Focus And Finish

Nobody tosses the throwback to the tight end better than P.J. Walker.

For anyone who has ever played the frustrating game of golf, the 2016 football season at Temple  comes down to this:

Completely butchering the first hole, acing the second and getting a penalty for an incorrect scorecard on the third and, after that, the balls have been hit pretty much long and straight.

After botching the Army game plan and getting more penalty yards in a single game than most Temple fans remember, the Owls have been very good and have set themselves up for a nice finish if they can do no less in next four weeks than they have the last two.

Right now, the Owls’ season can be summed up as four one-foot putts. For the everyday hacker, the one-foot putt is a little different with nothing but a beer on the line than a one-foot putt in a tournament with $250,000 riding on it.

In other words, it’s 90 percent mental.

There’s a lot riding on these last four and the Owls’ short game is going to have to be on point, but if they approach the final four weeks the way they did the last two, they should be able to get the job done.

There are a lot of things I do not understand, but this concept of a “letdown” in college football certainly is at the top of the head-scratcher list. I know it exists, otherwise you cannot adequately explain the Army opener or even SMU’s win over Houston on Saturday night, but it should not exist in the game of college football. You work your butt off 353 days of the year to show your skills for 12 days or nights, there is no excuse for a letdown. Major league baseball players, with 162 regular-season games, have excuses. So do NBA and NHL players.

College football players, no. For this Temple football team, in the next four games, as much rides on the line as the UCF and the USF games did. If the Owls can visualize the finish line, they should be also be able to treat every play between now and then as if it is their last.

There is still a viable path for Temple to host the AAC title game and that’s what winning the final four games could mean. Plenty of work to do, but the hardest work is behind them and now most of it involves their mental approach.

Focus and finish should be their motto.

Wednesday: The Fan Experience

Greatness Straight Ahead


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.



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.

Let’s Get Rowdy

Matt Rhule hints at changing up the defense for dual-threat QBs

Sometime into the debacle against Army, I urged my fellow Temple fans to stand up on a critical third-down stop the Owls needed to make.

Much to my chagrin, only about half of the fans in Section 121 and fewer in others bothered to stand and make the necessary noise needed to maybe, just maybe, be at a high-enough decibel level so one of the 11 Cadets might not hear the cadence. Needless to say, the Cadets got the first down they needed.


                                                                            Sunday’s Inky cover has a regular-season hockey game on the cover and an out-of-town baseball game, but the Owls’ historic comeback is inside.


“Sit down,” the guy in front of me said, “it’s a long season, dude.”

Well, a long season has now turned into a short one and the Owls are going to need every single fan to stand up and make some noise—at the very minimum on every third down South Florida has on Friday night. Win, and the Owls own all of the tiebreakers for the AAC East title against, quite frankly, the only other team that can win the title. Win, and the Owls will be favored in every regular-season game the rest of the way. Win, and the Owls COULD host an AAC championship game in December. Even against Notre Dame and Penn State, the stakes were not this high. The kids have never needed their fans more than they need them now.

In other words, let’s get rowdy.

I do not have too many pet peeves—sports bars that do not turn up the sound, Philadelphia newspapers that cover a college football team 250 miles away better than the one less than one mile up the road and, right at the top, Temple fans who treat a home game like a concert at the Kimmel Center.

The Temple players no doubt need to play well, but the kids really do hear and feed off the crowd and that can have a cumulative effect.  Certainly, the home crowd at the Penn State game a year ago was a big part of the win and the crowd did more than its part to beat Notre Dame a year ago. The only thing stopping the Owls from going 8-0 with a win over the No. 6 team in the country was a safety who was in position and did not reach up to deflect a pass.

Win or lose, the kids playing for Temple on Friday will leave everything on the field. It might be nice if the fans gave that same sort of effort and carried them across the finish line.

Saturday: Game Analysis

Guest Post By Fizzy


The following are Fizzy’s comments on the UCF comeback …the opinions are all Fizzy’s.. thanks, Fizzy:

                                                                    By Dave (Fizzy) Weinraub

Watching Temple coaches call the offense, is like going to the dentist for a root-canal.  You know it’s going to hurt, and it does.

But there’s good news.  We finally won a woulda, coulda, shoulda.  We won it, however, despite the game plan.  The players won it themselves because the shackles were finally off.  They had to throw the ball as there were only thirty seconds left.  Phillip got in rhythm and the guys all caught the ball.  It was truly amazing, and the best Temple comeback, probably, of all time.  

[It’s just a shame that former Temple standout football players, Dick Gable and Joe Morelli, left the stadium before the last drive.]


Before the game our coaches said we had to run the ball to keep the opposition off the field.  So we did, over and over and over.  Even in the next-to-last last possession trailing by five points.     

Usually, the offense goes like this… They line up over the ball, and wait for the play from the sidelines.  On many occasions, the call is slow to get in and last Saturday night, there were many times we got the play off just before the clock ran out. Once, they had to call an unnecessary time-out to get the next play.  Guess what?  It was the proverbial run up the middle.

Let me point out how this handicaps the team, and how it did last Saturday night.  There were a number of third and short, and fourth and short situations.  When you’re down to last few seconds, there’s no time for the quarterback to audible.  On all those plays, Central Florida had eight men up in the box.  When Phillip came up over the ball, even if he was allowed, there was no time to change the play.  So no imagination, up-the-middle they went.  Stufferroonni!

I have to admit I’m a liar.  I told some ex-teammates I wouldn’t write again.  I would just go to the game, see the old (I do mean old) guys, and tell stories.  It just hurt so much after the root-canal…

Tomorrow: Game Preview

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

Greatest. Win. Ever.

When I was just a kid, I got on a trolley, an EL and a bus to go to a Temple night game only because I begged my late Sainted father, a Villanova grad, and told him I would be OK.

(Previously, I had watched Temple only on television and fell in love with the football Owls.)

That night, Temple beat a ranked West Virginia, 39-36, before 14,000 in a 20,000-seat stadium thanks to two long punt returns by Paul Loughran.

On the way to the K bus, I heard the chant “We Want Nebraska!” (Nebraska, on that night was the No. 1 team in the country.)

That was the night I became a Temple fan for life, so much so that I turned down a full academic ride to be one of the first 24 males in a school of 1,300 females at Cabrini College so I could work my way through Temple.

That’s how much I loved Temple University in general and Temple football in particular. My male friends who know how much I also loved females told me that’s how crazy I was, but Cabrini also did not offer Journalism so I could rationalize my position that way.

For many years, I thought that was the greatest victory in Temple football history until last year when I saw the look of utter dejection on the faces of Penn State fans and joy on the Temple side and thought that was better.

Nothing, though, like last night when Temple football, in my mind, scored the greatest win in its history, 26-25, at Central Florida. First, in my 40-plus years of crazy Temple fandom, I do not remember winning a game on the final pass or a game by scoring a touchdown in the last second.

I have a pretty good memory and I do not think that is wrong.

Second, I do not remember one of my favorite Temple quarterbacks of all time going 4-for-4 on his final drive and eschewing a spike for a game-winning touchdown pass. My favorite Temple quarterbacks are, in order, Brian Broomell, Steve Joachim, Adam DiMichele, Doug Shobert and P.J. Walker.

I’m not saying they are the best, but they are certainly my favorites and one of my favs has been unduly criticized lately and I was so happy to see him shove it in his critics’ faces.

Walker was forced to throw from the pocket almost exclusively last night, despite us PLEADING with the coaches to roll him out for the last six weeks. Despite that, Walker found a way to get things done on the final drive.

To me, that’s not the only reason why this was the greatest win ever but because the program was at a crossroads before this game. Win, and the Owls still saw a path to the AAC championship; lose, and the Owls were staring at a 6-6 “type” season.

Look at it this way. Temple beat a team, UCF, that won at ECU, 47-29. ECU beat NC State, 33-30. NC State beat Notre Dame, 10-3. UCF took a Maryland team into overtime that beat Purdue, 50-7. It could not take Temple into overtime. Temple overcame a 25-7  lead and won on a literal last-second pass.

Not, mind you, a Hail Mary, but a last-second pass. For Temple, that’s as close as it has ever gotten and a the first repayment for all of the Hail Mary’s completed against the Owls.

Greatest Win Ever?

If the Owls turn this into an AAC title, it will be. For now, the measurables (25-7 deficit, last-second pass)  make it something that has never happened before and that has to be good enough.

Tuesday: The Path Forward

Third Time A Charm?

Scott Frost has taken an 0-12 team with none of his players and succeeded. 

Just one night this season, it would be a perfectly welcome change to win without having to make excuses.

The Owls have played on two prior nights and there has been no wins to show for it, but plenty of excuses. Somehow the kids got blamed for the Army loss, even though the defensive scheme to stop the triple option was horrific because there was none. The Owls played good defense for the first half at Memphis and good offense for the second half but forgot to put a complete game together.

Greatness might not quit, but it certainly has brain farts in one loss and incomplete halves in the other under the bright lights.

Now the Owls play a third night game tonight (7:30 kickoff) at UCF and maybe the third night is a charm. Temple started as a night school and played plenty of night games in its football history, dating back to the 1940s, so the tradition of playing well at night should be there. At one time in the late 1960s and early 1970s, almost all of the home games were at night and were televised live in Philadelphia (Al Meltzer play-by-play, Charlie Swift color).

Night has spooked this version of the Owls and there is no better time to turn that around than tonight because the Owls find themselves in the revolting position of going 10-4 in one season and being a 3.5-point underdog to a team that finished 0-12 the same year.  UCF was impressive with a 47-29 win at East Carolina and a 30-24 loss to Maryland. Temple lost to an Army team that gave Buffalo its only win in a 1-4 season. Any way you cut it, that’s pretty bad.

What has been the difference?

Connecticut v Temple

Owls can pretty much forget about doing this again without a win tonight.

Certainly, UCF players are pretty much the same guys who went 0-12 a year ago and Temple, despite four big losses to the NFL, has MOST of its players back, too. Four key players leaving for the pros should not bring this kind of swing in the fortunes of the two programs, but it has because former Oregon offensive coordinator (and Nebraska quarterback) Scott Frost has been a coaching upgrade and, quite frankly, the Temple coaches have not done a very good job this year.

They have a better-than-average rollout quarterback in P.J. Walker who they insist on jamming into the square peg of being a Tom Brady type. He fits more nicely into the Russell Wilson hole. When will the Temple coaches ever learn? It better be tonight or the excuses might be the sacks Walker took dropping back or the tipped ball by a charging 6-foot-5 lineman that turned into a game-changing interception. Rolling out P.J. gives him better sightlines and a better chance at success.

Give the kid a chance.


On defense, the Owls have had problems with the occasional run being bust for long touchdowns against them despite having two proven defensive run-stoppers, Nick Sharga and Brian Carter, playing basically non-essential roles on offense. Will we see either or both players where there is a greater need for their skill set?  It would be nice to see that type of personnel fix at least tried, but do not hold your breath.

Greatness might not quit, but it also should not be too stubborn to resist adjustments that need to be made.

Maybe tonight, but opportunities for hope are running out.

Picks this weekend:

TOLEDO giving the 31 over visiting Bowling Green (BGSU lost, 77-3, to Memphis; Toledo beat Maine, 45-3, and Maine took UConn into OT)

UMASS getting 14.5 over visiting Louisiana Tech (UMass lost to Florida by only 24-7 and Mississippi State, 42-35, two teams better than LT)

PITT giving the three at Virginia (which lost to Richmond, 37-20)

WESTERN KENTUCKY getting the 2.5 at MTSU

Tomorrow: Game Analysis