The Franklin Field Scrimmage

Along with the banishment, Matt Rhule added an acknowledgement: “I would not read too much into this.”

Rhule was talking about kicking the first-team offense off the field nearly two weeks ago, but he could have also been talking about the Franklin Field scrimmage. There is no more anti-Franklin Field person than me, so thoughts of reading too much into the supposedly cozy relationship Temple athletics has with Penn athletics should be put aside for now.

There has always been the thought, first floated by former President David Adamany, that Franklin Field was a perfectly acceptable home for the Temple Owls. Then the most recent President, Neil D. Theobald, said pretty much the same thing two years ago when talking about what could happen if the Owls are not able to build their own stadium.

hitpost

Owl fans have been there, done this.

To me, there are only two options: Lincoln Financial Field and Temple Stadium, not necessarily in that order. There are two reasons for this. Any major conference needs to know a university has full control of its facility on game days, primarily for television scheduling purposes. That would not be the case with Franklin Field. Second, going “back” to Franklin Field would represent a backward step for the program that would be unacceptable to the fans. To go from comfortable seats to bleachers and toilets to peeing troughs is one thing if it comes with the convenience of walking from the dorms to the stadium; to do it after getting on the subway and transferring to the West Philadelphia elevated is another altogether.



“I can’t see why
playing at Franklin Field
isn’t good enough.”
David Adamany,
Temple President, November, 2001

“We’re looking possibly on campus,
possibly sharing with Penn.
We’re going to need
to answer that question.”
Neil Theobald,
Temple President,
November 23, 2013.

The only news from the scrimmage was that last year’s starter at guard, Brian Carter, was running second team, and wide receiver Marshall Ellick appeared to stand out above the rest and looks like a sure starter.

For now, though, getting away from 10th and Diamond to a stadium for a scrimmage is a perfectly acceptable move. It gave the Owls a practice in a large stadium to get prepared for the butterflies many of them will have on Sept. 2.

A word to interim President  Dick Englert: Don’t read too much into it, because Franklin Field would be an unacceptable future home for Temple football under any circumstances.

Friday: Where’s The Beef?

Temple’s Next NFL Back?

Matt Rhule is upbeat after scrimmage at Franklin Field.

It does not look like anyone is going to take Jahad Thomas’ starting tailback any time soon, but Temple head coach Matt Rhule turned some heads eight days ago when he said sophomore Ryquell Armstead had a chance to be the Owls “next NFL back.”

Rhule also said that Armstead possesses many of the same qualities Bernard Pierce had while he was recruiting that back out of Glen Mills. Both were track stars in high school and both ran a 10.8 100-meter dash.

signingday

Ryquell Armstead got plenty of support on signing day.

The difference so far has been that Armstead was not able to make an impact because he did not see as much of the field that Pierce did. That could change this year, though, as Thomas could be split out into the slot and Armstead or fellow sophomore Jager Gardner will be given more touches. This strategy accomplishes a couple of things—it keeps Thomas fresh and gives the Owls another edge weapon, which they will need to stretch the defense.

This is all predicated on whether or not Armstead or Gardner can make the most of their reps in real games. If one of those two guys starts accumulating yards in their sophomore years like Pierce did in his freshman one, the Owls go from one explosive player (Thomas as an RB) to two (Thomas as an WR and Armstead/Gardner as a RB). Imagine the nightmare matchup problems that makes for defensive coordinators this season. Mix in wide receiver Marshall Ellick (who has been wowing people since the spring) and the Owls could be really stretching defenses thin.

It all depends, though, on the expected development of the two sophomore running backs who need to produce like Bernard Pierce once did.

Wednesday: The Franklin Field Scrimmage

5 Stats For Winners

Temple Tuff goes way back to this brawl at the end of the game (and the video). Thanks to David Nelson for it, all filmed at Temple Stadium.

 

A quick google (or was it dogpile?) search found the first reference to “statistics are for losers” with a time stamp on it came in 1962, when Associated Press reported: “The Cardinals outgained the 49ers, 314-215, [in a 24-17 defeat] but ‘statistics are for losers,’ [coach Wally] Lemm said.”

That was originally attributed to former Tennessee head coach Bob Neyland, but there was no date on the statement so we know it goes back sometime before 1962. Neyland coached at Tennessee between 1926 and 1952, so it could be way, way back.

Statistics are for losers but, in effect, are they really?

Here are five statistics we’d like to see that would guarantee Temple our minimum goal of breaking a more meaningful stat, the school record for wins (10, tied by two). The Owls only need to do one of these five to get to 11; anything above that would be gravy and probably add to thet win total:

AAC Championship - Temple v Houston

Phillip Walker.

30 touchdown passes

When he was P.J., Phillip Walker threw for 20 touchdowns after grabbing the job for good midway through his freshman season. With no pocket protection his sophomore year, he fell into a sophomore slump that had little to do with his own play but more to do with an offensive scheme that allowed defense a free run (blitzes) on Walker just about every third down. Now that the coaching staff has provided him with the pocket protection of a back and even very good blocker in Nick Sharga, Walker has a much better view of the field.  If Walker throws 10 more touchdown passes this season (one more per game), the Owls should get to 11 wins. (Twice, he kept the interceptions for a season down to eight and that has to be a goal, too.)

P.J. Walker, Jager Gardner, Temple football,

Jager Gardner

2,000 yards rushing

Between Jahad Thomas (1,278 yards, 17 touchdowns) a year ago and Jager Gardner, Ryquell Armstead and David Hood, this is challenging, but doable.

40 sacks

Before the Penn State opener, Temple head coach Matt Rhule set a goal of 40 sacks for his defense. When the Owls recorded 10 sacks against the Nittany Lions, fans assumed that goal might be achieved midway through the season. Instead, the Owls needed 14 games to get 32 sacks. They don’t need to get 10 sacks a game, but a more consistent 5-7 sacks per game should get them to a figure they should have had last season.  The overall speed of the defense—with possible kickoff returner Haason Reddick as one of the defensive ends—should make this happen. Reddick is without a doubt the fastest defensive end I have ever seen at Temple.

USATSI_9013187_149008644_lowres

Romond Deloatch

Someone making 15 Touchdown Catches

Bruce Francis did this in in the 2007 season and, if a guy like Jahad Thomas is split out into the slot (this would be made possible only if either Jager Garner or Ryquell Armstead prove they can provide his RB production), he’s got the breakaway skills to match that. Thomas’ position in the pros will be as a slot receiver, not a running back, so the Owls will be doing him a big favor by splitting him out for his senior year.  If not, either Marshall Ellick, Romond Deloatch, Ventell Bryant or Adonis Jennings have the talent to make it happen. Francis, though, had the talent and the drive and one of those three needs to find a stick shift to get to the next level.

Twenty-six interceptions

With Sam Shaffer getting nine of them all by himself, the Temple Owls led the nation in interceptions with 26 in 1981. The coach of the defensive backs at the time was city legend Dick Bedesem, who also had stints as head coach at Villanova and Delaware Valley College. Temple has a “Willie Mays” type centerfielder at free safety in Sean Chandler, and his vision and break-on-the-ball skills should make him a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. Any time the ball is thrown into the center of the field, it has a chance of coming back the other way. Chandler led the nation with two interception returns for touchdowns a year ago.

Monday: Temple’s Next NFL Back

 

Chandler Could Break Special Record

Phillip Walker will be happy when he doesn’t have to throw over Sean Chandler.

Thirty-five years ago, a kid came out of nowhere to set a Temple record and, in the process, lead the nation in interceptions.

Sam Shaffer, a safety who could play the middle of the field like a baseball centerfielder, had nine interceptions for the 1981 Owls.

Since then, we haven’t seen a guy with Shaffer’s vision in the middle of the field and his break on the ball skills until now. Appropriately enough, his nickname is Champ. For now, Shaffer is the champion of Temple interceptors and Champ is the, err, challenger. In a few months, those roles could be flip-flopped.

0608160115-00

Shaffer was 1981, not 1971, when he joined the list of these TU national stat leaders.

We cannot say for sure that Sean Chandler will lead the nation in interceptions, like Sam Shaffer did, but by putting Chandler at safety, he will definitely challenge Shaffer’s all-time single season mark with the Owls. Since it is August 17, we will go on record as saying Chandler will tie the regular-season mark with nine and add at least one in the postseason.

Temple head coach Matt Rhule kicked the offense off the field in practice on Tuesday and there are a couple of conclusions that could be made. The offense could be that bad or the defense could be that good and, for the sake of our own sanity, we will go with the latter. Chandler is just one piece of what has been a dominating defense in the summer and he should benefit from an improved pass rush and the overall speed of the defense.

Shaffer, though, should be remembered.

He twice victimized Todd Blackledge in a 30-0 loss to second-ranked Penn State on Oct. 3, increasing his total to five and took over the national lead in interceptions. Number six cam in a 24-13 win over Cincinnati and equaled the Temple record of seven — set in 1952 by Larry Cardonick — with a pick against Oliver Luck in the Owls’ 24-19 loss to West Virginia.

In the season finale against top-ranked Pitt,  Shaffer intercepted two Marino passes to eclipse Cardonick’s long-standing mark. His eighth and ninth interceptions came against a pretty good quarterback named Dan Marino.

We haven’t seen a Sam Shaffer play for Temple until now and, while he’s a challenger for a special record, he should be a Champ before long.

Friday: 5 Stats for Winners

The Next Big Red One

carry

Brendan McGowan has done everything at Temple except carry the ball; check that, he’s done that, too (above against Navy).

If at first you do not succeed, try, try again.

So it is with Temple’s most famous redhead this season, Brendan McGowan, taking the mantle from last year’s decorated redhead, Tyler Matakevich.

Call him The Big Red One, which is the nickname of the United States’ Army’s First Division. Clearing the way for all of the weapons on the Temple offense will be McGowan’s job, who is the first member of the offense to touch the ball at the center position.

toughguys

Phil Walker (left) and Haason Reddick.

The try, try, again reference is because Kyle Friend was on the Rimington Watch List but fell short of receiving the award that goes to the best center in the nation. Maybe McGowan will have better luck this season. McGowan is a somewhat surprising candidate, but not to Temple fans, who saw the Owls not drop off much, if at all, in the four games he started last year for the injured Friend. Surprising because the coaches on the Rimington committee figured that out, too as the current grad student at Temple, has been named to the Rimington Trophy Committee’s 2016 Spring Watch List, which includes the 50 best centers in the FBS.

McGowan is one of those guys who is a returning starter at not one but two positions and is a reason Owl fans can put the center position on auto pilot and be confident they are in good shape there. In addition to the four games he started at center for the injured Friend last season, he has started an additional 11 games as at right guard.

He’s bigger than Friend (6-3, 298 vs. 6-1, 280), who is now with the New York Jets.

In other news over the weekend, two more Owls received single digits and those are quarterback Phillip Walker (going from 11 to 8) and defensive end Haason Reddick, who is going from No. 58 to No. 7. Walker’s toughness is well-documented, playing most of last season with a separated shoulder after getting a cheap shot in the end zone in the opening game against Penn State. Reddick, a former outside linebacker, might be the fastest defensive end ever to play for Temple and proved his toughness in the weight room in the offseason, consistently posting best numbers in the tough guy competition.

Wednesday: Why Sam Shaffer Should Worry

Beyond Unfinished Business

The linebacker corps is in good hands with 3 returning starters.

The bad news for all but one of the 127 teams is that nobody is going to win the national football championship like our neighbors, who shall remain nameless, won the national basketball title.

All but that one team, of course, and, at this point, it doesn’t look like it will be Temple. (However, if you want a nice $10,000 return on a measly $10 investment and believe in the Owls, sportsbook is taking bets.)

When the Owls made “Unfinished Business” their team slogan this year, they probably did not mean winning the national championship but the good news today is there is a whole list of ancillary goals that would finish the business.

tieins

AAC bowl tie-ins this season.

It starts with the American Athletic Conference championship, which is well within reach. All the Owls have to do to secure home field, presumably against Houston, is to run the table in their seven home games and not be upset on the road. They will probably be favored at Memphis and at UConn, two of their tougher road games. They can even afford a loss at Penn State and still achieve that goal. Home field should beget a win over USF (hey, it did in 2012) and a crowd of 40,000-plus rabid Temple fans in the AAC championship game could be the difference.

What about Beyond Unfinished Business?

Even if the Owls do not reach their No. 1 goal, there are a number of ways the business conducted this season could be better than the work done last year. Winning a school-record 11 games is within reach and that’s some nice work. Beyond that, though, the AAC has seven bowl tie-ins and the team’s (and especially the administration’s) goal has to be to get the Owls in a bowl game against a Power 5 team. Last year, Owls Daily editor Shawn Pastor reported that the administration was offered the Birmingham Bowl against Auburn and a bowl in Louisiana against Virginia Tech, but turned down both offers to play near a large alumni fan base in Florida.

Big mistake.

This year, “Unfinished Business” also means taking care of business once those offers are on the table. That means no “turning down” any of these three bowls should the Owls be offered one:

Birmingham Bowl Dec. 29, 2016

Birmingham, Ala. – vs. SEC

St. Petersburg Bowl Dec. 26, 2016

St. Petersburg, Fla. – vs. ACC

Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman Dec. 29, 2016

Annapolis, Md. – vs. ACC

The other bowl tie-ins are the Miami Beach Bowl and Bahamas Bowl (both versus MAC foes),  and the Boca Raton Bowl vs. Conference USA. Thanks, but no thanks. Been there, done that.

While winning the national championship would be nice, and winning the AAC the real deal, getting those 11 wins and beating a Power 5 team in a bowl would also qualify for Unfinished Business and be more than acceptable consolation prizes.

It all begins in a little over two weeks against Army and the focus then and every week hence is going to have to be laser-sharp, but  this is a business deal that should be profitable.

Monday: The Next Big Red One

We’re Talkin’ Practice

Houston’s Tom Herman says the two toughest lines he will face will be Oklahoma and Temple, not necessarily in that order. Morgyn Seigfried interviews the Wildboyz here. 

When it comes to practice, I have the same thought process as Allen Iverson. It’s a necessary evil, but both he and I are not particularly interested in it.

A good story requires an antagonist and a protagonist and, for the next couple of weeks, this one will be without the antagonist. The only big story that comes out of camp the next couple of weeks will be injury-related, so no news is good news. Any great catch or great play is minimized because, as Iverson says, it’s not a game. The antagonist arrives on Sept. 2 in the form of Army and we will have that good guy/bad guy story and away we go.

Still, the way the Owls practice probably is a good indicator of how they will do in the games because attention to detail matters in both settings.

Oguike

Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg had Praise Martin-Oguike drafted LAST year.

That’s probably why head coach Matt Rhule was good to set the tone on Saturday by demanding more. In his post-practice comments, he mentioned that “last year didn’t exist” and, in reality, it doesn’t. One of the great things about college football is that with a new year comes new expectations and some years those expectations are higher and some are lower. To me, last year wasn’t all that great past the ND game and this year’s team should play with a chip on their shoulders because of it.

Outside of Temple, the expectations for Temple are lower this season than last. They do not see what we see. They see Temple with key losses (Matt Ioannidis, Tyler Matakevich, Robby Anderson, Tavon Young, Kyle Friend) and think Temple will take a step back. We see players more than ready to step up (Greg Webb, Avery Williams, Marshall Ellick and Nate Hairston) in those same positions and think Temple will take a step forward. They don’t see that Temple has one of the best defensive lines in college football (Houston’s Tom Herman’s words, not ours) and the Wildboyz should be making more plays than ever. (One of them, Praise Martin-Oguike was so good a Washington Post mock draft had him going in last year’s sixth round of the NFL draft. They didn’t even realize he was coming back to Temple.)

I will say one thing now. The step backward year will be next year, not this one. This is the step forward year, even if it is only one step from 10 wins to 11. It could be two or three steps, but I’m confident this is the step forward year.

Only time will tell.

In the meanwhile, between that time and the real games is practice and now is the time to get those players in the best positions to make those steps forward.

Friday: Beyond Unfinished Business