There was so much head-scratching in an underachieving season last year that just about every Temple football fan still has scars on the heads.
From the shotgun handoff on 4th and three inches at Rutgers to the use of a punter to kick an extra point—when you had a perfectly good backup kicker to do it—Owl fans were “wtf’ing” all season.
Play-action brings the linebackers up for run support
and dumping the ball over their heads could create
major run-after-catch opportunities for players like
Herbin and John Christopher. Keeping a dynamic blocker
like Harper in after faking the ball into his gut
can only help P.J. Walker’s protection.
Arguably, nothing compared to the way Temple was perceived to have scouted the opposition. At times, it appeared the Owls never popped in any opponents’ film before taking the field against them. The Owls passed the ball against the worst rush defense in the nation, Idaho, and failed to commit to the run against a FCS defensive line (Fordham) that averaged 247 pounds across the front. The next week, a St. Francis of Loretto back with considerably less talent than any of the top three Temple backs, Kyle Harbridge, gained 297 yards on 29 carries against that same defense. Either the Red Flashes have a bunch of Mensa members on their coaching staff or they just took the Fordham depth chart, put the DL weights into a calculator, divided by 4, and devised a rational game plan to attack the Rams. Since the scouting budget at SFL is minuscule, I’m guessing the latter.
Now game week starts and Temple fans hope things are different this season.
Vanderbilt is the opponent in a week and its new coach, Derek Mason, likes to play a 3-4 defense and Owl fans can only hope the Owls have spent the summer devising a good plan to attack it. The Commodores return only 10 starters, the second-fewest in the SEC. No SEC returns a smaller percentage of last year’s total offense, so the Owl defense should have a better chance stopping it than, say, they did a year ago at Notre Dame.
Still, as good as Vanderbilt was under current Penn State coach James Franklin, it lost to Missouri by a 51-28 score and Texas A&M by a 56-24 score. Temple should have beaten a UCF team that blew out Baylor.
The Owls should also look at what UCLA did under head coach Karl Dorrell because Dorrell will serve as Mason’s offensive coordinator this season. Hint: It’s a West Coast offense and probably not a good one (this from Bruins’ Report):
During his five seasons with the Bruins, Dorrell went 35-27, losing six or more games in all but one campaign as his teams largely struggled to execute his version of the West Coast offense. The lone exception was in 2005, when a veteran team featuring running back Maurice Jones-Drew and tight end Marcedes Lewis posted a 10-2 record.
The Commodores lose Jordan Matthews to the Eagles, but they still have a playmaking wide receiver in sophomore Jordan Cunningham (15 receptions, 123 yards). Other than that, a whole bunch of new guys.
TFF’s keys to the game:
1. Khalif Herbin must have 15 touches (5 runs, 5 catches, 5 returns)
2. Play-action to set up intermediate passes for big RAC opportunites
3. Trust your 2 best players (Kyle Friend and P.J. Walker) on 4th and inches
4. Generate pass rush along front 4
Vandy’s strength is the offensive line, losing only all-conference left tackle Wes Johnson.
Its two top running backs are Jerron Seymour (716 yards, 14 touchdowns) and a scatback-type in Brian Kimbrow (341 yards). Seymour is a very similar runner to Kenny Harper—good for 8-yard bursts in the red zone but lacks the capability of taking a handoff at the 20 and going 80 to the house. A Matt Brown or a Bernard Pierce (and a Khalif Herbin) do have that capability.
The Vandy defense returns only three starters, all linebackers, so Temple would do well with play-action fakes and rollouts and dumping the intermediate passes over the linebackers’ heads. Those three starters are Kyle Woestmann, Caleb Azubike and Darreon Herring. Play-action brings the linebackers up for run support and dumping the ball over their heads could create major run-after-catch opportunities for players like Herbin and John Christopher. Keeping a dynamic blocker like Harper in after faking the ball into his gut can only help P.J. Walker‘s protection.
Vandy’s special teams will struggle without Murderleg (Carey Spear), whose days are numbered at Eagles’ camp because he cannot even beat out Dead Leg (Alex Henery).
Khalif Herbin will be able to do serious damage on punt and kickoff returns, if he is given the chance.
Hopefully, while scouting Vanderbilt, Temple coaches will remember that Owl name—and the name of St. Francis of Loretto’s Kyle Harbridge—as a reminder (to quote Andy Reid) that they need to do a better job at not only scouting foes, but taking advantage of their weaknesses.