Nobody is dying on Saturday night, at least we hope not, but the Temple game versus East Carolina (7:30) will be a goodbye of sorts for a number of great seniors.
They will be departed from the program soon, but this is quite likely the last home game for a number of great seniors and all of them will be thought of highly here.
The last few games watching Jahad Thomas made me shake my head because I’m really going to miss that guy and miss is the operative word because I’m going to miss him making other people miss. He really does it in a way that approaches magic on the football field. They call Eagles’ long-snapper John Dorenbos a magician, but even Dorenbos does not produce the kind of magic on the football field that Thomas has done since getting 157 yards as a sophomore against Tulsa.
This is what we wrote about Thomas then in a post published on Oct. 12, 2014:
“It could be so much better because watching Jahad Thomas play was like going back into a time machine and watching the great Todd McNair play for the Owls. Both wear No. 34. Both have the same running style. McNair had great blocking fullbacks to follow through the hole and Thomas could have the same thing but both great blockers, Kenny Harper and Marc Tyson, are sitting on the bench when Thomas is in the game. McNair’s running opened up the play-action passing game for the Owls back then and Thomas’ running could open up the play-action passing game for P.J. Walker now. The two-back set is supposedly in the playbook, with plays featuring Harper as lead blocker through the hole for Thomas also in the playbook.”
Well, the dust had been wiped off and Nick Sharga, not Kenny Harper, turned out to be the lead blocker for Thomas and the rest is history. Thomas turned out to be an all-time great at Temple and the closest thing we have to a franchise running back since Bernard Pierce. In many ways, Thomas is better than Pierce—especially in his open field ability to make people miss. He’s a next-level slot receiver and the team that drafts him will be getting a steal.
You can’t mention Thomas without mentioning his Elizabeth (N.J.) high school teammate P.J. Walker. To me, Phillip is also one of the greatest Temple quarterbacks of all time. It is right there in black and white on the pages of the Temple record books, where he will exit Temple with all but one of the major quarterback records. Only Walter Washington, who ran through defenders like a Abrams’ Tank, will have a record P.J. doesn’t have—career rushing yards for a quarterback.
If P.J. leads this team to a league title, he can say he was the only quarterback to ever lead Temple to a major-college title (Temple was saddled with non-major status when it won the Middle Atlantic Conference title in 1967).
Those two will not be the only ones missed, as OT Dion Dawkins will probably be Temple’s first No. 1 draft choice since 2011 (Muhammad Wilkerson) and Haason Reddick can go anywhere from first-round pick to a fourth-round. We think he’s a one, but I would not be surprised if he falls to the second round.
Averee Robinson also holds a special place in my heart since I’ve known his dad, Adrian, for at least eight years and proudly count him as a friend. Averee will be one of the few three-year starters at Temple leaving and he has been rock-solid in the middle of the line. Just as I wrote about his older brother, he played out of position at Temple to benefit the team. I suggested to Al Golden that Adrian was an OLB but Al told me he had a need for pass rushers and had to put Adrian at DE. He became an OLB in the NFL and Averee would be a terrific pickup for an NFL team wanting a 3-4 nose guard (playing DT at Temple now). I remember Averee when he was a kid coming to Temple games. “I love Temple,” Averee said as a 13-year-old once.
And Temple loves Averee for all he has done for us.
Others playing their last game soon for the Owls are starting linebackers Avery Williams, Jarred Alwan and Stephaun Marshall, next-level defensive ends Romond Deloatch, Avery Ellis and Praise Martin-Oguike, defensive backs Nate L. Smith, Nate Hairston and Khiry Lucas and center Brendan McGowan. Tight ends Colin Thompson and Jake O’Donnell (a University of Miami graduate, yes, graduate) will also be leaving soon.
Sharif Finch also is listed as a senior defensive end, but a little birdie told us that Finch is likely to get a medical redshirt and return next year. If not, thanks for suckering Christian Hackenberg into that near-pick-six TD. If so, he and Jacob Martin would be a nice way to bookend the defensive line next year.
Either way, we’re going to miss these seniors who took a 1-2 season and turned it into something special and maybe the all-time greatest yet. Don’t think of this last “regularly scheduled” home game as a funeral, but as a celebration of their achievements to this point and points beyond.
Friday: ECU Preview
Sunday: Game Analysis