When Temple head coach Matt Rhule talks about “room for improvement” and includes the coaching aspect of it, that has got to be a heartening sign.
In the 2-10 first season, there was not a whole lot of coaching responsibility being taken other than, after the loss to Fordham, Rhule saying that the loss was embarrassing and “it will get fixed.” Two weeks to get ready for a worse foe, Idaho, and it did not get fixed.
The lack of experience of the Temple coaching staff, especially offensively, reared its ugly head that first year and the numbers after halftime were so stark they could not have been ignored.
|Game||First Half Points||Second Half Points|
All we can say is wow.
Things got only a little better last year, but not much in losses to teams the Owls should have been more competitive with, like Houston and UCF.
Those things have got to improve.
We’ll find out against Penn State. I have the feeling that the Owls match up physically well, but a 6-3 game got out of control a year ago after halftime and you have to wonder what went on in both locker rooms during the intermission. Penn State made the adjustments and Temple did not.
Another thing that cannot be denied is the Owls’ lack of previous winning experience among the current Owls’ staff.
|Coach||Team Before TU||Last Record
|NY Giants||9-7||Asst. OL|
Penn State has a head coach, James Franklin, who won nine games against a largely SEC schedule before he came to State College. He’s not getting paid $5 million a year because he’s a chump.
So far, Rhule has said all the right things about establishing a running game behind a two-back, two tight end system but, in recent days, he backed off the two backs and said the Owls might not use a fullback. Hopefully, that’s a ruse because we’d like to see, say, Jager Gardner following a lead block by, say, Nick Sharga behind Kyle Friend or Dion Dawkins.
On the first play of the modern series with Penn State, coach Wayne Hardin tried a similar off-tackle play with world class sprinter Bob Harris following a crushing lead block by fullback Tom Duff through the hole. Seventy-six yards and 3.2 seconds later, Temple led, 7-0. That’s Temple TUFF. That’s Temple football right there. Harris behind Duff; Paul Palmer behind Shelley Poole; Kevin Duckett behind Mark Bright; Bernard Pierce behind Wyatt Benson and Montel Harris behind Kenny Harper.
Rhule also said he was at a loss to find out why the team had such a poor return game post-Delaware State but it was his decision to use a slow possession receiver as the principle punt returner all season after Delaware State.
Nate L. Smith, who is not a slow possession receiver, got one chance for a punt return last year and he returned it for 21 yards against Memphis. Smith is only the leading punt returner in Pennsylvania schoolboy history.
Sometimes, you wonder if these guys are looking at the same things we are but, again, there is room for improvement and personnel awareness is apparently one of those areas.
The running game to set up the play-action passing game and the punt return game are the two primary areas where the Owls have a lot of room for improvement.
The Penn State game will tell a lot about both. The Owls are physically there with Penn State. Mentally, it was another story a year ago. Losing a close game to Penn State will not cut it anymore. Establish the run with a tailback behind a lead fullback block, bring the safeties and the linebackers up to the line of scrimmage to respect the run game, then fake the ball into the belly of the tailback and go play-action. Under that scenario, P.J. Walker will have so many Temple receivers running free through the secondary he will not know which one to pick out. If he doesn’t get hurt taking back a punt first, Robby Anderson will be one of them.
Get ‘er done. It’s not rocket science.
One week and one day.