What was reserved for this space originally was at least one person’s opinion of what the five keys to the game would be on Saturday against Penn State.
There were five darn good ideas, cooked up all summer, but I thought, “Geez, who am I kidding?” There really is only one key to the game and that key opens up the other four doors: Put Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg on his backside early and often. Make him uncomfortable, take him down a lot, hit him more, and come at him from all sides. Make him think he’s going to get hit early on every play and he will give the ball up.
The guy is relatively immobile and has a documented history of happy feet and Temple should take advantage of that little bit of intelligence.
In the six games Penn State lost a year ago, Hackenberg was sacked at least four times in each one. In five of those games, Hackenberg had 14 of his 15 interceptions and seven of his nine lost fumbles. Northwestern, coached superbly by Pat Fitzgerald, figured that out in a 29-6 win at State College, sacking Hackenberg only four times, but hitting him an additional 19. Temple fans would like to have 19 sacks and four hits, but they will gladly have what Northwestern had a year ago. This was the same Northwestern team that lost to Northern Illinois earlier the same season.
The Owls took the opposite approach a year ago, more times than not dropping eight and rushing three. The Owls cannot afford to play that passively on Saturday.
Fitzpatrick is fighting an uphill battle at the Chicago-area school because the Wildcats have Ivy League type academic restrictions and those have limited his talent pool. What Stanford is to the Pac-12 and Vandy to the SEC, that’s what Northwestern is to the Big 10. In addition, Northwestern has by far the smallest fan base in the conference. He can coach my team any day of the week, though. Northwestern might have had a losing season, but not because the team is ill-prepared or doesn’t game plan well.
Temple’s coaches could learn a lot from examining the Northwestern film. Let’s hope they dissected it like a frog in biology class.