Temple-Tulsa: The Day After

Outstanding (and also a good report).

When I was a teenager, a friend of mine got a brand new Ford Pinto and the rest of us packed into the car and he took us for a joy ride. It was anything but joyful.  We turned off onto the back roads of Bucks County and found only dead ends before finally backtracking into Philly well after midnight.

“Enjoy the ride,” he said.

Watching Temple beat Tulsa, I had one overwhelming thought: This is definitely a win for the “shut up and enjoy the ride” crowd.


Sometimes, you have to take off the Cherry and White-colored sunglasses—I have several pair—and look at these things objectively. While Temple is 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the conference, it struggled to beat a Tulsa team that was hammered, 52-7,  by Oklahoma and 42-17 by Colorado State and lost to Texas State. Not Texas. Not Texas A&M. Not Texas Christian. Not Texas Tech.

Texas State.

I’m under no illusions that Temple is Oklahoma, but I was thinking the Owls would be closer to Colorado State until yesterday. If Tulsa is perhaps the third-worst team in the league behind Tulane and UConn (and it is), it is really hard to imagine the Owls getting two more wins for the rest of the schedule.

They have to play better but, more importantly, they have to scheme better.

It could be so much better because watching Jahad Thomas play was like going back into a time machine and watching the great Todd McNair play for the Owls. Both wear No. 34.  Both have the same running style. McNair had great blocking fullbacks to follow through the hole and Thomas could have the same thing but both great blockers, Kenny Harper and Marc Tyson, are sitting on the bench when Thomas is in the game. McNair’s running opened up the play-action passing game for the Owls back then and Thomas’ running could open up the play-action passing game for P.J. Walker now. The two-back set is supposedly in the playbook, with plays featuring Harper as lead blocker through the hole for Thomas also in the playbook. Houston hasn’t seen that part of the playbook yet. Maybe it’s time to wipe the dust off those pages.

For five games, I have waited like one of those Seventh-day Adventists waiting for the Second Coming of Robbie Anderson. None of those supposedly just-as-tall and just-as-good receivers Temple has reminds me of Robbie Anderson. He ain’t coming back. (I would have had a GA follow him into every class like a stalker but that’s water under the dam. Damn.)

The defense seems to reverting to its bad habits of 2013 in allowing receivers to make great catches in the secondary and sustain drives that should have been stopped. Houston has a great receiver in Devonte Greenway. A successful and sustained running game accompanied by play-action passing could do more to keep the ball out of his hands than any defense.

Enjoy the ride.

Advance the tape to 1:35 before watching  ….. 🙂


33 thoughts on “Temple-Tulsa: The Day After

  1. maybe I’m being overly optimistic but I have to disagree somewhat about getting 2 more wins, did you watch the Tulane – UCONN game, there is one more win the last game of the season in New Orleans. Sure the team does have to play better but one thing that stood out yesterday was how the defense was able to tighten up in the second half of the 3rd quarter and the 4th. The D really slowed down the Tulsa run game and started making tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Yes, there were some great catches by Tulsa in the second half but unlike last year most did not result in a big yard after catch number and in several cases the coverage was good and they were truly great catches. Plus, let’s look at the upcoming games, Houston lost to UTSA (2-4), beat a bad UNLV team and beat a good, not great as some are making out Memphis team. Cincinnati’s defense is awful and their only 2 wins were against one good MAC team and one bad. Even ECU for all of there press, which I think is great for the AAC, achieved there 5-1 record against teams with a combined 40% winning percentage. The thing that has struck me so far with this year’s Temple team is how they seem stronger in the second half and are not beating themselves.

    • yes, they are solid in the fourth quarter. must beat Houston … to me, that’s the key game of the season until tulane. …. all of the games in the middle seem to be tougher than Tulsa.

      • Don’t disagree about both the Houston game or the games in the middle (UCF, ECU and PSU) being tougher. A win against Houston and I do think this team has a very real shot to finish 7-5 with wins at the end of the season against Cinci and Tulane. I’m really not sure that Cinci will be that much tougher than Tulsa

  2. another concern for me is take a look at p.j. getting hit (and hit hard) on both td passes. to me, this spread offense opens him up for more hits. play fake to a running back gives him a little more time to throw and keeps him out of harm’s way more. just another thing to think about. they are getting free runs on him in this scheme. got to keep the defense honest by showing them a variety of different looks. right now, we’re throwing everything in the Tennessee-Chattanooga playbook at them and that’s only about 2 pages long.

    • Mike we get it, you do not like the spread. Temple put up 35 points and almost 500 yds. yesterday. The run game showed signs of life with some big plays. Need more consistency here. Let’s enjoy the win and prepare for Houston. As for the rest of the schedule I am not overly impressed. Memphis, hum, people on this board had them winning out after beating Cincy, they lose at home first game out. By the way, Al Golden hung a 50 spot on Cincy. I believe they have given up close to 100 points the last two weeks. PSU lost to a putrid Michigan team. Their offense is terrible. ECU did not overwhelm USF and Tulane struggled against UConn. My point is that all these teams have flaws just like we do. I don’t know how many games we will win this year but I would have never guessed we would be 4-1 out of the gate. We used to lose to bad teams and that has certainly changed. Enjoy the ride, it’s just the beginning.

      • love the spread … do NOT like it as an all-the-time, 100 percent offense. why not throw a little two-back series in there once every quarter to keep the defenses off balance? It would not hurt anything at all. the more you can show a defense, the more they have to adjust and the more they have to adjust, the more off-balance you have them and can hit them up for not only big plays but time-consuming drives.

    • Maybe with the game he had yesterday, teams will hesitate a little on play fakes to Thomas. I noticed a couple of times yesterday Tulsa’s d-linemen didn’t even look at a Temple back when Walker faked. I don’t think it’s the spread offense per say but rather this stripped down, conservative version that Satterfield had put together. Aside from a few plays yesterday where Thompson lined up as an H back in more of a pistol look, the offense is only run from a 10 or 11 personnel (4 wr and 1 Rb or 3 we, 1 te and 1 Rb). Basically never see the 2 back sets that can be run from the spread or many pistol looks. For that matter the offense doesn’t have Walker execute the option run series that is also a big part of the spread.

      • They scored 35 points and had 497 total yards…..what else do you want out of the offense? The d had some breakdowns yesterday.

  3. I think over 1000 fans stayed in the parking lot and didn’t even make it to the stadium…, at least 10 of them threw-up on my car in the silver lot :)…, watched plenty of football last nite, and as said before on this blog, Temple has the talent to beat every team left on the schedule and could very well lose to every team left in the schedule.., parity is upon us!

    The addition of Kirkwood is like adding a new starter and will force the safeties to stay back…, the AAC is a throw first league, that will not change even with the addition of navy. we have to put more pressure on the QBs by bringing more than 4 rushers…,

    did NOT like Thomas getting caught from behind in the open field…, game on if this team beats Houston because the Houston defense maybe the best in the AAC

  4. Temple is 4-1 and they have not played 1 game where the offense and defense both played well. That is pretty impressive. temple lost every one of these close games last year. This year, they are finishing. The defense struggled yesterday. They were a -2 in turnover margin and still won the game. at 24-21 in the 4th quarter, last year’s team would have folded and lost. This year’s team scored 2 more touchdowns. To me, that is a sign that the coaching staff is maturing.

    Here is another sign the coaching staff is maturing. Temple’s longest drive prior to the 4th quarter was 2:18. The possession after they took the lead, they needed to milk the clock and they put together a 5:09 drive and scored the icing touchdown.

    Remember this team was 2-10 last year and looked awful. As we are often reminded on this site, they lost to Fordham and Idaho. This year’s team already has 4 wins and I would say that every game on the remaining schedule is winnable. I don’t think they will win every game, but they should win at least 2 more.

  5. PJ played his 11th game yesterday so he’s still a freshman so to speak. That being said he seems to be making progress and is playing beyond his experience. The long pass plays yesterday occurred because PJ astutely looked for the secondary receiver when the primary one was covered and to his credit, he did not overthrow the ball. The interception was his fault but even there he threw to an open man and had he put a little height on the ball, it would have had a completion. My concern is that Satterwaite and Rhule are too stubborn because they won’t incorporate some two back sets to take advantage of Harper’s blocking and catching skills. Flaring Harper out after a run fake would help all of the offense. Play action would have an even greater effect and now that Thompson is playing it would free him up. Stanford the other night threw three or four passes to its tight end after faking a run and the tightend was wide open almost every time. Without a Pierce type back, i.e., one with speed to get outside, it is very difficult to establish the run without a blocking back. TU needs to run to take full advantage of PJ’s passing skills.

    • I watched a lot of top 25 football yesterday and it’s amazing how almost all of the top 25 teams can incorporate both the spread and the two-back looks into their offensive sets. They must all be breaking the NCAA minimum practice hour rule. 🙂 Miss. State ran two series spread, then the next two series two back and the defense’s head was spinning. Just once I’d like to see a defense that uncomfortable against us, not knowing whether to rush the passer full bore or lay back to cover in the flats.

  6. Mike I’m on your side on this one. I like the spread and think it’ll help us, but we could definitely be adding two back sets. Much like the Eagles we are 4-1 based on our schedule. Flip this years schedule (who we play last, play first) and we’re not 4-1. I think we will get at least one more win; two if we’re lucky. Houston we can beat, but to win any other game we will have to diversify our tactics by using blocking backs and two sets more than we do now. Other teams do it successfully and I do not see a personnel reason why we can’t. The pressure of PJ will magnify against tougher opponents without resetting their defense and keep them guessing.

    Feel like I always ask this: any idea on attendance? For a rainy 12pm game looked like good turnout.

    • 25K and change. attendance is what it is. coach hardin said we’d have to go unbeaten for 10 straight years for us to ever fill a 70K stadium and, like he is at most things, he’s right. love to see that theory tested, though.

    • biggest fear, ben, is that p.j. gets hit and hit a lot full speed without a protecting blocker. look at that touchdown to thomas in the video above. love to see Harper knock that kid into the stands in addition to flaring out thomas. can’t do that in a one-back set. looks like Jamie missed the block on the td pass to fitz. harper would not have.

  7. JT, I wasn’t talking about offensive production but rather Mike’s point if running multiple sets out of the spread, which this offense really doesn’t do. Tulsa totally ignored play fakes, I can only remember 3 to 4 passes thrown to TEs and 100 of those 497 yards were on 2 school yard passes to Gilmore across the field. Walker has the arm and athletic ability to pull those off but you’re not going to be able to do that week in and week out. Maybe the staff feels they don’t have the necessary talent to run more than a vanilla spread package but incorporating more would make this offense more productive. There were stretches in the 2nd qtr into the 3rd yesterday where the offense was very predictable and not sustaining any drives with 3 passes and out.

  8. think attendance was about 25,350.,, would have been 30k on a good day…, feel for Herbin, poor kid can’t catch a cold.., additions of Thompson and Kirkwood is like picking up two new starters.., this team will probably go 7-5, huge improvement vs 2-10, plus we’ll have 19 of 22 starters back for 2015.., credit to the coaches for the 4th quarter intensity.., we would have lost this type of game last year…, run game will only produce so much, we don’t have pro level or all conference talent at that position…,

  9. After watching all owls D1 games this season I really think they have a shot to win any of the games remaining on the schedule or lose out the rest of the season. That said I can seem the realistically winning 2-3 more games.

    I’ve been really pressed with PJW’s development but even more so by that of the coaching staff. The team doesn’t have not create that fatalistic sense of dread that no lead was safe. They took some risks yesterday that showed they were playing to win and I give huge props to MR for fostering that mindset in the team.

    I think the balance of the year will one down to whether we can continue to win the turnover battle and make significance improvements of special teams. While not the disaster of last years special teams we’re still tentative on the return game and kicking still isn’t totally wired.

  10. Just watched Dallas win a game because of a two-back set.

  11. What a surprise…Mike and John STILL complaining after a win, and STILL talking about the SAME garbage every day. I would understand your comstant complaining about 2-back sets if it actually made sense or had any statstical support…but like most of you arguements, it doesn’t. Thomas ran for 152 yards with a 10.0 average and Gilmore had a 7.2 average and was a big play threat out of the backfield…all of this was done in single back sets. Seriously, what more do you want? The only complain I have is that we need to run more frequently to give our offense more balance. Thomas and Gilmore have proven they can be big play threats and need to be given more opportunities. 2-back sets could be used as a sprinkle in the offense, but we often pull the TE to have a similar effect.

  12. We want more balance using a two-back set. Gilmore’s average is not a true indicator because of the long run. Those two guys behind Harper would even be better. How can there be statistical support if TU doesn’t use a two-back set at all. Besides, I watched team after team this week-end succeed with two-back set-Dallas Cowboys, Mississippi State, Stanford etc. Besides, what’s wrong with wanting the Owls to be better. At some point, they’ll need to grind out some yardage by going on a 7-8 minute drive, something which they have not done this season. Had they done that at Navy, they might have given the D some well-needed rest,

    • Look at Gilmore’s season average…it is over 5. I am pretty sure that is a “true indicator”. The problem is John, we don’t have the personnel of the Dallas Cowboy, Miss St., or Stanford. Our personnel screams spread offense…small running QB, two small RBs, mostly small WRs, and and offense based on speed not power. Shifty towards primary use or 50/50 of 2-back sets would gimp the offense, which is pretty obvious. Like I said already, it can be used on occasion but not as a focal point. It just bothers me that our running game could not have been more successful against Tulsa, yet you and Mike feel the need to still complain about something that was clearly proven wrong in that game. The only complaint I have is that we need to run more and balance the offense, Rhule tends to get locked in to forcing the passing game.

    • And I meant statistical support that the single back set weren’t working. The running game is AND was fine, based on our backs season YPC….the only problem was/is volume.

  13. The phase where I think a 2 back power set, with Harper and either Thomas / Gilmore, needs to be looked is at least short yardage. While Tulsa didn’t have enough time to win the game when Temple failed to convert on a 4th and short there are going to be times when we’ll need to make that play this season. I did like how Thompson lined up as an H-back a couple of times Saturday in more of a Pistol look. I would like to see some more of that and maybe an occasional 2 wr, 2 te sets with Harper as the H-back. In addition to his blocking he would also be a target for swing passed which he seems to have good success with

  14. Yes, the coaching. Except for that trying to milk the clock and getting a penalty for taking too long, it seemed that the play calling was quite good. Don’t know what will happen the rest of the season, but the play needs to become more consistently good. If that happens, 2 or more wins the rest of the way is certainly possible.

  15. And no one has mentioned how the receivers were so wide open on some key plays. They did a nice job and made things easier for PJ.

    • They were open because they were the second receivers on the play. It was only because PJ recognized that the primary was covered and looked for the second guy and we were playing Tulsa the plays worked. What Sell doesn’t acknowledge is that TU has played really bad teams other than Navy, who isn’t that good, and we lost. The running game has been anemic: only had 144 against Vandy, 156 against Navy, 172 against Del State, and 41 against UConn net rushing. There’s some statistics that show that the running game has been anemic. Take the 68 yards away from the total against Tulsa, it doesn’t look good.

      • John I’ll agee that Navy isn’t that good but that offense they run is unique and they run it so well that it is hard to know what you got after playing them. They ran up about 450 yds on Ohio State and OSU is ranked 13 in the polls. As for the schdule, you play who they ask you to play and so far we only slipped up against Navy. I don’t know how good or bad we are based on the competition so far but PSU, UCF, Houston, Cincy, Tulane and Memphis don’t scare me. I think we are competitve with these teams which I could see us winning an additional 2-4 games that are left. We could also fall on our collective arse and lose all severn or only win 1. That’s why we play the games but I am impressed with the sheer turnaround with this team. They don’t make as many mistakes or mental breakdowns as last year and special teams are much improved inclduing the kicking game and that is why they are 4-1. Long way to go but the coaches so far have done a nice job. I think they will acquit themselves nicely on Friday night too.I am not concerned with not running a two back set, I am, howver, worried that the oline is not very good at run blocking.They improved a little Saturday and need to continue to improve.

  16. OL could use another blocker. hopefully, thompson is a better blocker than Major or Omuso. I would throw Harper in there as another blocker because he’s just about the best blocker on the team and proved it as a true freshman fullback. I guess we’ll never see that again, though. P.J. might get another split second to throw with Harper’s protection and Thomas might also get an initial kick-out block following Harper, much like BP and Montel got those great kick-out blocks from Wyatt Benson.

    • Mike-I like the idea of using Thompson as an H back becasue he is big, can block and can catch the ball.I do agree with using a two back set sometimes because I think it is needed like you say to show em another look, iin short yardage and goal line situations. Spread teams have trouble scoring when they get inside the 5. Power I teams usually do not and yes you can keep one back in and throw some swing passes to the other back in the flat giving PJ a release valve and not taking an unnecessary hit.. I read somewhere that Houston lost two starters for the season after the Memphis game, one of which was the leading tackler. I’ll take an edge I can get!

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