5 Plays We’d Like to Have Back

Quincy Patterson right after scoring against Rutgers. We think he would have gotten the first down against ECU. (Photos Courtesy Zamani Feelings.)

Over time, the players who Stan Drayton added to the Temple University football fold will contribute in their own way to the future success of the Owls.

What was apparent with the 24 new signees is that Drayton and company have a plan to address the needs of the organization and those needs might be fixed judging on five 2022 plays we’d like to have back, in no particular order:

The Tipped Pass _ The tipped pass against Rutgers that resulted an interception that beat the Owls, 16-14, before a large Homecoming Crowd wasn’t the result as much of E.J. Warner’s small stature as it was of a pass rush that got up on him too fast. The Owls addressed that need with some beef on the offensive line, including California JUCO Diego Barajas (6-6, 300), St. Peter’s Prep’s Eric King (6-3, 314), Wyoming Seminary’s Melvin Siani (6-4, 275) Clearwater Central Catholic’s Kevin Terry (6-5, 260), and St. Mark’s Luke Watson (6-5, 272).

The 1st and Goal Call _ More of a coaching problem than a recruiting one, that could be chalked up to Everett Withers taking over at the Navy game. With the Owls down by 3, a great catch by Amad Anderson set them up in ideal position to go ahead and win the game in the final minute (against a triple-option team) with a touchdown, not a field goal. First and goal at the Navy 5 and you’ve got to use some imagination there. They had trouble moving the ball all day on the ground and yet the first play was a handoff into the middle of the line for no gain. Had they rolled Warner away from the rush and tried a throwback pass to the tight end across the field, that probably would have resulted in 1) a touchdown; 2) a holding call in the end zone and Temple probably wins that game, 24-20, instead of losing it 27-20 in overtime. Maybe the new offensive linemen help but better awareness of play call and personnel was probably more responsible for that loss.

The 3d and 1 Call _ Against ECU, trying a pass at midfield on a 3d-and-1 play was a real head scratcher. The Owls have a 6-4, 252-pound player who might have gotten the first down with a quarterback sneak but decided not to use that skill set. Had to think Drayton, by calling a pass on third down, had already decided it was four-down territory but, after a Mike Houston timeout, changed his mind and punted. Bad news both ways because, by that time, Drayton knew he was kicking it to a team that already scored more than 40 points. A team that doesn’t have confidence in getting a yard down by running on third down probably deserves to lose and the Owls did that day. A championship team can’t be forced to pass on 3d and 1 going forward.

The Kickoff Return _ In the same ECU game, the third-down call would have been moot had they not given up a kickoff return for a touchdown. While the special teams covered relatively well, every other team in the league had a kicker who was at least 70 percent on touchbacks. Temple only had 28 percent of its kickoffs driven through the end zone and that’s a problem that needs to be addressed. There are plenty of kickers who can boot it consistently through the end zone. Temple is aware of the problem as they tried to recruit Hawaii specialist Kyler Halvorsen. If they can’t get him, they need to get someone of his caliber.

The Clock _ At Houston, the Owls had a first down with 2:13 left in the game. They scored with 1:22 left on a fourth-down pass to Zae Baines. If they had done a better job killing more than that minute or so between the downs, Baines might have scored with 22 seconds left, rather than 1:22 and Clayton Tune’s job might have been that much harder.

Those plays were the difference between a bowl bid and a second-consecutive 3-9 season. The Owls addressed some of the issues from a personnel standpoint last Wednesday, but they still need a kickoff specialist and a big-time running back.

Fortunately, the Owls have four scholarships left and the portal is still open.

Friday: Numbers Game

Game over, season over

If you’ve learned one lesson from every football game, it’s a good thing.

Temple learned four big lessons on Friday night in another embarrassment on national television, a 27-16 loss to visiting Tulsa and it is only a good thing if the Owls do something about it.

One, to win in big-time college football, you need a dual-threat quarterback.

Another, enough of Edward Saydee at running back. He’s just not fast enough or good enough to be the feature back at a school whose recent history includes Ryquell Armstrong, Jahad Thomas, Bernard Pierce, Matty Brown, Tanardo Sharps, Stacy Mack, Jason McKie, Sid Morse and Paul Palmer.

Four, drop the Temple TUFF moniker at least until you can put the “greater than” sign in front of the Navy moniker.

Navy tough > Temple tough.

The last lesson might have been the most important one of the night because, evaluating all of the available analytics, Navy was behind Tulsa in the next most-likely possible Temple win. After all, Delaware–a one-time whipping boy for Wayne Hardin–beat Navy, 14-7, in the first game of the season.

Navy has gotten much better with each game. Temple has gotten much worse.

That’s mostly coaching.

Ken Niumatalolo is a great coach. The jury is still out on Stan Drayton before we can answer that question truthfully. Navy held Tulsa to 25 rushing yards that day and Temple gave up more than 300 yards on Friday night.

If Navy can beat Tulsa, 53-21, and Temple can’t, what does that tell you about the rest of the season?

That Temple is going to finish 2-10, that’s what. That was even lower than the Whale Shit expectations of Vegas, which had the Owls at 2.5 wins.

Hate to take off the Cherry and White glasses, but that’s the truth.

On Saturday the fifth, South Florida comes to town. Do you really see the Owls hanging with a USF team that lost close games against ranked Cincinnati and Florida?

I don’t.

Very few others do.

Drayton can talk all he wants about each game being a “learning experience” but a lot of that learning should have been done before the season, not during it.

For example, the coaching staff should know down by 24-16 to go for the extra point and not the two-point conversion halfway through the fourth quarter. Going for the two, as Andre Ware correctly pointed out, should be reserved for the tying touchdown, not the penultimate one if that was indeed the mindset behind the decision. Even then, got to go for the extra point there and the extra point after the next touchdown to send the game into overtime. That’s Coaching 101.

When the coaches have to learn to do their jobs during the season, not before it, how can the players expect to learn their jobs?

The answer to those questions and the ones posted initially should be fairly obvious to any logical football fan.

Monday: Excuses or Reasons?

Saturday’s college football TV schedule

Temple at Duke: Confident, not cocky

Don’t bet your house, but taking Temple might get you another farm if you have a spare farm.

Given the dwindling number of Temple fans still living who spent a significant amount of time around the two most successful Owl major sports coaches in history (raising my hand here as one), it’s pretty apparent the general approach both would take tonight.

Defend and attack the known. Don’t worry about the unknown.

Wayne Hardin and John Chaney took that approach and, if Stan Drayton does tonight (ACC Network, 7:30 p.m.), I fully expect Temple to be a winner.

Don’t see Temple scoring 38 but certainly think the Owls outscore Duke by double digits.

Confident, not cocky. In other words, don’t bet the house but if you have a farm to spare, it’s worth the investment.

That’s because we don’t know a lot but we do know a couple of important things:

One, the Duke quarterback starter, Riley Leonard, has started exactly one FBS game in his career and is a three-star recruit.

Two, both Temple quarterbacks, starter D’Wan Mathis and backup Quincy Patterson, were four-star recruits. Between the two, those players have 17 college football starts, 10 at the FBS level. Patterson is 9-1 in all of his starts at the two levels.

Mathis rose to the occasion when Drayton brought in Patterson to compete with him in summer camp and is playing the best football of his career according to insiders who have watched every August practice. Put it this way, highly paid coaching staffs at Iowa State, Michigan State, Ohio State and Georgia evaluated Mathis and put their salaries on the line by offering scholarships to him. Mathis at one point accepted offers from all schools before bouncing around and ending up at Temple.

He can make plays with his arm and his feet. Big-time players make big-time plays and Mathis has that quality. Leonard, on the other hand, is a pro-style quarterback who might be a more stationary target for pass rushers than either Mathis or Patterson. Might? More like is.

Patterson, in one of his three FBS starts for Virginia Tech, put up 47 points in a wire-to-wire spectacular performance against a North Carolina team that held an eight-win Temple team to just 13 points.

On the flip side, Drayton has said the strength of the Temple team so far is a defensive line led by a very good coach in Antoine Smith. Last year, Smith’s Colorado State defensive line finished in the top 10 in sacks and Smith says this Temple line is more talented.

If this version of the “Wild Boyz” can get after Leonard, put him on the ground, separate him from the football and cause a couple of picks, I cannot envision a scenario where Temple loses this game.

When Temple won at Vanderbilt, 37-7, to open the 2014 season, relentless pressure by a defensive line led by Averee Robinson caused the Vandy quarterback to hear footsteps the entire game.

That Temple team was coming off a two-win season. This one is coming off a three-win season but is invigorated by the new coaching staff. This 2022 Duke game has a 2014 kind of Vandy vibe. This game could be a 24-21 type deal but I think the defensive pressure the Owls put on Leonard enables them to win the game rather comfortably.

That takes care of the defensive piece.

Offensively, you’ve got to like the two players Temple has holding the reins better.

In horse racing, if two horses have relatively the same odds, the play is to go for the one with the better jockey. It doesn’t work all the time but it’s a safer play.

Temple has two better jockeys than the one Duke has and that’s a significant known.

We don’t know a lot about this game but we know enough. We’re guessing Drayton does, too.

Temple 27, Duke 17.

Confident, not cocky.

You read it here first.

Tomorrow: Game Analysis

What Mathis being named starter means …

About this time five months ago, new Temple head coach Stan Drayton gave tepid praise to incumbent quarterback starter D’Wan Mathis, saying this:

“We’re going to bring in some guys to compete with him.”

If Mathis can become a fan favorite in Georgia, he can do that in Philadelphia too.

That was after the Cherry and White game. Nice game for Mathis, but nothing special.

True to his word, Drayton brought in those guys–Elijah Warner and former Virginia Tech starter Quincy Patterson–and, after a healthy competition, Mathis retained his job.

At least for the Duke opener.

Thursday, Mathis was named the starter for the Duke game one week from tonight and that can only mean one thing.

Former Michigan State, Ohio State, and Georgia commit D’Wan Mathis is shown here starting the 2020 opener for Georgia.

Mathis, a former Elite 11 four-star quarterback, rose to the occasion to beat out Patterson, a former Elite 11 four-star quarterback.

We’ve checked the game notes of the other 10 AAC teams and none of them have an Elite 11 quarterback.

Temple now has two.

Duke has none and that’s one reason why you’ve got to like Temple’s chances a week from now (7:30 p.m., ACC Network).

It’s not even fair to say Mathis showed flashes of his Elite 11 quality in the 2021 season.

He showed flash as in one, the Memphis game. If Mathis showed flashes, maybe the Owls steal a win or two in the other AAC games. It was a damn good flash (35-for-49, three touchdowns) but it was a one-and-done nonetheless.

We needed to see more and it’s an even better sign that Drayton needed to see more.

Now he has.

Maybe he’s a guy who needs a fire lit under him and, in Patterson, that’s a lot of lighter fluid.

Patterson went 7-0 as a North Dakota State starter last year and, except for Cincinnati, you can make a strong argument that North Dakota State would have beaten every other AAC team, including Houston and UCF.

He’s a nice insurance policy to have should Mathis falter.

So far, Mathis has shown no signs of faltering and that’s a good thing. This is the third-straight year that Mathis has won a starting job. He started for Georgia in the 2020 home opener and Temple in the 2021 opener at Rutgers, beating out another Elite 11 quarterback (Re’al Mitchell) for the honor.

Memphis was objectively a better team than Duke last year so is 35-for-49 and three touchdowns out of the question next week?

Certainly not and, if Mathis puts up those numbers again, the Owls are guaranteed to have a nice flight home.

Monday: All’s Quiet on The Southern Front

Friday: Temple-Duke Preview

Saturday: Duke Game Analysis