SMU: Could’ve, Would’ve Should’ve

footballs

Editor’s Note: Former Temple player Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub posts his thoughts in this space every Tuesday. 

By Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub

Last week, I said I still was waiting for Anthony Russo to have a great game.  Guess what?  He had that great game against SMU, but his receivers were somewhere else.  He was 18 – 32 with at least seven drops.  Three of those drops were probable touchdowns and the others would have been key first downs.  Despite everything else, if we caught the ball, it would have been a tight contest.

weinraub

What does a coach do about this lack of concentration?  Drill, drill, drill! One suggestion is to substitute different colored tennis balls for the football, and the receiver has to call out the color – contact allowed.  There are probably 100 other drills that may help.

While we’re discussing the offense, I really thought the play calling was exceptionally conservative.  On most of the third and fourth and shorts, everything was one back, up-the-gut – no trickery, nothing going back the other way. On other occasions, the passes were short of the first-down marker or dumps in the backfield.  Rolling out Russo and Centeio may have helped.  I still don’t understand why Russo doesn’t keep the ball on an RPO or bootleg once in a while, and if I see the quick screen to the outside one more time, I’m gonna scream.

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On defense, I believe we gave up four long touchdown passes.  That shows we can’t cover speed man-to-man, especially if the QB has time.  (I thought we didn’t blitz nearly enough.)  Therefore, we need an alternative defensive scheme.  A scheme that both puts pressure on the QB, and also plays a deceiving zone. One way might be to have five guys playing the run with all sorts of blitzes, while six guys play a zone.  If six guys are playing zone, that zone could have many different looks.  It could be a 4-2, 3-3, 1-5, etc.  Most importantly, there has to be deep help for the corners.  C’mon guys!  You have almost more coachers than my 1959 team had players.  Innovate!  What you’re doing isn’t gonna get you to the league championship game, despite our talent.

In summary, we got the crap kicked out of us by a really well-coached and quarterbacked team.  However, one league loss doesn’t sink a season.  Can we come back?  Central Florida will fill the air with footballs.

Thursday:   Changing Things Up

Saturday: Game Night

Sunday: Game Analysis

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TU-SMU: Losing Is Fundamental

Football is a simple game.

Throw the ball. Run the ball. Catch the ball. Block. Tackle. Be disciplined to the whistle. Cover your man.

They are called fundamentals.

Temple did only one of them right on Saturday in a 45-21 loss to SMU.

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The record wearing Cherry and White during the same time frame is 24-7

Quarterback Anthony Russo did all that he could to get the Owls a win but to quote Gabrielle Bundchen-Brady after a rare Super Bowl loss by the New England Patriots, “my husband can’t throw the ball and catch it, too.” After watching the game a second time (fast-forwarding through the drops), Russo would have had at a minimum … minimum, a four-touchdown, 351-yard passing game if just seven of the nine drops were caught.

That should be enough to win in college football.

It was a disappointing loss in a lot of ways for the Owls but certainly their troubles at catching the ball ranked right at the top BECAUSE this was not expected. Sure, the Owls dropped three completions that would have gone for first downs in a loss at Buffalo but the rest of the season they’ve been pretty sure-handed.


Even if it means
tweaking the spread
option by using two
tight ends to block
for tailbacks Davis
and Jager Gardner,
it’s worth it to chew
up clock and bring the
safeties and linebackers
up to the line of
scrimmage and make them
vulnerable to play-action
fakes. That’s what the
Temple TUFF brand
was built upon

They needed to continue that tendency against SMU and, for some reason, they did not. Maybe the Owls failed to pack the stick’em and left it home at the Edberg-Olson facility. Whatever the explanation, their normally dependable hands failed them, particularly early when it could have made a big difference.

Their slow start took them out of a game plan that would have served them a lot better. They should have run the ball behind Re’Mahn Davis to create passing lanes for Russo. That has been Temple’s Modus Operandi for the past few years with a variety of running backs not named Davis and it really needs to be a priority going forward, certainly against a UCF team that, like SMU, can throw the ball and put points on the board in bunches. Even if it means tweaking the spread option by using two tight ends to block for tailbacks Davis and Jager Gardner, it’s worth it to chew up clock and bring the safeties and linebackers up to the line of scrimmage and make them vulnerable to play-action fakes. That’s what the Temple TUFF brand was built upon. “We’re going to run the ball and we’re going to knock you back and there’s nothing you can do to stop us.” Not what it has turned out to be this year: “We’re going to run a read-option with a classic pro passer and hope it works.” SMU did a nice job to stop the run early, but would it have been as nice a job with two tight ends leading the way and a little jet sweep motion thrown in? I’m sold on Rod Carey but he definitely has a blind spot in this area. Maybe some bifocals will help.

The blocking and tackling also were not good nor was the discipline after the whistle, particularly after the game was out of reach and that probably had a lot to do with frustration.

Fundamentals and approaches can be worked on, though, and have little to do with the talent at hand which is good enough to win. It’s already proven to be good enough talent to beat Memphis, which just might be better than SMU.

Winning was fundamental a week ago.

So, too, was losing on Saturday.

How well the Owls address their largely correctable fundamental errors this week will determine if this ends up being a 10- or 6-win season.

Tuesday: Fizzy’s Corner

 

Game Day Minus-1: Greatness Within Grasp

The design of this play, from keeping the back in the backfield to occupy the linemen, and putting Isaiah Wright in motion, to the execution, was perfection. 

The Temple sports motto has been for the past five years: Greatness Doesn’t Quit.

No bigger test for the merging of motto and reality on Saturday (3:30, ESPN2) at Dallas against host SMU at Gerald Ford Stadium.

Win, and greatness is at hand and the path to a possible AAC championship is open.

Lose, and just another mediocre-to-good season is probably the best we can hope for.

Greatness sounds a lot better.

Look, winning in college football is a hard thing there are plenty of teams trying to do what Temple is trying to do. This is where the team that preaches the greatness motto must put it into practice.

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TV games as an appetizer to the main course (Temple-SMU)

Hopefully, the Temple TUFF motto kicks into gear at SMU. The last time Temple went to SMU, it won in a shootout as P.J. Walker had a great game. The trip before that the Owls had a 28-7 lead and coughed that up before losing.

There are a couple of big differences between then and now, though.

One, SMU is a much better team now than it was on those other two occasions. Two, so is Temple. The teams are very even. Temple beat Georgia Tech by 22 and Georgia Tech beat USF by five. SMU beat USF by 27. Not much else to go by so that’s an indication that the team with the fewest turnovers will win.

The pass/catch combination of Shane Buechele and James Proche will be the toughest the Owls have faced so far but, to me, the best pass defense is putting the quarterback on his backside and that’s the challenge that guys like Ifeanyi Maijeh (pronounced MY JAY), Dan Archibong, Dana Levine, Karamo Dioubate and Zack Mesday are going to have to embrace. Put Buechele on his backside and make him uncomfortable enough and covering Proche and stopping the run becomes that much easier.

For my money, the Temple team that comes to Dallas is far superior to the Tulsa team that came to Dallas two weeks ago and took the Mustangs to double-overtime. That’s on paper, though.

On the field, the Owls will have to prove it.

Greatness might not quit, but you have to want it a lot more than the other guy to achieve it. Talking about it and doing it are two different things and the talk stops at 3:30.

It’s right at hand this week and within reach. Let’s hope the Owls grab it, hold on and take it back to Philadelphia.

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TV watching after the Temple game

Predictions: We definitely weren’t great last week but not bad, just mediocre. 3-3 against the spread and straight-up (lost on Maryland, Virginia and Hawaii but won on Ball State, Cincinnati and Indiana). For the season, 24-10 straight up; 20-14 ATS. Going for greatness this week (spreads at time of publication, home teams in CAPS): Tonight, taking SYRACUSE getting 3 at home against Pitt. Haven’t been sold on Pitt since the 17-14 win over Delaware. Saturday: Duke getting the 3 at VIRGINIA; Wake Forest laying the 2 at FLORIDA STATE; East Carolina getting 33 at UCF; BYU getting 6.5 against visiting Boise State; Louisiana Tech laying 1.5 at SOUTHERN MISS and Minnesota laying the 29.5 at RUTGERS.

BUYOUT BOWL: Georgia Tech getting 18 at MIAMI, noon Saturday. Geoff Collins doesn’t win this game but he at least does as well against Manny Diaz as Central Michigan did (a 17-12 loss). That’s where I see this game ending, something like 17-13, Miami. The Hurricanes have had trouble scoring all year so I don’t see them ever covering 18 against anyone.

Sunday: Game Analysis

Reasons for Optimism at SMU

Bad news for Memphis fans at the beginning of this video

At the top of reasons to be optimistic about Temple’s chances in Dallas this weekend came a moment during a post-game interview on Saturday.

The sideline reporter grabbed Temple coach Rod Carey and asked him how satisfying the win over a ranked Memphis was and he didn’t skip a beat.

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SMU quarterback Shane Buechele was one of the Elite 11 quarterbacks (along with Temple’s Anthony Russo) in 2015

“Great win, but we have a lot to clean up,” Carey said before running off the field.

That got me to thinking. Geoff Collins had a similar moment almost a year ago to the day and I wondered what he said.  So I looked it up.  After beating No. 20 Cincinnati, Collins spouted this jibberish:

“This is just a tribute to our culture and our players and the love those young men have for each other in the locker room.”

Huh?

Screenshot 2019-10-17 at 9.24.22 AM

One coach talking nuts and bolts football, another so far in the abstract he reminded you of Marianne Williamson. Carey saw some things to clean up and he was already thinking about getting the bucket, mop, and Pine-Sol out. Collins was patting himself on the back so much he almost broke his spine.

That, to me, in essence, is the difference between Temple football 2018 and Temple football 2019.

Screenshot 2019-04-14 at 8.01.54 PM

Other than that, which was super important, funny how fast things can change in a couple of weeks.

A couple of weeks ago, Temple looked like a vulnerable team for “only” beating ECU, 27-17, on the road and SMU looked like the best team in the league after beating crosstown rival TCU, 41-37.

This looked like a tough spot for Temple and it still might be but what happened since was encouraging. Now things have changed just a little, even though the “public” might not see it. The line opened with SMU as a 6.5-point favorite and is now, last I checked, at 7.5. This time, though, the line tells me nothing. It would be nice, though, if even a fraction of the 25,000 Eagles fans in Dallas this weekend made the short trip to SMU to cheer on their “real” hometown squad.

Tulsa took SMU into overtime in Dallas and then fell flat on its face in a 45-10 home loss to Navy. Tulsa is not as good as we thought it might be nor probably is SMU. TCU has a good brand name but, as a current football team, probably not up to that name after losing, 49-24, to a good Iowa State team last week.

Temple can win this game if it cleans up that little mess it left on the field that allowed a ranked team to come back from a 23-7 deficit.

The fact that Carey spent this week using that mop to do some work instead of scratching his own back with it bodes well for Temple’s chances.

Saturday: Game Day

Fizzy: We’ve Come a long way, baby

Editor’s Note: Great job by Fizzy here. Made only one edit to change the name of Memphis running back Daniel Tyce to Kenny Gainwell.

By Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub

Late in the first quarter, I stood and slowly looked around the stadium at the sea of over thirty thousand people wearing cherry and white.  Finally, I thought, we got a perfect day for homecoming and just look at the crowd.  Then, I sort of merged the vision of the acres of cars and people happily tailgating in the vast open spaces in the parking lot and laughed to think the school had considered trying to shoe-horn a small stadium with no parking into North Philadelphia.  We were playing a ranked opponent, but our guys looked to be more than an even match on the field.  Wow!  If you couldn’t step back and smell the roses on this perfect Saturday in the fall, well, maybe you needed help.

weinraub

Then I flashed back to a mere sixty years ago, 1959 to be exact, and we were getting ready to play Bucknell.  We were scrimmaging under the lights in the old Temple stadium when I tore up my knee.  The scrimmage couldn’t continue because I had been the twenty-second guy, and we didn’t have any more players.  On the field in front of me, on Saturday, however, there were about seventy guys dressed for the game and a host of others standing by.  We’ve come a long way baby!

Oh, I almost forgot.  Let’s talk about the Memphis game.  The wisp of nostalgia has blown away.

Screenshot 2019-10-14 at 9.08.27 PM

First, I want to congratulate the defense.  Each week, they stop the opponent on third and/or fourth and short, and each week a different hero emerges.  This week, it was Harrison Hand who was simply outstanding, supported by lots of other guys. Why would any coach playing Temple try to get a first down by going with a straight, up-the-gut handoff?  On the downside, there were lots of missed tackles vs. outstanding Memphis running back Daniel Tyce, and some miscommunications which left Memphis receivers wide open in key situations.


“Then I flashed back
to a mere sixty years
ago, 1959 to be exact,
and we were getting
ready to play Bucknell.
We were scrimmaging under
the lights in the old Temple
stadium when I tore up my knee.
The scrimmage couldn’t continue
because I had been
the twenty-second guy, and we
didn’t have any more players”
_ Fizzy Weinraub
 

Correspondingly, why would Temple go straight ahead with Davis, in a fourth and short situation?  Alternatives are a QB sneak with a 6-foot-4, 235-pound man:   A fake dive quick slant, a fake handoff, and pitch to the outside or inside reverse, etc. etc.  How about a hard count and then a play if it didn’t work.  C’mon coach Uremovich, open up the playbook in those situations.  However, Uremovich’s call for a pitch right – throwback left to QB Centeio, was a thing of beauty.  Centeio though, took his eye off the underthrown ball which resulted in a bobble and then a strip.  Also, we did a lot more pitches to the outside, some were sort of a half-reverse, and we saw Centeio playing some wide receiver which adds another offensive threat.

Next,  should it be two, or not be two, that is the question.  (See, I went to that English Lit class.)  After Temple scored its last touchdown, they were up eight points.  If Temple kicked the extra point, it would be nine points.  If they were successful going for two, they’d be up 10 points. If not, they’d still be up eight.

Throughout the last quarter, I thought we were going to lose the game by one point.  Memphis has an outstanding field goal kicker, and I didn’t think it was possible we’d keep him out of range.  There were two times this year when we needlessly went for two (my opinion), and this time we didn’t.

I would have gone for two, to make it a 10-point spread.  If we didn’t make it, Memphis would still have to make a successful two-point conversion to tie, after a TD.  What I’m trying to say is a Memphis TD and field goal could only tie us, not beat us.

As it turned out, the UNCATCH saved the day.  When I got home, I played the UNCATCH back ten times.  I thought the view from the backside showed a lack of control and the point of the ball forcing a bounce up and to the right.  So I thought the call was correct, but it could have gone either way.  This time we lucked out.  Remember back when Al was coaching and we scored a winning TD against Connecticut in the back of the end zone. The catch was disallowed because the replay didn’t show the receiver’s foot coming down.  Gee, lucky we were still playing at the Linc and had all those NFL cameras.

Now, after the UNCATCH, I thought our play calling was chicken shit.  We just ran straight ahead and tried to run the clock.  All we need was one first down to seal the game, but Memphis used their timeouts to force a punt.  This was the time when we needed an imaginative, but safe play to close out the game.  Memphis only needed to get to kick from our 45, to have a chance for the winning field goal.

Last, let’s talk about QB Anthony Russo.  I was asked before the game for a prediction.  I said if Russo has a great game. we’ll win.  Well, Russo had a good game, but he still missed two guys open for TD’s.  He has a terrific arm but I’m still waiting for that great game.   Also, I think bringing in Todd Centeio is a great changeup.  But I still ask the question why Russo can’t run sneaks, keepers and bootlegs.  There were times he could have scored using a walker.

Thursday: Reasons For Optimism Against SMU

Friday: Game Day Minus-1

TU Homecoming 2019: Unabashed Joy

You can cash by taking the winning horse but an exacta and a trifecta always make the wallet that much fatter.

Screenshot 2019-10-12 at 8.34.14 PM

 

On Homecoming Weekend 2019, Temple football had a superfecta in a 30-28 win over Memphis:

  • Owls won
  • Owls beat a Top 25 team
  • Owls drew a season-high 34,253 beautiful and involved fans
  • Owls honored their greatest team at the end of the first quarter.

No money exchanged hands, but it was the kind of day money cannot buy.  Perfect 72-degree weather in mid-October with the good guys coming out on top and just about all of their preseason hopes still on the table.

In the end, it was pretty much unabashed joy. No complaints. Much was made in Memphis of the call that overturned a catch by a tight end that might have led to a game-winning field goal but those same fans said nothing about a worse call–a phantom hold on Temple that negated a 60-yard Ra’Mahn Davis touchdown. The film showed no hold, just a push from the front which is a legal block. Davis scores there and Magnificio’s alleged catch is just another magnifico catch to make a blowout closer. You can see both announcers say it was a catch initially but the analyst at least saying it was a great overturn after watching the ball come loose.

Screenshot 2019-10-12 at 8.04.29 PM

He’s a good man, that John Goodman

Could Temple have played better?

Yes.

Hell, I’d like to see this team have a killer instinct and turn a 23-7 lead into a 35-14 one every now and then but we’ve got to remember that the guys in the other locker room are highly recruited, too, and also have good coaches and resilient personalities.

Any time you win in college football is a good day. Mix in Homecoming and a big crowd with that and some overdue tributes and it turned out to be an outstanding day. The fact that the win made Temple the all-time winningest team in the history of AAC football games was the Cherry on top of this delicious White cake.

Hopefully, it makes this team hungry for more in the upcoming weeks.

Tuesday: Fizzy’s Corner

 

 

 

Game Day Minus-1: A Special Tribute

Some nice 1979 highlights on this reel from ten years ago.

If you blink your eye or are just a little tardy getting to your seat tomorrow, you will miss a special Temple football moment.

Maybe the most special.

Screenshot 2019-10-11 at 2.16.54 PM

Fortunately for Lazygote, no gloves needed but the tailgate should be a little nippy starting at 7 a.m., so a light jacket might be in order.

Sure, the game is as important and as high-profile as they come in this Group of Five league but what will happen during the first timeout is also a huge moment. It is the 40th-anniversary tribute to the 1979 team, a tribute we first suggested here back in the summer.

It will be a too-short tribute to a team that deserves much more, in my mind the greatest Temple team in the 100-plus year history of football at the school. Only the 1934 squad could put up an argument that it was better than the 1979 team but I will take the 1979 team all day long. First, the 1934 Sugar Bowl team lost. The 1979 bowl team won. Back then, everybody was Power 5 and Temple was in the elite of that group.

finalpoll

The 1979 Owls will be honored during that first timeout–probably the first five minutes of halftime would have been a better stage–and deserve a prolonged standing ovation. Consider this: Only two Temple teams since have won the same number of games (10) as that one but neither have those two teams won every game they were supposed to win.

The 1979 Owls captained by Mark Bright and Steve Conjar not only beat every team they were favored to beat but pulled a couple of upsets in a big way. They were not favored to beat Syracuse–with future NFLers’ Art Monk, Joe Morris, and Bill Hurley–but they destroyed the Orange, 49-17. They were not favored to win the Garden State Bowl but beat California, 28-17.

In between, they lost only two a pair of teams ranked at the time of those games: Pitt (10-9) and Penn State (22-7). The Owls led Penn State, 7-6, at halftime before what until that time was the largest crowd in the history of Beaver Stadium. For some reason, head coach Wayne Hardin abandoned a running game that was working to chew up clock and extend drives and went largely to a passing attack in the second half.

That was one of the few mistakes Hardin ever made as a head coach anywhere but 1979 was pretty darn close to a perfect season. With just 17 more points, that team goes 12-0 and wins the national championship because there was no G5 and P5 schism back then and it was a strong enough schedule to hand the Owls what would have been a mythical title.

Consider that: TEMPLE winning a National Championship in football. It was thisclose …

Those were the days in college football when there were no participation trophies. You had to be really good and not just one of the best 80 teams to earn a bowl bid. Only 30 teams were extended bowl invitations.

There are now 40 bowl games. In 1979, there were only 15. Temple won one of them. The Owls finished ranked No. 17 in both polls (then, UPI and AP).

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That’s it. The entire list of bowl games in 1979

While watching my Owls lose to Buffalo this year, I had one recurring thought: Another year of Temple not beating everyone it was supposed to beat.

It won’t happen this year and we are running out of time for it to happen in the coming years.

Fortunately, I lived to see one of those years. Unfortunately, I might not live to see another. (Hell, let’s hope so, though.)

It was 1979 and Temple owes these guys a debt of gratitude that definitely deserves more than a wave and a cheer during the first timeout of the first quarter. That’s what we have, though, so let’s make the most out of it.

Predictions: Was 4-2 last week against the spread (winning with Cincy beating UCF on Friday night and going 3-2 in the Saturday games). For the season, we are now 21-7 straight-up and 17-11 against the spread. This week: Taking Virginia getting 1 at Miami (cannot believe that a ranked team is a dog to a dysfunctional Manny Diaz squad tonight) and, on Saturday, I like the following (home team in CAPS): INDIANA laying the 28 against Rutgers; Maryland laying the 4 against PURDUE; Hawaii getting the 12.5 points against BOISE STATE (Temple and the AAC needs Hawaii to win that game outright); Ball State laying the 2.5 at EASTERN MICHIGAN and Cincinnati laying the 7 at HOUSTON.

Sunday: Game Analysis