Houston-Temple: Fork in the road

Interesting that three of the starting offensive linemen who played in this game are still with the Owls.

Three years and two days ago, Temple football rung up 59 points on Houston in a 59-49 road win.

Since then, though, the two teams reached a fork in the road.

Houston went down a nice four-lane highway that led to an 8-1 record this season.

Temple drove off into a ditch, turned the vehicle over, and totaled the car and has won only four games in its last 16.

Houston is on the road to the AAC championship game with Cincinnati while Temple has called the towtruck in order to remove a group of midwestern carpetbaggers who ruined one of college football’s most unique and respected brands.

What happened?

Two things:

One, Temple got away from the Temple brand (run the ball, control the clock, great defense and special teams) and was seduced pretty much like everyone else in college football by the RPO. That might be the trend in most of college football but Temple had its own nice little brand (fullback, two tight ends, run the ball to make the pass effective) that was just as hard for other teams to prepare for as was the Navy triple option.

Two, Houston hired a big-time winning coach from a Power 5 conference who was known for establishing a rapport with his players and Temple hired a hard-ass “my-way-or-the-highway” guy who had success at a lower conference but was overmatched in this one. If his players didn’t like his style, they were free to go and, in the era of the transfer portal, they did.

Temple did a piss-poor job of replacing them, something we’ve harped on in this space since February. We thought the Owls would finish 2-10 back then. Three and nine and umpteen blowouts give us no satisfaction.

Now Houston visits Temple (noon tomorrow, ESPN+) and nobody will be surprised if the Cougars return the favor by scoring 59 points of their own on the road. Before the game last week, we wrote this game had 35-7 written all over it and the Owls sadly exceeded even those low expectations with a 45-3 loss. The only way this one doesn’t have 59-7 written all over it is if the Owls do something drastic and put all eight defenders in the box from the get-go. There is no sense of urgency from this coaching staff so I expect them to do the same things they’ve done to get them beaten by 52-3 and 45-3 scores. Nothing.

Over 30,000 Houston fans saw Temple rout the Cougars three years ago and the 59-49 score was not as close as the final indicated. The Owls led, 59-35, in that one and the game was never in doubt. Ryquell Armstead ran for six touchdowns (one short of the school game record of seven set by Montel Harris). If as many as 12,000 Temple fans attend tomorrow, I will be shocked.

The fans are disgusted with Carey and for good reason. A 1-6 season has been followed by a three-win season and one of those was over Wagner, so it should not count.

That’s how far we’ve fallen.

The Temple administration should be taking notes.

Back then, there was a commitment to the run. Temple ran the ball, chewed a lot of clock and stayed away from the 63-21, 55-13 49-7, 52-3 and 45-3 losses that have been a hallmark of The Rod Carey Error.

Today, the run is an afterthought.

Not coincidentally, blowouts are at the forefront.

Sad indeed.

While Dana Holgorsen is firmly established in Houston, Carey is a dead man walking in Philadelphia.

Big-time Temple donors have been told Carey will “be evaluated” at the end of the season but that might be too late. Temple has done the man no favors by making him take what is essentially a “perp walk” on the fly in Saturday morning at 9:30. I’ve been the biggest Carey critic since the Military Bowl of 2019, but my plea for the Temple fans today who go is to leave the man alone.

Let him walk by and cheer the kids, who we never criticize here.

He’s gone and he knows it and it will be an excruciating walk-in for him otherwise so let him be.

If you want to chant “FIRE CAR-EY” during the game, that’s OK but any up-close and personal attack as he walks by fans is and should be out of bounds.

Meanwhile, the lesson of three years ago is pretty damn clear. Rid yourself of these coaches who don’t relate to the kids and get one who the kids like and will restore the Temple brand of running first, then taking advantage of play-action for explosive downfield plays. Eight-minute drives are better than four-minute ones. Don’t give these other teams a shot to score 52, 49 and 45 points in these games.

That’s the only way Temple will ever be successful.

Three years ago now seems like 30 years and having a running back dominate the opposition like Bernard Pierce, Jahad Thomas and Rock Armstead should be the blueprint for the next few years. If that’s a lesson taken from the RCE (Rod Carey Error) it will be the only plus out of this unmitigated disaster.

A nice 10 percent ($267) contribution to the Owl Club is coming if I hit on this 12-team parlay. Everything is the money line, except RU getting 6.5 at Indiana, ODU getting 6 against visiting FAU and Troy getting 7.5 against visiting Louisiana Lafayette. Winners are Boise, Houston, Michigan, Cincy, SMU, K-State, Utah, Western Kentucky and App. State. Nice return on a $10 investment. (Err, the donation is contingent on Temple firing Carey in a noon press conference Monday; double if they make it right after the game. If they wait until the end of the season, Temple is getting nothing and all other potential donors should probably do the same.)

Picks This Week: Only like a few teams against the spread, all underdogs: ODU getting 6 against visiting FAU, UCF getting 7.5 at SMU, RUTGERS getting 6.5 at Indiana and TROY getting 7.5 against visiting LL.

Latest update: Went 2-2 again, losing on Air Force and Wake and winning on San Jose State and Marshall, bringing our record ATS 22-18-1.

Even later update: Went 2-2 again for third-straight week, winning on ODU and Rutgers and losing on Troy and UCF bringing our season ATS record to 24-20-1. As of 8:25 p.m., the Troy loss cost us $2,678.97 (really, 10 bucks) but the Owl Club isn’t out $267 because they are sitting on their freaking hands about firing Rod Carey and would have lost the money anyway without a noon Monday press conference.

Sunday: Game Analysis

The Drafted Temple Guys

 

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Two of these guys (9 and 7) got drafted by the NFL

The curious case of Bryon Cowart illustrated just what a strange draft this was for the Temple guys picked in by NFL teams over a very long weekend.

Michael Dogbe, 6-3, 284, who was the most dominant player on the field in a 35-14 win over Maryland last fall, slipped to the seventh round and was chosen by the Arizona Cardinals. Dogbe had 72 tackles, including 12.5 for losses, seven sacks and three forced fumbles. He ran a 4.94 40-yard dash on Temple’s pro day.

Cowart, who was MIA against Temple, was picked in the fifth round by the New England Patriots. Cowart, also pretty much the same size (6-3, 298),  had 38 tackles, no sacks and ran a 5.16 40-yard dash.

You guess who the most impactful player in the NFL will be over the next few years. My money is with Dogbe.

Without getting into boring rep details on the lifts, Dogbe’s strength numbers also dwarfed those of Cowart.

To me, what you do on the field is the most important thing and Dogbe excelled there, especially in the head-to-head matchup at Byrd Stadium.

Rock Ya-Sin went, as expected, in the second round by the Indianapolis Colts so there can be no complaints there.

The other Rock, Armstead, is another story entirely.

The Eagles saw fit to pick Penn State’s Miles Sanders ahead of Armstead in the second round, even though Armstead is faster (4.45 at the combine to 4.49) and had 1,078 yards in 10 games while it took Sanders 13 games to accumulate his 1,274 yards. Plus, Armstead scored 13 touchdowns in those 10 games versus Sanders’ nine in 13.

That’s a much closer call than the Dogbe/Cowart comparison because Armstead has a longer history of being hurt at Temple than Sanders did at Penn State. A strong case can be made that since Sanders has less tread on his tires than Armstead, the Eagles made a better pick.

Fortunately, all of these players will get their chances (as will some Temple undrafted FAs as well, including Delvon Randall, who hitched on with the Eagles) but, to me, Dogbe is the one playing with the biggest chip on his shoulder and those guys usually do very well in the NFL.

Friday: Shot Chart

Fizzy’s Corner: The Green Monster

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Fizzy here at the Boca Raton Bowl, where 6,000-plus Temple fans attended and because of this Independence Bowl fiasco that might be the last time where Temple has more than a hundred fans at any bowl game.

Editor’s Note: Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub, a former Temple player, brings up the interesting concept in this piece that can simply be boiled down to this: If you are going to have a bowl game with no Temple head coach, no Temple star players, then get ready for no Temple fans in the future. 

By Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub

Our two best players quit. Our best offensive player, Ryquell Armstead, and our best cornerback, Rock Ya-Sin, who was supposed to cover Duke’s best receiver, both quit and didn’t play in the bowl game.  Instead of coming clean, coach Ed Foley came up with some claptrap about this was a medical staff decision.  If you believed that, then you must also believe that the Eagles’ Jim Schwartz is a great defensive coordinator.

Why?

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Temple fans were not happy with the two Rocks

Both players accepted invitations to the Senior Bowl on January 26th, and Rock will also play in the East/West game on January 19th. That’s why they declined to play; it’s called the green flu.  I sure it’s because they thought they might get hurt and ruin their chances to be highly drafted by the NFL.  Two tough as nails football players let their brothers down after fighting with them through thick and thin. If you don’t think that had a major effect on the outcome of the game, you’re just naive.

I was at a friend’s house watching the game ( I left after the third quarter.), and when I got home I told my wife what happened.  My wife knows very little about college football, but Cheryl’s first words were, “Why does that surprise you?  Their coach quit.”  Yes indeed, their coach did quit as did the previous three before him. Is it any wonder it was only a matter of time before this, me first – screw you, attitude filtered down to the players.  Thinking back to the guys I played with, it’s unimaginable to me that a teammate would do this.  But then again, I’m now sure I’m the one who’s naive.

As far as the coaching, well, I’m so pissed right now that the coaching seems relatively unimportant.  The butchering of the last sequence of plays right before the end of the first half with three timeouts left should go down in the hall of shame. Slowing down the blitzing in the second half only allowed a great pro prospect QB all the time in the world to catch fire.  Of course, we dropped untold passes.

So in college football, the coaches quit on their teams, and now seniors quit on their teams.  When is it our turn?  It’s been sixty years of Temple football for me now. Maybe it’s time I say, “Fer who, fer what?”  How about those who spent a few grand to travel to the game, only to see a half-assed effort?  What about the undecided recruits? Major college football is now as much “pay to play” as the NFL.  I wanna go back to the last century.

P.S. The only good news, was great news. Marc Narducci reports unsubstantiated sources say that Temple’s offensive coordinator, Dave Patenaude, is going to Georgia Tech with Geoff Collins.  Thank you, oh great omnipotent being.  Maybe our Broad Street Offense can become the Philly Soft Pretzel Offense, under the new guy. (You want some mustard on that?)

Wednesday: The Cleanup Begins

 

Winning Is the Only Thing

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TU played like walk-ons, Duke like scholarship players

In a far-off, long-ago era of football, Vince Lombardi probably had the best quote in the history of the sport:

“Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.”

The great ex-Green Bay Packers’ head coach, if he were still alive, probably would have repeated his second most famous quote during Temple’s meltdown in a 56-27 loss to Duke yesterday:

“What the hell is going on out there?”

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Good words, Vince, that perfectly described an Independence Bowl where the wheels came off for a 3.5-point favorite.

The quotes are reminders to me of a conversation the other day I had with an otherwise sane and rational Temple fan on my decision not to attend this bowl.

“C’mon, down, Mike,” he said, “bowls are about the pageantry and the band, not really about the game itself.”

“Huh? If I’m going down, I’m going down to win. I don’t give a whit (minus the W) about the pageantry. The only reason I go down is to see Temple win and there’s too much uncertainty and I would be way too pissed off if I spent that much money to see a loss.”

All that said, the night before the game I wrote this nugget:

“If Temple controls the clock behind Ryquell Armstead and Russo is effective in the short passing game, (Duke quarterback) Jones won’t be able to do too much damage.”

To me, there was no doubt Armstead would play. He was quoted as saying on Dec. 17 that he was excited to play “one last time with my brothers” and participated in every practice, several of them full contact. He was listed as “probable.” What did he do in the minutes before the game, trip over the Elvis Pressley statue? This news completely came out of the blue.

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Both cornerback Rock Ya-Sin and Armstead did not play and interim head coach Ed Foley said those were for “medical reasons.” Photos, though, of the two showed them smiling (not grimacing) before the game, so who the hell knows? All I know is that Armstead was a warrior who wanted to come back into the ECU game (and did) despite a sprained ankle and he looked a helluva lot better walking around the sidelines yesterday than he did that day in October.

Jones, the Duke quarterback who is a far better prospect than Armstead or Ya-Sin, did play “one last game” with his brothers and that set the tone for the entire day.

Do I think Temple would have benefited from having Armstead in there to run the ball with a 27-14 lead in the second quarter? Hell yes. Do I think he would have scored the six touchdowns that he did against Houston? Hell no, but three would have done the job and 30 carries would have kept the ball away from Jones for 30 plays. Play-action would have aided quarterback Anthony Russo if he had Armstead to put the ball in the belly of and pull it out.

Do I think Ya-Sin would have batted down a couple of those Jones’ touchdown passes?

Hell yes.

Football is a team game and the next man should step up but Temple had no “next man” nearly as capable as those two. Maybe part of their decision had to do with coaches coming and going at Temple, but it still sucks.  Ed Foley is now 0-2. He talks a good game but I’d rather see actions than words. I always have.

This is what bowl season at Temple has come to, though. Maybe forever. Maybe just for the foreseeable future:  Decide to go down to see the band, go to pre-game events and walk around a small town in the middle of nowheresville but don’t be upset if Temple losses the game.

No thanks.

I feel most sorry for all of those Temple fans who paid their hard-earned money thinking they would see the full Temple team for one more time.

Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing. My good Temple friend can go down for the pageantry and the sightseeing next year, but it will be a hard pass for me unless it’s an NY6 game and everyone from Temple from the head coach to the waterboy is 100 percent committed to winning.

Sunday: Fizzy on The Green Flu

Wednesday: Some New Year’s Resolutions for Manny Diaz

Friday: Infante Impact

Sunday: Comparing First Years

Tuesday: (1/9): Pressing Needs

Thursday (1/11): Impact of Bowl Loss on Future

Bowl Game: Keeping Up With The Joneses

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The closest thing Philadelphia drive-time sports talk radio got around to talking about the Temple’s impending bowl game tomorrow was on the Mike Missanelli Show two days ago.

Missanelli was making a point about trading Carson Wentz for a No. 1 and keeping Nick Foles to run the show and mentioned the name of the Duke quarterback as a draft possibility should the Eagles designate Foles as a placeholder for the next couple of years.

“They could even draft a guy this year,” he said. “Let’s look at the list of projected No. 1 NFL quarterbacks. How about that Daniel Jones of Duke? If you reject the notion that Wentz is the last franchise quarterback the NFL draft will ever produce, and I do, then now is the time to get rid of Wentz and get something for him. You can draft a guy like Daniel Jones, have him learn from Foles for a couple of years and then he could turn out to be as good as Wentz. You never know.”

Silly me.

templenews

My 40-year-old Temple News jersey did not survive as well as Mr. Russo’s 40-year-old Bishop Egan jersey

I thought that was a lead-in to talking about the Temple-Duke game, but Missanelli beat about 20 other Eagles’ topics to death and left Daniel Jones floating out there. Philly talk show hosts probably don’t even know Temple is playing in the Independence Bowl against Duke (1:30 p.m., ESPN) tomorrow but the Owls can certainly open some eyes with a big win.

First, there will be a lot of draftniks watching Jones to form their own opinion of him and, second, there is another very talented quarterback on the field named Anthony Russo who can establish a reputation of his own with a good game. There was a terrific story by Marc Narducci on Russo’s wearing a 40-year-old Bishop Egan jersey that his dad wore as a QB there. I also have a jersey over 40-years old–my game jersey for The Temple News’ intramural basketball team–but it has not survived as well so I don’t know how he preserved it.

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Shreveport’s Channel 3 is calling for an 80 percent chance of AM rain and 70 degrees by the afternoon.

Jones still has a year of eligibility but it would be crazy for a projected first-round pick to come back to college. Jones checks all of the boxes. Like Wentz, he’s 6-foot-5 and, like Wentz, he can do damage with his feet. He had two runs in excess of 60 yards in a 42-35 win over North Carolina. Jones will be looking to move up the draft board with a strong game against Temple because he hurt his prospects some in a 59-7 loss to Wake Forest in his last game. He was 17-of-36 for 145 yards and a Pick 6.

He’ll be motivated but facing a Temple secondary with two NFL hopefuls in safety Delvon Randall and corner Rock Ya-Sin. Since Duke coach David Cutcliffe is adept at breaking down film, expect Jones to try to attack Linwood Crump Jr.’s side of the field. Crump has been pretty solid as well, but sliding over Randall in help is probably the way interim coach Ed Foley is leaning.

Temple is a four-point favorite, but there’s very little to base that upon since there are no common foes. Interestingly enough, this fall Duke owns wins over both the incoming Temple coach (20-12 at Miami) and the team the outgoing Temple coach (28-14 at Georgia Tech) is taking over so there will be bragging rights to be had for the Owls. Another twist is that Duke beat Baylor and Matt Rhule, for what that’s worth.  If the Owls can pull this off, it will be their most prestigious bowl win since beating California, 28-17, in the 1979 Garden State Bowl so there is plenty at stake.

If Temple controls the clock behind Ryquell Armstead and Russo is effective in the short passing game, Jones won’t be able to do too much damage.

Friday: Game Analysis

Monday: Infante Impact

 

Isaiah Wright: Temple’s Answer

wright

There are not many vexing questions out there regarding the Temple football team for 2019.

The Owls appear to be even more loaded next year than they were this year with the exception of one sore thumb question:

“Who is going to replace Rock Armstead as the elite featured back?”

The answer is right under our noses: Isaiah Wright.

matt rhule, temple football,

“If we didn’t have Jahad Thomas or Ryquell Armstead at tailback,  Isaiah Wright is capable of playing the position and I’m sure he would do a great job.” _ Matt Rhule, 2016

This is what Matt Rhule said about Wright after the then true freshman gained 48 yards on seven carries in a 38-0 win over Stony Brook in 2016: “The great thing about Isaiah is his versatality. If we didn’t have Jahad Thomas or Ryquell Armstead at tailback, Isaiah Wright is capable of playing thet position and I’m sure he would do a great job. The challenge, really for me, is to get him the ball a lot more.”

Rhule could never follow through because Thomas and Armstead were there to block Wright’s progress as a running back but at least he instituted The Wildcat for him. (I don’t like the Wildcat because everyone knows Wright is going to run when he comes out in it. The Wildcat is effective only if IW throws it 50 percent of the time and runs it the other half.)

Getting the ball to Wright was a challenge inherited by the Geoff Collins staff and, quite frankly, they have not been up to it. Wright doesn’t get the ball nearly enough even though Army coach Jeff Monken called him “a touchdown waiting to happen” in his assessment of the Owls before the 2017 game at Army.

saturdaypicks

Our picks for today’s games

For the record, I like Jager Gardner as well but, for some reason, Gardner has disappeared as the Armstead backup. He did score a nice touchdown at UConn. Gardner and Wright should battle it out as Armstead’s replacement and the Owls will be in good shape, but I think that’s a battle Wright would win given a fair opportunity. Tyliek Raynor as a third-down back (a Dave Meggett-type) would give the Owls a terrific trio of running backs next season.

First, though, Wright has to have every opportunity to grab the No. 1 job in spring ball.

The Owls can afford to move Wright from receiver to tailback because they are so deep at wide receiver. Randle Jones and Freddy Johnson return, as does this year’s true freshman Sean Ryan. The Owls have plenty of options at wide receiver.

“Armstead is the toughest running back in our league to stop,” Houston head coach Major Applegate said after the Owls won, 59-49, in Texas.

Putting Wright back there would give the Owls that same important advantage next year as well.

 

The path is clear to nine wins

armsteadcherry

Walking around like a Zombie at the season-ticket holder party back in August, one of the Temple players make a 40-yard beeline for me, shook my hand, and said: “Hey, thanks for coming.”

Chapelle Russell might or might not have known who I was (kind of doubt it), but I had to get something off my chest and he was the first Temple player I could talk to at the time.

helmitskis

“I can’t believe how many people are saying on social media that this is a six-win team,” I told him. “This is at least a nine-win team. At least.”

“We know it,” Russell said.

Now the path is clear to nine wins, even though this is an awfully strange way of getting there. (I figured they would split the Power 5 games, lose at Houston and UCF and win the rest.)

After beating Houston, 59-49, on Saturday night, the path to a nine-win season is as wide open as the holes the young offensive line was making for Ryquell Armstead. Beat reeling USF on Saturday, then beat putrid UConn on the final day of the regular season and then beat somebody like Virginia Tech in the Military Bowl or give some SEC team a seventh loss in the Birmingham Bowl.

I doubt the Owls go back to Florida again because they’ve been there and done that. Because of their TV market, I would love to see them get a chance at a Penn State-type in another bowl if the AAC can sell Temple as an at-large team in for an open spot in a more high-profile bowl (a long shot, I admit).

Whatever, we know they are going to a bowl now and it’s up to them how good the bowl will be.

The only way to get there is to continue doing what they’ve done so far since Anthony Russo has taken over as the quarterback–try to go 1-0 every week. In the USF week, the Owls can’t worry about the eighth or ninth win, they just have to try to get the seventh.

Then on to the eighth and so forth.

They rode Ryquell Armstead’s 29-carry, six-touchdown, 210-yard performance to a win at Houston and might have learned a valuable lesson against these spread teams. Run the ball, shorten the game by chewing up gobs of clock and using that success to make some plays in the play-action game.  Houston was the first time the Owls even tried to do that since the Maryland game.

Now, with Armstead’s performance, the Owls have the all-time record holder for single rushing touchdowns in an AAC game and Montel Harris’ seven touchdowns in a 63-32 win at Army represented the most rushing touchdowns for any Big East team when the Owls were in that league.

They should feed the beast right up until that ninth win.

Tuesday: Fizzy’s Corner

Thursday: USF Kryptonite (hint: it’s not the weather)

Saturday: Picks

Sunday: Game Analysis

Owls: Be All You Can Be

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Background shows great fan support for a then 3-5 Temple team.

A minority but certainly vocal opinion on social media this season from some Temple fans can simply be broken down into this one sentence:

“We’re not Alabama or LSU and we’re going to have seasons like this and we’re not going to go to a bowl every year.”

There are a couple of flaws in that logic.

One, few championship teams in the short history of the Group of Five returned as much talent as the 2017 Temple Owls. The best fullback in the country (who is seldom used this year) and the best running back on an AAC championship team (not used enough this season) and the best group of receivers in the history of Temple (only lately used) are among that group. Even more returned on the defensive side of the ball.

Two, “we’re” not playing the same schools Alabama or LSU are.

Why can’t “we” be the same type of program as Navy, which has been to 13 bowls in the last 14 years? Why can’t “we” be at least as good as Ohio (not Ohio State, mind you) and be bowl-eligible in the last eight years?

The answer is no reason at all.

When someone asks you what “Temple TUFF” means, show them this …

The jury is still out on Geoff Collins but, if he cleans up the mess of the first nine games over the final three, there will be hope for his future here. Ryquell Armstead had 151 yards against an Army team that shut out Air Force and getting him more involved would be a good place to start. Certainly, getting him involved to close out a 34-13 game is a must that this coaching staff demonstrated it does not understand on Thursday.

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Lost only on Southern Miss. Lock of the week (Wyoming) not only covered but won outright.

Navy, despite the loss to Temple last week, represents being the kind of program that produces the kinds results Owl fans should expect. Bowl every year, playing for a championship every few years. Consistently, Ken Niumatalolo gets the most out of his talent and there is no reason Temple fans cannot demand the same standard. Ohio is the same way under Frank Solich.

If the Owls cannot win at least two of three, this season will be deemed an abysmal failure ruined by a coaching staff not competent enough to leave well enough alone and take the principles that created back-to-back 10-win seasons and, err, run with them.  Instead, they are all over the place on their offensive philosophy. One week, Armstead gets 151 against Army and, the next, they refuse to use him to close out a 34-13 lead.

Defensively, the Owls were all they can be for the first three quarters against Navy, then lapsed into the bad habits that caused them to be 3-5 coming into that game. It’s hard  to believe that three defensive backs who looked so terrific under a different coaching staff a year ago have lost the ability to cover the pass under this coaching staff. To be all it can be, maybe this defensive coaching staff—specifically head coach Collins—needs to take a look at the pass defense concepts taught by Phil Snow and apply that fix over these next three games. Clearly, “Mayhem” has not allowed the Owls to defend the pass in the fourth quarter of the last two games.

If the Owls be all they can be, they can win the two of three required to make a bowl game with honor.

That’s all the fans ever wanted to begin with.

Thursday: Cincinnati Throwback

Greatness Straight Ahead

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Well, all that talk about a 6-6 season for Temple lasted, oh, about two weeks.

For the past six months, we’ve been writing that this team was better than last year’s team and there was a lot of pushback that we were expecting too much.

Now, after a 46-30 win over a South Florida team that was the consensus favorite to win the AAC East title, all of the goals we had outlined for this team since the Cherry and White game are not only in sight but likely.

This was the step forward year, next year was the step back year. (When we say step back, we mean double digit wins to eight, not double digit wins to six.)

All the Owls have to do to step forward is to win the remaining four games on the schedule that are far inferior to South Florida. Do that, and the Owls take a nine-win season into the title game and that title game could be in Philadelphia, not Houston. Philadelphia as the title site makes 10 wins possible, and a bowl win makes 11 wins possible.

Anytime you go from 10 wins to 11 wins the program is going forward.

There is work to be done, but the heavy lifting was completed last night when fullback Nick Sharga showed why we were pleading for a fullback for the first two years of the fullback-less Matt Rhule regime. Now the fullback should be a staple of Temple football going forward. Just look at these blocks from Sharga.

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sharga

After the game, Ryquell Armstead, the chief beneficiary of those blocks, said he saw USF defenders step away from the contact when they saw Sharga come after them in the second half. They wanted no parts of Sharga. It sure looked like that on the TV replay. With a torn ACL that prevents him from playing defense, Sharga is finding people to block.

Temple football is good defense, establishing the run, control the clock and a lot of that is based on the play of the fullback and Sharga was the Unsung  Hero on Friday night. Combined with the “sung” heroes, who were too many to mention, this season is coming together just at the right time.

How far the Owls take this is really up to them and no one else and, if they don’t quit, greatness is well within reach.

Temple’s Next NFL Back?

Matt Rhule is upbeat after scrimmage at Franklin Field.

It does not look like anyone is going to take Jahad Thomas’ starting tailback any time soon, but Temple head coach Matt Rhule turned some heads eight days ago when he said sophomore Ryquell Armstead had a chance to be the Owls “next NFL back.”

Rhule also said that Armstead possesses many of the same qualities Bernard Pierce had while he was recruiting that back out of Glen Mills. Both were track stars in high school and both ran a 10.8 100-meter dash.

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Ryquell Armstead got plenty of support on signing day.

The difference so far has been that Armstead was not able to make an impact because he did not see as much of the field that Pierce did. That could change this year, though, as Thomas could be split out into the slot and Armstead or fellow sophomore Jager Gardner will be given more touches. This strategy accomplishes a couple of things—it keeps Thomas fresh and gives the Owls another edge weapon, which they will need to stretch the defense.

This is all predicated on whether or not Armstead or Gardner can make the most of their reps in real games. If one of those two guys starts accumulating yards in their sophomore years like Pierce did in his freshman one, the Owls go from one explosive player (Thomas as an RB) to two (Thomas as an WR and Armstead/Gardner as a RB). Imagine the nightmare matchup problems that makes for defensive coordinators this season. Mix in wide receiver Marshall Ellick (who has been wowing people since the spring) and the Owls could be really stretching defenses thin.

It all depends, though, on the expected development of the two sophomore running backs who need to produce like Bernard Pierce once did.

Wednesday: The Franklin Field Scrimmage