FIU-Temple: No Distractions This Time

gameday

For the third-straight year, Temple will enter its bowl game as a favorite.

When the Owls take the field in a week and a night at Tropicana Stadium (8 p.m., ESPN), they will be a touchdown favorite over a Florida International team that has two more wins than they do.

Last year, the Owls were 14.5 favorites over Wake Forest (and lost by eight) and two years ago they were 1.5 favorites over Toledo and lost, 32-17.

One name got in the way of the Owls hoisting a bowl trophy at the end of each season and he did not even play in either game.

Matt Rhule.

The first loss, which Rhule took blame for, came as a result of going easy on his team, the expense of giving them a “reward” for a 10-win season. After that game, Rhule said he would not pull back the reins if he had another bowl chance. That could be a long time coming given his 1-11 year at Baylor and the sanctions he faces there going forward.

The second loss, which he did not take blame for, resulted from Rhule’s decision to recruit for Baylor and take most of the guts of the Temple staff with him. While that staff was on the field for the 34-26 loss to Wake, their hearts and minds were in Waco. The defensive coaches alone missed eight practices and that had to contribute to Wake’s 31-7 halftime lead.

Now this is the first “distraction-free” bowl for the Owls if new coach Geoff Collins has learned from Rhule’s first bowl experience. Vegas, which is seldom wrong, has the Owls as a solid seven-point favorite this time and, all things being equal, it should be the Owls hoisting that trophy to end the season.

Are all things equal, though?

Kirk Herbstreit picked FIU and mentioned Butch Davis as a reason on ESPN’s Game Day on Saturday. He might have something there.

In Davis, the Panthers (8-4) have a master tactician who was good enough with a clipboard in his hands to win a national championship at Miami. Will he be able to fill in enough X’s and O’s to tic-tack-toe a first-year coach who many feel is still feeling his way?

The answer comes in eight days.

Friday: A Shocking Admission

Monday: The Padre Pio Factor

Wednesday: Bowl Preview

Friday: Bowl Analysis

Christmas: Season Analysis

 

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FIU-Temple: A Test of The Hiring Method

butch

There is no written hiring test when evaluating future Temple football head coaches, post-Geoff Collins Era, only an outline of “types” in this current convoluted system, a copy of which should be emailed to every Group of 5 athletic director.

Even the person who sees things through Cherry and White glasses know Collins could not be long for Temple, hopefully for the right reasons, but at least a measure of stability could be achieved with a different hiring model going forward.

For the time being, as long as only the Power 5 can have the coaches they want, the G5 schools that include Temple will be left to pick among these three types:

THE HOT COORDINATOR–Collins himself falls into this category. This is the high-risk, high-reward method. Since the “hot coordinator” usually has never been a head coach, no one knows how he will react once he has a clipboard in his hands. Temple has tried this route with its last three head coaches and that has turned the coaching door at the E-O into a revolving one. Maybe it needs to re-evaluate that thinking in the future.

houston

THE PROVEN FBS HEAD COACH–FIU’s Butch Davis falls into that category.  Coming off 5-7 and 4-8 seasons, Davis’ first year as FIU coach is an impressive one. He turned 5-7 and 4-8 talent into eight-win talent. Compare that to Collins turning a solid core from a 10-win team into a six-win team, and you have evidence that this could be the way to go for Temple in the future. Davis did not have to learn how to be a head coach on the job; he already was a championship coach at Miami and knows how to push the right buttons. He has already seen what life is like chasing the big bucks in the NFL and college football and is more likely to stay and build something than the first type.

cignetti

THE FCS CHICKEN SALAD MAKER–This is a guy who does more with FCS talent than the current Temple coach does with Temple talent. There are a few of those guys out there who can turn “chicken shit into chicken salad.” For brevity purposes, we will mention two here: JMU’s Mike Houston and Elon’s Curt Cignetti. Last year, Houston led JMU to a 14-1 record and the national championship. At the Citadel, he led that team to a Southern Conference championship and, before that, led Lenoir-Rhyne to three first-place finishes. This guy has winner stamped on his farhead. This year, Houston has JMU ranked No. 1 in the nation and his team beat ECU and Villanova worse than Temple did. At Elon, Cignetti–a former Temple assistant–also had a more comfortable win over Villanova than Temple did. In his first year as head coach there, he turned what had been a 2-9 team in 2016 into an 8-4 team this year.

So one of the questions to be answered in a little over a week is if Temple hired the right type. Winning or losing that one game should give Pat Kraft a very large insight into if he made the right choice or not.

Wednesday: A Closer Look at FIU

FIU: Looking In The Mirror

fiustadium

FIU fans have seen a stadium rendering;  (most) Temple fans have not.

If Florida International’s football program looks familiar in the Gasparilla Bowl on  Dec. 21, Temple fans might be onto something.

In many ways, it will be like looking into a mirror.

Here are 5 similarities:

  1. Both the Owls and the Panthers are located in major cities and have similar missions, educating the poor and middle class and paving the way for upward mobility.

2. Both teams have stadiums at least on the drawing board. Only major contributors have seen artist renderings of the proposed new Temple Football 35,000-seat stadium, while everyone in Miami has seen the plans for the new FIU stadium (artist rendering above), a 25,000-seat expansion of the current Raymond Silva Stadium on campus.

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Collins getting his FIU swag on

3. The last time FIU hoisted a bowl-winning trophy Geoff Collins was on the field. Collins was the defensive coordinator of a FIU team that won the 2010 Beef O’Brady Bowl. (Hopefully, that happenstance will not be repeated this year.) Seeing Collins in that FIU uniform is just another reminder that his family is used to more moves than an Army officer’s family and that he probably won’t be here for long either.

4. Both programs play second-, third- and fourth-fiddle to other football programs in the same market. For FIU, the Panthers have to struggle for space in the newspaper with two Miamis (Hurricanes and Dolphins). For the Owls, it usually page nine of a Sunday paper that only seems to have eight pages of Eagles’ coverage.

5. Both teams have beaten and lost to the same opponent this year.  Central Florida crushed the Panthers (61-17) and the Owls (46-19); Panthers beat UMass (61-33) as did the Owls (29-21).

Monday: The Year In FIU football

Ridiculousness: Temple Football Edition

Taking time off from all the bowl mania to re-examine one word uttered by Temple football coach Geoff Collins in his last press conference that we wanted to get to before too much time passed.

Ridiculous.

It stood right out there like a high-hanging curve ball for Barry Bonds to hit out of the park.

“We’re going to have a ridiculous team next year,” Collins said on the day the Owls beat Tulsa. That was his last press conference because he hit the recruiting trail the day after Tulsa and was not back for the bowl press conference.

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“We’re going to have a ridiculous team next year,” Geoff Collins.


On the TV grid, MTV has a show called “Ridiculousness.” I page down it on the way to watching the Sixers or another sporting event and have never stopped, but the guide describes it  as “various viral videos from the Internet, usually involving failed stunts.”

Since the Minister of Mayhem (and swag) probably wasn’t referring to the Merriam-Webster definition of the word, we went to the online urban dictionary to get the meaning of it to the kids today.

The urban dictionary of the word ridiculous says “something unbelievable in any shape or form, or something worthy of memory.”

The last part of that sentence is probably what Collins was thinking about.

Something worthy of memory …

Geez, I hope so but this team loses two of its three best receivers, its best offensive lineman, the best fullback in the country, its two best edge rushers and pretty much the entire starting defensive secondary.

All of the things that should have made this season more satisfying to Temple fans than it turned out to be seem to be part of the reason why the Owls won’t return to championship form next year. All of those losses were guys who were key contributors to an AAC championship team and their talents should have been accentuated enough to get to at least eight wins this season.

Instead, the coaches tried to force a square peg into a round hole too many times this season, at least offensively, trying to turn fullback-oriented and play-action talent into a something foreign to them.

It’s all about the Jimmy’s and Joe’s, not the X’s and O’s, and the Owls lose too many Jimmy’s and Joe’s to be as “ridiculous” as Collins is projecting them to be. A word of caution is that when the experts picked UCF and USF ahead of the Owls, Collins said “I love it.” The interpretation at the time was that he loved it because he would have loved nothing better than the Owls to prove them wrong by vaulting over them, not that it had lessened the pressure of defending his team’s AAC title. Now, his word is ridiculous and we’ve got to interpret that was ridiculously good, not ridiculously bad.

For his sake, and ours, let’s hope he’s right but here we sit a year to almost the day from finding out, there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Friday: An Early  Look At FIU

TU Bowl Motto: Let’s Win This Bad Boy

tailgate

Tailgate areas are at the top of this photo

Other than knowing the geography every nook and cranny of Philadelphia, the Tampa/St. Pete area is the one I am most familiar with on the planet.

If I could live there, I would. That’s pretty much why I play the lottery a couple of times a week.

Great weather a dozen months a year and no driving in the snow. I know. I spent nearly 20 springs there, covering the Philadelphia Phillies for a suburban daily and going down on my own in the years I was not on assignment.

fiusked

This is a team Geoff Collins should beat

Can’t beat it. From Dale Mabry Boulevard to the Howard Franklin Bridge, the driving is easy and the people are laid back and happy. There are plenty of Philadelphia transplants, lured by the appeal of the Phillies being in town for February and March and plenty of Eagles’ bars down there.

So the Temple Owls will live in St. Pete/Clearwater for at least a week, getting an invitation to the Gasparilla Bad Boy Mowers Bowl (Dec., 21, 8 p.m., ESPN).

It should be a fun week.

This time, though, the focus should be on winning. It is the only game on national TV that day and the national perceptions of Temple football will be formed in bars from Salem, Oregon to Salem, Massachusetts.

The Owls’ lone motto from today on out should be: “Let’s Win This Bad Boy.”

If Matt Rhule were to get on the horn with his good friend Geoff Collins, he’d give the first-year coach this advice:

“Geoff, I wanted our Florida bowl to be a reward for our kids so we went heavy on the air hockey, the bowling, the beach volleyball and even a trip to the Everglades. What I didn’t do enough of was game prep and we got our asses handed to us by a good Toledo team. Don’t make the same mistake I made. Go very light on the tourist stuff and very heavy on the game prep. Make it like a regular week at the E-O.”

If that were truly Rhule’s advice—and we suspect it would be—the Owls will be much better off. Look at it this way: From a national perception standpoint, the Temple football brand (Temple TUFF?) takes a huge hit if it loses to Florida International. There’s a big difference between finishing 6-7 and trending downward after back-to-back 10-win seasons and 7-6 and trending upward by winning four of the last five games. It’ll be pretty hard to sell things like “The Standard, Money Downs and Swag” coming off a 6-7 season. In fact, it will sound damn hollow.

Plus, there is the added incentive of doing something those double-digit-win Temple teams did not do: Celebrate the last game of the season by hoisting a bowl trophy. They had to watch two teams do that the past two years at their expense.

So let’s win this bad boy and wash that nasty taste out of our mouths. There’s no easy formula to accomplish that, but hard practices would be a good place to start.

Wednesday: Ridiculousness

Friday: Closer Look at FIU

Bowl Scenarios: It comes down to Florida

There are two thoughts that come to mind when thinking about Temple’s bowl destination:

1)  Beggars can’t be chosers

2) What difference does it make?

We won’t know for sure, but my gut is telling me that Temple’s bowl destination will be Boca Raton again.

Process of elimination.

Because Temple just scraped into being bowl eligible, it falls into the beggars’ category when it comes to the AAC pecking order. That means the more appealing bowls–at least to me–like the Birmingham Bowl and the Cure Bowl–will go elsewhere.

templebowls

To me, the Birmingham Bowl would be the ideal destination for Temple because the Owls’ football brand is best advanced by beating a Power 5 team. The only possible Power 5 opponent would come in either two bowls, Birmingham or Military.

That’s where the “what difference does it make?” phrase comes into play. If the Owls are not going to play a Power 5 team–and it looks like they are not—what difference does it make if they play either a Marshall, a Georgia State, a FIU or an Appalachian State?

Not much.

Since Navy, despite some rumblings down there to the contrary, is probably going to host the Military Bowl and since USF made known its strong desire to play a Power 5 school, the Owls are probably going to either St. Petersburg  or Boca Raton again. The Owls have demonstrated a strong following in Boca Raton, so I think that’s where they will be slotted again. They drew a conservatively estimated 6,000 to Boca (after drawing 4,000 to New Mexico for the previous bowl), so they are a known commodity there. They might do as well or better in St. Pete, but bowl committees like a sure thing and Temple is far from a sure thing there.

The opponent is the unknown factor, but if it’s a Sun Belt or CUSA school, the reaction by “Joe Philadelphia” fans to will probably be a “meh.” Ideally, you’d like to see the Owls go against, say, an ACC team like Duke or BC in Birmingham but that chess move has been blocked by USF.

So, in my mind, it’s back to Del Boca Vista. This time, let’s hope Geoff Collins goes easy on the beach volleyball, air hockey and bowling and cracks the whip on the game prep because, while beating a CUSA or Sun Belt team won’t advance the Temple TUFF brand, losing would be worse.

Monday: Bowl Reality

Wednesday: Ridiculousness 

Fizzy’s Corner: Putting on Bow(l) on 2017

 

fullbacksnow

Winning a bowl game is what you practice in the snow for in February.

Editor’s Note: I met Fizz at a tailgate in the Al Golden years and immediately hit it off with him. If this truly is his last submission of the season, we thank him for his contributions. Not only a great former Temple player, but more importantly a great guy to talk to at the tailgates and we both had a good talk with Temple AD Dr. Pat Kraft together last year.

By Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub

That the Delaware Valley win over Husson University (???) was on page 7 of the Inquirer, and Temple’s victory over Tulsa was on Page 9, about sums up the season.  Six and six, when we woulda, coulda, shoulda been nine and three, was a disappointing beginning to Geoff Collins tenure.

For me, it wasn’t the record itself, but the questionable coaching strategies exhibited throughout the year.  My doubts began at the semi-closed scrimmage at Franklin Field, before the Notre Dame game.  After watching for an hour, I remarked to a former teammate, “I hope that’s not the offense.”  Unfortunately, for the first eight games, it was the offense. I called it the “Broad Street” offense because everything was straight ahead.  On a creative scale of 1 to 10, our offense was a 1.

fizz

There is a chance Fizz gets his swag on in Boca Raton again like he did in this photo two years ago.

 

Briefly, I want to comment on the Tulsa game which looked like the raggedy-ass cadets vs. the one-armed robot.  I never thought I’d see a college game where a team didn’t have a quarterback, but that’s what happened.  Tulsa had a wide-receiver playing QB at the end, and yet we couldn’t stop the off-tackle left and right.  Their running back gained over 220 yards.  Imagine!

 

Back in the day, did you ever meet a pretty girl, and yet there was no magic?  Although his play-calling improved significantly in the last three games, Dave Patenaude has shown little magic.  For example, he runs successfully three times in a row, and then wants to pass.  Fine!  But in that situation you throw from play-action, not from drop-back.

 

Next, after Tulsa almost blocked two extra-points in a row, we decide to go for a long field goal at fourth-and-three, on their thirty-four yard line.  Why?  The result was a blocked kick.  How about the split or “cheese-steak” offensive set?  Dave goes to that in the fourth quarter, and runs the same play he’s run every time before; the quick throw to Wright.  Doesn’t he know they’ve seen that play on tape? If you’re going to use that formation, you pump the throw to Wright, and have the end take off deep.

 

But the worst call of the game came with forty seconds left.  We’re on their twelve-yard line, and all we had to do was take a knee to end the game.  Instead, we ran Sharga up the middle.  So what?  Here’s what!  We had a devastating knee injury to one of our offensive linemen.

 

Enough about the offense…  We have a former SEC defensive coordinator as head coach, and yet we’ve had a porous pass defense until the very end.  Even this past Saturday, we tried to cover triple wideouts with two defenders.  On Tulsa’s scoring pass play in the first quarter, three receivers were open.  Later, they would send three wideouts to one side, and one wideout on the other, just to setup the off-tackle run.  We never adjusted, as the stats will show.  Also, we lost two games at the very end because we didn’t have an effective pass prevent defense all year, and then there were the misused time-outs in the Connecticut game.

 

However, to be fair, the players love Collins, we won half our games, and the team always played with great enthusiasm.  Next year, we’ll be able to add recruiting into the formula.

 

To sum up the 2017 season, the coaching staff earned a grade of “C.”

 

The Past and the Future

 

Al Golden with Matt Rhule as offensive coordinator, was a mediocre game-day combination.

 

Here’s one of the worst play calls I’ve ever seen.  Trailing by ten points, and with ten minutes left in the game, we had a fourth and one, at the Navy forty yard-line.  Al called a time-out, and when it was over, he punted.  Knowing full-well     Navy might control the ball for five minutes, he punted. Game over! (And I couldn’t even yell or scream because Al’s parents were sitting in front of me, so I went back to the corridor before losing it.)

 

When Steve Addazio wasn’t violently cursing at the kids, he just ran the football.  Fortunately for him, he inherited a massive offensive front line.

 

I remember walking out of the bowl game in Albuquerque, and being asked by a former Owl and NFL kicker what I thought.  I said this team should have had at least two more wins.

 

Matt Rhule was a fantastic administrative head coach and recruiter, and a lousy game-day coach.

 

How many times did we watch Matt call a timeout because he couldn’t decide on the play?  Then, after the timeout, run up the middle. 

 

What I’m trying to say is, I haven’t seen an imaginative, game day coach who possesses “magic” in  well, forever.  It’s not hard to identify the magic, you know it when you watch the game and see the continuous flow of the offense where play calls are unexpected, and keeps the defense on their heels.  Right now, Doug Pederson has magic.

 

So can Geoff Collins ever capture it?  Maybe!  Doug Pederson’s play calling after the first three games last year was lousy.  I’ve seen any number of coaches turn it around after they get a year under their belt.  Dave Patenaude’s last three games were head and shoulders above the beginning of the year.  If he’d just done that earlier, we’d have been fine. Maybe, just to please me, Dave will run one reverse, and one bootleg at the goal-line, each game.  And our defense will figure out how to rush four, play a five man zone across the field with two deep safeties on either side, for an end-of-the-game prevent.

 

Thanks for reading my stuff this season. Writing helped me sleep at night.  –  Fizz

Saturday: Bowl Scenarios

Monday: The Bowl Reality