This was Zay Jones versus Temple last season.
A couple of great Temple coaches have shown at least there are two ways to build a respected program.
John Chaney did it in basketball by playing the best non-conference opposition and paying particular attention to stopping the player or thing that makes the opponent formidable. Matt Rhule has done it with a slightly less challenging schedule and not so much of a focus on the foe but on the “process” and not worry all that much about what the bad guys are doing.
Both have worked pretty much, but the Owls would be wise to take a page from old Doylestown Intelligencer colleague Steve Wattenberg’s terrific “Winning Is an Attitude” book about Chaney in preparation for an all-important game on Saturday night (7:30, don’t worry about TV, just be there) with visiting East Carolina. In that book, Chaney said the key to the Owls’ success was defensive preparation and “stopping the known over the unknown.” By that, Chaney meant studying what the opponent does well by taking that away and mixing in accentuating what you do well. Chaney would concentrate on taking away the opponent’s top threat and challenge lesser threats to beat him. On his side, he would yell at players who took shots when people like Eddie Jones, Rick Brunson and Aaron McKie (among others) could have had better ones.
That was a formula that took Temple to the top of the basketball world.
It is a philosophy Rhule would be wise to adopt against ECU on Saturday. East Carolina wide receiver Zay Jones is good enough to hurt the Owls, but he won’t do it if the Owls’ can cover him with a corner and rotate safety Sean Chandler to his side of the field for help coverage. That’s the known. If the Owls are going to get hurt, they should take away the known and challenge the unknown to beat them. If the unknown was any good, that guy would be talked about as a future NFL staple. Other than Jones, no such player exists on the Pirates’ squad.
If Temple football has had an Achilles’ heel over the last three or four years, it has been the occasional lapse in preparation as shown in this year’s loss to Army and other losses in the past.
The Owls had eight months to prepare for the triple option and came up with a defensive game plan that defied common sense, let alone football sense.
Sometime common sense in the best currency and that will be the case on Saturday night. Jones is the all-time Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) leader in receptions with 392. The old mark of 387 was set by former ECU standout Justin Hardy, now with the Atlanta Falcons. This season he has 151 receptions for 1,685 yards and eight touchdowns. With four more catches, he will tie the FBS single-season mark set by Freddie Barnes. You do not have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out that the Pirates will try to get Jones going early. By rotating Chandler—who himself has terrific ball skills—over to help, the Owls might be able to come up with a pick six or two.
Sometimes, the “process” includes being able to borrow from other successful processes and the one the Owls should pilfer this week is from a guy who is a part of their own Acres of Diamonds.
Sunday: Game Analysis