SMU: Could’ve, Would’ve Should’ve

footballs

Editor’s Note: Former Temple player Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub posts his thoughts in this space every Tuesday. 

By Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub

Last week, I said I still was waiting for Anthony Russo to have a great game.  Guess what?  He had that great game against SMU, but his receivers were somewhere else.  He was 18 – 32 with at least seven drops.  Three of those drops were probable touchdowns and the others would have been key first downs.  Despite everything else, if we caught the ball, it would have been a tight contest.

weinraub

What does a coach do about this lack of concentration?  Drill, drill, drill! One suggestion is to substitute different colored tennis balls for the football, and the receiver has to call out the color – contact allowed.  There are probably 100 other drills that may help.

While we’re discussing the offense, I really thought the play calling was exceptionally conservative.  On most of the third and fourth and shorts, everything was one back, up-the-gut – no trickery, nothing going back the other way. On other occasions, the passes were short of the first-down marker or dumps in the backfield.  Rolling out Russo and Centeio may have helped.  I still don’t understand why Russo doesn’t keep the ball on an RPO or bootleg once in a while, and if I see the quick screen to the outside one more time, I’m gonna scream.

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On defense, I believe we gave up four long touchdown passes.  That shows we can’t cover speed man-to-man, especially if the QB has time.  (I thought we didn’t blitz nearly enough.)  Therefore, we need an alternative defensive scheme.  A scheme that both puts pressure on the QB, and also plays a deceiving zone. One way might be to have five guys playing the run with all sorts of blitzes, while six guys play a zone.  If six guys are playing zone, that zone could have many different looks.  It could be a 4-2, 3-3, 1-5, etc.  Most importantly, there has to be deep help for the corners.  C’mon guys!  You have almost more coachers than my 1959 team had players.  Innovate!  What you’re doing isn’t gonna get you to the league championship game, despite our talent.

In summary, we got the crap kicked out of us by a really well-coached and quarterbacked team.  However, one league loss doesn’t sink a season.  Can we come back?  Central Florida will fill the air with footballs.

Thursday:   Changing Things Up

Saturday: Game Night

Sunday: Game Analysis

TU-SMU: Losing Is Fundamental

Football is a simple game.

Throw the ball. Run the ball. Catch the ball. Block. Tackle. Be disciplined to the whistle. Cover your man.

They are called fundamentals.

Temple did only one of them right on Saturday in a 45-21 loss to SMU.

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The record wearing Cherry and White during the same time frame is 24-7

Quarterback Anthony Russo did all that he could to get the Owls a win but to quote Gabrielle Bundchen-Brady after a rare Super Bowl loss by the New England Patriots, “my husband can’t throw the ball and catch it, too.” After watching the game a second time (fast-forwarding through the drops), Russo would have had at a minimum … minimum, a four-touchdown, 351-yard passing game if just seven of the nine drops were caught.

That should be enough to win in college football.

It was a disappointing loss in a lot of ways for the Owls but certainly their troubles at catching the ball ranked right at the top BECAUSE this was not expected. Sure, the Owls dropped three completions that would have gone for first downs in a loss at Buffalo but the rest of the season they’ve been pretty sure-handed.


Even if it means
tweaking the spread
option by using two
tight ends to block
for tailbacks Davis
and Jager Gardner,
it’s worth it to chew
up clock and bring the
safeties and linebackers
up to the line of
scrimmage and make them
vulnerable to play-action
fakes. That’s what the
Temple TUFF brand
was built upon

They needed to continue that tendency against SMU and, for some reason, they did not. Maybe the Owls failed to pack the stick’em and left it home at the Edberg-Olson facility. Whatever the explanation, their normally dependable hands failed them, particularly early when it could have made a big difference.

Their slow start took them out of a game plan that would have served them a lot better. They should have run the ball behind Re’Mahn Davis to create passing lanes for Russo. That has been Temple’s Modus Operandi for the past few years with a variety of running backs not named Davis and it really needs to be a priority going forward, certainly against a UCF team that, like SMU, can throw the ball and put points on the board in bunches. Even if it means tweaking the spread option by using two tight ends to block for tailbacks Davis and Jager Gardner, it’s worth it to chew up clock and bring the safeties and linebackers up to the line of scrimmage and make them vulnerable to play-action fakes. That’s what the Temple TUFF brand was built upon. “We’re going to run the ball and we’re going to knock you back and there’s nothing you can do to stop us.” Not what it has turned out to be this year: “We’re going to run a read-option with a classic pro passer and hope it works.” SMU did a nice job to stop the run early, but would it have been as nice a job with two tight ends leading the way and a little jet sweep motion thrown in? I’m sold on Rod Carey but he definitely has a blind spot in this area. Maybe some bifocals will help.

The blocking and tackling also were not good nor was the discipline after the whistle, particularly after the game was out of reach and that probably had a lot to do with frustration.

Fundamentals and approaches can be worked on, though, and have little to do with the talent at hand which is good enough to win. It’s already proven to be good enough talent to beat Memphis, which just might be better than SMU.

Winning was fundamental a week ago.

So, too, was losing on Saturday.

How well the Owls address their largely correctable fundamental errors this week will determine if this ends up being a 10- or 6-win season.

Tuesday: Fizzy’s Corner

 

Game Day Minus-1: Greatness Within Grasp

The design of this play, from keeping the back in the backfield to occupy the linemen, and putting Isaiah Wright in motion, to the execution, was perfection. 

The Temple sports motto has been for the past five years: Greatness Doesn’t Quit.

No bigger test for the merging of motto and reality on Saturday (3:30, ESPN2) at Dallas against host SMU at Gerald Ford Stadium.

Win, and greatness is at hand and the path to a possible AAC championship is open.

Lose, and just another mediocre-to-good season is probably the best we can hope for.

Greatness sounds a lot better.

Look, winning in college football is a hard thing there are plenty of teams trying to do what Temple is trying to do. This is where the team that preaches the greatness motto must put it into practice.

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TV games as an appetizer to the main course (Temple-SMU)

Hopefully, the Temple TUFF motto kicks into gear at SMU. The last time Temple went to SMU, it won in a shootout as P.J. Walker had a great game. The trip before that the Owls had a 28-7 lead and coughed that up before losing.

There are a couple of big differences between then and now, though.

One, SMU is a much better team now than it was on those other two occasions. Two, so is Temple. The teams are very even. Temple beat Georgia Tech by 22 and Georgia Tech beat USF by five. SMU beat USF by 27. Not much else to go by so that’s an indication that the team with the fewest turnovers will win.

The pass/catch combination of Shane Buechele and James Proche will be the toughest the Owls have faced so far but, to me, the best pass defense is putting the quarterback on his backside and that’s the challenge that guys like Ifeanyi Maijeh (pronounced MY JAY), Dan Archibong, Dana Levine, Karamo Dioubate and Zack Mesday are going to have to embrace. Put Buechele on his backside and make him uncomfortable enough and covering Proche and stopping the run becomes that much easier.

For my money, the Temple team that comes to Dallas is far superior to the Tulsa team that came to Dallas two weeks ago and took the Mustangs to double-overtime. That’s on paper, though.

On the field, the Owls will have to prove it.

Greatness might not quit, but you have to want it a lot more than the other guy to achieve it. Talking about it and doing it are two different things and the talk stops at 3:30.

It’s right at hand this week and within reach. Let’s hope the Owls grab it, hold on and take it back to Philadelphia.

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TV watching after the Temple game

Predictions: We definitely weren’t great last week but not bad, just mediocre. 3-3 against the spread and straight-up (lost on Maryland, Virginia and Hawaii but won on Ball State, Cincinnati and Indiana). For the season, 24-10 straight up; 20-14 ATS. Going for greatness this week (spreads at time of publication, home teams in CAPS): Tonight, taking SYRACUSE getting 3 at home against Pitt. Haven’t been sold on Pitt since the 17-14 win over Delaware. Saturday: Duke getting the 3 at VIRGINIA; Wake Forest laying the 2 at FLORIDA STATE; East Carolina getting 33 at UCF; BYU getting 6.5 against visiting Boise State; Louisiana Tech laying 1.5 at SOUTHERN MISS and Minnesota laying the 29.5 at RUTGERS.

BUYOUT BOWL: Georgia Tech getting 18 at MIAMI, noon Saturday. Geoff Collins doesn’t win this game but he at least does as well against Manny Diaz as Central Michigan did (a 17-12 loss). That’s where I see this game ending, something like 17-13, Miami. The Hurricanes have had trouble scoring all year so I don’t see them ever covering 18 against anyone.

Sunday: Game Analysis

Reasons for Optimism at SMU

Bad news for Memphis fans at the beginning of this video

At the top of reasons to be optimistic about Temple’s chances in Dallas this weekend came a moment during a post-game interview on Saturday.

The sideline reporter grabbed Temple coach Rod Carey and asked him how satisfying the win over a ranked Memphis was and he didn’t skip a beat.

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SMU quarterback Shane Buechele was one of the Elite 11 quarterbacks (along with Temple’s Anthony Russo) in 2015

“Great win, but we have a lot to clean up,” Carey said before running off the field.

That got me to thinking. Geoff Collins had a similar moment almost a year ago to the day and I wondered what he said.  So I looked it up.  After beating No. 20 Cincinnati, Collins spouted this jibberish:

“This is just a tribute to our culture and our players and the love those young men have for each other in the locker room.”

Huh?

Screenshot 2019-10-17 at 9.24.22 AM

One coach talking nuts and bolts football, another so far in the abstract he reminded you of Marianne Williamson. Carey saw some things to clean up and he was already thinking about getting the bucket, mop, and Pine-Sol out. Collins was patting himself on the back so much he almost broke his spine.

That, to me, in essence, is the difference between Temple football 2018 and Temple football 2019.

Screenshot 2019-04-14 at 8.01.54 PM

Other than that, which was super important, funny how fast things can change in a couple of weeks.

A couple of weeks ago, Temple looked like a vulnerable team for “only” beating ECU, 27-17, on the road and SMU looked like the best team in the league after beating crosstown rival TCU, 41-37.

This looked like a tough spot for Temple and it still might be but what happened since was encouraging. Now things have changed just a little, even though the “public” might not see it. The line opened with SMU as a 6.5-point favorite and is now, last I checked, at 7.5. This time, though, the line tells me nothing. It would be nice, though, if even a fraction of the 25,000 Eagles fans in Dallas this weekend made the short trip to SMU to cheer on their “real” hometown squad.

Tulsa took SMU into overtime in Dallas and then fell flat on its face in a 45-10 home loss to Navy. Tulsa is not as good as we thought it might be nor probably is SMU. TCU has a good brand name but, as a current football team, probably not up to that name after losing, 49-24, to a good Iowa State team last week.

Temple can win this game if it cleans up that little mess it left on the field that allowed a ranked team to come back from a 23-7 deficit.

The fact that Carey spent this week using that mop to do some work instead of scratching his own back with it bodes well for Temple’s chances.

Saturday: Game Day

Double Death Penalty

seanstopperich

Sean Stopperich, who helped bring down the SMU program, ended up at Temple with BA.

Both SMU and Temple have something in common in that both school’s received the Death Penalty for their football program.

SMU had the formal one, the first “modern” death penalty—the NCAA’s power to suspend a program for a year—while Temple had a self-imposed one based on years of neglect.

You decide which was worse, but sitting through an 0-11 season and a 20-game losing streak which I did as a Temple fan in the Bobby Wallace Era was pretty bad.

stopperich

Temple never paid players $1,000 a month and with free cars—like SMU boosters did in the 1980s—but some of the 1980 Temple teams probably could have given the pay-for-play guys a pretty good game. The late Sean Stopperich, whose family was relocated from Pennsylvania, reneged on a scholarship with Pitt and signed with SMU and his story was featured on ESPN’s 30 for 30 expose on the SMU Death Penalty.

Ironically, Stopperich ended up at Temple, where he played a few games before a shoulder injury ended his career. He was part owner of a gym in the Pittsburgh area when he died in 1995.

In those days, under Bruce Arians, the Owls went 6-5 twice and both winning records were posted against the then-No. 10 schedule in the country. Arians’ 6-5 seasons were in 1984 and 1986.

To show you how much times have changed at Temple, the current Owls are playing against the 126th-ranked schedule in FBS football. That’s pretty hard to do when you are in highest-rated G5 league, the AAC, but thanks to Charlotte and Stony Brook, the Owls are doing it this year.

SMU’s highly-paid players lost their entire 1987 season due to sanctions and could play no home games in the 1988 season. The Mustangs went 52-19-1 from 1980 through 1986.

The 1984 SMU team went 10-2 with no common opponents with Temple. The 1986 SMU team went 6-5, like Temple, and beat Boston College, 31-29. That year, the Owls lost to BC, 38-29.

When SMU and Temple played in the 1940s, neither was a national power as the 2-4-1 Owls tied the 4-5-1 Mustangs in 1946 and 3-6-2 SMU and 2-5-3 Temple tied, 6-6, in 1942.

Decades later, both programs lost their way because one put too much illegal money into the program and the other did not put enough legal money into the program.

Now, both are trying to come back from the dead and the Owls have had more recent success than the Mustangs. It was a long, hard, climb, but both appear headed upward.

Friday: Game Preview

From Zero to 94 in One Play

Err, make that 2015

Err, make that 2015

Maybe the worst thing that might have happened for Temple in the short term last night against SMU was scoring on the second play of scrimmage because, maybe, the Owls thought this was going to be too easy.

It might also turn out to be the best thing in the, err, long run—the longest in Temple history by a guy who might be the single most talented back in the program. Jager Gardner went from zero to 94 yards in just one play. He had zero yards for the season before that play and finished with 116 yards on just six carries.

At that point, I thought Jagermeister might have remained in the game in order to establish a rhythm, but it became apparent that head coach Matt Rhule had a plan to rotate the running backs. It’s nice to know, though, if something happens, the Owls at at least three—maybe four—deep at an important position.



Love to see the Owls
in a 5-2 with
two-time Pennsylvania
heavyweight wrestling
champion Averee Robinson
lined up over the center
as the nose guard
and having tackles
Matt Ioannidis and
Hershey Walton flanking
him with Sharif Finch
and Praise Martin-Oguike
at the ends.

Somehow, though, I think Gardner is going to be The Guy after Jahad Thomas finishes as The Guy and he showed flashes of that ability on that play. Even though Gardner has appeared in other games, it was for a carry here and there and never enough to establish a rhythm. Maybe next week will be that week in order to give Thomas’ injury more of a rest before Memphis.

As far as the rest of the game, the Owls are going to have to tighten up on defense. Special teams, as well as they’ve played all season, deserve a mulligan for that free kick return. Great job by Tyler Mayes on the fake punt.

After watching the film, the problem on defense appears to be that the Owls had chances to knock down long passes and simply did not even attempt to do it—they allowed that play to Will Fuller to repeat itself. Also, too many three-man rushes. Love to see the Owls in a 5-2 with two-time Pennsylvania heavyweight wrestling champion Averee Robinson lined up over the center as the nose guard and having tackles Matt Ioannidis and Hershey Walton flanking him with Sharif Finch and Praise Martin-Oguike at the ends (Nate D. Smith is hurt). To me, that personnel grouping is best suited to both stop the run and cause havoc in any passing game without blitzing. We’ve seen the 5-2 before, just not enough of it.

Other than that, any time you drop 60 and some people call it escaping with a win is a good time.

Temple-SMU Preview: Next Man Up

The Owls’ biggest opponent tonight will be a hangover from this.

mean

The biggest moment in Temple football history is now over, but not the season, and the carrot at the end of this season is the possibility of an even bigger moment.

That moment will come tonight at SMU (8 p.m., ESPN2) for a handful of players who will be receiving significant playing time for the first time in their Temple careers. One of those players no doubt will be Brendan McGowan, who will be starting for the injured Kyle Friend at center. Another will be the speedy Ryquell Armstead and the equally elusive, if not as speedy, Jager Gardner who will be subbing for Jahad Thomas. Head coach Matt Rhule said Thomas will be available, but with tougher opponents coming up, it might be wise to give those injured ribs one more week of rest.

Sub Maryland for Buffalo and Navy for UMass and this is the league the Owls should be in ... unfortunately, greed has trumped common sense.

Sub Maryland for Buffalo and Navy for UMass and WVA for Army and this is the league the Owls should be in … unfortunately, greed has trumped common sense.

There could be more playing time for a number of backups, like corner Nate Hairston. Suffice it to say, before heading out to the local bar for a game watch or at home in front of the HDTV, have a program handy.

SMU has been gosh awful this season and is coming off a 40-31 loss to perhaps the another bad AAC team (Tulsa). The Mustangs also lost to East Carolina, 49-23. The Owls handled ECU by double-digits two weeks ago.

That should not translate to a 49-23 win or better for two reasons: One, the Owls just do not possess the explosive offense of an ECU and you’ve got to figure there’s a heartbreak hangover coming. Still,  quarterback P.J. Walker is getting better  every week and there is going to be one week where Robby Anderson breaks out and puts three touchdowns on the board.

I think it is this one. Owls, 34-10.

South Florida should be a little tougher in a week and Memphis even more so in two. The focus now should be on the next men up.

Temple did not update the

Temple did not update the “official” depth chart in these game notes for SMU, but you can cross Kyle Friend and Kip Patton off that list and probably one or two others.