Best Result: Good Guys a Lot, Bad Guys a Little

Cincinati had to kick a field goal with 18 secods left here to beat Delaware Sttate, 23-7, in 2012.

Cincinnati had to kick a field goal with 58 seconds left here to beat Delaware State, 23-7, in 2012.

When people ask me about my favorite Temple football games of all time, a lot of them expect me to say the Navy game of 2009 and the New Mexico Bowl win of 2011 or the Garden State Bowl win of 1979.
Nah, I say. All fun games, but not in my top three.
My favorite Temple football game of all time was Temple 45, Delaware 0. A close second was Temple 31, Delaware 8—both at Delaware before capacity houses of over 20,000 fans. (I also enjoyed Temple 56, Uconn 7, at Franklin Field and the 56-28 and 49-7 wins over Rutgers.) At Veterans Stadium, when Delaware was the top-ranked team in Division II (now FCS) football, Temple beat Delaware 36-7 (see inset). I enjoyed that game very much. topranked
All of those schools liked to talk smack about Temple back in the day and it was especially gratifying when Temple did the talking back by pointing to the scoreboard.
You get my drift. When the good guys score a lot and the bad guys score a little, those are usually my favorite Temple football games.

Delaware State is Delaware Light.

Delaware State brings a new meaning to the term “bad guys” on Saturday, perhaps because they are as bad on the field (0-3) as they are in the community.

I’m expecting a big game from the good guys on Saturday, only because Temple needs to get some work done on offense. If it does do good work, the Owls should light up the scoreboard.

Or it could be like Cincinnati in 2012, which plodded to a 23-7 win over the same program.

Hopefully, it will be more like those Temple vs. Delaware scores above.

Taking Care of Business

Matt Rhule’s press conference this week.

One of those little annoyances about Temple football is the inability to sustain a weekly highlight show in the Philadelphia market.

Penn State has one. Notre Dame has one. Even Rutgers has one. Temple, which has 155,000 of its 275,000 graduates still living in the Philadelphia TV market, does not–unless you are counting the Temple TV station (Channel 55 on Comcast) in Philadelphia. While tossing and turning and thinking about Fordham and Idaho at 4 a.m. this morning, I went through the channels looking for a replay of The Roosevelts (PBS, every night this week) and found Matt Rhule’s press conference instead.

Hopefully, the producers of that show will put a microphone in the crowd because you cannot hear a single question being posed.

Maybe if Temple goes to a bowl, the highlights’ show returns to Comcast next season.

That’s one order of business that needs to be taken care of and it won’t be accomplished without a big win over Delaware State. I’m not one of those Temple fans who writes “I’ll settle for a one-point win.” I’m settling for a big win–about 44-7 would be nice, 63-0 would be better.

I’m on record as saying Matt Rhule would be better for this program than Steve Addazio ever would have been, but he’s got to start doing some of the things that Daz made routine–including putting away these lesser opponents. When Daz arrived, the uni needed him to take care of business against Villanova and he did that twice by 42-7 and 41-10 scores. Against a service academy with strict academic admissions standards and a five-year post-graduate commitment, Army, Daz put up 63 points by throwing just five passes. Temple, with no such tight restrictions, should have been recruiting at a level for the past five years that made beating these service academies routine.

Rhule and the Owls need to take care of business starting Saturday.

Press Conference Notes: Somewhat surprised that we won’t be seeing Zaire Williams any time soon, but I hope that his problems are all injury related and he makes a big comeback …. doesn’t look like the Owl coaches took any time watching the Eagles’ game Monday night to see how the Eagles used 5-6, 170-pound Darren Sproles. Too bad because that’s the best way to use Khalif Herbin, who was drafted No. 1 by his teammates in the Cherry and White Day Draft. The kids know who can play and who can’t. Too bad the coaches don’t seem to know. My biggest fear is that for the second year in a row the most unique offensive talent for Temple will be lost on an island of inactivity. Call it Slot Receiver Island for Herbin; last year it was Tight End Island for Chris Coyer. It’s No-Man’s Land for Temple. Just like to see five … five .. Darren Sproles-like carries from scrimmage for Herbin on Saturday. If he does nothing, put him back in No Man’s Land … What are they afraid of? …. Good interview with Temple center Kyle Friend on Temple TV this week. They asked him about goals and he said winning every play should be the focus. Seems humble for the best center in the AAC and a great leader for the Owls to follow. .. looks like David Hood will get some carries this week. Owls need to find an explosive guy who can take it to the house at RB.

The Next Robbie Anderson Could Bring Some Juice

Temple commit Cortrelle Simpson catches 3 touchdown passes for over 100 yards in receiving on Friday.

Temple commit Cortrelle Simpson catches 3 touchdown passes for over 100 yards in receiving on Friday.

I don’t know about you but, for the last few months, I’ve heard about Temple having the “next Robbie Anderson” in the fold.

The only people who could stop Anderson were the Temple professors who flunked him out of school. (I would have done what every big-time school does and stash Anderson away in Basketweaving 101, but Temple has a lot of catching up to do in that area. Heck, Basketweaving 101 is how I got through Temple.)

Wish he were slightly taller than 5-11, but that 40 time (4.33) would make him the fastest player currently on the TU roster (Khalif Herbin has been timed at 4.34). Maybe he'll have a senior growth spurt and shoot up to 6-2.

Wish he were slightly taller than 5-11, but that 40 time (4.33) would make him the fastest player currently on the TU roster (Khalif Herbin has been timed at 4.34). Maybe he’ll have a senior growth spurt and shoot up to 6-2.

You know, a couple of guys who were about 6-4, 6-5, who could run like Khalif Herbin, catch the ball like Larry Fitzgerald, and have the moves in the open field like Paul Palmer. A guy who P.J. Walker can just throw the ball up to and the 6-4 size and vertical leap and Temple ‘][‘’ rubber gloves would cling to it. Then strong enough to break a tackle in the middle of the field and fast enough to turn around and make RAC yards.

Temple has played two games this season and I haven’t seen him yet. Temple’s best receiver is a 5-10 slot receiver named Jalen Fitzpatrick, who has done all of the good things we’ve come to expect of him in his last three years at Temple. This guy was clutch enough to catch the game-tying touchdown at UConn two seasons ago, so we know he’s solid.

Still, he’s not likely to do what Anderson did and that’s catch nine TD passes in five games and become virtually uncoverable.

If he cannot do it, maybe Cortrelle Simpson can. Simpson got off to a good start over the weekend and it is chronicled in the Washington Post here.

Hint: If you are 6-4, can run like the wind and have sticky fingers and currently are on the Temple roster, please start making some explosive plays downfield now. You’ve got a one-year head start.

In Search of a Home Run Hitter

For what seemed to be forever, even in bad seasons, Temple football always had a guy who you could hand the ball off to and put the fear in the minds of the defense that he has the speed and explosiveness to take it to the house on any given down.

The Owls went from guys Anthony Anderson and Zack Dixon and Kevin Duckett to guys like Paul Palmer and Todd McNair to guys like Elmarko Jackson and Stacy Mack to Jason McKie and Tanardo Sharps to the more recent vintage of Bernard Pierce, Matty Brown and Montel Harris.

You could call Temple ‘][‘ailback U.

That really has not existed the last two seasons. Sure, getting Archbishop Ryan’s under-recruited star, Samir Bullock–whose running style is shocking similar to Pierce’s–would solve the problem, but that solution is a year away if at all.

Nobody bitched after Matty Brown switched; I have a strong feeling the same would happen if Khalif switched, too.

Nobody bitched after Matty Brown switched; I have a strong feeling the same would happen if Khalif switched, too.

It’s not like Temple is waiting to recruit the next BP, because I believe he’s currently in the house and that’s between Khalif Herbin, Jamie Gilmore, Zach Thomas and David Hood. Supposedly at least two of those players are getting a fair tryout at running the football this week. I believe all  should get at least five handoffs from scrimmage against Delaware State and whomever emerges from the pack–both literally and figuratively–should get the job going forward. For some reason, whether they are banged up or not, Temple’s other backs have not shown the speed to get to the corner.  I don’t know what happened to Zaire Williams but seeing him getting caught from behind at SMU on a sure touchdown last year was an eye-opener. That wouldn’t have happened to Pierce or Brown.

To me, the offensive line is not a great concern. They had a bad game against Navy, but they pushed around a defensive line at Vanderbilt that had some success last year in the SEC.

The big concern on the offense is finding a true Temple Tailback U guy to follow the blocks of that offensive line (and  maybe even fullback Kenny Harper) to explosive gains downfield. Establishing the running game would open up the play-action passing game of P.J. Walker. Right now, Temple’s passing game seems to be locked into throwing little flares out of the backfield and into double-coverage in the  end zone.

Herbin won the New Jersey State Player of the Year Award in 2011–a year before P.J. Walker won it–for his ability to run the ball from the line of scrimmage, yet the Owl coaches insist on putting him at receiver, a position he’s had no success in the past. That was Al Golden’s plan for Matty Brown, to convert him from successful running back to the new position of slot  receiver, before Pierce’s NCAA clearinghouse issues prompted Golden to use him at his more natural position of RB. Brown, who is smaller and slower than Herbin, held onto that position for the rest of his career. Temple fans were glad his talents were not wasted at slot receiver. That move helped Golden become a million-dollar coach.

All Herbin needs is the same chance. I hope he gets it against Del. State and, err, runs with it.

Throwback Thursday: Garden State Bowl

Since there’s no opponent this week, thought the Throwback Thursday segment this week would be the Garden State Bowl.

There were a few things to take from that bowl:

  • Great coaching led directly to Temple’s win. Temple coach Wayne Hardin likes to tell the story of the exchange of films with the California team. He gave them only a couple of Temple game films and those were the games that Temple could afford to be very vanilla and run the basic stuff. Due to Hardin’s contacts in California, he was able to get not only the films Cal exchanged but the entire season of Cal film. He noticed that the linebackers on Cal tipped their hand when they would blitz and had quarterback Brian Broomell fake that way and throw the other. Those plays led to a 21-0 Temple lead before Cal could figure out that Hardin had them figured out.
  • Cal’s trash-talking served as a motivating factor for Temple. Cal coach Roger Theder said “Temple doesn’t play opponents as tough as we do” and that hissed the Owls off. Cal had five losses that year, but the 11-point loss to Temple was its worst. Probably not a coincidence.
  • It was cold, but probably not as cold as the fans remembered. I saved my game notes (the printed kind, given out in the press box) and it said: “Temperature at kickoff: 40 degrees.” Tried to find them on the internet but could only find this veiled reference to the game in a Cal band blog about the temperatures being several degrees above freezing but not feeling that way.
  • Yes, and one of the loudest laughs that day was when they showed the final score on the Jumbotron and had a graphic cartoon visual of an Owl taking a dump on the head of a Bear. Certainly beats the misspelled “CONGRATULATIONS TO THE NEW MEXICO BOWL CAMPIONS” that appeared on the scoreboard in Albuquerque. That  Owl/Bear graphic pretty much summed up a wonderful afternoon.
  • The Temple fans were great. There were 55,874 in attendance and only about 500 or so were rooting for Cal. It was that day I was convinced that a consistent winning and well-coached Temple program against big-time competition could put enough fannies in the seats to thrive. Even though Rutgers, essentially a home team, played in the first GSB, the 55K Temple drew remains an all-time bowl record crowd in New Jersey.
  •  The Cal band performance is below and they even play a  current Temple Diamond Marching Band favorite:

By the way, the 1979 Temple team would have blown out the 2010 Temple team (which, ironically, did not make a bowl but should have).

Speed Kills and Speed Would Help

The Owls didn't have the speed at tailback to get outside enough to keep drives going.

The Owls didn’t have the speed at tailback to get outside enough to keep drives going.

It’s funny (curious funny, not humorous funny) how football works.

The hope—at least with a lot of Temple fans—was that Navy would get beaten up so much by a bigger, stronger, faster, Ohio State team that it would suffer so many injuries that would help Temple a week later.



“Give Temple credit.
A lot of that was all
the third and twos
we couldn’t convert.
We have been converting
those in the past.
… but they beat
our guys up front.”
_ Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo
err, five years ago

Instead, Temple was the school that suffered so many injuries that last year’s starting corner, Anthony Robey, had to play safety. Still, the biggest takeaway from the day to me was the Owls’ shocking inability to play the option as compared to the 2009 Temple team. On that day in Annapolis, the Temple defensive front handled Navy’s offensive line in a 27-24 win. So much so that this is what Navy’s great coach, Ken Niumatalolo said afterward:

“Give Temple credit. A lot of that was all the third and twos we couldn’t convert. We have been converting those in the past. … but they beat our guys up front.”

That was then. This was now: Temple was painfully slow at both defensive ends after showing some speed last week. Don’t know whether it was the heat or not, but Praise Martin-Oguike and Sharif Finch played most of the down and distance situations a week ago against Vanderbilt and those two have outstanding DE speed. Their backups, though, who did get a lot of snaps—probably because of the heat— are slow as molasses. Molasses on top of Navy’s pancake blocking is not a good condiment.

How has Temple gone from “beating (Navy’s) guys” to being beaten at the point of attack? Recruiting should have gotten better after the MAC, not worse. I’d also like to know how Western Kentucky—with Western Kentucky talent—beat Navy’s guys last year in a 19-7 win. Or how Duke’s guys did it in a 35-7 win. Playing Navy is tough, but coaches like Bobby Petrino and David Cutcliffe—and, heck, Al Golden—proved it’s not rocket science.

Herbin did not get selected No. 1 in the players’ draft for the Cherry and White game because his teammates like him. He got that honor because he’s a playmaker in the mold of the Seattle Seahawks’ Percy Harvin. The Seahawks find innovative ways to get Harvin the ball. It’s high time for the Owls to find ways to get Herbin the rock.

Herbin did not get selected No. 1 in the players’ draft for the Cherry and White game because his teammates like him. He got that honor because he’s a playmaker in the mold of the Seattle Seahawks’ Percy Harvin. The Seahawks find innovative ways to get Harvin the ball. It’s high time for the Owls to find ways to get Herbin the rock.

Going into the game, I thought players like Matt Ioannidis and Averee Robinson would have so much success inside at blowing up the point of attack that they would stretch the option wide and Temple’s linebackers and ends would have the speed to string the option out to the sideline. Instead, Temple’s linebackers were doing the tackling seven, eight, nine yards downfield because Navy was able to turn the corner time after time. The fullback dive play, which did not work in 2009, worked too much on Saturday.

Not a good sign. Neither was wearing black anything on a 99-degree day. That wasn’t well-thought-out. The school’s colors are cherry and white and there are enough innovative ways to make cherry and white look good. The song doesn’t say “Fight, Fight, Fight or the Cherry and the White … and the black.”

Speaking of speed, it’s also becoming increasingly apparent that until Temple recruits someone with “Bernard Pierce” or “Matty Brown” speed and pedigree, the Owls should consider moving Khalif Herbin—who is faster than both Pierce and Brown were and just as shifty if not moreso—to tailback for at least a few snaps a game as a stopgap measure. No one runs any harder than my favorite Owl, Kenny Harper, but he’d best serve the team as a lead blocking fullback for players like Herbin and Jahad Thomas. Harper can still carry the ball a few times for running plays up the middle.

Herbin did not get selected No. 1 in the players’ draft for the Cherry and White game because his teammates like him. He got that honor because he’s a playmaker in the mold of the Seattle Seahawks’ Percy Harvin. The Seahawks find innovative ways to get Harvin the ball. It’s high time for the Owls to find ways to get Herbin the rock.

All of this can be fixed for the Owls to become the best team they can be. They were not the best team they could have been on Saturday. They have a couple of weeks to tweak and experiment and put the players they have in the best position to win.

This Year’s Chris Coyer?

khalif