Fizzy’s Corner: TU’s Regression

alumni

No truth to the rumor that Temple band alumni were playing taps for the season after that fiasco that some describe as a game on Saturday.

Editor’s Note: Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub has played for Temple and coached subsequently. He’s seen the most well-coached Temple teams offensively (Wayne Hardin) and, now, the worst-coached Temple team, at least offensively, against UConn on Saturday. His recap follows.

By Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub

I would like to begin with a quote from my teammate, Dick Gabel, a former superintendent of schools.  “Worst coaching experience since I played for Pete.”  He’s referring to our coach in 1959, Pete Stevens. (He was a fine gentleman, though.)

collinstwitter

Geoff Collins should whack Dave Patenaude like Tony Soprano whacked Ralph  Cifaretto for burning down the stable where his horse lived. (Figuratively, not literally, though. Patenaude has plenty of horses and has been killing  them with this ill-advised offense.)

After seven games and three woulda, coulda, shouldas, because of the offensive play calling, Dave Patenaude has proven to be an incompetent play caller with absolutely no instinct for the right play at the right time. Again, and this time twice, he’s failed to score from first and goal. That’s mostly because his first two plays are always run up the gut. He doesn’t understand that the only down you can really fool a defense in that situation, is first down, not third down. First down is when you should run the fake into the middle, and then there’s a multitude of options.

Speaking of the goal line, how about the most bizarre play call I’ve ever seen. On fourth and one, he puts in the wildcat against a gap defense.  Not only does that make no sense, he then runs a slow developing fake to the outside, and when the tailback finally turns to run up the middle, he’s overwhelmed by the penetration.

 By the way, I’ve nicknamed his offense the Broad Street Offense.  That’s not because Temple is on Broad Street, but because Broad Street is one of the longest, straightest streets in the country.  Patenaude’s offense is almost always straight ahead.  I have to say almost now, because in our seventh game yesterday, he finally ran a reverse which gained thirty-five yards, and never came back to it.

There were a multitude of other coaching mistakes. There were twelve penalties, and this shows an undisciplined team, and that’s carried over from the beginning of the year. Then there was unbelievably poor clock management at the end of the first half, and at the end of the game. The coach let the clock run down despite having three timeouts available in the first half, and two in the second half.  It’s my guess they were afraid Connecticut would get a first down.  Is that a way to coach a game?  Last but not least, it took the coach until the second half to realize he had to blitz and get pressure on the quarterback.

I’m probably missing many more coaching mistakes, but I forgot to bring my notebook to the game.  I do know one thing, however.  To earn even a six-six record, Dave Patenaude cannot be allowed to call the offense.

Throwback Thursday: When Passing Wasn’t Fancy

 

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Back to the Bad Old Days

Anyone who has followed this space for the last dozen years of its existence knows where it started and where we left off last December.

From chronicling the depths of a 20-game losing streak to the glorious championship in a great league in December, the Temple program reached the lowest of the lows and pretty darn near the highest of the highs.


This team doesn’t
have a plan on offense,
other than throwing
the ball 54 times
a game. That’s not
the Temple football
we’ve all come to
know and love.
The Temple football
we love is running
Ryquell Armstead and
David Hood behind the
lead blocks of Nick
Sharga, and letting
that set up explosive
results downfield in
the play-action
passing game

Less than a year ago, many of these same Owls were holding and kissing a championship trophy in Annapolis.

Now, after a 28-24 loss to a UConn team that gave up 70 points a week ago, we can officially say we’re back to the bad old days.

Arguably, this is worse than the 20-game losing streak because those teams had no talent. This team has three of five starters returning on the offensive line,  a 900-yard running back, the best fullback in the country, the entire wide receiver corps, pretty much the entire defensive secondary and outstanding defensive linemen like Michael Dogbe, Sharrif Finch, Karamo Dioubate and Greg Webb. Al Golden had a plan and he stuck to it and saw it through to the school’s first appearance in a bowl game in 30 years. This team doesn’t have a plan on offense, other than throwing the ball 54 times a game. That’s not the Temple football we’ve all come to know and love. The Temple football we love is running Ryquell Armstead and David Hood behind the lead blocks of Nick Sharga, and letting that set up explosive results downfield in the play-action passing game.

assistant

Our hiring advice to Dr. Kraft the day Rhule quit.

There is plenty of championship level talent here and it is being squandered.

Whatever Golden lacked in game day acumen, he more than made up in being a brilliant CEO and terrific recruiter and Matt Rhule pretty much took the baton from Golden without fumbling it.

This team has plenty of talent, but has no plan and poor leadership at the top.


Would it absolutely kill
the Owls to start Anthony
Russo for a series or
two or even the first quarter
at Army? Certainly
not as much as the poor
quarterback play is
killing this
team now

Quarterback turnovers are killing this team and the CEO in charge doesn’t have the requisite gonads to make the change that is needed now. Would it absolutely kill the Owls to start Anthony Russo for a series or two or even the first quarter at Army? Certainly not as much as the poor quarterback play is killing this team now.  This offense needs a spark and a quarterback change is the best way to ignite that spark.

Logan Marchi isn’t as much the problem–the kid is trying hard but probably cannot see the field as well as a taller quarterback might–as the stubbornness from head coach Geoff Collins and  offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude of sticking with him when Collins said unequivocally that anyone who turns the ball over would sit.

That rule only applies to non-quarterbacks, evidently.

You have to wonder what Marchi has to do to earn a spot on the bench on this team. On the Pick 6, the ball was tipped ever so slightly and, had the Temple quarterback been 6-4 instead of 6-0, the pick 6 would not have happened.

After the Pick 6, what, exactly, does Collins say to the kid?

“That’s your ninth interception in league play,” Collins might say. “You can have 10, 11 and 12 but I’m drawing the line at 13.”

Ugh.

He probably does not say anything and that’s the even worse.

Collins has one of the best kickers in the country and, instead of using him with five minutes left to kick a field goal and cut it to one, he got greedy. Had Boomer kicked a field goal with five minutes left, it’s 28-27 and all the Owls would have had to do is get into field goal range again for the win. Instead, they put their hopes on the back of an erratic quarterback and asked him to throw the impossible Hail Mary pass.

After Rhule left, we wrote that it was time for Temple to hire a head coach, not an assistant. Temple had too much talent to have another head coach learn in the job and squander this much talent.

Golden was available, and that back to the future path probably should have been the road Dr. Pat Kraft had taken. UConn made the smart hire in Randy Edsall, a guy who knows how to win there.

Golden knows how to win here.

Instead, Kraft rolled the dice with Collins and, in a matter of months, Temple went from the Penthouse to the Outhouse.

Welcome back to the bad old days. We thought they ended roughly a dozen years ago but unless key personnel, philosophical and coaching changes are made on the offensive side of the ball, they are here to stay for a long time.

Tuesday: Fizzy’s Corner

Thursday: Thowback Day

Saturday: Stacking The Box

Homecoming: Prodigal Sons and Daughters Day

homecoming

Even an 0-6 Temple team drew this kind of Homecoming crowd in 2013.

Expect to see a lot of new faces today at Homecoming.

It’s the one game of the year where the Temple soft core fan base merges forces with the hard cores like most of us.

homecomingchart

The numbers show that even on bad years, the crowd never falls below the 25,000 range. Even when the Owls of first-year head coach Matt Rhule were 0-6, the game against Army drew in excess of 25,000. The photo above just shows the tailgate row entrance on that day.

Today’s weather should be great, with a temperature 13 degrees above the normal 66-degree day on Oct. 14. I’m expecting a crowd between 27,000 and 29,000, somewhere in that area. Anything above that would be gravy. If the Owls put on a good show on the field, maybe some of the fans will develop a taste for more and come out to the remaining home games.

In the long-term, a stadium on Temple’s campus would bring about an enhanced benefit of attracting more alumni back to the main campus. Homecoming is the one time of the year where thousands of fans who do not normally attend Temple games do come back.

Maybe the on-campus stadium experience will be better for them, maybe not.

Us hard cores will take in the sights as we do every year and wish for the day that these Prodigal Sons and Daughters—especially those who live in the five-country area surrounding the campus—cross over from the dark side to see the light.

Tomorrow: Game Analysis

Throwback Thursday: The Day the Owls Were In First Place in a BCS Conference

Chris Coyer talks about the fateful two-minute drill.

Five games into the season and there are so many theories about how the 2012 football season was going to play out for the Temple Owls.

Prior to the fifth game, I had a premonition that this was going to be a “16-13 or 21-14 game” and I wrote that in my Friday post, adding “go with the Owls.”

I was wrong.

It wasn’t 16-13 or 21-14.

It was 17-14.

And they needed overtime.

Close enough, and I got the right side.

We all know now how the first five games have played out, with the Owls winning more than they have lost and being unbeaten in the all-important conference games.

My reaction to UConn players walking through the halls.

Still, though, my belief turned into absolute metaphysical certainty only when I found myself sharing the same hotel as the UConn players, the Sheraton in Rock Hill, CT.

Not having a refrigerator in the room, I had to get up every two hours in the middle of the night and walk down the hall to keep my tailgate, err, stuff cold. My makeshift “refrigerator” was a trash can filled with ice that kept melting. So I needed frequent refills.

celebration

Owls celebrate on UConn’s field after Brandon McManus’ game-winning OT kick.

Each time I opened my door, I saw two or three UConn players wearing Huskie sweat clothes walking aimlessly through the halls.

At least it looked like aimlessly to me.

Later that morning, fellow Temple fan–the late, great Phil Makowski–and I slipped into the hotel meeting room and came away with a UConn playbook left on a seat by a backup running back. Phil snuck the playbook under his hoodie. On the way out, George DeLeone–who was coaching UConn at the time–noticed our Temple gear and gave us a nod and a smile. We smiled back.

At the same time, I was being told that Temple ran plays in the parking lot at its team hotel on the other side of town in Cromwell and also received texts from that hotel saying the Owls were safely tucked in their beds and not wandering the halls.

As a Temple fan, you cannot have this kind of fun at a watch party when it’s a short road trip to watch the Owls play. So that’s why I try to get to places like UConn, Army, Navy, Maryland and Rutgers when the Owls are playing road games. Stories like this you don’t get from watch parties.

I didn’t know UConn head coach Paul Pasqualoni was lax on the discipline end, but the evidence seem to have suggested otherwise.


As a Temple fan,
you cannot have
this kind of fun
at a watch party
when it’s a short
road trip to watch
the Owls play.
So that’s why I try
to get to places
like UConn, Army,
Navy, Maryland and
Rutgers when the
Owls are playing
road games

 

Although Maryland in 2011 was hard to top, this 2012 game at UConn was the topper.  The Owls won wearing the best uniform combination they have–all Cherry pants, Cherry helmets, broken white stripes down the side, white jerseys.

Brandon McManus won the game with a clutch overtime field goal, setting off the wildest away celebration I’ve ever seen from the Owls.

“We were going to get the ball in the middle of the field and let the best kicker in college football win it for us and that’s just what happened,” head coach Steve Addazio said.
Coach Wayne Hardin used to always say, “run when they expect you to pass and throw when they expect you to run.” A simple but effective philosophy taken from the old shell game. He wasn’t considered an offensive genius for nothing. Temple’s offensive philosophy was just enough to win on that day, but defensive coordinator Chuck Heater turned out to be the genius when he shut out the Huskies in the second half.

“You’re a genius, Chuck,” I said, as we were waiting for the players to board the bus afternoon.

“It’s not me, it’s the boys,” Heater said.

Chuck Heater loved Philadelphia the two years he was here and I thought he did a very good job as DC. He would bike from Center City to the campus every day.

Offensively, Steve Addazio was stubborn but a running back from, ironically, Boston College, saved him that day.

Temple’s Montel Harris had 28 carries for 142 yards and a touchdown, but Daz sent him wide on an ill-advised fourth and inches call which was stopped. On that play, center Sean Boyle was left uncovered and quarterback Chris Coyer could have gone 20 yards on a sneak. Coyer absolved those sins with what I believe is the most clutch throw I’ve ever seen from a Temple quarterback and I’ve seen a lot of clutch throws. A perfectly thrown pass across his body to Jalen Fitzpatrick in the corner of the end zone to send the game into overtime on a tremendously executed two-minute drill.

At the time, I did not know what the harm was in a play-action throw every once in a while on first down, not third, or rolling Coyer out with quick slants to Jalen Fitzpatrick and Ryan Alderman to set up success in the running game. The way that team was constructed, the run can never set up the pass. It’s not going to work. It’s got had the other way around. Things have changed for Temple since, and so has the offensive philosophy.

Different strokes for different folks.

That’s the kind of stuff that has to be locked down in the gameplan as well as bedcheck has been.

Temple was tucked away dreaming of first place in a BCS Conference and, for a day at least, those dreams came true.

The current Owls would be wise to sleep tight in their hotel on this Friday night to avoid the same mistake UConn made in 2012. That, and make sure the playbooks are all accounted for after any morning meetings.

Saturday: Homecoming Prodigals Return

Missing In Action

shargamilk

Arguably, there were a lot of valuable players on the 2016 AAC championship team but, if you were to take a super secret vote of the players, it might have come down to two.

P.J. Walker or Nick Sharga.

Frankly, I don’t know who would have won and it would not have surprised me if Sharga did.

That’s why, even with the euphoria on Saturday of watching my beloved Temple Owls finally play like the team I thought they were before the season started, there was a tinge a sadness in that the best fullback in the country was limited to largely a special teams’ role.

If the full potential of the Owls are going to be realized, then the talents of the most valuable player on a Power 6 championship team should be maximized, not minimized, going forward.

Imagine this scenario, for instance.

David Hood’s hands on the back of Sharga as the fullback pancakes one linebacker on the way to a big gain. Over and over again. Then he does the same for Rob Ritrovano, whose “Nitro” nickname might be the best Temple football moniker since Gerald “Sweet Feet” Lucear.

This pile does not begin to move until Sharga takes charge. 

Then, if Ryquell Armstead’s recovery takes a little longer than expected, Sharga leading the way for Isaiah Wright on little swing passes out the backfield as a counter to blitzes on quarterback Logan Marchi.

All of these things open up options for the best group of wide receivers I’ve ever seen at Temple—Ventell Bryant, Keith Kirkwood, Marshall Ellick, Adonis Jennings and Brodrik Yancy.

Sharga’s just another weapon in what would be a nuclear arsenal and plugging him back in there on every down adds megatonage for every other weapon.

When I was introduced to Geoff Collins at the season-ticket holder party, I asked him to do me one favor.

“What is it?” Collins asked.

“Never take Nick Sharga off the field,” I said. “At least on offense. He’s not only the best fullback in the country, he’s the best blocker in the country and that includes offensive linemen. He’s probably also your best linebacker.”

“Don’t worry,” Collins said. “I won’t. We’re going to be using him even more this season.”

That promise was not kept on Saturday.

Keeping it in the final six games could be the difference between greatness and mediocrity.

Thursday: A Throwback

Cooking With Gas

Somewhere near the bottom of yesterday’s post, I wrote:

“If Temple wins 41-10, then we are cooking with gas.”

Well, it was 34-10, and probably would have been 41-10 had Geoff Collins not called off the dogs on the final six-minute drive.

So where does that leave us?

Cooking with gas, which means a lot of the more realistic goals for the season are in sight.

Before yesterday, it would have taken a lot to get a spark by rubbing two sticks together.

No one—not even me—expected the Owls to repeat as AAC champions, but, with six games remaining in a 3-3 season, a bowl game and a bowl win are something even the most pessimistic among us feel is possible.

Really, the only game I feel the Owls will be in over their heads is the UCF game, but they can win four or five of their last six. Five would get them to eight and that would be an outstanding season. Splitting the final six would be a minimum expectation.

There were plenty of things to be happy about and only a couple of questions but we’ll get to those in the Tuesday post.

The positives:

  • Logan Marchi finally played like the quarterback Dave Patenaude thought he was with two touchdown passes and over 300 yards of passing. There is some promise there and plenty of room to improve.
  • Keith Kirkwood’s one-handed catch on a crucial third down was another ESPN Sports Center highlight.
  • The defense showed a relentless pass rush, led by senior Jacob Martin.
  • Walk-on fullback Rob Ritrovato showed that the position will not die with the graduation of Nick Sharga, who was strangely AWOL during this game but played well (as he usually does) the few opportunities he got.
  • Third-down back David Hood showed that he can ball on first and second down as well and he has an uncanny knack for staying on his feet after the first hit, even using his hands to regain his balance.
  • Unlike the better part of the last three years, when Temple got a comfortable lead, the second-string quarterback was allowed to come in and he moved the team. That is a nice insurance policy should any injury to the starter take place. Let’s face it, had P.J. Walker gone down in any game last year, there would have been no championship season. Marchi’s development probably wouldn’t have been stunted had he had the same game reps in the last two seasons.

Since Temple beat ECU, 34-10, and ECU beat UConn, 41-38, that bodes well for a nice Homecoming if the team continues to improve. (Heck, even Lafayette—a team that Villanova smoked, 59-0, beat a Holy Cross team UConn struggled against.)

The pre-game burgers should be tasting pretty good and, if the Owls play next week like they did this one, so should the post-game ones. After that, it’s about improving each game.

Fire up the Kerosene.

Tuesday: Missing Without Action

Game Day: A Fork In The Road

fork

The Mayhem  Express has reached a fork in a road and the map doesn’t indicate which road to take that might lead them to the Promised Land.

Go down the wrong one and this already long season could get a lot longer.

Make the right decision and the Owls could be on a journey that leads to that elusive bowl win that even their last two Top 25 teams could not get.

I must admit that the normal amount of confidence I had in the Owls getting this job done in Greenville, North Carolina (ESPNU, noon today), has been shaken.

Not by the players, but by the coaches.

The Owls have doubled-down on a quarterback who has thrown six interceptions in the last two games and an offense that is ill-suited to the personnel they have. The head coach who assured me personally that he would never take Nick Sharga out of the game looks the other way when his offensive coordinator pulls Sharga  out routinely for three wide receivers. Sharga has not played a single game that he was in for more than 15 offensive plays this year and that’s a disgraceful misuse of a wonderful blocking asset.

sack

The defense has shown signs of life only recently after getting uncharacteristically and shockingly gouged on long running plays in the first four games.

The personnel on both offense and defense is fine, so the logical conclusion is the coaching is not up to last year’s standards.

Phil Snow’s defenses were not spectacular but were sound. Except for the opening-game debacle versus Army, when the scheme was wrong, each player was in the right spot to make a play most of the time. This year, they’ve been caught in wrong slants and coverages and the coaches said they were only “misfits” that would be cleaned up next game. Then the next game came and there were more misfits. Defensively, we will find out if the better performance versus Houston was an anomaly or a harbinger of things to come.

Am I the only one who did not hear the word “misfits” applied to a Temple defense in the last two years?

I don’t think so. When you don’t need excuses, you don’t need to come up with them.

If we don’t hear the word misfits in the post-game media session today, you can assume Temple has won what figures to be a low-scoring game.

Something like 16-13 because this OC is a very stubborn man who is never alarmed by scoring 16 or fewer points. That’s where I think this result will fall, something like 16-10, 16-13, 21-17. If Temple wins 41-10, then we are cooking with gas.

If not, we’re rubbing two sticks together and hoping to get a spark.

If we do hear the word misfit against an offense that can put points on the board, just assume the Owls have taken the wrong turm and are on the road to oblivion and that’s the kind of Mayhem none of us expected when the season started.

Tomorrow: Game Analysis