About the time the preseason prognostications came out for Temple, the chatter coming from the players at the Edberg-Olson center was picking the Owls for the bottom of the AAC was a “joke” and “completely ridiculous.” Another Owl said: “It’s Temple. You cannot lose here.”
Now is the time for the Owls to put up or shut up starting at high noon on Saturday in the Homecoming Game against Memphis.
Win that one, and a lot of skeptics, including the one here, will be won over.
Lose it and the 2.5 over/under total for the Owls looks about right.
Interestingly enough, we didn’t hear anything on that front from any of the coaches. Rod Carey was the only asked about a win total and he issued some vague responses that “we want to give our fans a team to be proud of” and “we want to play hard every game.”
I suspect a lot of undermanned 0-11 and 1-11 Owl teams in the past played hard (see Al Golden’s first year for evidence of that), but failed to deliver the bottom line.
The good news for the Owls is that last year’s 1-6 team pretty much played Memphis to a standoff on the road in a game that only got away in the last four minutes of the fourth quarter. Was that mostly the result of a good game from quarterback Anthony Russo? Can D’Wan Mathis help the Owls gain 500 yards of total offense, like Russo did?
We will find out on Saturday.
The bad news is that if any team has underachieved from a perception standpoint it’s been this one.
We wrote in this space last week that the Owls would “win 61-7” give or take 20 points either way against Wagner and they hit the exact low end of that projection, a 41-7 win. Worse, they had to fight like hell to put lipstick on that slippery pig.
Meanwhile, an average MAC team–Buffalo–had no trouble putting a 69-7 number on Wagner and the Bulls struggled to beat Old Dominion 35-34 on Saturday.
You are the company you keep and Temple isn’t keeping even Buffalo or Old Dominion company.
Can that change?
Err, doubtful, but there is hope.
Memphis doesn’t appear to be as good as it was last year. Sure, the Tigers beat Mississippi State at home but a careful review of the punt return that won it for them showed the ref waving his arms to signify the ball dead before the Memphis punt returner picked it up and went to the house.
Replay or not, that alone should have nullified the return.
Memphis lost to University of Texas (San Antonio) last week and USTA is a nice unbeaten team but not on a par with the other unbeatens. It beat Illinois but Illinois is a second-tier Big 10 squad.
Memphis is not as good as Rutgers nor it is as good as Boston College. Lock down the special teams, do not defer the opening kickoff, and the Owls have a chance to compete. Down the ball, pick it up and hand it to the ref on punts.
Then the Owls have to protect Mathis a lot better than they have and establish the run.
We haven’t seen it consistently so far but all they need to do is put everything together for 60 minutes.
Now that conference play is here, it’s time to stop talking about being good and actually show it. Hell, it probably should have started four weeks ago but better late than never.
Friday: Memphis Preview
Sunday: Homecoming Analysis