Better late than never

Montel Harris (8) needs a lift  to see what is distracting Cody Booth (38) and Wyatt Benson (44).

Two phrases rattled around my head during the fourth quarter of Temple’s 63-32 win at Army on Saturday:

  • That’s more like it.
  • Better late than never.

This is the Temple football team I envisioned back in August and September.
No, I’m not crazy enough to think that Montel Harris would have gone for 351 yards and seven touchdowns every Saturday but I thought both Harris and Matty Brown could go near or over 100 yards each game and that their running ability would set up some “explosive plays downfield in the passing game” that head coach Steve Addazio promised in the summer.

Temple football records Saturday:
Most rushing yards game individual: Montel Harris (351)

Most touchdowns game individual: Montel Harris (7)

Most career points individual: Brandon McManus (332).
Most touchdowns game by a Big East team (9).

Whatever the Owls lacked on defense I thought could be made up by an offense turning the Lincoln Financial Field scoreboard into an adding machine.
And, I thought, that would have been good for at least six wins and, maybe, as many as eight.
Now, the best the Owls can do is five because those explosive plays in the passing game never materialized, simply because the Owls stubbornly tried to pound the rock against bigger, more talented, defensive fronts for most of October and November. They might as well have been pounding their heads against a rock with that misguided approach.
The Owls were just as stubborn on Saturday in a 63-32 win over Army, but they could afford to do that against a team ranked near the bottom of the country in rushing defense.
They also helped themselves by eliminating the turnovers which, as Michael Vick can tell you, is the key to winning any football game.
If the Owls can somehow parlay Syracuse’s fear of Harris (and Brown) into some, err, explosive plays downfield in the passing game (perhaps off a fake to Harris on an early down), they can make a statement that they are ready to make a run at the top of the Big East ladder next year by rudely sending Syracuse off to the ACC.
The Owls won’t have Montel or Matty next year, but Jamie Gilmore and “Montrell” Dobbs figure to have the requisite three-star talent to pick up where those two left off.
And, pretty much, the rest of the team is back although I’d like to see a serious upgrade in the defensive secondary (hint: Kevin Newsome).
Harris’ performance was an eclipse that obscured a lot of other good things on Saturday, but it should not go unnoticed that Brandon McManus set the school record for career points by an individual, breaking Bernard Pierce’s standard of 324. McManus needed four going into Saturday’s game.
Another great kicker, high school All-American Jim Cooper, Jr., arrives for summer classes in July.
Other than that, as Jose from Norristown might say, it was amazing to see how much misinformation is out there.
Twice during the game, CBS Sports announcers said that Harris was the “leading rusher all-time in the history of the ACC’ and, later, the “15th-leading rusher all-time in the history of the ACC.”
Both were wrong.
In reality, Harris is still the second-leading rusher in the history of the ACC, falling 828 yards short of Ted Brown’s record set at North Carolina State. He is only 50 yards away from another 1,000-yard season.
I was privileged to see Paul Palmer’s 349-yard game against East Carolina and Saturday’s performance by Harris was even better, both on the stat sheet and stylistically.
Harris will have spent only one year here but he will always be remembered by me as a warrior and a great Temple Owl.
So will Brown and McManus and the rest of the seniors.
They deserve to go out in front of a large, appreciative home crowd on Friday.

Tomorrow: You think you’ve got troubles?
Tuesday: ???
Wednesday: A tribute to the seniors 
Thursday: Throwback Thursday 
Friday: Game Day Preview


3 thoughts on “Better late than never

  1. I like the way the owls showed up to play Saturday and was even more impressed with how they handled themselves after the game by joining Army in recognizing their anthem. The team has the opportunity to partially salvage a somewhat disappointing season by taking out Syracuse. If the owls can finish with five wins including beating 'cuse they can declare this season something of a success. I would like to see a trend of two good games in a row to create some momentum and excitement for next season. Given the youth of the team I was pretty concerned about the trend over the preceding several weeks. I hope juice and the offense can replicate some of the success from last week. I'm still very concerned about the porous defense, especially the backfield. I share the optimism regarding next season but recognize these guys aren't going to replace Harris, Brown and McManus. I'm also not completely sold Daz can deliver the goods. I've been unimpressed with his play calling and his second half (non)adjustments. I'm hoping he also grows along with the team. He seems like a good fit for the owls. Peace and best wishes to all the owls and their opponents. If we learn nothing else from last week it's that college football is just a game. The kids from Army face real battles on our behalf.

  2. Dobbs and Gilmore are very, very good. Daz says Gilmore could be better than BP by the time he's done. Hyperbole? Time will tell.By all metrics, Jim Cooper Jr. is at least as good as McManus. He outperformed the metrics McManus had as a North Penn senior.McManus was all-state. Cooper is All-American.I'm more concerned about our DBs than those 3 guys and, knowing how stubborn Daz is, more concerned that Daz would rather keep Newsome on the bench as a 3d team QB than a first-team DB.

  3. I totally agree on the concerns about the defensive backs being a huge issue. I don't like to single out kids for under-performing, outside of our former QB but I'm not certain how we can trot out some of our defensive backs every week. I think Daz is the last to get the memo about the forward pass being a big part of successful programs gameplans. We haven't demonstrated the ability to execute a successful passing game or stop even a mediocre one. Time will certainly tell whether the new recruits can replace the talent we're losing but I think it's a lot to ask for these kids to create a seamless transition. This was the issue with the lines this year. We had good young talent but despite considerable talent in the skill positions the young guys weren't able to generate a consistent rushing attack…and of course we never really tried to generate a passing game. .

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