Best of TFF: Tortured History

EDITOR’S NOTE: Going to be away from WIFI this weekend, so are republishing a post that has never been republished before in TFF: Our story that appeared on Sept. 5, 2015, the morning of the 27-10 win over Penn State. Except for a paragraph insert that appears at the bottom from an Associated Press story that gave Temple fans credit for the win, everything below appeared prior to the game itself. We get back on the grid Sunday night for our usual Monday post. To read the comments below that original preview story, click here:

One of those shows on the Comedy Channel that serves as filler programming between the few good offerings on that network is something called “Drunk History” and, from watching about a minute of an episode here and there, the gist of the thing is that a perfectly sober narrator tells a story from history acting like a drunk.

No thanks.

A better program for that Channel would be something called “Tortured History” and they can narrow that down to the last 40 years of the Temple vs. Penn State football series. The word “drunk” would also apply to this one because that’s how the renewal of the series began in 1975 with then Penn State head coach Joe Paterno saying “the guy who scheduled Temple must have been drunk.”

In effect, he was saying his athletic director was a drunk.

By the time the teams actually played the game, though, Temple could have said the same thing about Penn State. The Owls doubled up Penn State in yards from scrimmage, 402-201, and were clearly the better team but lost on two long kick returns, one a punt, one a kickoff.

Before the game, head coach Wayne Hardin and then athletic director Ernie Casale placed 30,000 Cherry and White pom-poms on the Franklin Field bleachers.

“I told Ernie we might lose the game, but we were not going to be out-pom-pomed,” Hardin said. The game’s first play was a simple handoff to a world-class sprinter named Bob Harris. He put his hand on the back of fullback Tom Duff, who pancaked a PSU linebacker and that left a gaping hole. Seventy-six yards later, Temple led, 7-0. Thirty thousand Cherry and White pom-poms were waving proudly and, to this day, that was the loudest I have ever heard a Temple crowd.

Losing that game 26-25 was sheer torture.

The next year, the Owls went for two and the the pass slipped off the receiver’s hands. More torture, a 31-30 loss.

In 1979, the Owls were 10-2 and went up to State College, led, 7-6, at halftime and lost, 22-7. More torture.

When Bruce Arians took the job at Temple, one of the first questions he was asked in his initial press conference was “Why does Temple even play football?” He repeated the question and gave a great off-the-cuff answer that drew loud applause: “To beat Penn State.”

Arians gave the school its first win over Pitt in 39 years and he probably would have added a Penn State scalp had the school not be so quick to fire him. In his first year, with coach Hardin’s players, he lost, 23-18.

Another year under Arians, Paul Palmer rushed for 226 yards, and scored a pair of touchdowns, but the Owls lost, 27-22. More torture.

In 2010, the Nittany Lions could not stop Bernard Pierce who had 115 yards and two touchdowns at halftime and the Owls led, 15-13. A broken ankle stopped Pierce and the Owls lost, 23-15. More torture.

The next year, quarterback Mike Gerardi was managing the game nicely with a 10-7 lead when he was pulled for Chester Stewart, who did nothing. When Gerardi was reinserted, he was either cold or trying to force a play to keep his job. Whatever, he threw an interception that led to a 14-10 loss.

Those were not the only times Penn State teased the Owls before taking victory from the jaws of defeat, but those were the ones I remember most.

Unless, of course, something gloriously different happens today.

Monday: Regular Programming

This from the AP story that night that ran in every newspaper in the country:

Temple will have to earn TV time

The first three games are set for TV.

The damage report on the hand grenade the last Temple football head coach tossed over his shoulder on the way out the Edberg Olson door won’t be fully known for a couple of years.

That’s because the impact of roster depth and quality and recruiting usually take that long to show on the field.

We do know one thing: Fans will have to scramble to find the Owls on television for the early games, part of the collateral damage.

Temple has always done well in TV ratings, particularly in winning years like 2015, when the Owls game against visiting Notre Dame drew the highest rating for any college football game in Philadelphia EVER. That included six prime time Notre Dame vs. Penn State games.

ESPN+ is one of the best buys anywhere. For $4.99 a month, you can get most of the AAC football games and even Olympic sports like soccer and baseball.

However, it’s probably a good idea to plan a September road trip to Durham, N.C. because the ACC Network is not a part of the package. In other words, just to see the Temple game, you’ll have to make an additional subscription to the ACC Network.

Bummer.

Of course, you could try to find a bar that has the ACC Network but good luck with that. Temple has always had a significant number of casual fans who will watch home games on TV but the challenge always has been getting them off the couch and away from the potato chips and into the stadium.

Winning big road games like Duke gets the job done better than about 1,000 commercials.

There is still a chance … a chance … that ESPN allows the Philadelphia market a one-time dispensation to allow the Temple game on ESPN+. Let’s hope so, but I’m not counting on it.

It would be a terrific advertisement for ticket sales if the Owls were on TV for the opener.

The next two games will be on ESPN+, both Sept. 10 against overmatched Lafayette and the Sept. 17 Homecoming Game against Rutgers.

That won’t help ticket sales but since the Owls usually draw between 28,000 to 35,000 for Homecoming and Rutgers brings anywhere from 15-20K, the crowd could push 40-45K for that game alone.

If the Owls win, subsequent home games are headed for a big boost. I don’t care if any of the home games are televised since I will be in the stadium, but I do want to be able to see all of the Owls’ road games.

A lot will depend on them winning.

Still, much of the remaining TV schedule is listed as “to be determined” and that means ESPN and others are waiting to see if the Owls are for real.

How they do at Duke will go a long way toward determining the to-be-determined part.

Best of TFF: Streak No. 3 (74)

For our vacation week, we are running a three-part series on the most-read stories in Temple Football Forever history. Here is one on Bruce Arians’ reaction to the win over Penn State published in 2015, published three days after the 27-10 win that ended a 74-year losing streak to PSU:
bruceandanthony1

When Bruce Arians led the Arizona Cardinals to a late-season upset of the Seattle Seahawks two years ago, it was the final loss of the season for the Seahawks on the way to winning the Super Bowl. The question for Arians then was a natural one as someone in the press room asked him if that was his biggest win as a head coach. Arians paused for a second and said, no, his biggest win as a head coach came at Temple when the Owls broke a 39-year losing streak to Pittsburgh in the 1984 season.

So, of all the congratulatory messages pouring into third-year Temple head coach Matt Rhule after a 27-10 upset of Penn State on Saturday, the one posted by Arians on his twitter page was priceless:

Rhule had one-upped Arians in the sense that he broke a longer streak over another in-state rival in Penn State (after a 74-year drought), so the two men have been in the same shoes at the same place. No one knew more what a win over Penn State could do for the Temple program than Arians, who said the first question asked of him at his first Temple press conference was, “Why does Temple even play football?” Like the presser after the Seattle game two years ago, Arians paused before a thoughtful response: “To beat Penn State.” Arians came close twice, losing to nationally-ranked Nittany Lions’ teams, 23-18, in 1983 and 27-25 to what would become an 11-1 PSU team in 1984, but never quite got over the hump.

Now that Rhule did, Arians used both twitter and the phone to express his satisfaction with the result. Rhule took the call and said, “Yes sir, thank you sir.” to a guy who was a young coach at Temple once, too. Rhule said he did not know what else to say to the NFL coach of the year. Then Rhule went out to the parking lot at Lincoln Financial Field and presented the game ball to another former Temple coach, College Football Hall of Fame member Wayne Hardin, who came close a few times against Penn State but, like Arians, could not get over the hump.

In the fraternity of college coaches, and the circle of life, all three coaches will now share a pretty neat memory forever because only those three fully understand the magnitude of the moment.

Biggest News From AAC Media Eve: Penn State

aacmediaday

Temple and Houston are the only 2 teams which appeared in at least two AAC title games.

Not much news is ever made on AAC Media Day,  but at least AAC Media Eve gave us this interesting tidbit: Temple is negotiating a home-and-home with Penn State.

This is interesting for at least three reasons.

One, Penn State has never given Temple a home-and-home.

Two, I never thought we’d see PSU again after Temple beat them by two touchdowns and a field goal in 2015 and lost by a measly touchdown the next year.

Three, this confirms my last conversation during a recent tailgate with Dr. Pat Kraft, still the athletic director at Temple University.

trick1

The first Philly special

“We’re not giving anybody 2-and-1s anymore,” Dr. Kraft said.

“Even Penn State?”

“Even Penn State.”

Well, there goes the chance of ever playing Penn State again, I thought.

If Kraft is able to pull this contract off, it’s a major coup for his tenure. Heck, THE major coup for his tenure.

Little do people know another tidbit: Joe Paterno originally wanted to play this game in Philadelphia every year “as a gift to our Philadelphia alumni.”

That all changed after the 1976 renewal of the series (the first game since 1950) when the Owls out-gained the Nittany Lions from scrimmage, 371-120 yards, but lost a 26-25 tilt when the special teams could not cover a kickoff and a punt return. That game was more like a Big 5 basketball game than a college football one, with 30,000 fans waving Cherry and White pom-poms on one side of the field and 30,000 fans waving Blue and White pom-poms on the other. (“After that game, I played my starters on special teams,” head coach Wayne Hardin said a few years ago.)

The opening play from scrimmage–a 76-yard run for a touchdown by a Temple sprinter named Bobby Harris–elicited the loudest cheering I’ve ever heard at a Temple football game, including the 2015 win over PSU. You’ve got to remember that Temple was coming off a couple of years of 9-1 and 8-2 teams and a nation’s-best 14-game winning streak so the Owls had a significant fan base in Philadelphia established.

Afterward, Paterno withdrew the offer of returning to Philadelphia the next season and took the home game and renegotiated a deal that would give PSU 3-2s and 2-1s going forward.

While the ink isn’t dry yet, the news that negotiations are moving along is good news, even if the first game is 2026–two years after the Owls play Oklahoma. Right now, almost too good to be true.

Friday: Unpacking Other Media Day News

The End of An Era

Haason Reddick has got to make that play on McSorley on that long pass to the tight end. Very reminiscent of Sean Daniels’ miss of a tackle on the Fordham game-winning touchdown against Temple in 2013. This unfortunately will be (in my mind) the last game we will see Temple play against Penn State in my life or the life of any of my fellow baby boomers.

Every once in a while, a Temple fan will write something so brilliant, it deserves a wider audience than the intended one.  Such was the case with this treatise written by former Temple player Dave (Fizzy) Weinraub at the end of last season and, now, by a Temple poster named MH55—I know who he is, but we’ll let him have the same level of anonymity that he desired when he wrote this on the Penn State Blue White Illustrated Message Board:

Due to P5 separation, B10 scheduling and college football circumstances in general, I have a distinct feeling this could be my last trip to Beaver Stadium wearing the Cherry & White. I’ve been coming to PSU/Temple games for more than 20 years and noted this is my 6th trip to see the Owls there. I have a lot of fun memories, mostly outside the stadium, from trips to Happy Valley. There was the day Curtis Enis ran wild and we got shellacked 66-14 but I was able to outdrink most of the patrons in the Crow Bar later that night. There was the afternoon I saw a slob vomit after trying to eat one of the world’s biggest hamburgers at Dennys Beer Barrel Pub.. There was a pregame tailgate where everyone seemed to enjoy my novelty laugh box which I brought into the stadium only to be told by about a dozen Lion fans they would shove it uncomfortably into my rectum when Temple took an unexpected 7-0 lead in 1997. Final 52-10 Loss.

Obviously, I’ve seen Temple closer to home. I went to Giants Stadium in 1996 and 1994’s affair at Franklin Field, both unusual and unfortunately, losing experiences. I’ve also seen Penn State at Lincoln Financial Field where frankly, we should have won in 2011 with a roster full of NFL talent and NCAA capable players. Sadly, we had the cowardly Steve Adazzio at the helm who views the forward pass and an attack offense with more disdain than Johnny Depp has for Amber Heard. Still, I was finally able to soak in and enjoy last year’s trouncing as a culmination of all the frustration we’ve had in my 25+ years of following the travails of the Owls in college football as well as versus Penn State University.

_MH55

That was just part of the post, a bravo and well-done tribute to the Temple-Penn State series and a lot of unfulfilled trips to Beaver Stadium. Mark goes on and says that he emptied his bank account on the nine points the Owls were getting. While we’re happy he made a whole lot of money on the Owls, we wish they could have come up with one more point where the good guys would have outscored the bad guys and been a disciplined enough team to come away with 60 or so yards less in penalties, not 120. My memories are similar to his, and I will never forget holding a copy of the Centre Daily Time at the iconic Rathskeller one Friday night  in 1979 and noting Temple was a 3.5-point favorite. I said to a Penn State friend that we might never see Temple favored against Penn State again. (The Owls were upset, 22-7, before a then-record crowd at Beaver Stadium.)

My friend, Mark, had more recent experiences but I am sure he feels the same sense of loss with the end of this series. I had a nice talk with former Temple AD Gavin White, the quarterback in the 1950 game, who told me that the Owls would have won the 7-7 tie had he been allowed to throw the ball more. I still believe him because I know what a good and honest man he is. The PSU assistant coach (they had only two) in that game was a rookie named Joe Paterno.

Back to MH55, though. He’s right about another thing: Temple will never play Penn State again, at least in many of our lifetimes. Even in a bowl game, both parties have to agree and I do not see Penn State agreeing to play the Owls. It’s been a nice series in the modern era that started with the 1975 game. Just wish it had been more competitive and that the college football world had not disintegrated into this money-grubbing mess we have now. College football without the regional games of the not-so-distant past is a very sad thing, indeed.

Friday: A “Meh” Homecoming

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

Only One Thing Needs To Be Done

No respect for the Owls by the scruffy guy and the young guy.

A real rivalry is like a delicious cake in that it needs a few basic ingredients to be meet the minimum taste standards.

Geography, animosity (at least with the fan bases, but it would also help with the coaching staffs) and arrogance from one or the other parties makes for a good college football rivalry.  This used to be a rivalry in the 1930s and 1940s. Even an old headline in a newspaper (see inset) acknowledged that.

defeats

Note “rivals” in headline

Years of Temple futility followed and ended the rivalry and fostered a decades-long lack of respect for the Owls. All of those ingredients are there for Temple and Penn State except one: Respect. The PSU fan base and even their own “experts” are predicting a beating of Temple similar to what PSU did to a very poor Kent State team.

If they think another version of Kent State is coming to town, they will be in for a huge surprise on Saturday (noon, Big 10 Network). Temple is in another stratosphere than Kent State.

Only one thing needs to be done to get that respect and the Owls know what it is: Win at Penn State and win for the second year in a row.

You would think the Owls would have earned at least that with a 27-10 win last year, but instead all they have received is a lot of excuses. “If James Franklin had coached a better game” or “if Saquon Barkley got the ball more” the Nittany Lions would have won. From my seat at Lincoln Financial Field, Franklin had nothing to do with his offensive line getting boatraced by the Owls’ defensive line.  Barkley’s one carry was for minus-1 yard. After that, maybe an objective observer can see why Franklin did not have a whole lot of confidence in giving the ball to Barkley again.

In my lifetime, Temple has only had three real rivalries—Delaware, Rutgers and Villanova—and, while Penn State always met the geographic requirement, the other rivalries always had it over anything Penn State-Temple. There was a real dislike between the coaching staffs at Delaware and Temple when Tubby Raymond coached one team and Wayne Hardin the other. Temple was where Delaware was when Hardin was hired. Hardin took the Owls to the “big time” and Raymond always resented it. That made for a good rivalry.

Rutgers always thought it was better than Temple, but it never proved it on the field over the long haul as the series is basically even. The Rutgers’ fan base is New York arrogant and, after Temple beat Rutgers four-straight times, it was Rutgers who was retained by the Big East and not Temple and that made for a lot of resentment. That was a great rivalry.

Villanova kept Temple out of the Big East and Temple resented it and, when Steve Addazio beat Villanova, 42-7, and 42-10, in back-to-back years, that was extra satisfying for Temple.

Since this is the last meeting between Penn State and Temple and the Penn State fan base seems to have learned little from the beating they received last year, the only thing to cement this as a rivalry in the minds of a lot of people is for Temple to go out by winning two in a row.

That would be extra sweet Karma on a day that the Penn State community broadcasts its tone-deafness by honoring Joe Paterno. Beating Penn State up there would earn the Owls a measure of respect that even 27 unanswered points a year ago has not yielded. Maybe, just maybe, that is the only ingredient  needed now for a real rivalry.

The Owls know what needs to be done and they need to do it.

Saturday: Game Analysis

5 Keys For Beating Penn State

sportingnewsowls

Saturday would be a good time for the Owls to start playing like the  AAC champion The Sporting News predicted this summer.

After a shocking loss to Army that was more the result of a bad coaching scheme than physicality, Temple coach Matt Rhule conducted a ping-pong tournament at the Edberg-Olson Football Complex. The ping-pong diplomacy was just another bonding session for the Owls and, judging from the outcome of the Stony Brook game, the team that plays ping-pong together, wins together. So maybe playing table tennis this week is not a bad idea.

stare

“I want you to roll out and find receivers running free.”

Here are five other things they need to do:

  1. Making McSOREly

When Temple defensive coordinator Phil Snow last visited Happy Valley, he came up with a defensive scheme almost as bad as the Army one against then Lions’ quarterback Christian Hackenberg and that was to rush three and drop back eight. Snow forgot one thing. Hackenberg did not then and does not now like to get hit and, by giving Hackenberg extra time in the pocket, he was able to pick out receivers at will. Snow did not make the same mistake a second time last year and, except for one three-man rush (that resulted in a Nate D. Smith sack), he kept the pressure on all day and the Owls had an NCAA-high 10 sacks. They don’t need 10, but if they get five against rookie quarterback Trace McSorley, they will win. Game film shows he almost always fakes on the read-option before passing, so having two blitzers, one assigned for McSorley, the other going to the running back, would mess up the timing.

finch

Sharif … may be running with the 2s, but always makes big plays.

  1. Stopping Barkley

Last year, Penn State fans said the reason Temple won was because James Franklin gave Saquon Barkley only one carry. What they forget is that it was for minus-1 yard. The Owls are going to have to close up the A gaps and nose guard Averee Robinson is going to have to handle the Penn State center, which he is more than capable of doing. If the Owls have the same kind of success against Barkley that they did a year ago, he will have minus-25 yards. All they have to do to win, though, is the same job they did against Notre Dame standout C.J. Prosise, holding him to 25 yards on 14 carries.  Six of Prosise’s runs went for zero yards against many of the same players Barkley will face on Saturday. Is Barkley good? Yes. Is he better than Prosise? Probably not.

trick1

Expect the Owls to pull out all the stops.

  1. Moving Jahad Around

Jahad Thomas might start on Saturday at running back after missing the first two games with a thumb injury. Moving Thomas around like a shell in a shell game is key to utilizing him. He should get a few carries, but splitting him out into the slot when, say, Jager Gardner is in the game and hitting him with a deep ball would give the Owls two breakaway threats in the game at once, not one. Also, Thomas is a terrific runner in space so getting him the ball on screens, traditional or bubble, creates that space for him. Jahad got hurt again in practice Tuesday; if he can’t go, I would put Jager Gardner in as the lead back. Always felt Jager had the higher upside over Ryquell Armstead, who is more steady but less spectacular. Use Marshall Ellick as the edge playmaker.

  1. Dynamo Nicky

On a 17-yard run against Stony Brook where he knocked over four defenders, Nick Sharga reminded the old time Temple fans of former Owl and Cleveland Brown running back Henry Hynoski who was known as Dynamo Hyno at Temple. He reminded current Owl fans of why he wears a single digit as one of the nine toughest guys on the team. Call Sharga Dynamo Nicky until the press comes up with a better name. Pitt fullback George Aston hurt the Nittany Lions with a couple of touchdown runs up the middle against the soft underbelly of that defense. Sharga is also capable of exploiting that fatty tissue and he’s better than Aston.

choas

Owls will have to fly to the ball again.

  1. Rolling The Pocket

Phillip Walker is better when he’s on the run because that’s where he creates major headaches for defenses. When offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas has rolled the pocket for Walker, opposing linebackers and safeties come up to stop the threat of a run and Walker deftly tosses the ball over their heads as Temple receivers run free through the secondary. If the linebackers stay back, Walker can use his athleticism and speed to gain big yards on the run. By keeping him in the pocket in the first game, Glenn Thomas was doing Army a favor. When he’s in the pocket, he can’t see downfield and his passes are often deflected by linemen or, worse, he’s sacked. It’s time to unleash Walker by moving the pocket.

Tomorrow: Watch Parties

Friday: The Rivalry Arrives

Penn State Week: Debunking The Myths

A good recap of Temple’s single-digit tough guy tradition.

Since Al Gore invented the internet (relax, just kidding), one of the quickest ways to get a pulse of a fan base is to visit one of these ubiquitous college football message boards.

Penn State has one of the best in its Blue White Illustrated McAndrew Board, a Wild Wild West of insults, flames and trolls but, mostly, a place to hold the hand of the Nittany Lions’ fans and look at a stopwatch to gauge their heartbeat.

If you do not take them seriously, a few minutes reading what these fans are thinking can be wildly entertaining.

marshall

Matt Rhule pointing the way to PSU.

Most of them think Penn State will steamroll Temple and that faulty logic is based on a number of unrelated thoughts floating around in their heads they accept as doctrine. One, in their collective minds, Temple is nowhere near as good as last year. Two, if Army can rush for 329 yards against Temple, so can Penn State.

Before debunking those notions, here is a pretty good sampling of the way the fans are viewing Temple’s visit to Beaver Stadium (noon, Big Ten Network) on Saturday:

AWS1022  (PSU fan)

   “ We aren’t losing to Temple and I’m not sure how anyone who watched the game today would think so. Temple is worse than last year by a lot and we’re better than we were last year. If you think Temple would beat Pitt you’re crazy and I doubt we have 5 turnovers again next week. …”

Greenpeach (Pitt fan):

“You beat Temple by at least two touchdowns. Honestly, after a horrible start, I thought your team looked poised and played very well.”

You could find about 1,000 posts over there expressing similar sentiments using different words. There are a couple of things wrong with that line of thinking.

Temple is only “worse” to people who do not know any better. The people who do, the Temple coaches and the Temple fans, feel this is a better team than the one the school fielded last year. The results of the Army game do not change that. That game is an outlier because the Temple coaches do not know how to scheme against the triple option and they never really did. Temple gave up the A gaps and fullback dives all night. (Memo to Phil Snow: 44 stack, nose guard, two tackles in the A gaps and no triple option gouges you ever again.) Unless Penn State comes out and runs the triple option, gives to a nonexistent fullback, the Owls match up very well against the Nittany Lions.


Pitt had eight plays
of 20 or more yards
against Penn State.
The week before,
the Panthers had
ZERO plays of 20
or more yards, and
that was against
Villanova.
Yes, Villanova
which is quite possibly
worse than Stony Brook.

The result of the Penn State game probably will be an affirmation of it. Here are a couple more facts to ponder: Kent State gave the Nits a game for the better part of three quarters on the road. Kent State lost to North Carolina A&T last week. Yes, A&T. At home. Pitt had eight plays of 20 or more yards against Penn State. The week before, the Panthers had ZERO plays of 20 or more yards, and that was against Villanova. Yes, Villanova  which is quite possibly worse than Stony Brook.

First off, to the casual outsider, the losses of linebacker Tyler Matakevich, tackle Matt Ioannidis, corner Tavon Young and wide receiver Robby Anderson are insurmountable. The Temple fan, the guy who pours over depth charts 365 days a year, knows better. Matakevich is not replaced by one player, but by three linebackers who have 41 starts between them. Two of them are repeat single-digit players, meaning they were among the nine toughest guys on the team last year as well. Because of the play of corners Nate Hairston and Artrel Foster, who both saw plenty of time last year, Tavon Young’s loss is replaceable. Moving the other corner, Sean Chandler, to the middle of the field has accentuated his ball skills and made the secondary better. Ioannidis is replaced by the deepest and fastest defensive line Temple has ever fielded. So much so that the defensive end who made the play of the game in a 27-10 win over Penn State a year ago, Sharif Finch, is now second team through no fault of his own but because the Owls have beasts on both ends, Haason Reddick and Praise Martin-Oguike, the latter who had an interception in the Notre Dame game.

To the know-it-alls on the opposing fan message boards, these players do not exist. On game day, they will wonder where they came from and wish they had paid closer attention to what Temple really has coming back.

In five days, they will learn the hard way.

Wednesday: 5 Keys For Beating Penn State

Friday: The Rivalry Arrives

Saturday: Game Analysis

The Curious Saquon Barkley Narrative

barkley

If the Owls play a 5-2 defense, Averee Robinson will blow up the PSU center often enough to allow Praise Martin-Oquike, Greg Webb and Karamo Dioubate and company to get through and tackle the QB before he can even hand off to Saquon Barkley.

According a mental health website, the seven stages of grief can be paired down to three—disbelief, acceptance and rationalization.

When it comes to Penn State’s loss to Temple last September, we’ve already seen one and two but only now are we seeing number three. On several message boards, and in Philly.com under the name Ruben Amaro, Penn State fans have appeared and said “if Saquon Barkley played against Temple, we would have won.”

Huh?

That narrative is a reach, even for Penn State fans. The Nits lost by 17 and by 27-0 over the last three quarters. Barkley did play and got one yard on one carry. How does that extrapolate out to 100 yards on 25 more carries? The only numbers we have against Temple is that had Barkley got the 25 carries Penn State fans wanted him to get, he would have finished with 25 yards, and maybe Penn State would never have scored its only touchdown (a run by Akeel Lynch). Those are hard numbers, not the “gut” of some Penn State fans talking.

Let’s face it, Penn State losing to Temple was a bitter pill to swallow for these fans and they might have to hold their nose and down the same medicine in State College on Sept. 17.

The thought process there—not here—is that Temple is “losing everybody” and that Barkley and the returning Penn Staters will roll over the Owls. They do not know that Temple ran in two entire defensive units in the second half of the season, with many of the freshman, sophomore and junior backups playing roughly the same amount of time as the senior starters.

The thinking here is that Penn State is going to be surprised by Temple’s ability to stop the run and put the same clamps down on Christian Hackenberg’s successor that they did to Hackenberg himself. Offensively, P.J. Walker and Jahad Thomas—who had 134 more yards than Barkley in the Sept. 5 game—should put even more than 27 on the board this time.

No doubt Temple will be getting points on 9/17 and I’ll be flying to Vegas and putting my money down on the Owls, even if it is as little as two or three. Temple knows Barkley is good, but it also knows his one carry wasn’t the reason the Owls won. A large segment of the PSU fan base won’t admit that now, but they will find out in a few months that narrative is faulty, too.

Ignorance isn’t a stage of grief but, in this case, it should be.

Tuesday: Six months to practice against a triple option