Temple football: Work in progress

One of the recurring themes of every Stan Drayton press conference is that the Temple football Owls are a work in progress.

That’s usually what happens when the last owner of the house put a propane tank in the driveway, tossed a match over his head and did his darndest to blow up the whole place down before taking the keys in his pickup truck and driving home to Illinois.

The key stat in football is turnovers and TU won that battle

Drayton’s Owls rolled up their sleeves and swept some of the embers out of the driveway in the second half of a 30-0 loss to Duke, laid a nice foundation in a win over Lafayette, and started to put up a few sturdy walls in a 16-14 loss to Rutgers.

What happened on Saturday in a 28-0 win over UMass represented some nice windows and a front door.

Next week, maybe the roof gets put on in Memphis. This is real work, not a pre-fab job, so maybe we as fans are expecting too much, too soon.

What is apparent, though, is that any win in college football is pure Gold and the Owls mined a couple of nuggets on Saturday.

Ask Miami (Fla.), which lost to Middle Tennesee State. The Hurricanes are spending $8 million per year on Mario Cristobal (after eating $14 million of Manny Diaz’ contract) and their return on investment is questionable at best. I imagine those Cane fans are nowhere near as satisfied today as Temple fans are.

Progress is the operative word here.

Temple ate $6 million on the arsonist’s contract and is paying Drayton $2 million per.

The trend appears that Temple might be getting more ROI than Miami by the end of the season, but we shall see.

There were at least a couple of good signs on Saturday.

One, their really good tight end, David Martin-Robinson, made his first appearance of the season and was a factor in the success of both the run and the passing game.

Two, the defense posted the first Temple shutout since 2016 (three that year). If that weren’t a good-enough sign, Temple won the AAC championship that year.

As work days go, not perfect but more got done on Saturday than on the other three work days. They finally got the turnovers they needed but there remains a lot of work to be done in their own running game. That piece looked a lot better when Quincy Patterson came in at quarterback.

A week from now, the Owls will be facing a Memphis team in revenge mode so maybe that day won’t be as productive as this one.

That won’t stop the Owls from building and, if they hammer fast enough, they could get a presentable front porch done by the end of the week. If they win, they can set up the grill and party on it once the final seconds tick off.

Monday: Optics

A Warner Primer for Finding Your Roots

Bobby Salla Jr., son of the one-time Temple career interception leader of the same name, is the latest in a long line of legacy players at Temple. (Photo courtesy Zamani Feelings)

Someone needs to give Henry Louis Gates the phone number, email, or Twitter handle of Kurt Warner.

Gates is the Harvard professor whose “Finding Your Roots” on PBS is low-key one of the best shows on television. In the show, notable guests discover their family roots based on genealogical research and DNA results.

Now we don’t know if Kurt Warner is related to Pop Warner but it would be a terrific story if he was.

The storyline goes like this: Gates turns the page only to show Kurt a photo of Pop Warner, the legendary Temple coach, and reveal that Pop is his third Great Uncle.

Or something like that.

Kurt leans back in his chair, puts his hands behind his head, and lets out a big: “Wow.”

Come to think of it, Pop bears a slight facial resemblance to Kurt Warner (or Harry Chapin).

The TV screen then shows photos of Pop coaching Temple and Kurt’s son, E.J. playing for Temple and both Kurt and Pop being inducted into their respective Halls of Fame.

“I guess it was meant to be,” Kurt might say.

What we do know is that Kurt and Pop were born exactly 100 years apart. Pop in 1871, in Springville, N.Y., and Kurt in 1971, in Burlington, Iowa.

(Ironically, both of Kurt’s current college sons, Kade and E.J., started their careers in Pop Warner football.)

If so, Temple can somewhat claim E.J. as a legacy player in the long line of guys who succeeded relatives who made a name at the school.

I don’t think a single school has the history in that area that Temple does.

Almost in all instances, at least at the college level, the sons exceeded the contributions of the fathers. Even Joe Klecko’s son, Dan, arguably did more at Temple from a recognition standpoint than Joe did. Dan was named Defensive MVP in the Big East, then a Power League on the par of all the current Power 5 schools. Dan has three Super Bowl rings. Dad will be the one going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in January, though.

Temple defensive end Raheem Brock, the son of 1,000-yard rusher Zach Dixon (1978 Owls), also became an NFL player.

Mark Bright, the 1979 Garden State Bowl MVP, is the son of Jim Bright, the starting fullback for the 1950 Owls who tied Penn State. When the younger Bright was a fullback at William Tennent, he had no offers. Then Jim sent Wayne Hardin his film. Hardin knew Jim played at Temple and offered him on the spot.

Temple opened the checkbook to hire Warner away from Jason Wingard’s alma mater, Stanford.

“At Temple, we take care of our own,” Hardin said at the time.

Mark more than repaid the scholarship.

Those are just a few examples. There are at least a couple more, including kickers Jim Cooper and Jim Cooper Jr. Mike Walsh, a three-year starter at tackle for the Owls in the mid-70s, is the son of Bud Walsh, a former tight end for the Owls in the late 40s.

The latest is Bobby Salla Jr., the son of Bobby Salla, who at the time he graduated (1977) was the all-time interception leader at Temple. Salla Jr. is only getting started, a true freshman who was in on the kick coverage team when De’Von Fox blocked three kicks a week ago.

Judging from history, his best contributions are yet to come. Only a possible future Finding Your Roots episode will reveal if one of his current teammates is a legacy guy, too.

Friday: UMass Preview

Sunday: UMass Analysis

Monday: Optics

No such thing as a moral victory … but

Stopped at Vincent’s Pizza in Rockledge on the way home from the Temple game on Saturday and a couple of young girls at the counter looked at my Temple Football Forever T-Shirt.

One of them said: “Were you at the Temple game today?”

“Yes.”

Not much to choose between these two teams.

“We were too. We were at the student tailgate. It was so much fun. We only saw a little of the game because we had to get back to work here.”

“Good. I hope you guys are fans for life like me.”

“Oh we are.”

That was their first Temple football game. It was my, by rough estimation, 612th going back to the time I split as a grade school youngin between Penn and Temple football games.

When Wayne Hardin came to Temple, I gave up the Penn fandom altogether.

One school in Philadelphia had the best coach in college football and it wasn’t Penn.

Sometimes the lifelong fandom comes as much in a loss at much as a win. I’ve always said there is no such thing as a “moral victory” but maybe an exception came in a 16-14 loss to unbeaten Rutgers on Saturday afternoon.

A lot of Rutgers fans said they were going to “take over” Lincoln Financial Field. Far from it. There were at least 70 percent Temple fans there, as one of their “honest” fans said.

These Rutgers fans were on the money.

More importantly, Temple was without its best offensive lineman (Adam Klein), best linebacker (Tra Thomas) and two top running backs (Texas A&M transfer Darvon Hubbard and Illinois transfer Jakari Norwood) and played Rutgers to a virtual standoff.

Of course, a real standoff is preferable to a virtual one but the point is all of those guys will be back for the more important conference games.

The Owls were in this game against a Big 10 foe until the very end and there are a couple of “should-have, would-have” plays both fan bases can point to as keys. On the RU end, Temple’s first play from scrimmage should have been a pick 6. On the Temple side, Nathan Stewart dropped a perfectly thrown touchdown pass from E. J. Warner.

Stuff happens. A few plays here and a few plays there make the difference.

On the way out of the stadium, Tony Russo–Anthony Russo’s dad–tapped me on the shoulder. Anthony Russo is one of the top four quarterbacks, statistically, in Temple history. He was 6-4. Warner, as a 6-footer, can’t be blamed for not picking up the danger that lay ahead in a real Pick 6.

“I really like E.J. Warner,” I told him, “but if he was 6-4 like Anthony, he wouldn’t have given up the pick 6. He would have seen over the defense.”

“He’s going to be a real good player here,” Tony Russo said.

“Yeah, I think you’re right.”

Pretty good endorsement from the dad of a former player. Kurt Warner should have been there to hear it.

Minus that play, Temple wins, but it shouldn’t have come down to that.

Temple had a nice little drive going from its own 10 in the final four minutes that would have set up Rory Bell to be the hero with a field goal.

About the second play in, I was hoping for Stan Drayton to throw the halfback pass. All the mental telepathy fell on deaf ears sadly. I think it would have worked. Trey Blair, his halfback, was a terrific quarterback in high school. Pitching it out to Blair might have suckered in the RU defense just enough that Blair could have found a wide-open Adonicas Sanders behind the defense for the win.

Maybe Drayton didn’t know Blair played quarterback in high school or maybe he’s saving that play for a conference game that puts him in the championship. My guess is that the new Temple OC doesn’t realize Blair was a damn good high school quarterback and the play was not in the books.

Hardin would have thrown that halfback pass against Rutgers. Maybe it would have worked, maybe it wouldn’t but he wouldn’t have left it on the table knowing it might have worked.

Moral victories meant even less to him but if Rutgers turns out to be the best team on the Temple 2022 schedule and the Owls use that to win the rest, this will be only “moral victory” we’ve ever seen at Temple.

Monday: Legacy Analysis

RU at TU: What a long, strange, trip it’s been

Temple had to wait until late November to get its first win of the season in 1989.

Unless there are some backroom dealings we don’t know about, Rutgers will be making its last trip to Philadelphia to play Temple tomorrow (2 p.m., Lincoln Financial Field).

Maybe not ever, but certainly for a long, long time.

Temple wins this game at Temple Stadium.

That’s a shame because two FBS college football teams separated by only 67 miles should play probably every year. To put this in perspective, only few other possible matchups are shorter drives among the current 130 FBS teams. In the traditional East, Maryland vs. Navy is closer as is Pitt vs. West Virginia but that’s it.

Rutgers at Temple is not on any future schedule. Temple finishes up the current series in Piscataway next Sept. 9.

It’s a short trip geographically, but a long, strange one, football-wise, for both teams.

Many times–but not all–the unexpected happens.

That’s really a trademark of rivalry games.

Temple won its only game in 1989 by upsetting Rutgers, 36-33, in the season finale at Veterans Stadium. Not a big upset but the Scarlet Knights that year beat Northwestern and Boston College. In 1949, Temple came home from a 54-0 shellacking at the hands of Texas and beat a pretty good Rutgers team, 14-7, at Temple Stadium. RU finished 6-3 that year.

This has been a pretty competitive series. Temple voluntarily forfeited the 1986 game, which it won. The NCAA didn’t recognize Temple’s forfeit so the real lead is 20-16. Both schools, however, are going with the number that includes Temple’s voluntary forfeit so the game notes read 21-15.

Close enough.

It doesn’t really matter though because any series this tight both on the field and geographically qualifies as a rivalry.

RU has played Temple in four Philadelphia stadiums, all inside the City Limits–Temple Stadium, Franklin Field, Veterans Stadium and, now, Lincoln Financial Field.

Our picks this week: Two favorites, two dogs. Love Lance Leipold and the points at Houston, and also Purdue (which probably should be favored) at Syracuse. WSU should kill CSU as should KSU and Kade Warner Tulane.

To be honest, I thought Temple only had a chance to beat Rutgers IF the Owls won at Duke.

I still think that theory applies, but history has trumped logic a few times before in this and maybe it can again.

Let’s put it this way: Temple’s loss to Duke in Week One looked a lot worse then than it does now and Rutgers’ win at Boston College looked a lot better then than now.

Duke dominated Temple but then went on to dominate a Northwestern team that beat Nebraska. Both Temple and Northwestern had similar success, at least from the defensive end, in the second half against Duke.

Boston College, on the other hand, after losing at home to Rutgers by one, lost to a Virginia Tech team that lost to G5 Old Dominion. Then, once you thought ODU was good, the Monarchs got dominated by an East Carolina program that lost four of its six games to Temple.

The other X-factor is that D’Wan Mathis has killed Temple as its quarterback since beating Memphis a year ago. He plays for self-preservation and, if that means putting the ball don’t the ground for the bad guys to pick up, so be it. At least he’s not getting hurt.

Temple partied like it was 1999 in this game.

Rod Carey watched that, folded his arms, looked skyward and kept Mathis in the game, absorbing the beatings.

The new guy, Stan Drayton, proved to Temple fans that he won’t sit back and take beatings last week. He pulled Mathis after the second time he put it on the ground.

E.J. Warner has the opposite mindset and the team has rallied behind him. His style of ball deserves an extended look.

Behind Warner, Temple showed some life against a Lafayette team considerably better than the Wagner team that lost to RU 66-7 a week ago.

Vegas has noticed.

A lot of self-flagellating Temple fans thought the opening 16-point line was low. No doubt a lot of RU fans did, too but Vegas’ job is to set the line to get an equal number of bets on both sides.

The line has gone up to 17.5 in the last five days.

Homecoming should be a factor as Temple was an underdog three of the last four years on HC and won outright all four times. Temple fans grabbed up all of the seats on one side of this field two weeks ago and that contributed to 90 percent of Lot K being filled by Temple fans. On Thursday night, Lincoln Financial Field announced that Lot K parking–the largest lot nearest LFF–is sold out.

Rutgers, no doubt, will bring a large contingent of fans. Our sources in the LFF ticket office predict an announced attendance of 45,000, with roughly a 30,000 Temple group vs. a 15-20K from RU. Only if RU brings 20K could this announced attendance hit 50K. (They base it on Temple grabbing 90 percent of the Lot K parking spots.)

Temple could not have ordered better weather.

To be honest, I do not know what is going to happen either in the stands or on the field.

This could be anything from a 49-7 Rutgers win to Temple repeating its 36-33 upset in 1989.

What we will say is this series needs to be both extended and renewed and, if the administration of both schools is paying attention to their supporters, this better not be the last time Rutgers visits Philadelphia.

Our picks this week: Two favorites, two dogs. Love Lance Leipold and the points at Houston, and also Purdue (which probably should be favored) at Syracuse. WSU should kill CSU as should KSU and Kade Warner Tulane.

Last week ATS: 3-2 (won on Duke, App State and UTSA and lost on ODU and Vandy)

Season ATS: 3-2

Prediction update: Split on this weekend’s games, as our instincts were correct on Lance Leipold winning at Houston and Washington State killing CSU. Only a Hail Mary pass at the Carrier Dome kept us from going to 3-1 as Syracuse beat Purdue and Tulane’s win at Kansas State was a real head-scratcher.

So far: 5-4 ATS on the season.

Sunday: Game Analysis

Monday: Legacy Analysis

The ONE thing certain to shock Rutgers fans

The Temple fan experience will be a lot closer to this 2015 Homecoming Game than any recent one.

There’s a prevalent notion among Rutgers fans that Lincoln Financial Field is somehow “holding back” tickets because there are so few sections available for Saturday’s game.

Conspiracy theories abound but no one in Piscataway has come up with the correct answer. At least not among the literally hundreds of posts about the subject.

A couple of recent Homecoming Crowds: Last year for a 3-9 team, Temple drew 28,564 for the Memphis Homecoming win and, in 2019, the Owls drew 34,253  for another Homecoming win over Memphis. If the Owls get even 30,000 of their own fans and 15,000 Rutgers fans attend, the attendance for this game could push 45,000.

The answer simply is this: The sections that are not available are Temple sections because it’s Temple’s Homecoming. Temple might not win on Saturday, but on the trip back home, the honest Rutgers fans will no doubt reach one conclusion.

“There were a lot more Temple fans there than I thought would be there.”

There are plenty of reasons for this. One, since Matt Rhule started winning in Year Three of his tenure, the SMALLEST crowd for Homecoming was last year (28,564) because the fan base was shellshocked by the 1-6 Rod Carey COVID season of 2020. That crowd was still pretty loud and the atmosphere lifted one of the worst Temple teams of the past decade to a win over Memphis.

Temple beats Cincinnati in this 2018 Homecoming Game.

There seems to be a notion in North Jersey that Rutgers fans are somehow going to “take over” Lincoln Financial Field. While it was true back in 2012 when Steve Addazio was head coach of a LOSING Temple team, it does not figure to be true now.

That RU-TU game was NOT Temple’s Homecoming and that Temple team was on the way to a 4-7 season.

Temple Homecoming crowds generally average about 10,000 more than the other five home games. At least the last half-dozen HC games or so.

The best Rutgers’ fans can hope for is a 50-50 split, even though the numbers now indicate from the sections available that the Temple side is nearly sold out and it would probably be a 60/40 Temple lean.

Allentown (Pa.) nightly news anchor Rob Vaughn (the Jim Gardner of the Lehigh Valley), comments on last year’s HC crowd.

The Stan Drayton hire seems to have energized the fan base and probably the kind of atmosphere fans can expect is the Homecoming Game of 2015 (see above video). Plus, it’s Dr. Jason Wingard’s induction as Temple President and there are a lot of pre-game ceremonies planned for more than a year for this day. Temple people who see one football game a year will be at this one.

RU has never been to the Linc for a Temple Homecoming, at least since the program was revitalized by Al Golden and Matt Rhule. It literally is the ONLY game a lot of fans come to every year and that in and of itself guarantees a large Temple contingent. Temple has had its attendance troubles, but never on this one day a year. You cannot expect the average Rutgers fan understands that data. That seems to fuel a lot of misconceptions about what the size of the Temple crowd will be from a North Jersey perspective.

The only sections available on the Temple season ticket side are two at the club level.

The fact that this is a regional rival suggests there is even more Temple interest in this game than the two most recent Homecoming wins against Memphis or even the 2018 Homecoming win over a Cincinnati team that came in with a 6-0 record.

Will Rutgers bring the most impressive visiting fan contingent in the last half-dozen years? No doubt. Is Rutgers taking over the Linc?

That’s a notion certain to be disabused by late Saturday afternoon.

Friday: Temple-Rutgers Preview

TU-Lafayette: Warts and All

An old friend of mine who was able to get into the locker room after Temple’s 30-14 win over Lafayette on Saturday noticed something odd about the celebration.

“A little over the top, if you ask me,” he said. “I mean, I’ve seen some pro teams celebrating championships that were compatible. It was Lafayette, after all.”

I told him that’s the half-empty way of looking at it.

The half-full way is this:

First, Temple had the second-longest losing streak in the country going into the game and finally shook that monkey off its back. That had to fuel the intensity of the celebration.

Two, the team has bonded with the new coach, Stan Drayton, the way it never did with the prior coach and had to revel in Drayton’s special first win.

Three, the Lafayette piece might be over exaggerated because a year and a week ago the same Leopards’ team traveled to Colorado and played to a similarly respectable 35-14 score against Air Force. A year ago, the Falcons beat Navy (23-3), Boise State (24-17) and Louisville (31-28).

Prior to that, last September, that was a Falcon team that came into the game a 40.5-point favorite against a Lafayette team that last year was not quite as good as this year’s version.

By comparison, this year’s Temple team was an 18.5-point favorite over Lafayette early last week but that line dropped to 13.5 by game time.

Even a 10-3 Air Force team wasn’t able to blow out Lafayette and that USAF team is considerably better than this Temple team (or even this year’s Rutgers team for that matter).

That’s not to say the Owls should be excused for their numerous warts but there were enough smooth spots to be encouraged.

Temple took care of business 92 years ago against a Lafayette team that tied Penn State, beat Rutgers, and had a winning season. Not quite the same result two days ago but a win is a win.

It’s hard to beat any team, FBS or FCS, losing four fumbles and that’s a part of the game Temple needs to rectify going forward.

This was not the Wagner of last year Temple played. Wagner has now lost 22-straight games and has the longest losing streak in FCS. Lafayette is a legitimate contender for the Patriot League title with Holy Cross, a team that beat Buffalo on Saturday night. 

Who knows would have happened if the Owls had taken care of the ball better or had they remained with the run after Darvon Hubbard ripped off 50 yards on four-straight carries? For some reason, the Owls decided that throwing the ball four-straight times after that success was a good idea. 

Maybe they were on their way to a 66-7 type win like the one Rutgers had over Wagner. Maybe not.

We will never know but they held Lafayette to just 110 total yards and that has to mean something. Also meaning something is that De’Von Fox broke the Temple record of blocked punts in one game with three. Update: According to Shawn Pastor of OwlsDaily.com, Sharif Finch had two blocked punts against East Carolina in 2015. What Fox’s performance and the overall tightness of that part of the game means is that special teams, which Al Golden (correctly) said is a third of your team is now that important again.

That means a lot because the prior guy didn’t think it meant 1/100th of a team.

It should also mean something that a 10-3 Air Force team of a year ago wasn’t able to do much better and that’s a half-full glass worth raising. At least at the Rutgers’ pre-game tailgate.

Wednesday: Temple’s Homecoming Crowds

E.J. Warner: Temple Underdog

Who knew the possible sequel might involve Temple?

Driving home the other night, I turned on the Westwood One national radio broadcast of the Bills-Rams game to hear the best play-by-play guy in the business, Kevin Harlan.

After listening to the final minutes, Harlan signed off with this:

“Goodnight everyone and Let’s Go Temple and Let’s Go Kansas State!”

What?

Kurt, E.J. and Brenda Warner on signing day.

I was backing into the driveway when I heard that and almost knocked over two trash cans.

Obviously, the Temple reference was a tip of the cap to his color analyst, Kurt Warner, whose son plays at Temple.

Didn’t know until today that Warner also has a son with plays at Kansas State.

Warner’s laugh was the last thing I heard before the broadcast faded to silence.

The Warners, Kurt and Brenda, were at Kansas State vs. Missouri. After what their youngest son, E.J., did in a 30-14 win over Lafayette on Saturday, the Warners might be in Philadelphia this Saturday for the Rutgers’ game (2 p.m., Homecoming). He might even almost reunite with a former Arena League teammate, Brian Krulikowski, a pretty good former Owl player who is a regular at Temple tailgates.

Brian Krulikowski and Kurt Warner.

Warner, who started the season at No. 3 in the depth chart. was the surprise No. 2 quarterback and, while he hasn’t saved the year yet, he undoubtedly saved the day.

There is no doubt in my mind had D’Wan Mathis remained in the game and continued his horrible and disinterested play, the Owls would have suffered a 2013-type Fordham defeat. As it is, Warner was more than a game manager. Unlike Mathis, he took care of the football. Unlike Mathis, whose instinct for self-preservation trumps team preservation, he stood in and took vicious hits on two nicely thrown touchdown passes.

How bad would it have been to lose to a Patriot League team?

Ask Buffalo, which lost to Holy Cross, 37-31, tonight.

We wrote in this space a few days ago that Mathis needed to be replaced. In my 40-plus years of watching Temple football, I have seen few more talented quarterbacks than Mathis, but never a player who looks like he wants no parts of getting hit or even being out there. For all of the limited ability of recent quarterbacks like Chester Stewart, Vaughn Charlton and Mike Gerardi, there can be no doubt that all were trying their best.

I’ve never gotten the same vibe from Mathis.

We thought the logical replacement would be Quincy Patterson, who was 7-0 as a starter at North Dakota State last year, and previously led Virginia Tech to a 43-41 win over North Carolina.

Little did we realize that E.J. Warner’s career has progressed so rapidly since joining the team.

No one should know about career advancement more than Warner’s dad, who was the subject of the very best movie I’ve seen in the last dozen months. American Hero is a superb account of Kurt’s rise from college to Arena League All-Star to NFL MVP.

Mind you, we’re not saying E.J. will be an NFL MVP like his dad but, for one day, he was a Temple Underdog and that’s worth some kind of sequel. If he beats Rutgers, Temple Underdog sounds like a box office hit.

Monday: Warts and All

Lafayette: The game Temple needs

Stan Drayton went easy on his squad in the post-game but I guarantee you a lot of Temple fans were thinking this after the FIRST half on Friday night.

Anyone who has followed this space over the years knows our position on playing FCS teams.

Simply this: Power 5 teams can afford the body bag games but Group of Five teams looking to move up can’t. They must recruit to beat P5 teams, schedule them, and beat them.

It’s a hard road but it’s the only way a G5 team will ever find the P5 Promised Land.

For those staying at home, the Temple game will be on ESPN+ at 2 p.m. Saturday.

All that said, though, after last week, Lafayette might not be the game Temple wants but it most certainly is the game Temple needs right now. Nine months of optimism pretty much went out the window for much of the fan base after Duke handled the Owls, 30-0, on Friday night.

This wasn’t Bama, Georgia, Ohio State or even Vanderbilt. It was Duke, perhaps with Northwestern the worst P5 team a year ago. The Temple players and coaching staff might not be shellshocked but certainly a significant part of the fan base is.

Our picks this week, going with all underdogs to cover except UTSA, who we like to win by at least a FG at Army.

The expectations for Saturday’s game against the Leopards range from a Delaware State-type of beatdown (59-0) to roughly a 21-7 Owl survival. Those few thinking it will be a 50/50 ball should relax. There is only one player on Lafayette who COULD start for Temple but he’s a very good one in 6-3, 246-pound defensive end Malik Hamm, who is a four-time All-Patriot first-team lineman.

We will say this. Hamm needs to have about 20 sacks in this game for the Leopards to have any chance of winning. He has 23.5 for his career. He wears No. 99. He should be easy to find. Run away from him and the Owls should be good.

To be honest, maybe a few of the players have a slight case of shellshock, too, after nothing the coaching staff did against Duke worked. There was too much East/West running, too few North/South plays and no passes of any significant distance. Getting a very good blocking tight end, David Martin-Robinson, back (he’s day-to-day) should help. It might also benefit the Owls to put Adam Klein at center and use both Victor Stoffel and Isaac Moore at tackles to stabilize a shaky offensive line. This might be a game to make that experiment.

Malik Hamm would not only start at Temple, but be a pretty good player for the Owls who have to be wary of him Saturday.

Also, IF D’Wan Mathis starts (Drayton said on his radio show that competition is day-to-day), he must put points on the board. Drayton can’t keep rolling out a quarterback who consistently posts three-and-outs. It sends a bad message to the rest of the team.

Defensively, “simulated” pressure must become real pressure but that’s more for down the road and not Lafayette. The Owls figure to get numerous sacks from their regular front this Saturday.

No predictions of a score this week other than it must be time well-spent to get ready for the more significant challenges down the road.

Saturday Late Night: Game Analysis

PIcks Update: Went 3-2 against the spread. Won on UTSA barely covering the -2.5 at Army (winning, 41-38); won on App. State covering the +17 at Texas A&M (App State won outright); won on Duke covering the +9.5 at Northwestern (Duke won outright) and lost on Old Dominion at ECU and Wake at Vandy.

Last week: 3-2

YTD: 3-2

The Compelling Case for Quincy Patterson

After about five straight years of heading up to the “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” show, which had been a fun day trip every summer, I heard a familiar number five minutes after finishing the test.

There were about 200 dreamers there in June of 2011.

The show producer said “we have only two people who passed the test. Number 16 and No. 54.”

Fifty-four, that was me. I raised my hand.

Not shocked because I thought I got every question right on the 30-question grid except the one about rap music.

Then I went through an interview–sitting at a table in the front of the ABC-TV commissary and answering questions– and they said they’d call.

They never did.

I found out the reason much later. On a Reddit board dedicated to the show, someone who said she once “worked for the program” explained the interview process.

“We wanted only overly excited people,” she said. “If you weren’t jumping up and down, basically we never called. You had to show you really loved the game. If you acted like you were there for us to give you a million, we’d pass on that person.”

Patterson beat a North Carolina team that held Temple to just 13 points.

That was me. Not overly excited, just wanted the chance at the million bucks.

I thought about this story the other night after watching D’Wan Mathis play quarterback at Temple for the eighth time.

Eight is enough.

D’Wan Mathis just looks like he’s out there to get a chance at a million bucks if the NFL calls somewhere down the road. Not overly excited about playing the game itself. After Duke took a 7-0 first-quarter lead, Temple had seven second-quarter possessions and Mathis led them to six three-and-outs. Game, set and match.

The hard lesson I learned and I hope Mathis does is that you DO have to be overly excited to even get the chance at a million bucks but that’s just not his personality. Nor mine.

Nothing wrong with that but quarterback is a position where you need a fiery leader, someone who doesn’t settle for three-and-outs. Someone who instead of throwing the ball away on third down with an open lane ahead of him, takes off and runs and buys his teammates three more downs.

Mathis hasn’t been that person at either Georgia or Temple.

Quincy Patterson has been that at both Virginia Tech and North Dakota State. At least more than Mathis has in two places.

That’s one of the reasons Patterson needs to be the starter against Lafayette on Saturday.

If the Duke game were the outlier, that would be one thing. Of Mathis’ eight Temple starts, his one good one last year (Memphis) appears to be the outlier. No Temple starter since Chester Stewart or maybe Vaughn Charlton has started a career with this many three-and-outs. Temple had no other options then.

It does now.

Starting Mathis again on Saturday against Lafayette would be Fool’s Gold. He could look great in that game and lay an egg against Rutgers a week later. To be honest, Mathis did not look all that great against Wagner last year.

Starting Patterson could be doubly beneficial for the Owls. He gets a warmup game for Rutgers and has a chance to rally the team around his personality so it spreads to the rest of the Owls and gives them a better chance at winning the Homecoming game. Right now, the team has taken on Mathis’ lackluster on-field personality and that kind of malaise can be a poison pill.

Wanting to be a millionaire is one thing but you can’t get there if you aren’t jumping up and down for the opportunity. After eight games, we know that much about Mathis. Stan Drayton shouldn’t have to wait for eight more before reaching that same conclusion.

Friday: Lafayette preview

TU-Duke: An unmitigated disaster

You needed to look no further than down the dial to see the current state of two Group of Five programs on Friday night.

On one ESPN channel at halftime, G5 Old Dominion was taking care of business at ACC power Virginia Tech with a 10-7 lead.

On another ESPN channel at the same time, G5 Temple was floundering like the fish out of water Rod Carey was here in a 24-0 deficit against ACC cellar-dweller Duke.

The Owls lost that game, 30-0, but many of the same problems that existed in a 3-9 season a year ago for this once-proud Temple program surprisingly resurfaced in the first half.

We thought it would be different but it wasn’t and that’s the saddest takeaway from Friday night. Surprisingly, because we were told by the players and the coaching staff that the whole vibe has changed but on the most important day, game night, it was a rerun of a year ago. Lackluster with no energy.

D’Wan Mathis demonstrated–pretty much like he did in a 3-9 season a year ago–that he was not particularly bothered by multiple three-and-outs. That kind of laisse fair attitude spread like a pandemic to the rest of the team–special teams, defense, and offense.

You are only as good as your leaders are and that includes both the quarterback and the head coach.

To me, the first mistake of the Stan Drayton Era was sticking with Mathis after a scoreless first quarter.

I mean, why do you bring in another four-star quarterback like Quincy Patterson to compete with Mathis and settle for multiple three-and-outs in a real game?

You don’t.

If the competition is open in practice, you should be able to lose the job in a game if you don’t turn the scoreboard into an adding machine.

At the end of one quarter and multiple three-and-outs, you bring in Patterson. Send the message both to Mathis and the rest of the squad that failure in any aspect of the game is unacceptable by this new staff.

Maybe he rallies the team around him. Maybe he doesn’t.

But you don’t sit there and get your ass beat because your starter can’t make plays to keep drives alive.

After five-straight three-and-outs near the end of the first half, Drayton went over to Mathis and patted him on the back. I wouldn’t have done that. I wouldn’t have hit him in the head but I would have told him to take a seat and let Quincy see what he could do. (Nick Saban would have hit him in the head.)

The point is that if you give Mathis five three-and-outs, to be fair, you have to give Patterson the same kind of rope. Mathis cannot be the starter forever if he keeps putting up zeros on the board.

You light a fire under him and you light a fire under the rest of the team.

On the other side of the ball, you don’t let the bad guys’ quarterback sit back and pick you apart with a base defense. If you can’t get to him with four, you bring five. If you can’t get to him with five, you bring six. If you can’t get to him with six, you bring seven. Bring the entire team on passing situations. At some point, you have to make him eat dirt and like the taste.

That’s Temple football.

At least it has been in the past.

Maybe it can be in the future but, judging from Drayton’s disappointing debut, that future is a lot farther off than we previously thought.

Sunday: The Compelling Case for Quincy Patterson