Season Review: Square Pegs Into Round Holes

Fortunately, not one of the 27 helmets Temple currently uses. With 2 games left, a Utah website predicted this bowl matchup.

Fortunately, not one of the 27 helmets Temple currently uses. With 2 games left, a Utah website predicted this bowl matchup.

Watching Dunmore of the Scranton area play in the state championship game today was a reminder of how Temple could have schemed its way into the wins it needed to assure itself of a bowl bid.

Dunmore ran the kind of offense that perfectly suited Temple personnel all season: Two backs, tailback running behind the fullback and play-action off a max protect scheme for the quarterback. It doesn’t matter that Dunmore lost, because Dunmore got the most of its personnel using that system.

These numbers would have been much better with a blocking fullback and play-action approach. Twelve games of 3-4 wides will lead to these kind of unacceptable numbers.

These numbers would have been much better with a blocking fullback and play-action approach. Twelve games of 3-4 wides will lead to these kind of unacceptable numbers.

Temple did not.

It’s a simple principle: Coach to the players you have, not the ones you want to get. It seemed like all year the Owls were running formations for the kind of guys they want to recruit, not the guys they had in the building.

The Owls had a potentially great tailback in Jahad Thomas, but he disappeared after gaining 157 yards from scrimmage in the Tulsa game. He also appeared sparingly after that, partly because the coaching staff did not have a whole lot of confidence in the offensive line, but mostly because the coaching staff refused to use two of the best blockers they had —Marc Tyson and Kenny Harper—who could have helped open some holes for Thomas with lead blocks.

Ask Paul Palmer what Shelley Poole meant for him as a lead blocker. Ask Montel Harris what Kenny Harper did for him as a lead blocker.  Ask Bernard Pierce what Wyatt Benson did for him as a lead blocker. Ask Tanardo Sharps what Harold Jackson did for him as a lead blocker. Ask Kevin Duckett what Mark Bright did for him as a lead blocker.

All of them will say that one lead block was just as responsible for any big gain as was the entire offensive line.

Thomas never had a chance to answer that question because the coaches never tried the concept.

A lead block opens up the running game and a good running game opens up a play-action passing game. This season was 12 games of Temple running three and four receiver sets, even splitting the tight end when he could be better used to jump-start the running game. Twelve games of trying to force square pegs into round holes.

As a result, this ass-backwards’ approach to offense killed Temple’s chances of winning a couple more games (Navy, Memphis and Cincinnati come to mind) that would have given Temple fans a nice trip to the Bahamas.

If the coaching staff learns something from this experience, it might be worth it. If not, they will be banging their heads against the wall for another 12 games next season.

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36 thoughts on “Season Review: Square Pegs Into Round Holes

  1. a season of ifs and buts … I’ve come to the conclusion that they are going to do it their way up until the day they are fired three years from now. If they change, they can save themselves but I think they are too stubborn to change.

  2. St. Joe’s Prep is better coached than TU. They’re offense is more innovative and the kids more disciplined.

  3. With any luck the BOT sets next season as make of break for this staff. I just think a 4 to 5 year time frame before this program is at or near the top of the AAC is too long. Depending on our cross conference scheduling, without an improvement in the performance of this staff on game day repeating this seasons record could be a difficult task. Hopefully they also look at this season and last as a team that easily won fewer games than it should have, should have had 5 wins minimum in 2013 and 7 to 8 this season. I don’t care what the “experts” predicted for Temple at the beginning of the season (same exerts who almost universally pegged SMU to finish in the middle of the AAC this season), when opportunities like Memphis, Cincinnati present themselves during the year a good staff needs to take advantage.
    I find it kind of interesting that some of the Rhule “zealots” on the other boards seem to be getting a little lukewarm about him right now, posting quotes like this now ” I think I would say that we hope Rhule has greater upside”. Far cry from all the “in Rhule we trust” and how he’s the only guy for the job sentiment last year and for most of this season.

    • I have my doubts about the BOT. Without Lew, there is no driving force for excellence on the athletic committee. BOT chair Patrick O’Connor has been quoted as saying “Temple won’t get involved in an arms’ race” in college football. What, exactly, does that mean? Temple won’t pay to build a stadium? Temple won’t pay the Linc for an extension? Temple will go on the cheap with a short-term rental deal with FF? Temple won’t pay a great and proven FBS head coach like ULL’s Mark Hudspeth or Toledo’s Matt Campbell when or if the time comes to make a change?? I fear it could mean all of the above.

  4. no question about it, this is a make or break year for Rhule. what Houston did set the standard for the conference, and while not happy for Levine, the move does speak well for the conference. it shows that schools in the AAC expect to compete. Anything less than 8 wins for 2015 and Rhule must go – period

    • agreed. the matt rhule apologists are already painting a scenario where another six-win season will be viewed as progress. they must be getting a cut of the $1.3 million Temple is paying him. In the real world, it’s up or out and I don’t see why Rhule is not expected to be part of the real world.

      • And if that does happen, I’m sure going into 2016 we’ll start hearing how it will be a rebuilding year for the defense with so many seniors leaving. I just don’t get this total loyalty to a coach who has been mediocre at best his first 2 seasons and hasn’t shown anything that indicates he will get better. As KJ said Houston gives an example of an administration that is setting the bar high. I fear you may be correct regarding Temple’s Mike, don’t want to go all in and are content to have a consistent middle of the road team, at the lowest cost. Too me 2 teams should guide them, the performance of Memphis should be the expectation conveyed to Rhule going into 2015 and with anything less than 8 wins, the BOT should act the same as Houston

  5. Any Temple fan who watched the St. Joe’s Pine-Richland game tonight would have come away with a grand case of envy. Both teams ran offenses more complicated than TU’s and ran them with a level of skill the Owls never demonstrated the entire season. I saw plays tonight that TU could have run but didn’t. One must ask why is that the case. (We know why. It’s the coaching). Even in the Vanderbilt and Delaware State games, the offense struggled. Finally, the program is doomed regardless of whether or not they win. It’s too late because playing competitive football has become too expensive for every school but especially those not in the sainted five conferences. That’s why getting a good coach is twice as important for schools like TU.

  6. it will be very interesting to see who SMU and Houston go with next year for Head Coaches…, additionally who UCF names as OC and DC will tell everyone what other coaches think about the AAC. if those schools are able to attrack top coaches then Temple is surely in trouble…, we always talk about comparing Temple’s record against the other schools in the conference. But has anyone compared Rhule to the other HCs? my guess, Rhule is not in the top eight, sad but true. to date he is an overpaid underachiever

    • the sad facts are this: after two years in this “regime” we are 8-16 and finished no higher than No. 77 out of 126. for one of the top schools in the U.S. in so many other categories (No. 6 in producing professionals for one), No. 77 in such a high-profile realm like football (former TU legal counsel George Moore called it the university’s front porch) is unacceptable. Or should be. At least Golden and Daz had us just outside the top 25 at the beginning of the decade. Temple probably won’t ever be a consistent top 25 in football, but there’s no reason it can’t flirt with the top 25 like Northern Illinois and Marshall seem to do. we can’t even flirt, let alone get to first base.

  7. Watched the North Dakota-Coastal Carolina 1-AA playoff game yesterday. Great game. Both teams have very competent coaches who totally understand the game. Either would jump at the chance to coach Temple for that salary and 1-AA isn’t that far removed from 1-A. Just a suggestion for Temple’s AD and President. You guys keep talking about the possibility of Temple dropping football if this and that. What are you basing that concern on? Is there actually talk of doing that? If so, maybe the BOT already has their mind made up if things don’t get better? And if it’s based on results and not just finances, then why would they tolerate what’s going on after decades of experience with unsuccessful choices? They should know how to handle things by now. There really is no excuse for this BS. Mike and John, I fully feel your frustrations with this situation.

    • Basing that on the fact that TU will have to spend tens of millions to stay at the LINC or build a stadium. Lurie wants 15 million up front and 2 1/2 million a year for five years. Was told that by the president of the university. Putting 2 and 2 together it’s an outcome that has a real chance of occurring.

      • exactly right. unless a stadium announcement (real building and shovel in the ground) is made before March, John’s scenario will be played out. Based on the results of the last 2 seasons, I now fully expect no such announcement. they needed a winning season and a bowl this year and the game plan for the MUST game (cincy) was so uninspired and reflected a basic lack of understanding of the urgency not only for a bowl, but for the program as a whole.

  8. Jon, John probably has better contacts than I do for this type of information but a couple of things will lead me to believe that football while maybe not dropped will be maintained at a level of not good but just good enough. By that I mean, unless he shows me something next season I think the ceiling for Rhule is to maintain a middle of the pack AAC team averaging 5 to 7 wins a season and content with invites to the bottom tier bowl tie-ins against other G5 schools from the MAC, Sun Belt and C_USA. First apparently not wanting to up the ante to get the real OC Rhule originally wanted and getting out bid by Nevada. A school by the way with about half the enrollment of Temple and a smaller endowment. Kind of goes with that not getting involved in the “arms race” statement. The second thing would be no on campus stadium or new lease at the Linc. At that point I get the feeling that best case the BOT would look at a middle of the road team “cheap” enough to maintain with AAC money coming in. Of course I feel that would without a doubt leave Temple out in the cold when the final P5 conference realignments take place and at that point who knows what happens to the program.

    • That could occur but even running a program as Temple does incurs millions in losses.

      • Don’t disagree with that, but given that a good majority of D1 football programs are run at a lose I think it becomes at what point do those losses become unpalatable to the BOT. They might look at a program that is “competitive enough” and the costs are keep as low as possible, playing at FF for instance, lower cost assistants, etc. the TV time and bowl participation / exposure provide a bigger benefit to the university. Millions in losses coupled with a 2-10 or 6-6 no bowl season I think becomes much more of a problem then incurring those same losses but being “just good enough” to keep getting the TV exposure and making annual late December trips to Florida, the Bahamas or Hawaii may make for a different equation. Even if Temple were winning the AAC, I don’t think the program would even break even, the real benefit in that is being in a position to move up to a P5 conference where the real money is. That is my real concern that the BOT isn’t focused on that goal.

  9. I’ve written it here many times before and I don’t mind writing it again. Either the athletic department or BOT lacked the skill to hire a bowl contending coach. With John’s comment I wonder if they hired to intentionally keep the program at bay. A stadium seems more doubtful now than ever, as does $15m for the Linc.

    Say whatever you want about Rhule, but Bowles and Franklin wouldn’t have been in the same sentence like it is now. Just saying.

  10. the Temple Sports Marketing Dept is going around the east coast requesting new stadium commitment pledges…., they are asking for $50K – $100K per year for two years…, they want to line up the funding before they make an announcement …, new stadium would require the city to agree to permanently close 18th street, they are looking at a 30,000 seat open end stadium…., philly city council is objecting citing impact on the North Philly neighborhood.., don’t think they’ll be able to swing enough votes on the city council, and don’t think they’ll raise enough money to cover the new construction bond

    • I agree that City Council, the most useless legislative body in the entire world, is a problem. That’s why Temple has to approach the unions and get them to lobby city Council. In this town the unions control what goes on. As an aside, why would 18th street have to be closed? Did you mean 16th Street?

  11. Sounds like doing things on the cheap for so many years has left Temple football in a hole so deep that now that things simply cost so much they’re not at all in a position to take things to the next level. Which means renting FF and keeping Rhule and being satisfied with smallish crowds, etc., etc. Well, Temple will always have to change coaches when they attain any amount of success – that’s a given – but they should still be able to get to a level of the top MAC teams which get bowl games and top-25 flirtations, even with small crowds and stadiums (many MAC teams draw very poorly – Temple does better). And given that Temple is positioned in the middle of the pack in the AAC right now, maybe that’s all we can realistically expect. Hate to say it, but…. You know, the last 7-8 years Temple has been “flirting” which gave us fans some hope. It’s getting over that damn hump – and I for one still think it’s possible at Temple. Call me a sucker, but…..

  12. While I would like to see an on-campus stadium become a reality, just think that ship sailed when the discussion in ’98 with Major League Soccer never came to fruition. While I don;t know if it would have changed the tossed out of the Big East the first time, it certainly would have indicated to the conference a level of commitment to the football program that I believe they felt was lacking from Temple. Have to wonder how the AAC is going to feel if our “home” stadium becomes FF. I also don’t know if the current administration has ever had to deal with a bod as corrupt as Philadelphia city council before. Agree with John get the unions on board for 2 years of project employment and hire a guy like Ed Rendell to spearhead dealing with the city politics.

    • Rendell would be a good go-between.. I would propose a joint Penn -Temple facility for football. FF is a hell hole. I’ve also been saying that someone has to involve Comcast and give them naming rights. Rendell could get Comcast involved through his connection with David Cohen.

      • rather than hit the alumni up, some thinking outside the box like that is what will get the stadium project done. don’t have a whole lot of confidence in the carpetbagging leadership from Indiana to do it.

  13. John, yes, i meant 16th street.., reason for open end is the option to expand in the out years.., totally agree, the unions and not the city council will be the deciding stakeholder…, Temple should examine the public, private, partnership model to fund the project.., they could get a much nicer stadium and offset the risk with the P3 model. the cities of Long Beach, Ca and Indy just approved P3 projects to build new social infrastructure for their citizens…,

    Temple naively believes it can build a nice 30K seat stadium for $200M…, no way…, bottom line is if they don’t have the funding lined up by June then it’s back to the Linc, Franklin Field, or maybe even no football at all

  14. It’s over.

    Football will cease to exist at Temple in 2018.

    • Better beat Penn State next year then. I really don’t want to exit this world without experiencing that once. We could 1-11 and I wouldn’t care if the one win was against PSU.

    • the silence from the bot on things like stadiums and linc extensions is telling. we’re not even hearing about franklin field anymore. are they planning to just let the lease run out? wouldn’t be surprised.

  15. just finished reading about the new Florida HC and the players he recruits to run his style of offense. what is Temple’s offensive style and what type of players are we recruiting for our style? hard for anyone to tell, or is it just me?

    AG ran a bell cow offense with BP as the bell cow.., I can’t figure out what type of offense we are running besides the old ‘three and out’

    • that is a great point. I don’t think matt rhule has ever outlined what he’s trying to do on offense (other than the overly simplistic answer of scoring). I’d really like one of these guys who cover the team on a full-time basis to ask him that question but since nobody said anything when rhule said “I don’t have anybody else” (to return punts other than John Christopher), any tough questions will have to wait for the out-of-town press. (He did have someone else return the last punt before that question was asked and his name wasn’t John Christopher. Returned his one punt longer than any one of Christopher’s 10 returns.) rhule either has the press in his back pocket or they don’t have the gonads to follow up on any of his answers.

  16. The press doesn’t care. Mitchell’s errors would fill a book and WIP and ESPN radio ignore the Owls.

  17. If we beat ND or more importantly PSU next year there will be some media interest for a week or two, then it will be up to Temple to try and capitalize. You know not doing things like opening the season with a blow out victory against an SEC team on the road and then losing to Navy at home the next week.

    • with this offense and the cavalry arriving for franklin in terms of one of the best recruiting classes in the u.s., does anyone really have any confidence of that happening? we just let slip away our last opportunity to beat psu. got to be able to be more than a whipping boy for psu every year.

      • I actually don’t have any confidence in Temple winning either of their 2 “neutral site” games next season at the Linc. But those are the kinds of teams that Temple has to beat to get any kind of notice from local media.

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