Temple-Penn State: When A Game is More Than a Game

We often hear, especially in times like last week after a tough loss, that “it is, after all, only a game.”

That’s easy to say for every week other than Penn State Week for Temple people. For  people who say “it’s only a game; it’s’ not life-and-death” … it is life and death for us who have waited for a win over Penn State all of our lives and desperately want to see one before we go to the other side.


Mr. Katz

Thinking about all of the great Temple fans that I had the pleasure of talking to in the concourses at the Vet, Franklin Field, Temple Stadium and Lincoln Financial Field, like Steve Bumm (see No. 4 in this story), NJ Schmitty, Shane Artim and Dan Glammer, among others, who never got to see this and, of course, Mr. Katz.  They are all gone and none forgotten and never had a chance to see Temple beat Penn State before going to the other side. How many more of us will pass this year with no chance to see a win next year?

This win is much more than for a chance to participate in a bowl game. It is for the respect of an entire city and state. Philadelphia has been force-fed PSU football coverage for 50-plus years when they already had a hometown team. The day Temple beats Penn State will be the day you stop seeing Temple students wearing PSU sweatshirts on campus. It is the day you will finally hear Temple football talked about on the radio and television stations.



So, for all those reasons, it is life and death. The Penn State game is much more than a game for Temple people and it has been for 73 years and it will be until the day Temple beats Penn State and hopefully that day is just a few hours away.

I think it is and I don’t think I’m looking through Cherry-and-White-colored glasses this time.

For all of the mismanagement on offense, Temple’s defense—particularly its defensive line—will win this game. Temple has an athletic and quick defensive line and Penn State has largely an inexperienced group of offensive linemen (and thanks to the Penn State fan who sent us that information). These guys are not walk-ons, but they’ve struggled. If Temple’s defensive line does what it did against Vanderbilt—with four SEC starters  returning from a team that went 9-4 in the best conference in America—the Owls should win this game. We are not asking the Temple defensive line to do something it is not capable of doing or has not done before.



On offense, what the Owls have  is a lot of really good players with unique skills who are not being put in the best position to win. Temple should not be struggling to score 13 points against the likes of Houston, UCF and Memphis.  Temple has two potentially great blocking fullbacks in Kenny Harper and Marc Tyson and it rarely uses them that way. Temple has a potentially great tailback in Jahad Thomas and it rarely uses a fullback block at the point of attack to spring him for big gains. Temple has a potentially great tight end in Colin Thompson and rarely throws him the ball. Temple has at least two offensive linemen who will be playing on Sundays—Dion Dawkins and Kyle Friend—and rarely use those two with Thompson and Tyson running interference on toss sweeps to Thomas that could open up that entire offensive arsenal.

Speaking of that arsenal, Temple has a change-of-pace tailback who runs the ball well in space—Jamie Gilmore—and rarely uses him that way but fans jump all over him when he drops a catchable bomb when they should be jumping all over the coaches instead.  Keith Kirkwood (his OC called him Kirkland on a radio interview), John Christopher and Romond Deloatch—guys with magnets for hands and stick-em rubbed all over those magnets—are rarely thrown but instead target too many guys who do drop balls. The Owls have an extremely talented rollout quarterback, P.J. Walker, who they try to make a dropback passer far too much.

Owl Conundrum:
Temple gets no WR separation
or QB protection in those
formations but stubbornly
roll those formations out
week after week and wonder
why it struggles to score

This offense is a cluster-bleep of trying to fit good square pegs into horrible round holes.

What Temple has on offense is an OC from Tennessee-Chattanooga who is in love with a three- and four-wide formations that this personnel is not suited for and a head coach who is too nice a guy to over, err, rule his good friend. Temple gets no WR separation or QB protection in those formations but stubbornly roll those formations out week after week and wonder why it struggles to score.  With this talent and a more traditional two-back and I-formations with plenty of play-action, Temple is as formidable on offense as it has been on defense this year.

Maybe moreso.

For all that messing around on that side of the ball, I think Temple still wins this one in a game closer than it should be, say 13-10.


33 thoughts on “Temple-Penn State: When A Game is More Than a Game

  1. I’ve been waiting for that day for forty years and, frankly, if it doesn’t happen this year, it may not happen in our lifetimes. We’re the Cubs when it comes to PSU.
    Our offense is atrocious as currently run. I watched Friday’s game on ESPN 3 last night and one of the thing I noticed is that on the read option, it appears that the mesh point is too close to the line of scrimmage, which limits both the Qb’s and running backs’ ability to cut back or go wide. Other teams position the mesh point at least one, if not two yards, deeper thereby placing the Qb in a better spot to read the d-end. It also allows an interior defensive lineman to handle both the Qb and the back. That is only one of the many problems with this offense. If you get a chance this week watch how other teams run the read option and see if I’m right.

  2. One more thing. In a town where the pro team is running one of the most innovative offenses in the NFL, wouldn’t you think that the Owls would pick up something from the Eagles.

    • I love how the Eagles use play-action. They stick it in the belly of Shady and everybody on the defense freezes for a split second and five guys are wide open in the secondary. Us, we drop back with an empty backfield, give our qb no protection and one-tenth of a second to find five covered guys. Genius stuff. When you have a hick from Hooterville as your OC, that’s what happens. We need to hire the OC from New Hampshire.

      • But…but…we have to give rhule 17 years of no accountability in order to institute his terrible game plan, have 5 generations of recruits, convert half of them to tight ends, then call timeout.

      • And for the 75th consecutive season, we’re allegedly “young”, so we can’t possibly win a game!

      • Ain’t gonna happen because Ruhle is too nice. he better start running the program like the business it is because he soon will be looking for a new job himself. Did you see how West Virginia hired Tom Bradley basically to be a mentor. Can’t believe that Ruhle didn’t do the same thing. Someone like Vanderlinden would have been perfect.

    • Now that’s not a fair statement John. Learning and fixing isn’t part of “the process”. New game plan against a different opponent? Heavens no! Pick up a successful strategy, or go back to one that won an unprecedented game (ECU)? Now that’s crazy talk.

      • But Ben, you forgot about the Florida recruiting pipeline that he has developed. Again though you can;t expect those 18 and 19 year olds to compete with 21 year old men.

  3. absolutely agree … hiring friends and not being a hard-ass boss will be his downfall at Temple. You have to be a great gameday coach AND recruiter to win at Temple. 10th and Diamond isn’t Clearwater, Fla. we’ll never get more than the 4th-best recruiting class (consistently). So you have to have a coach who has an IQ four times higher than the three guys with better players ahead of him. I haven’t seen that at Temple since coach Hardin and I certainly don’t see it now.

  4. Ultimate example of reinforcing failure:

    Matt Rhule, “I’m not going to do anything any different. Anytime you try to do something different to get ready for a game you’ve already lost the game. So we’re going to do what we do. If we have problems we’ll have problems.”

    Process does not achieve the desired results but we’ll stick with it anyway. is this stubborn, or stupid?

    • KJ, I thought the same thing when I heard that. I actually paused the video and debated pressing play again. That’s stupidity, or as John says, insanity (by definition). Shows a true lack of adaptation. I shake my head because Mike couldn’t be more correct. This article hits the nail on the head, and I didn’t feel like Rhule shared that enthusiasm. Hopefully he’s playing it off. Hopefully…

    • As the kids would say, smh or smdh … cos shaking his head

  5. Thanks for the mention of Shane. I forwarded the post to his parents who will be in attendance at the Cincinnati game.
    I thought we had them in 2011. I don’t know exactly why we threw two picks at the end of the game. Should have given the ball to Pierce and worst case punted. Was that the play called? QB mistake? Girardi never played another down.
    I hope you are right Mike and we finally beat those guys. I often think about how Shane never got the chance to see that.

    • thanks, mike. can never be sure that i’m right but I have a strong feeling for this game that i didn’t have with any of the others. football is a game of matchups and I think we are strong where they are weak.

  6. Great/ article…until you have to mention again about the FB and I formations. Lol busting your stones Mike. But seriously we have had luttke success even when a FB has been in. What big play besides a 2yd td run have we had with the FB in the backfield??? But on short yardage I totally agree use a TE or FB 50% of the time as a lead blocker. And I wholeheartedly agree we need to mix in alot more rollouts and playaction to score more the 14 pts against PSU. I see the D holding psu under 21 this is a VERY VERY beatable psu team. Hackenburg and PJ play is what will prove to be the difference maker. This is the first time we have played psu and I would say our talent is equal. Bc of the recruitment and sactions we all know about id say our depth is equal and they have a slight talent edge. Our D is BETTER there offense is better. Our special teams are going to have to be flawless. If pj doesnt get back to being the P.J of early in the season. And also I agree give jamie gilmore the dam ball. He is a future all conference tailback he would easily get 1000 yds if he had the carrys I dont like the RB by committee thing rhule is doing. I feel you need a main rb who gets 80% of the carrys and the a change of pace back and or 3rd hands type of rb whoever that guy might be on this roster. We dont have BP and matt brown back there…..wake up matt and gibe gilmore the rock he has the agility to gash psu defense. PLEASE TEMPLE FOOTBALL make history for the fans and city and stop the most embarrassing streak in football history!!!! A win over PSU and becoming bowl eligible at the same time will make this all the more sweet!!! And imagine what this W would do for the upcoming recruiting class. College football Kings of PA!!! I truly believe Coach Rhule will have some tricks up his sleeve for this game. And I see a WIN I really do. Anybody have a point spread on the game just wanting to know what Vegas sees???? #TEMPLETUFF keep fighting the good fight fellas on this site and esp. Mike!! We are the REAL FANS temple needs us.

    • another great post, dan. this is the first time I’ve ever felt that we don’t need to play way over our heads to win against psu. we need to just play like we played against vandy where our DL totally and I mean totally disrupted a pretty good OL. Derek Mason hit the panic button and kept removing his qbs until he found out it wasn’t his qbs under-performing, it was the temple defensive line being an equal opportunity disruptive force. we just need to put hackenberg down hard a few times and get in his face a few others. I’ve given up on Satterfield. I know he’s going to come out in 3 and 4 wides and then wonder why we score only 13 points afterward. I’m just hoping they have 10.

    • and as far as tricks, there’s no law against fitzpatrick throwing a pass off a reverse more than once in the same season.

      • Would be THE play that makes the difference, how bout some reverses even a double reverse. Golden had success running those a few times a year. Fitz has the speed too!!

  7. PSU – 27
    Temple – 3

    “if we have problems we’ll have problems” really no need to re-think the process, right? of course not, let’s just double down on stupidity informed by our stubbornness…,,this is a game when finally a very thin margins separates the talent level between the two teams, but I guarantee PSU will be ready to play, will have less penalties, turnovers, will make their FGAs and win by 3 touchdowns or more

    • Here’s the weird thing: there is nobody on Penn State as good as Jahad Thomas, Jamie Gilmore and P.J. Walker … maybe Kirkwood, Thompson and Deloatch, too. We struggle to get Gilmore running the ball in space and we rarely ever throw to Kirkwood, Thompson and Deloatch–three guys with the best hands on the team. Hackenburg has seven tds and 12 ints. We should be the team scoring points in bunches in this game. Whose fault is that? Nate L. Smith rips off a 30-yard punt return at the end of the Memphis game and Rhule is asked if Christopher will still be returning punts. “I have no one else,” he said. Heellllloooooooooo? Did someone hit this guy on the head? I’m thinking the coach got the concussion, not the players. With Satterfield specializing in calling 3-and-outs, we need the punt return to be a game-breaking offensive play and not be waving our hands in the air for a fair catch all the time. We have some really talented offensive skill players and no way no how did I think we’d still be struggling to score points nine and 10 games into the season. Not putting those kids in the right spots to be effective, IMHO. Every week, I keep praying the approach on offense changes and so far nothing.

      • Uh Penn State has better receivers. Are you crazy?

      • I think the big difference between PSU and Temple with the receiving corps is that PSU seems to stick with a core set (Hamilton, Lewis and James) where Temple seems to have a revolving door outside of Fitzpatrick. Statistically, not a huge difference in production, PSU receivers on average catch 5 more passes a game, average per catch basically the same between the teams and Temple has 11 td passes to PSU’s 8. Interesting thing is their top receiver Hamilton is a freshman, thought those 18 year old kids aren’t ready to compete at this level!!

  8. I’m looking at the Hackenburg stat line: 7 tds, 12 ints. they can’t be that good.

  9. Got this post from Josh, a Penn State fan. Hit “approve” but his comment still isn’t appearing. Some good stuff so I’ll just cut and paste:

    First I want to say as a Penn State, I love coming to this website the week of the Temple game because it gets me psyched for a game I otherwise wouldn’t really care about.

    That being said, no one on penn states offensive line was or is a walk on. They are just inexperience but assuming a normal progression most will be on an nfl roster someday. Mahon and Mangiro were both 4 stars. Nelson and Gaia were both high 3 stars. While Dowrey and Laurent were 3 stars and 2 stars respectively. Nelson and Mahon are both redshirt freshman. Gaia and Dowrey are converted dts. Laurent is a redshirt sophomore. Therefore, I just want to point out that the line isn’t lacking talent just experience. Coupled with our best linemen smith and dieffenbach who are upperclassmen and were 4 stars coming off injuries. Smith may play and dieffenbach will play some.

    • wow … 2 converted dts (we have one) … 2 redshirt freshmen and a redshirt sophomore. I’d give Phil Snow the Northwestern game film because I saw that game and Northwestern blew up the PSU OL.

      • Oh I agree psu isn’t going to win the game with their OL. The games they’ve won have been on defense. They just shut down the top rb in the nation (based on yds/game…160 average) to only 70 yds. They have the number 1 rush defense in the nation. Have only given up 9 tds in regulation the entire season (of those only 2 drives have been over 60 yds). Honestly the only way you can break this defense is if the poor punting and offense keeps putting them in bad spots. If temple has to continually go 60+ yds, I can’t see psu’s defense giving more than 2 decent drives.

        It’ll be close because psu’s offense has struggled against any defense this year. But I think temple will also struggle against psu’s defense. It’ll be a good game.

      • Also my point about the OL was just that they had talent. Obviously a converted DT isn’t you’re first choice but Gaia was being recruited by Alabama for the OL so it’s not like there isn’t talent there. Either way it sounds like Smith will play so we might see psu best ol line up of the year: smith, dieffenbach, mangiro, Mahon and Nelson.

  10. I’m still recovering from the losses to PSU from my days as an undergrad when we had Palmer, Reinstra and company and despite completely outplaying and outhitting Penn State we still lost the game. I may never recover but a victory would help salve the wound.

    • too much heartbreak to recount here. 26-25, 31-30, 14-10, 23-18 … the 15-13 lead with bp tearing up beaver (err, stadium) before exiting at halftime with the recurrent hammy. it ends this weekend only because Matt I. Averee Robinson, Sharif Finch, Hershey Walton and Praise treat Hackenberg like a tackling dummy (as they should).

  11. Here’s another potential factor – the choke factor. If Temple goes in all uptight and makes a bunch of mistakes, we can forget it. If they play loose but tough (yes, Mike, like against Vandy) they’ll have a chance. But the O needs to have at least a couple nice drives. But they really need to not shoot themselves in the foot, bottom line. It’ll probably, hopefully be close so the Owls will have the opportunity to make it happen. Of course a blow out favoring Temple would be great, but unlikely. Another loss like Memphis is also likely – where Temple certainly had their chances. Fingers crossed here in Ohio.

    • have we played that loosey-goosey offensively since vandy? don’t think so. we appear to be as tight as a drum. roll p.j. out, hit some easy-peezy passes to the tight end (ala chester stewart 9-for-9 at maryland, 2011) then take the training wheels off and go deep to kirkwood and deloatch. everything else opens up underneath after that.

  12. By the way, if game comparisons mean anything (which I think they usually don’t) but PSU won a close one against UCF which nailed Temple, soooo…….

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