5 Things To Work On In The Bye Week

UCF is still having nightmares about Ventell Bryant

One of the mottos of Temple football is to be 1-0 every week.

That’s hard to do this week since it’s a bye one.

That doesn’t mean what happens this week can’t contribute to being 1-0 next week.

Let’s think about it. Both Temple and UCF have a “bye” week this week, which means both the Owls and the Knights are spending extra time pouring over the other team’s tendencies in an effort to gain some kind of advantage in preparation.


The first person to congratulate PJ in the end zone? Anthony Russo.

The team that both changes up what they do and attacks the weakness of the opponent will probably come out on top.

I don’t have any game film on UCF but, according to the NCAA stats, UCF’s rushing defense is ranked No. 91st and its passing defense 46th. I’m not a math major, but it would seem to be easier to beat UCF with a steady diet of runs versus passes.

If I was the Temple OC, I would be devising a game plan based on attacking the Knights via the ground. That usually means running Ryquell Armstead (who will be 100 percent a week from Thursday) behind fullback Rob Ritrovato but current OC Dave Patenaude is stubborn to the edge of insanity in his refusal to use a fullback as a lead blocker. Still, running the ball against a weak run defense has to be the focal point of any game plan. It worked for Memphis. It can work for Temple.

Did Temple learn anything about running the ball against a weak run defense when it failed to attack the Achilles Heel of Buffalo? Geez, you’ve got to hope something good came out of that disaster.

Patenaude’s been banging his head against a wall all season so maybe it’s too much to expect that he puts some ice on it. I know that. You know that. He doesn’t know that and I don’t think even Geoff Collins knows that. If the light bulb hasn’t gone on yet, they are still using kerosene lamps at the EO.

What Patenaude has shown he is willing to do–just in the Maryland game–was to run tight ends in motion as lead blockers for Armstead, opening up the entire offense with play-action. We can only hope he is willing to do the same in Orlando. He must if the Owls are going to have any chance.

That’s the No. 1 thing to work on this week and next, establishing the run, controlling the clock and keeping the ball out of Heisman Trophy candidate McKenzie Milton’s right hand.

Here are four more:

Attack the center of the field. UCF game film almost exclusively has the Owls attacking the perimeter on passing routes, primarily fades. Pump faking those routes and throwing over the middle to tight ends Kenny Yeboah and Chris Myrick is something UCF won’t expect.

Use trick plays that work. Since Patenaude’s almost never do, take a page out of Matt Rhule’s playbook and line Toddy Centeio up as a wide receiver. Have Centeio catch a double pass from Anthony Russo and then throw downfield to either Isaiah Wright or Ventell Bryant, who usually catch everything within their zip codes. A variation of this play worked for Rhule at SMU when he used Jalen Fitzpatrick–a former Big 33 quarterback– on an end around touchdown pass to Robby Anderson for a long touchdown. Other tried and true Temple trick plays have been Adam DiMichele’s jump pass to TE Steve Manieri for six in a Tuesday night game against Ohio and another jump pass to the tight end from Chester Stewart (for Al Golden) at the Fake Miami. Maybe even allow DiMichele, the QB coach, to draw those up. Another was ADM’s fake kneel down at Navy. If the Owls have the ball with the clock winding down in the first half, that’s always a good one. Navy got suckered and Bruce Francis was 20 yards behind the nearest defender for an easy six.

Shore up the perimeter run defense. For some reason, Temple has susceptible to the perimeter run for the past three games. From my observation, it’s been smaller defensive ends being too easily being sealed off on edge blocks. Change up the personnel and replace those smallish ends with more athletic and harder to move ones like Dan Archibong (6-5, 295) and Karamo Dioubate (6-4, 265) and trust Michael Dogbe and Freddy Booth-Lloyd to handle the middle of the 4-3. UCF knows it can attack the perimeter. Having Dan and Karomo there will disabuse it of that notion.

Make good use of the holder. For many seasons, the Owls’ holder on field goals has been the punter. This year, it’s Anthony Russo. A fake field goal–something the Owls have not shown all year–won’t be a high priority for UCF.  Since Will Mobley isn’t a long-distance kicker, this might prove to be a better option than punting on the UCF 35 or so.

Also, ditch the Centeio packages. They don’t work because they telegraph Temple’s intention to run Centeio. You could hear the Cincinnati players yell out “watch the run” and point to No. 16 in Section 121 at LFF last week. It doesn’t fool anyone.

Might be a good idea to brush up on 32-second, no timeout, drill, too. There’s a good blueprint for that at the top of this post.

Thursday: Shallow Owl



Unpacking Media Day

This is the exact moment the great Ventell Bryant checked out of the Dave Patenaude Inn.

In the college football world of haves and have-nots, there is definitely a “have-not” feel among the Group of Five members.

Has been, maybe always will be.

At least for now, it is.

Among those G-fivers, though, the American Conference represents the haves and, among the AAC group, Temple has to be mentioned near the top.

That was clear after AAC Media Day on Tuesday, even though the Owls were picked to finish third in the AAC East for the second-straight year.

Reputation is based more on what you have done than what you are predicted to do and, with that as the criteria, Temple is royalty in this conference.

Only three schools—Houston, Temple and UCF—have won league titles and only two, Houston and Temple, have appeared in two title games.

Last year, the scribes who cover the league were right when they (correctly) predicted the Owls to finish third. This year, the nagging feeling is that they won’t be.

At least that’s the feeling among the Owls themselves.

Ventell Bryant put it best on his twitter feed.


What does Bryant know that they don’t?

Start with Frank Nutile being the quarterback for five of the last seven Temple games (all wins, except for  losing to the national champions and a debacle we describe below), including a 28-3 thumping of Florida International in the Bad Boy Mowers Bowl. Add in the mix Bryant himself, who after saving Temple’s season with a spectacular circus catch to set up the game-winning field goal in the Villanova game, disappeared for the remainder of the season.


Doctorate of Offensive Football Philosophy

Partly that was due to injuries, but mostly that was due to checking out and not being a believer in OC Dave Patenaude’s “Coastal Carolina Soft” offense. With Ed Foley being named “head coach of the offense” Bryant has checked back into the Conwell Inn where  the hope is an established running game will create more play-action openings in the second. There can be no debate who was the best Owl receiver in the 2016 championship season and that was Bryant himself, whose heroics basically won the UCF game in Orlando two years ago and could not be contained by Navy in the title game.

The key to Temple repeating the mediocrity of 2017 and becoming great is simply this: Does Collins realize successful Temple football is first establishing the run and THEN faking it into the belly of a great tailback on play-action to open things up for the passing game or does he continue to believe in the failed philosophy of his Coastal Carolina OC, who inexplicably passed on first and goal from the 1 at Army last year when he had the best fullback in the country available to lead block for a tailback who was unstoppable against that squad? Patenaude did similar, OK we’ll be frank, shit all season. Like North Carolina fans said about Dean Smith, only he could stop Michael Jordan. Only another Carolina guy (this time Coastal) could make the “best fullback in the country” disappear for most of the 2017 season.

It’s Common Sense 101 that once Rock Armstead (or Jager Gardner) gauges a defense behind fullback Nitro Ritrovato blocking for big gains to start a game, the linebackers and safeties for the “bad guys” will inch closer to the line of scrimmage to help with run support. Once that happens, it’s much easier to fake the run and find Temple receivers so open in the secondary Nutile will not know which one to pick out. Football is not Rocket Science. It never was and never will be. It took two years for Matt Rhule to figure that out. Will it take two years for Collins or has he learned after one year?

That’s the difference between this 2018 team going 10-2 or better or repeating a 7-6 season.

Ed Foley understands this concept and that might be why the players have bought into the system this season and not last.

Bryant, a Temple grad like most of us reading this blog, could be unstoppable.

With Isaiah Wright on the other side of the field, defensive backs head should be spinning and Nutile will have options.

Given that, and the fact that the UCF head coach will be learning on the job, UCF might not be the slam dunk the AAC writers think it will be. Geoff Collins already made his first-year mistakes.

It’s time for somebody else to do the same.

That might be enough.

They don’t even know.

We don’t, either, but by the time December comes around, do not be surprised if Temple is a three-time visitor to the AAC title game.

It all depends on what the playbook is, the 2016 successful one, or the 2017 failed one.

Monday: The Case for The Defense

Crunching Leadership Numbers

More leaders coming back in these 32 seconds than have left.

A few weeks ago, someone broached a question about who the leaders will be on the 2017 Temple football team.

It was a fair question because a couple of leaders left on offense and a couple of more left on defense in Jahad Thomas and P.J. Walker and Haason Reddick and Nate Hairston.

The answer lies in the numbers.



This (left) more than made up for that (right).



Or, in this case, the number because the returning single-digit guys—particularly Nick Sharga and Ventell Byrant on offense and Jacob Martin and Champ Chandler on defense—are natural-born leaders and provide enough quantity to go along with the quality.

It’s no coincidence that Thomas, Walker and Reddick were single-digit guys and there is no law against any of the other guys assuming leadership roles, as No. 15 Hairston did by locking down one corner.

Anyone who thinks there is a dearth of leadership on the 2017 team should be disabused of that notion.

All you had to do was look at the widely viewed tape of “The Drive” when Bryant not only caught three clutch passes in 32 seconds against UCF, but staggered to his position just before the final play from scrimmage. Any other player would have been so hurt he remained down but, even though he was groggy he had enough sense to realize that if he had stayed down, there would have been a 10-second runoff and Temple would have lost the game.

That’s leadership.

That presence of mind led to the latest single-digit guy, Keith Kirkwood, who saw a ball in the air and knew he had to catch or the game was over. Kirkwood made a great catch in the back of the end zone and the Owls were on their way to a seven-game winning streak.

Kirkwood, Bryant and Adonis Jennings, among others, give the Owls what I feel is their best receiving corps since Van Johnson and Troy Kersey were on the same team.

On defense, with Chandler in the middle of the field for a full season and Martin and Sharif Finch creating Mayhem in the pocket on defense, the Owls are in good shape.

At this point, it should be fun watching this team develop their own identity between now and opening day.


Friday:  Month of Mayhem

The Path Forward

Thanks to Paul Palmer for the audio file and Ricky Swalm for the YouTube work.

For someone who never used a drug harder than an occasional Coors Light and never understood the power of drugs or addiction, I’ve been overdosing on a couple of things over the last 48 hours.

Strawberry (I call them Cherry) Twizzlers and the 32-second drive.

I can’t get enough, eating the Twizzlers and snorting the video below. There are a couple of things worth noting in the video, the smarts and sheer courage of Ventell Bryant in both getting out of bounds and getting up and staggering to the line of scrimmage before the final play and the presence of mind of his teammates to get him lined up. If Bryant stays down, a 10-second runoff happens and the Owls lose. Also, P.J. Walker made four great throws and the last one under a significant amount of duress and, of course, the Keith Kirkwood great catch. Also, Anthony Russo’s participation in the celebration is noteworthy. One whiff of any of those things creates a significant high combined with the munchie Twizzlers.

My addiction, though, is harmless. If the team and the coaches have not moved on from Saturday night’s high, going to rehab will be a necessary trip on the way to a six-win season. What the victory on Saturday purchased in currency was very valuable, their own destiny, with regard to an American Athletic Conference championship and a possible double-digit-win season. They need not rely on anyone else but themselves to win the title. If they had lost, they would have needed help.

That cannot be understated because of what is ahead of them in the very next game.

South Florida will come into Lincoln Financial Field on Friday not only as the preseason favorite to take the AAC East title, but as six-point favorites over the Owls. If the Owls can somehow make one more play than USF, like they did against UCF on Saturday night, the path to an AAC title opens as wide as a six-lane highway in rural Montana. USF is the toughest game left and the teams after USF, like Cincinnati and UConn, have serious flaws than USF doesn’t have. If the Owls can somehow win out—and there are only five games left—they will LIKELY host the AAC title game in Philadelphia. (West contenders Houston, Navy and Memphis could not each other out of hosting the game.)

Houston, which was ceded the title by most a few weeks ago, does not seem so unbeatable anymore. Navy beat the Cougars two weeks ago and Tulsa—a team that struggled against SMU—probably should have beaten them on Saturday night.

The Owls’ defense appears to be coming around, shutting out a UCF offense over the last two quarters (19-0) that scored 47 on ECU.

Anything is possible if the Owls focus on Friday and stay away from the munchies and that anything might be a championship.

Thursday: Game Preview

Saturday: Game Analysis