Short Week, Tall Order

Just about everyone who filed out of the stadium last night could be overheard saying the same thing, in one syntax or another: “If they play like this on Thursday, they’ll lose.”

The first “They”, meaning the special teams, which had been solid until recently but now appear to be out of sync. The second “they” meaning the team.  The last couple of games, though, the first they have been handling the ball like a hand grenade and that is going to have to be cleaned up.

Actually, with only a couple of exceptions, the Owls played pretty well all night in a 30-16 win over UCF. The exceptions, of course, will kill you—a pick six, a couple of fumbles on returns. Clean those things up, and the Owls have a chance to roll a 6-0 season into a 7-0 season.

tustats

Leave No Doubt, though, those things need to be cleaned up and nobody understands that more than head coach Matt Rhule. I now understand “Matt’s” big statement after the first summer scrimmage: “It was a little too sloppy for my taste. At Temple, the most important thing is that we do not beat ourselves.”

That’s true more this year than any other, especially because the Owls have a defense that is not going to be overwhelmed physically by anyone—including Notre Dame. The game that comes up this Thursday, at ECU, is even more important than Notre Dame because it is an a) AAC game; b) AAC East game.

It’s a short week, and a tall order.

Win on Thursday night and the path is clear to the AAC title game being played in Philadelphia. The Owls already hold the tie-breaker over Cincinnati. Win at ECU and that gives them tie-breakers over really the only two teams in the AAC East who can challenge the Owls.

Fixing it is the vexing problem. I’ve never liked the idea of having a team’s best offensive player taking back punts or kickoffs and, even though Jahad Thomas is the team’s best offensive player this season, Robby (then Robbie) Anderson was certainly the team’s best offensive player in the 2013 season. I don’t like giving up that down, either, with a possession receiver because Sean Chandler showed what a dynamic player can do with the ball.

Nate L. Smith was the greatest punt returner in the history of Pennsylvania high school football.

Nate L. Smith was the greatest punt returner in the history of Pennsylvania high school football.

I’d like to see someone who has a history of returning punts and being reliable with the ball and, in Nate L. Smith, the Owls have the top punt returner in the history of Pennsylvania. He might be not as dynamic as Chandler, but he’s a little more reliable with the ball and a little more dynamic than having a possession receiver back there.

Either way, if the Owls clean that little messy part of their game up, they stand a good chance of turning a short week into a nice and tidy front porch.  Got to get that cleaned up in order to be able to invite Gameday for a visit in two weeks.

Postscript: Somewhat surprised to hear an interview with Rhule talking about his on-field halftime speech to the team and referencing that they were “booed and deserved to be booed.” Sitting in the middle of the stands, I respectively disagree. The booing  in the first half was without a doubt and unequivocally directed at the refs. At no time were any people in my relatively large section near the 50 booing the kids or the coaches.

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22 thoughts on “Short Week, Tall Order

  1. #24 in the Coaches Poll!!!

  2. me, too, tractorr. hold onto the ball, play great defense and special teams on Thursday night and we should be 7-0.

    • I think so as well, but I don’t think Temple will get the same outcome at ECU if they played like they played yesterday. ECU is a dangerous team and they will score TDs if they get the ball that close to the endzone. Though, if Temple takes care of the ball they can definitely beat ECU.

  3. Mike, as usual I agree with your post. The mistakes we made against UCF (and Tulane) are fixable, but NEED to be fixed in order to beat ECU. Also, I sit in section 120 and the boos we’re coming from 119 directed AT the officiating crew. No one was booing players. The phrase, “blind and deaf must be a ref” held true in the first half.

    Holy crap #22 and halfway through the season at 6-0. Savor it. Savor every minute of it. This is a special time for our organization. I’m shocked for a 7:30pm Saturday night game against a team with a relatively small fan base rocked 31k+ in attendance. Very happy and can’t wait for Thursday.

  4. Mike when was the last time Temple sold out two home games in a season?

    • Temple stadium, i think.

      • actually, never in the “modern” era .. 1970+ .. sold out villanova at Temple Stadium,but no other sellouts that year. Had 16,000 for BC and 14K for WVA in a 20K stadium. Do remember in the 30s Temple having 40K seats in the old TU stadium (they took out seats subsequently) and reading old press clippings that said overflow crowds of 40K, so it was possible in the 20s and 30s.

  5. Since N Smith doesnt start it’d make it even easier to insert him as KR/PR

    Chandler #3 had a great PR (obviously) in the 2nd half

  6. What a slap in the face already. They have ECU (-1.5) as the favorites for Thursdays game. I guess we haven’t earned everyone’s respect yet.

    • Betting the house but not the farm on the Owls.

    • It a betting line, usually the home team if they are decent, are automatically 3 point favorites. ECU is not a good defensive football team. I like our team and our chances with the d playing well.

      • Agreed. (1.5) isn’t exactly a strong favoring either. Short week, offense that’s been having trouble with turnovers, and the game being away are factors against Temple. Personally that doesn’t sound that bad to me. Two of the three are beyond our control, and the other is fixable.

      • run the ball, limit turnovers, play great defense and special teams. They are weak in areas where we are strong (run defense and special team protections). I like the fact that Towson (a worse team than UMass) was able to run the ball on them and Navy put up 45 points on them throwing eight passes the entire game.

      • The way the schedule has worked out, this game is for getting into the December 5th game for the Conference championship. Win it and we are two games ahead of everyone (Houston and ECU), lose it and ECU has the advantage. I hope the coaches don’t forget our running game, even if ECU packs the box.

  7. If we beat ECU it’s as if we have three games on them because of the tie breaker. The stealth game for the Owls is SFU down there. They decimated Syracuse.

  8. Mike, If we win against ECU, does that clinch our spot in the conference title game? Is it too soon to figure that out?

    • too soon, but it would be real nice to hold the tie-breakers (and essentially a 2-game lead) over both cincy and ecu, who I see beating up the rest of the east (the uconns and usfs of the world). Navy really flubbed it up by wanting to be in the West.

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