Hard to believe today will the penultimate game to one of the most exciting receivers who has come to Temple since the great Van Johnson and we are talking, of course, about Robby Anderson.
Anderson, you might know about. Johnson, you might not.
Yes, Van Johnson, the late 1990s Temple receiver, not to be confused with Van Johnson, the 1940s actor. The actor was shot seven times in his movies, the wide receiver once when growing up in D.C. When he played for Temple, he got off the line of scrimmage like he was shot out of a cannon. He was to the great Henry Burris what Anderson is to P.J. Walker.
Yeah, I know Temple’s had a lot of great receivers since then, from Phil Goodman to Charlie (err, Zamir) Cobb, and Bruce Francis and Rod Streater, but there’s a little “it” factor that has set Johnson apart from his successors and Anderson from his predecessors. Johnson’s 1996 season was very similar to Anderson’s 2013 season. In that year, in 11 games, Johnson had 50 catches and eight touchdowns and 902 yards. In 2013, in nine games Anderson had 44 receptions for 791 yards and nine touchdowns. This year, he has 52 receptions for 723 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games. Both guys could go up and get the ball and make explosive plays after they caught it.
In a game like today, at Houston (noon, ABC) for the championship, while everybody will be focused on Jahad Thomas, Greg Ward and Tyler Matakevich, it’s often another guy who grabs the spotlight and Anderson certainly is capable of being THAT guy. He has not had to be that guy this because Temple can spread the rock around, but he is a prime time player. He is only four receptions away from 100 for his career and I believe he will get them. If a couple of them are for touchdowns, the Owls will win. If he catches just three balls, he will pass Steve Watson into the sixth spot on the all-time list.
Speaking of lists, most of the bowl projections by the so-called experts have Houston beating Temple and earning the AAC’s slot in a NY6 bowl.
ESPN analyst Lee Corso might give his stock answer to that assumption, “not so fast, my friend” by closely observing the evidence at hand. Two or three games into a 12-game season, comparative scores hardly seem like a good way at picking a winner but that equation all changes 12 games into a season. Those appear to point to Temple as the winner over host Cougars.
Both teams played Memphis and UConn recently and Temple performed significantly better against similar opposition in two games than Houston. The Cougars lost at UConn, 20-17, two weeks ago while Temple beat UConn, 27-3, last week. A lot of that could be attributed to the Cougars being without Ward Jr., but the 27-point difference points to more than just one player.
Another example is Memphis, as the Tigers led, 34-14, with seven minutes left at Houston before blowing the lead and losing, 35-34. A week later, the Tigers were not even in the game at Temple, where the Owls won, 31-12.
Those are a couple of compelling examples, but there have been others as Cincinnati had the lead for much of a game at Houston before falling, 33-30. Its game against visiting Temple played out far differently earlier in the season as the Owls took a 34-12 lead into the fourth quarter before holding on to win, 34-26. Temple’s top two non-conference foes, Penn State and Notre Dame, was certainly tougher than Houston’s top two, Vanderbilt and Louisville, so the evidence suggests that Temple has been steeled for these types of games.
Of course, there is other data to consider, but there is a lot of empirical evidence out to suggest that Temple will come out on top but part of the fun of football is discovering if the clues lead to the right conclusion.
Call it a hunch, call it men’s intuition, but I have a strong feeling that Robby Anderson will factor rather largely into this game.