Sitting around with a smaller-than-usual post-game tailgating group after the Stony Brook game, my longtime friend Mark asked me a question.
“Mike, are you going to the Penn State game?”
“If they had beaten Army, I would have. My feeling is if this coaching staff can’t scheme for the teams they should beat, I have no confidence in them scheming for a team that might be on their level or a little above so I don’t want to go all the way there and then have to make the trip back all pissed off.”
“C’mon, bro,” Mark said, “How many years have you been following Temple football?”
Too many, I said.
Mark’s point was that I should accept disappointment by now. I had, and still have, a different take.
Making Walker a
is trying to fit
a square peg into
a round hole.
The sooner the
coaches realize that,
the better the chances
for future success.
They have a unique
weapon and they should
use him as such.
I wanted one year, just one, that Temple beat all of the teams it was supposed to beat and maybe reached up and beat one or two teams it was not supposed to beat with a solid if not brilliant coaching game plan.
I have not seen that year since the 13 years Wayne Hardin coached the team, but I had my hopes. After a 34-27 loss to Penn State on Saturday, my belief has not changed about this staff being a little slow on the uptake about basic football principles. Before the first game of the season, we outlined here the standard operating procedure to shut down a triple option—44 stack, nose guard over the center, tackles in the A gap, eight in the box and force them to pass. If a triple option team beats you passing, you walk over and shake their hand afterward. If they beat you running the ball because your linebackers played 4-5 yards off it, you walk over to your defensive coordinator and use that same hand to slap him in the head four or five times.
This is all simple shit that even a good high school coaching staff knows. We even outlined in this post how to play Army BEFORE the game and, of course, the slow-on-the-uptake staff had to do things their way.
As we all know now, the Owls left the A gaps open, and played their linebackers 4-5 yards off the ball and they were predictably gouged by the fullback. Afterward, the kids got blamed and the coaches got a pass in the post-game press conferences conducted by, surprise, the coaches.
Slow on the uptake also could be the phrase to describe use of the Owls’ personnel. Earlier this week, we wrote a post on our five keys to beat Penn State and the No. 1 key was “Roll That Pocket.” Phillip Walker is a much more dangerous threat to defenses when he rolls in the pocket and becomes a threat to run the ball as well as pass it. Linebackers and safeties have to come up to stop the run and Temple receivers, covered when Walker drops back in the pocket, suddenly are running free through the secondary when he is on the move. Yet new offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas insists on making Walker a Matt Ryan, dropping him in the pocket more often than not. Maybe that’s because Thomas coached Ryan with the Atlanta Falcons. You cannot turn Russell Wilson into Tom Brady, nor can you turn Phil or P.J. Walker into a Matt Ryan. Walker completed 25 of 34 passes for 286 yards, but had very limited success when he was forced to drop back. When he took that step to the outside, receivers got separation like the Red Sea parted.
Making Walker a dropback passer is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. The sooner the coaches realize that, the better the chances for future success. They have a unique weapon and they should use him as such.
Walker sees the field a lot better and has a lot more success when the Temple coaches move the pocket for him, a fact that they should have known long before yesterday. The learning curve for this staff is too long and winding and leads to too many dead ends. The process needs to speed up if this team is going to have meaningful success the rest of the way.
Until then, my blood pressure will not allow road trips.
Monday: Recalibrated Expectations