. Shrier had a lot to do with those calls.)

I almost died before getting heart surgery.

Everything since then has been and will remain borrowed time.

Years later, I’ve gotten to know Paul better than I ever did as a reporter who kept objective distance when he was a player.

He’s a good man. Humble, especially considering all he’s done for his alma mater and always has time to talk to every Temple fan. He’s currently the radio color guy.

Maybe one day a Temple fan who criticizes him will win the best sports fan bus trip award in the state of Pennsylvania.

I doubt it. Until then, he should probably STFU.

Friday: Recruiting

Underrated win: Temple 29, Virginia Tech 13

The complete Oyster Bowl game, which was only uploaded to Youtube four days ago by Zamani Feelings.

Of all the football wins in Temple history, one of the under-the-radar ones came in 1986 when the Owls beat Virginia Tech, 29-13, in what was then known as The Oyster Bowl.

Paul Palmer and Matty Baker get together 35 years after the Oyster Bowl.

The Oyster Bowl–like the Mirage Bowl in Japan–was one of two “bowl games” the Owls participated in during the regular season and the win was impressive both in Temple’s dominance of the “home” team and how good Virginia Tech was that season.

We were reminded of that win after seeing a photo yesterday of Matty Baker, the quarterback from that era, and Paul Palmer, the star of the game. The two reunited at Temple on Sunday. Baker was a redshirt freshman that year who made the trip but did not play. Baker did play 11 games as a backup the next season and became the Temple starter in 1988. (Lee Saltz was the Temple quarterback in the Oyster Bowl and was credited for a touchdown toss on a shovel pass that gave the Owls a 7-0 lead. Great call by Arians. Saltz also connected with 4.3 sprinter Keith Gloster on a perfectly thrown 52-yard touchdown bomb.)

Palmer ran for 239 yards, the most Virginia Tech allowed to a single player in its history until that point.

Temple finished that 1986 season 6-5 and that day handed Virginia Tech one of its only two losses of the season. That season the Hokies finished their season by beating North Carolina State (8-3-1), 25-24, in the Peach Bowl–which was one of the top bowl games in 1986.

The only other loss Virginia Tech had that season was to Cincinnati in its opener. Virginia Tech beat an 8-2-2 Clemson team, in addition to Virginia, West Virginia, Syracuse, Kentucky and Vanderbilt, among others. They also tied South Carolina.

They could not beat Temple because of the brilliant coaching of Bruce Arians and the elusiveness of Palmer.

As far as under-the-radar wins by winning Temple teams, it has to be near the top of the list.

Friday: A Letter

Virtual Reality vs. Reality

On the first night of the NFL draft, the Temple football Owls hosted a “virtual reality” event to ostensibly talk about the state of the program via Youtube.

On the most-watched channel in the city of the Owls, the NFL draft was about to start.

Not the best platform planning we’ve ever seen. Maybe another night (err, Wednesday?) might have been a better choice.

Virtual reality vs. reality.

I will take less band and cheerleaders if I can see more of this for at least eight of the 12 Saturdays.

In that hour, we heard “Hey Jude” played by the Temple band and saw a performance by the Temple cheerleaders. We also learned about pulled hamstrings and such from a Temple doctor.

Insight into the football team?

Not so much.

We don’t talk politics here (sorry, John) but the politics we do talk about is political correctness when it comes to the Temple program. Listen, I like the band, cheerleaders and Temple doctors well enough but in an era where we don’t get enough real news about Temple football itself, would have preferred the entire hour stick to the state of the team.

On the other channel, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay were not talking to team doctors, listening to Beatles songs or being wowed by a sis-boom-bah cheer.

Kinda reminds me when I was sports editor of a Calkins Newspaper daily and the managing editor yelled across the room: “Mike, this is a parent of a band member. Can you talk to her?”

“Sure.”

More of this kind of cowbell, please.

“Why do you guys give more coverage to the CB West football team than the band? Those kids work just as hard as the football players.”

“I’m sure they do, ma’am. I have a hypothetical question, though. Do you think 10,000 fans would attend Friday night’s CB West-Souderton game if it was just the band and the football team went through drills at halftime of the band performance?”

“I guess you’ve got a point there.”

“Have a good night.”

The Temple publicity people haven’t grasped that simple concept probably because a lot of Title IX and similar rules dictate that other areas of the uni get “equal” coverage.

There’s simply not the interest there.

The host, Kevin Copp, seems like a nice enough guy. In fact, I don’t think there are too many Temple employees of the last few years (Morgan Siegfried excluded) who works as hard and is as affable as Copp. Yet there were no tough questions (“when are we going to stop fair catching?” is just one I can think of). I don’t blame Kevin at all because, as a uni employee, he is not going to rock the boat because he is “in” the boat and might not be able to swim should it tip over.

Winning trumps effort every time.

That also applies to the owner and operator of one Temple sports site.

It doesn’t appear that we are going to get answers to tough questions but Rod Carey did say he wanted to have a team that “plays hard, gives maximum effort and makes our fans proud.”

Paul Palmer had the best comment of the night when he mentioned how important it was for the Owls to win early to grab the attention of the fans. I would have liked to have heard the same from Carey.

Nowhere in that entire hour did Carey mention the most important word: WINNING. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather see a team that plays hard, gives maximum effort and kicks our opponents’ asses every Saturday. Everyone can try to have positive results. It takes special people to deliver those results.

The winning part appeals to me more than the effort part. Winning is not everything. It’s the only thing.

That’s the reality. I’m not interested in the virtual.

Monday: Five guys portal guys Temple should woo

Friday: Temple Guys

Palmer’s Induction Special Night for Temple

baandpaul

Bruce Arians, Paul Palmer, and the guys were “tight as a fist” last night.

The guys who played with Paul Palmer have tailgated near the entrance to Lot K every home Saturday for too many years to count.

You can tell them apart from the rest of us by the familiar cherry “Tight As A Fist” T-Shirts they wear.

The slogan represents what they have been as people since they first met either on recruiting trips or checking in at Peabody Hall.

hallfame

On Monday, as many as could fit into a car traveled to New York’s Hilton Hotel for the National College Football Foundation Hall of Fame festivities that were broadcast live last night (ESPN3).

Many more watched from home.

As a young reporter in my late 20s, I covered all of Paul Palmer’s games for the Calkins Newspaper group. In those days, newspaper budgets were large enough they send you on trips with the team on the team charter and then reimburse the school.

I flew on the team charter to Provo, Utah with Paul and his teammates and head coach Bruce Arians in 1986. When we left Philly, the air conditioning on the plane wasn’t working on a hot day and we sweated it out waiting an hour in a holding pattern before takeoff. When we landed in Provo, we had to wait outside for just as long wearing nothing more than blazers in 31-degree weather.

Temple lost the game, 17-10.

I interviewed all of them as a youngster but never got to really KNOW them until the last decade or so.

They turned out to be better men than players and they were terrific players.

In two of Palmer’s years, the Owls played the 10th-toughest schedule in the country and finished with winning seasons. With paltry facilities, they beat teams like Peach Bowl-bound Virginia Tech (29-13) and California-bowl bound Toledo (35-6).

The Owls have not played anywhere near the kind of brutal schedule since and, despite that backdrop, Palmer is still the school’s all-time leading rusher.

Palmer’s induction last night represents closure of sorts for the Temple program because he becomes the first Owl player to make it, hopefully of many. The Owls have a pair of coaches (Pop Warner and Wayne Hardin) in the Hall of Fame.

Now they have a player who without a doubt is their greatest ever. Long after we are all gone, because he is there, Temple will be, too.

Friday: Elephant In The Room

 

Best Cherry and White Day Ever?

proof

Proof that a stadium or two can be built at TU without community opposition

Back in the day, they built a $22 million on-campus stadium right in the heart of Temple University’s footprint with nary a peep of protest from the surrounding community or student “Stadium Stompers.”

That day was two years ago and it is now the permanent home of Temple soccer, field hockey and lacrosse.

It will also be the temporary home of the Temple football Owls for what could be the best Cherry and White Day ever. The game will be moved to the soccer home of the Owls a few blocks south of 10th and Diamond this year, better know as the “Temple Sports Complex” or, more specifically, Howarth Field.

logical

We called for this a year ago and the university listened

We’ve called for the Temple spring football game to be moved here last year (see inset to the right) and finally the university listened. Meanwhile, we had a lot of the status quo apologists on social media pooh-pooh the idea saying “you can’t do it because of recruits” and “you can’t do it because of logistics.”

Well, Temple is doing what the naysayers said cannot be done and the powers-that-be (Pat Kraft and company) need to be applauded for that, moving the football game from an overly cramped facility to a more roomy location with plenty of seating.

nexttwo

The discussion last year centered on just why the university was intent on squeezing 5,000 pounds of fans into a 100-pound bag when a 2,000-pound bag became available.  Bringing portable seats for 500 people when, on a nice day, you can get 5,000 people into a little over 100-yard square area made sense when you had no place else to go.

Now they do and I hope this is the temporary spot for the game going forward, at least until a larger stadium can be built. The soccer facility opened in the fall of 2016 and the place has 2,000 permanent seats and they can still move those portable E-O seats to that location.

South Florida, which also plays in a NFL stadium, moved its spring game from its football complex to its soccer complex in 2016 and it was an unqualified success. All the Bulls had to do was line the soccer field with football yard lines, put a couple of goal posts in and away then went.

April 14th’s Cherry and White game figures to be the best ever for a couple of reasons, a celebration of the school’s third bowl win and Paul Palmer being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Bruce Arians can’t come this year due to a prior commitment, but has promised to catch a Cherry and White game in the future.

The people have been the ones who have made Cherry and White great in the past. Now that they get to enjoy it in a place slightly larger than a phone booth, the location just adds to the usual great time.

Friday: Rock and Hard Place

Monday: Scheduling Buddies

Wednesday: The Bullhorn Lady

Taver, We Hardly Knew Ye ….

aramark

The Aramark indoor football field is twice as big as the old Student Pavilion and the ceiling is high enough for kicking practice.

Notes, quotes and anecdotes from about as interesting an offseason week for Temple football as we’ve seen in some time ….

Doing his best post-Pro Bowl Nick Foles’ impersonation, Taver Johnson walked sideways across the stage at the Aramark Center exactly a week ago and said this:

“How y’all doin’?”

famer

When a Temple Hall of Famer calls, Geoff Collins should have at least listened

Little did those of us in attendance know, at least at that time, that Johnson might as well kept walking and gone right out the side door for good because that’s where he was headed in a real sense. By then, it had to be obvious to head coach Geoff Collins that Johnson was leaving and Collins probably said, “hey, I need you through signing night.”

Going from defensive coordinator at Temple to a defensive backs’ coach at Ohio State is mostly seen as at least a lateral move, certainly not a step up in the coaching fraternity but if it floats Johnson’s boat, go for it. Heck, Taver had the same job at Purdue before being enticed to leave there for the DC job at Temple one year ago.

Temple was ranked No. 56 in total yardage defense and No. 58 in scoring defense a year ago and that screams two words to me: Mediocre and Replaceable. Giving up 28 (really, 21) points to UConn and 13 points to a Villanova team that Rhode Island … Rhode Island … held to six is not a ringing endorsement of last year’s defense.

With the dissolution of the Bruce Arians’ staff in Arizona, there are a number of “overqualified” guys with Temple connections who Hall of Famer Paul Palmer told me were definitely interested in the job: Former FCS Defensive Coordinator of the Year Nick Rapone and Kansas City Chiefs’ Hall of Famer Kevin Ross.

If one or both are hired, they immediately become the two best defensive coaches on the staff. Both guys are Temple (and Tempe) TUFF, love Temple, and would be a positive influence on the kids and their fellow staffers and the fans. This is about the biggest no-brainer in Temple history. Neither would leave Temple for lesser positions, even at Alabama. Of course, Temple being Temple it hired another less-qualified guy from the one of the same two directional Alabama schools Bobby Wallace last coached, West Alabama. It would have nice for Collins to look around and grab a guy or two from the pre-Al Golden Era at Temple. Sometimes, you think he believes Temple did not have football before 2005. This was one of those times.

“Mr. Mike”

Now that Nick Sharga has left, we all have to find our next favorite player on the Temple team.

(Hell, I’m not the only fan who had No. 4 No. 1.)

Mine has been Isaiah Wright since the end of our season.

wright

Like the guy said on the TV broadcast at the Army game, “Isaiah Wright is a touchdown waiting to happen.”

As I sat down next to long-time buddy and Temple linebacking great Steve Conjar, a guy across the table noticed me and said, “Mr. Mike!”

That guy was Isaiah Wright and it was the first time I had the pleasure of meeting him in person. He extended his right hand.

“I’m Isaiah Wright.”

“Isaiah Wright, my favorite Temple player. No joke.”

Then Isaiah introduced me to the guy sitting on his right, Linwood Crump (Junior), and I told the defensive back that he was going to be a starter but to not take anything for granted.

He said he would not.

Both can call me Mr. Mike any day of the week and, just maybe, they will give him No. 4 before the start of the season. Whatever number they give him, I just hope they don’t make him disappear like they did with Nick Sharga.

Aramark Center

Moody Nolan is listed as the architect for the new football stadium.

complex

He also did the job at the new Temple football indoor facility called the Aramark Center (the football team shares this spectacular indoor arena with locker rooms and training facilities with the rest of the students). This is a much-larger version of the old Student Pavilion, large enough to get some punting and field goal work in—something that could not be done at what Collins affectingly called the “Mayhem Mansion.”

That said, it takes up such a large portion of the 15th and Montgomery area that it would now be pretty hard to see how a 35,000-seat stadium could fit in a North-South configuration. It would have to be East-West and cross and close 15th Street permanently with the Student Pavilion and tennis courts knocked down. Had the Pavilion been knocked down and replaced by what is now Aramark first, there would have been no need to close down 15th Street.

Now it is really hard to conceive of a stadium fitting into the old Geasey Field square footage alone but that could be the least of Moody Nolan’s problems.

Friday: Thoughts on The AAC Schedule

Paul Palmer: Waiting Hardest Part

Temple Owls Paul Palmer

Paul Palmer

One of Bernie Sanders’ favorite sayings this campaign year has been: “Enough is Enough.”

It could be Paul Palmer’s as well.

lawhorn

Temple’s D1 national leaders.

In my mind, Temple’s all-time greatest player has waited long enough to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame’s 2017.

If he’s not Temple’s best player, to use another Sanders’ analogy, he’s in the top tenth of the top one percent of players who ever wore the Cherry and White. That should be enough to get him into the Hall of Fame.

Another good reason is that this is Palmer’s sixth year on the ballot, joining a group of just 81 players who have been on the ballot that long.

The wait is not over and will not be for a long time. It will be until Jan. 7th before Palmer hears whether he is a member of that class. Nothing has changed since the first time we heard Palmer was a candidate a few years ago when we wrote this story for Rant Sports.com.

He had done enough then, and enough should be enough now.

Friday: Power 5 Health Care

Cheers for Boo

booharry

Paul and Harry are already in the booth at ND stadium doing a sound check. Just kidding, photoshop courtesy of Matt Morgis.

When is being second better than being first?
When you are talking about the Heisman Trophy vs. the Maxwell Award, that is.
The Maxwell has always been a poor man’s Heisman, but Temple has one Maxwell Award-winner, Steve Joachim (1974). That was a remarkable achievement, but it wasn’t the Heisman (it went to Archie Griffin that year). Joachim has been the Owls’ color analyst alongside Harry Donahue for the past 17 years and did a good job.

Paul Palmer politely applauds for Vinny Testaverde. (We all know who SHOULD have won.)

Paul Palmer politely applauds for Vinny Testaverde. (We all know who SHOULD have won. Even Testaverde and Bosworth were wearing Temple Cherry ties that day.)

The Heisman, though, is a whole different animal. When Paul Palmer sat down with eventual winner Vinny Testaverde (Miami), third-place finisher Jim Harbaugh Jr. (Michigan) and fourth-place finisher Brian Bosworth (Oklahoma), he put Temple in the national spotlight that the Maxwell could not have provided.


Temple Radio Fun Fact:
Owls have had a Heisman winner
(Joe Bellino), a Heisman runner up
(Paul Palmer) and a Maxwell Award
winner (Steve Joachim) as radio
color guys

I think Palmer, the Heisman Trophy runner up (1986), will do a great job as Harry Donahue’s new analyst and I’m happy to see him on the radio team this season, beginning Saturday (3:30 p.m., 97.5 The Fanatic).
How do I know that?
Paul, or Boo-Boo as he’s called by his friends (now mostly shortened to Boo), had a gig as a sideline reporter for the Owls. In those days, I brought a transistor radio to the games (to hear mostly about the injuries) and HAD to listen to the radio for the road games because the Owls were rarely on TV.

Paul with Bob Hope, who lived to 100 accepting his first-team All-American Award on live NBC TV.

Paul, holding the greatest helmet in college football history, with Bob Hope, accepting his first-team All-American Award on live NBC TV.

In a game at the Vet against Virginia Tech, the Owls were having trouble kicking extra points and field goals. They already had missed two field goals and an extra point, but if Virginia Tech proved one thing that day it was they could not stop Big East Offensive Player of the Year Walter Washington, the Temple quarterback. On several plays, Washington could be seen literally dragging two or three Hokies on his back for 10 or so extra yards. Washington was 6-4, 250 and an Abrams’ Tank out there. VT players were infantrymen by comparison.  He could not be stopped on any potential two-point conversion. Temple knew it and VT knew it.
Washington scored in overtime. An extra point would have tied the game. A two-point conversion would have won it. Normally, the “football play” would have been to kick the extra point, but this was no normal day. The Owls didn’t have a kicker, but they had a guy VT couldn’t stop. Harry threw it down to Paul, who suggested, very strongly, that the Owls give the ball to Washington to end the game here.
“Somebody’s got to grow a pair,” Paul said, referring to Bobby Wallace.
Paul said what every Temple fan was thinking and he suggested exactly what Wallace should have done.
Wallace didn’t grow a pair, went for the tie, and missed the extra point.
My admiration for Paul, already high, went through the roof that day.
Temple fans will love listening to him on the radio this fall.
I’m bringing the transistor along again.

Tomorrow: The Helmet Surprise

Thanks to the NCAA suspending Johnny Manziel, his bowl game against Temple is still in play ...

Thanks to the NCAA suspending Johnny Manziel for only one half of the first game, his bowl game against Temple is still in play …