AAC Champs: Why Not The Owls?

There was happiness everywhere in Owl country from coast to coast, but especially in Nashville.

There was happiness everywhere in Owl country from coast to coast, but especially in Nashville.

There’s not much to tell from a first-week AAC first-week football schedule that includes Connecticut being hammered by BYU and Houston vs. UTSA. If defense wins championships, neither Tulsa nor Tulane showed much of it in a 38-31 win by the Golden Hurricane. Fans will not find out much about East Carolina in a game against North Carolina Central.


“Vandy’s defensive line will
consist of Vince Taylor at nose,
who started 11 games last year.
Adam Butler, an absolute terror
who started 5 games after flipping
over from offensive tackle,
and Nifae Lealeo, a US Army All American
freshman who weighs in at a svelt 315.
As for the secondary Vandy returns Paris Head
who had as many picks last year as the entirety
of the Temple defense and Andrew Williamson
who boasts two picks …. top to bottom
this will be the most talented Vandy roster in history”
_ Vandy fan Tdog

There was, though, one game that really opened a lot of eyes and that was Temple’s 37-7 win at Vanderbilt. That’s because the Owls totally dominated a SEC team which returned 15 starters, including a quarterback, Patton Robinette, who started and won games at Georgia and Florida. The Commodores’ offensive line returned intact, with the exception of one player, Wes Johnson, and this was a group that held out some of the best defensive lines in the best conference in the country.

Nine months ago, Temple made a trip to Tennessee and came away with a 41-21 win over Memphis. Thursday’s win in Nashville was even more dominating. The last group of Yankees who had that much success in that state were led by U.S. Grant.

Owls celebrate Averee Robinson's touchdown, making him and Adrian the only brother combination to score defensive touchdowns in the 87-year-history of Temple football.

Owls celebrate Averee Robinson’s touchdown, making him and Adrian the only brother combination to score defensive touchdowns in the 87-year-history of Temple football.

When James Franklin left to take over the head coaching job at Penn State, he did not leave the cupboard totally bare in Nashville. This was more Temple good than Vanderbilt bad and, in an AAC that could be wide open, this wins means the Owls could be major players in the conference this year and for years to come.

UCF lost a first-round quarterback pick to the NFL. Houston was dominated by Vanderbilt in a bowl game last year. Cincinnati has a talented quarterback in Gunner Kiel, but he’s also a guy who has not dropped back against a real rush in two years. That means something because Temple has a real rush. The Owls were all over Robinette like few SEC teams were and the reason was that they moved a couple of speedy linebackers up to defensive ends. The Owls had to do very little blitzing but, when they did, the consistent front four rush made the blitzes all the more effective. A blitz from linebacker Avery Ellis led to a sack, a fumble and a touchdown return by nose tackle Averee Robinson.

It was some very impressive coaching from second-year coach Matt Rhule and DC Phil Snow to make those kind of personnel changes.

It’s a long season and Temple would be wise to learn from its last dominating win over a Power 5 team, when the Owls went down to Maryland and beat the Terps, 38-7, in 2011. Full of themselves, the Owls were beaten, 38-13, at home by Toledo the next week. Maybe Rhule, an Owl assistant at that time, should show them that film.

Speaking about being full of themselves, remember this post by our Vandy friend visitor Tdog last week:

“Vandy’s defensive line will consist of Vince Taylor at nose, who started 11 games last year. Adam Butler, an absolute terror who started 5 games after flipping over from offensive tackle, and Nifae Lealeo, a US Army All American freshman who weighs in at a svelt 315. As for the secondary Vandy returns Paris Head who had as many picks last year as the entirety of the Temple defense and Andrew Williamson who boasts two picks and a wealth of experience. You’re spot on on the question marks at wr and the last 2 spots of the secondary, but top to bottom this will be the most talented Vandy roster in history”

Hmm.

If the Owls do not get full of themselves in a week against a very good Navy team, they have as much a chance of building the kind of momentum that could catapult them to an AAC title. Of all the AAC teams so far, they have a chance of building the best resume after two weeks.

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16 thoughts on “AAC Champs: Why Not The Owls?

  1. Great win by the owls! I’ve been as harsh a critic of this coaching staff as anyone but last night this team was ready. I was impressed with the owls preparedness and talent but saw some lingering issues carrying over from last year, mostly in the special teams area. Below is how I would grade the owls performance.

    Defense (grade A). This isn’t last years Owls defense. They were much quicker to the ball and played with a disciplined aggression lacking from last year’s team. The improvement in talent and speed in the defensive backfield was noticeable. The d-line’s speed on the corners and power up the middle also gave a very good Vanderbilt line more than they could handle. The secondary was able to capitalize on rushed throws with speed and aggressive ball hawking. Nice scheming and execution by the owls.

    Offense (grade B). Solid progress by an offense that wasn’t dominant but did a great job avoiding big mistakes. It’s been great to see how poised PJ Walker has become and the confidence with which he leads the team. He consistently made good reads and smart plays by hitting open receivers and not putting the ball in dangerous places. The offensive line was very solid for such an inexperienced unit and the skill players were serviceable (ie they played within themselves and did what they needed to win), which against an SEC team is a real compliment. I still haven’t seen a big play threat but it’s early in the season. Also, the owls need to improve on third down conversions to keep the chains moving.

    Special teams (grade D). Missing a chip shot field goal, muffing a punt and not having the presence to limit the damage to a safety, and consistently failing to get kickoffs into the end zone won’t cut it against top-tier teams. This aspect of the game needs to get better.

    Coaching (grade A). They went into the home of an SEC team and kicked ass. Enough said.

  2. So pleased with the coaching last night because that was my biggest concern and Matt and Phil came through like champs. Like Peter J. Liacouras wrote, “winning cures all ills.” He was right.

    • Nine months of seething anger and 95-minutes of sugary snacks helped the Owls. The heat and over-reliance on beefy lineman hurt the Commodores. Vanderbilt brought a knife to a gunfight. We’ll see if Temple is for real against Navy.

  3. Great article mike. I attended the game and could not believe how the air went out of the stadium after the fumble recovery and return. I thought the Owls could win but never thought that deep subs would play. I don’t think that these kids, having suffered through last year, will have a let down.

    • I’ve never understood let down in a sport where you only play 12 games a season. Baseball, I can understand. It’s 162 games. Basketball and hockey, too. College football, you work like a maniac 365 days a year to show your goods for 12. Yet … YET … there is no doubt this strange phenomenon happens because you can point to Temple winning 38-7 at Maryland one week and losing at home to Toledo 38-13 the next. Live and learn. Let’s hope Temple has, too.

  4. Most everything was coached and played real well. I’m watching the Navy/OSU game as I do this email. Navy will be a big test. What I was impressed with at Vandy was Temple’s speed on both sides of the ball. They’ll need it against Navy. With the right D schemes Temple can handle Navy’s end runs – they already know how to plug up the middle. Bring those backs up on runs? As far as the kicking game goes, Temple’s punting was solid – that “mishandled” high snap, IMO, was unhandlable, fumbling it around on the ground was not good however. Kick offs were at least usually between the 5 yard line and goal line – not what we want but not the 10 yard line of last year either. IF they keep this level of play, I’m cautiously smelling bowl game! But its just the first game and like a game, a season needs consistency to keep on winning. But it WAS exciting seeing them dominate for the whole game – they actually had Vandy demoralized and many of our subs got lots of play time and did well too. Go Owls. Beat Navy. Well OSU is starting to pull away and Temple’s size will hopefully have the same effect as the game goes on.

  5. TU, over the last several years, has done well against the option offense. To beat it, you need disciplined play by your line and linebackers who must carry out their assignments and not try to be heroes as well as Dbacks who can get off the blocks of Navy’s wide receivers who are some of the best blockers in college football. Ohio State was befuddled by Navy because their line and Lbs violated these rules and the dbacks stayed blocked as evidenced by the many runs around the ends. By the end of the game, if TU uses it’s size they, like Ohio State will simply wear down the smaller Navy team.

    • geez, no need to bring Nadia into this. she watched the game at the field house with us. she’s a very nice person. a very weak attempt at humor and I’m glad Temple got the last laugh.

      • If you want a chuckle go on that website that John posted. Check out the game comment thread they had posted. Over 700 comments and they start out trash talking us and then slowly get more panicked. These are the same fans trash talking us that (minus 2012 and 2013) hadn’t had an over 7 win season since 1982. They enjoy 2 years and then suddenly think they’re better than everyone else. It was nice to see them panic.

  6. It was a fantastic win, the kind rarely enjoyed by Owls fans. It is also the kind of win that could be the difference between a WINNING season and 6-6.

    But Coach Rhule and the boys have to go out a prove it each and every week. If the past has taught us anything, there are no certain victories for the Owls. Navy will be crucial, but so wil every other game.

  7. Feed the Owls more granola bars, muffins, and water prior to the Navy game. I want to see the “Twinky Defense” first hand. Coach Snow can ratchet them up to Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts before Penn State. All jokes aside, nutrition is important, and I am excited about watching the Navy game. It will be a donnybrook.

  8. How about the rest of the AAC getting looking horrible? Houston lost 27-7 at home vs UTSA haha…SMU lost 45-0 at Baylor…UCONN lost 35-10 at home vs BYU…and USF barely beat W Carolina 36-31. Not a good showing for the AAC outside of Temple and UCF, but @ Houston looks a lot more winnable now!

    • good point. I like Houston’s qb and future NFL first-round draft choice (devonte greenway) but it was obvious they were not able to replace losses along both lines, like temple was, and even last year’s houston team lost 44-27 to a Vanderbilt team that included 15 guys (including a qb) who started against both temple and houston.

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