At the end of last season, Temple’s football team was one of six qualifiers left out of a rather large feast where everyone but the poorest of the poor seem to be invited and they call it college football bowl season.
When there are only 126 teams and 76 go to bowls, even the six left out have to look introspectively and figure out what they had to do to join the club. Even though the Owls qualified for a bowl, they knew they had to do better and it was left for a departing team leader to carve out this year’s rallying cry: “Leave No Doubt.”
Kenny Harper, a fullback converted to tailback for the 2014 season, made a speech that left an indelible impression on his returning teammates, saying things like that even though 6-6 was good enough for a bowl it was not good enough for Temple and to “leave no doubt” next year.
This year is next year and it fell to Harper’s replacement, the appropriately named Jahad Thomas to be the chief doubt-buster this season. In a 27-10 opening-game win over Penn State, Thomas rushed 29 times for 135 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns. In what could be the marquee game of the season, a 34-26 win over AAC pre-season favorite Cincinnati, Thomas rushed for 197 yards and added a 102-yard kickoff return. Temple led, 34-12, in the fourth quarter before holding off a late rally by the Bearcats.
There is no doubting Thomas’ impact on the Owls’ offense, which was the worst in the AAC a year ago. With a renewed emphasis on the run to set up the pass, the Owls have now soared to near the top of the league in every offensive category. Last year, they tried to spread the field with five wide receivers but that approach never was going to work, but Temple’s coaches tried forcing that square peg into a proverbial round hole. Even after Thomas rushed for a season-high 157 yards in last year’s 35-24 win over Tulsa, the Owls went back to the five wides the next week and Thomas inexplicably joined witness protection and disappeared the rest of the season.
Now that the coaches have figured out they have weapon in Thomas, there can be no doubt that they are going to keep feeding this beast in what could become a very special college football season in Philadelphia.
Tomorrow: Photo Essay
Tuesday: National Reaction