There are two ways to look at Temple’s 24-13 loss to Houston on Saturday.
There is the Kumbaya view and the real world view. The Kumbaya view seems to have carried the day in the post-game Matt Rhule press conference and on much of social media. You know, “I’m proud of the kids” and “this is one of the greatest days in Temple football history” and “we’ve gone from point D to point A.”
That’s born out of T-ball mentality. You know, there are no losers and everybody gets a trophy for participation. Little Johnny goes home with a pat on his head. The coaches are great. The kids are great. We’re all just so darn proud of everybody.
Then there is the real world view. You know, the “what the hell is going on out here?” view.
The last quarter was a cluster, err, bleep that made you wonder what goes on at the $17 million Edberg-Olson Complex the other six days of the week. In the last seven minutes, Temple showed itself either unwilling or incapable of running a functional two-minute drill that every high school, college and pro team seems to run efficiently. (If you don’t believe it, take a look at the way St. Joseph’s Prep runs it. The offensive line sprints to the ball. Plays are called at the line, not looking over to the sidelines, with the emphasis on a short passing game to get out of bounds and stop the clock. Prep coach Gabe Infante is only seven blocks away. Invite him over this week.)
That was a blown opportunity to win a championship due to a number of brain cramps by the coaching staff. There is no guarantee that the Owls will be back in the title game next year and, if they aren’t, the coaches have no one but themselves to blame for a number of perplexing offensive miscues. With four minutes left, they seemed incapable of running a true two-minute offense, taking precious seconds off the clock on every play by having the kids stare over to the sidelines for plays. Those 20, 30 seconds a play add up and, before you know it, the game is over.
That wasn’t the worst. This is the worst.
After closing the gap to 24-13 with 7:18 to go in the game, the Owls had a 3d and 3 at the Houston 38 but inexplicably attempted a long pass into the end zone. The call was made even more confounding because Houston was playing 10 yards off Temple wide receiver Robby Anderson on the play. A simple pitch and catch would have moved the sticks.
Moving the sticks then would have cured a lot of earlier self-imposed ills. Early on, the players had just as much to do with it as the coaches did but after fighting back they deserved a coaching staff that was more focused. The Owls have been a team all year whose motto was to not beat themselves by turning the ball over, but on their first drive of the game, quarterback P.J. Walker threw an interception. That resulted in a 7-0 lead. The Owls were driving for a tying touchdown when Anderson—who caught 12 passes for 150 yards—was fighting for yardage and fumbled the ball on the Houston 5-yard-line. That led to a 10-0 lead.
Had the Owls moved the sticks on 3d and 3, instead of taking the shot into the end zone, they might have scored to make it 24-21 and that would have left seven minutes to bleep around with the dog stare offense. Instead, they followed that botched call with a clinic in mismanaging the clock and never had a chance to find out what would have happened.
While the physical errors by the unpaid amateurs could be forgiven, the mental ones by the well-paid professionals cannot.
Tomorrow: Thoughts on the Bowl Lotto
Tuesday: …. But the Big Story on Action News Is …
Wednesday: Houston Photo Gallery
Thursday: One Wacky Throwback
Friday: Matakevich’s Special Moment on ESPN
Saturday: A Look at the Other AAC Bowls
Sunday: Welcome Criticism
Monday (12/12): 5 Things the Owls Have to Clean Up
Tuesday: The Fallacy of the Fall Off
Wednesday: The Problem With Watch Parties
Thursday: The Pitt-Navy Monkey Wrench