#Myth Busting

The telling screen shot last night came not from the horror show that a nation had to witness for three hours prior, but in the interview afterward.

A profusely sweating Geoff Collins was wearing a vest that said, simply: #TEMPLETUFF.

Not TEMPLE TUFF, but hashtag Temple TUFF. Temple has been on national television twice, and there is plenty of talk about juice and swag and money downs and hashtags but the nation has seen nothing of the Temple TUFF brand we have become used to the last two years.

tuff

So we’re going to do some #Mythbusting today.

There are largely two schools of thought on what happened to a once-proud Temple football program floating around on social media.

One is that “the team lost too much from last year’s squad this is a rebuilding season” and another is that they “hired a head coach who is learning on the job with a group of ill-qualified assistants.”

One theory is an absolute myth perpetrated by fans who follow the program only casually and it’s surprising to those of us who have followed the Owls closely that some people find that line of thinking plausible.

An offense that lost its starting quarterback, but returned a running back who gained over 900 yards and scored 14 touchdowns, the top fullback in the country, three of five starting offensive linemen should not be rebuilding. A fourth non-starter, center Matt Hennessey, should and probably will be Temple’s next great center in the mold of Alex Derenthal and Kyle Friend. Ask any Temple fan who followed the team over the last 40 years (I will raise my hand here) who the best set of receivers are in Temple history and that fan will probably say the current group of Ventell Bryant, Adonis Jennings, Keith Kirkwood and Isaiah Wright. Any offense that has those four guys on it is not rebuilding, it should be reloading.

Emphasis on “should be” because the coaching is the X-factor here. Temple won the past two seasons because it catered an offense to suit the talents of its players, and did not try to force fit a square peg (spread offense) into a round hole (play-action offense). A good head coach tailors a scheme to the talent he has, not the talent he wants.

The myth perpetrators also say the defensive line lost a lot, but starters like Karamo Dioubate, Greg Webb, Michael Dogbe and Jacob Martin are still on the team from last year’s championship squad. Sharif Finch, one of the stars of the 2015 team, also returned this year. They didn’t lose as much as they gained. They did the pushing around last year and this year they are being pushed around. What’s the difference? Coaching.

Sure, the team lost three linebackers but that should have been offset by a secondary that was outstanding last year and mostly returned intact. The Owls replaced a fifth-round NFL draft choice, Nate Hairston, with a guy in Mike Jones who was projected by NFL draft guru Mike Mayock as a sixth-round pick last year. In Artrel Foster, Jones, Sean Chandler and Delvon Randall, those guys are not being put in a position to showcase their talents because the defensive scheme doesn’t call for the necessary quarterback pressures that would result in Pick 6’s coming back the other way.

Maybe the Owls were not meant to defend their championship this year, but they certainly were not meant to be embarrassed like this. When Matt Rhule left, the situation screamed for the school to hire a successful FBS head coach instead of rolling the dice on another coordinator. USF’s kids are benefiting from hiring such a coach, a guy who succeeded in an urban setting (Louisville) like both Philadelphia and Tampa. Charlie Strong did his learning on the job elsewhere and had a pretty good handle on it by now. Meanwhile, Temple’s kids flounder until this guy can learn on the job how to be a head coach.

These kids, and these fans, are the Guinea Pigs and there is not a damn thing anybody can do about it.

Monday: Fizzy’s Corner

Wednesday: If Not Now, When?

Friday: From Plain to Plain Ugly

 

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Nothing To See Here

bobster

Maybe Geoff Collins has us fooled all along.

The problems we have seen with our beloved Temple Owls for three games he does not see.

Like Baghdad Bob above, there is nothing to see here and the Owls are in fine shape to upset preseason AAC favorite South Florida tonight (ESPN, 7:30) in Tampa.

At least that’s the vibe I’ve been getting after each Collins’ press conference. Last Saturday, on the “Temple Football Playbook” show, Collins looked positively giddy to be 2-1 and the kids are playing great and the two teams he barely beat are “really, really good” football teams. There’s plenty of juice in the building.

Never mind that one “really, really” good football team barely beat Lehigh and the other “really, really” good football team lost to Coastal Carolina, Old Dominion and Hawaii.

Tonight, Temple plays a “really, really, really, really good” football team in USF on the road.

The fact that the public sees Temple as a 20-point underdog does not seem to faze him one bit, nor did the prediction before the season that USF would finish first and the two-time defending AAC champions would finish third. “I love it,” Collins said at the time.

Those same two-time AAC East champions are now ranked seventh in the AAC power rankings based on a couple of subpar performances after an opening-day embarrassment when there was no sign of the “Temple TUFF” we had been used to for the past two years.  Collins blamed it all on misfits, but Temple fans weren’t buying that explanation because essentially the same players who were supposedly caught in misfits were not particularly known for screwing up similarly under a different set of coaches.

Tonight’s game is a referendum on just how Temple should select its head coaches post-Collins Era. Should it go the way that, say, USF did and hire a guy with head coaching experience who has done it before as a HEAD coach in an urban setting (Louisville) or churn that coordinator pile once again and hope to come up with a flavor like Al Golden or Matt Rhule, knowing full well it could be sour-tasting like Steve Addazio?

Temple AD Pat Kraft thinks he made a brilliant selection with Collins. Only time will tell.

One thing about coordinators is that not every great one was meant to be a head coach. It’s a different job being a head coach and you never really know a good one until you see him in action on game day.

Maybe Collins was just playing Possum and we will now see Temple TUFF, a running game, a defense that can stop the run and crossing patterns underneath and an offense that is innovative and not predictable.

One thing is certain: Temple fans will be watching tonight with a lot of anxiety mixed with a only little bit of hope.

It’s up to Collins to Keep Hope Alive by proving that Kraft’s confidence in him was well-placed.

Tomorrow: Game Analysis

The Lost Letter

helmet

Dear Geoff,

Despite having used some of the extra money in my new contract for a canopy bed and a nice new My Pillow that I ordered online, I’m having some bouts with insomnia.

Oh-and-three will do that to any coach who gives a damn and, from being my friend for over 25 years, you know I do.

So to combat the insomnia and before I get back to that My Pillow, I thought I’d jot just a few notes down because I’ve been able to DVD all three Temple games. Here are a few suggestions. You can take this letter and crumple it up in the circular file if you don’t like them and it won’t affect our friendship. Getting this off my chest might help me catch a few zzzz’s. Even though they are your players, I consider them my kids, too, and I’d like to see them succeed.

 

Keep Nick Sharga In the Game

Watching the Notre Dame game, I thought the first series was promising. Nick Sharga was in the game, the offense was moving and you made the right call on 3d and 2 with the handoff up the middle to him for the first down. Then I went, “Oh no” when Nick was pulled for three wide receivers on the next play. Things went rapidly downhill after that. I , too, was talked into the trendy multiple wide receiver sets by my first offensive coordinator. You are only going to have Sharga this year. You can let Patenaude try all his fancy stuff next year.   It took me two years to figure that out and I’m giving you the benefit of hindsight. Having Nick is like having an extra OL blocker. This is not a bad offensive line. Three of the guys who were starters return and a fourth, Matt Hennessey, who did not start, is a Rimington Award candidate. It should be performing better and using Sharga as a full-time blocker will help.  Once that happens, the linebackers and the safeties inch up toward the line of scrimmage, fake it into the RB’s belly and you’ll have these great receivers running so open through the secondary Logan won’t know which one to pick out. Hell, you might consider playing Sharga on defense, too. He was my best linebacker in a 34-12 win over Memphis two years ago. Position flexibility is something you should know a little about.

Stop the underneath crossing patterns

When Villanova gained about 8,000 yards on a crossing patterns underneath and throws to the tight end, I knew that wouldn’t happen the next week because I had faith in you. Still do. Then UMass gained what seemed like 8,001 yards off the same patterns. My only guess is that you allow Taver to make the defensive calls and he’s a little stubborn. Maybe you should take over as DC until things are cleaned up. I asked Phil what he would have done and he said put Sharga and Folks at linebacker, put Freddy Booth-Lloyd over the nose and Julian and Dogbe at tackles. Don’t forget Karamo Dioubate is also on the team. Please dust off his recruiting film. Nick Saban loved it. He’s a one-man Mayhem Machine. Anyway, Snow said that the best pass defense is putting the quarterback on his ass—err, backside, my faith won’t allow me to say that word this year—and having those three in the A gaps and over the center should cause the requisite Mayhem you desire. You’ll be surprised how that much traffic around the quarterback frees up guys like Quincy Roche and Sharrif Finch. Even if the quarterback isn’t sacked, hitting him might result in a hurried throw that Champ or Delvon can take to the house.

sharga

Make Isaiah Wright The Tailback

Love Ryquell, but he looks a little slow this year. Is he hurt? If he is, don’t hesitate to use Isaiah Wright at tailback. We practiced Wright as both a tailback and a quarterback and I thought he had a chance to be our most dynamic offensive player last year. We had Jahad so we couldn’t use him at tailback a lot, but we still found a way to put IW in as a Wildcat Quarterback. Putting him at tailback even for 10 carries makes the team that much harder to defend and he can do a lot of damage with that swing pass out of the backfield. I think he needs more touches and don’t forget reverses AND he can throw the halfback pass as well. Ryquell is a one-cut runner. This guy is a five-cut runner who, to use a basketball term, can create his own shot.

Good luck against South Florida and I will be watching.

Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. I have to get back to My Pillow now.

Regards,

Matt

p.s. Please ditch the black uniforms. They are VERY unlucky. Stick with the Cherry helmets with the white ‘][‘.

Fizzy’s Corner: Breaking It Down

fizz

Editor’s Note: Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub played football at Temple and has watched the Owls for longer than most any single fan. He’s seen a lot of bad and some good, so he knows how to separate the two by now. Here is his latest contribution.

                                                                   By Dave (Fizzy) Weinraub

Well, we’re 2 & 1, just like everyone thought we’d be at the end of the exhibition season.  But I’m not ever going to curse the football gods again because it’s a very deceptive 2 & 1.  Consider this, if Villanova receivers hadn’t dropped five balls, and the Massachusetts kicker would have made his three “gimmes,” we’d be 0 & 3.

The Offense

There was some improvement vs. Mass.  A new quarterback came in with an option offense for a few plays, and Marchi ran a few options, and a two QB draws.  There was more throwing on first down than previously, but still from straight drop-backs and not play-action.  However, there still is the same run the ball on the first two plays in the red-zone  philosophy (first possession), and run the ball up the gut on the first two plays, even after passing got us into Mass. territory in the fourth quarter. Once more, probably for the second time in college football history, our offensive coordinator shut down our passing game on the opposition’s forty-something yard line and ran the ball on second and third downs to set up (this time) a fifty-two yard field-goal attempt.  Who  does this?  Even in the NFL they don’t do this unless it’s the last few seconds of a tie game.  Are you kidding me?

Time management was again brought to question.  For the second week in a row, we had to call time out after an injury time out, to get the play in.  Hello!

Almost every coach says “we’re gonna play smash-mouth football.” The strength of this year’s team, however, is in the accuracy of our QB’s arm, and the wonderful skills of our receivers, both in catching and running after the catch.  This offense should be based on throwing the ball, short and long.  This team has to pass to set up the run.  Gun and then run!  We don’t have a Paul Palmer or a Khalid Thomas to bail us out. If we don’t play to our strengths as all great coaches do, it will be a long season.

The Defense

Alas, and woe is me.  For the third week in a row, our pass defense was porous.  Even though we blitzed a lot more, and it helped, we got burned when the backs came out, grabbed a short pass, and ran to daylight.  It’s obvious our linebackers are mostly lousy on pass defense.  They are slow to recognize their responsibility, and slow to cover.  Be aware though, this is one of the toughest responsibilities in defensive football.

After three weeks of pass defense failure, this tells me we need to add a different type of defensive scheme.   My suggestion is to have the four down-linemen and the middle linebacker be responsible for the run and pressure on the passer.  Then, I’d have four defenders in a zone across the field at ten yards deep, and two deep safeties, one on each side. This way, the defenders can see who’s coming out, read the QB’s eyes, and see the ball in the air. (Please remember, I’m 92% accurate in my play-calling from the stands. I keep my own stats, by the way, so trust me.)

AND NOW WE WAIT TO SEE THE WIDE-OPEN OFFENSES IN OUR CONFERENCE

P.S. – Call me crazy, but I don’t know when in football history and which defensive genius decided to have the pass defenders chase the receiver with their back to the QB.  We were always taught to stay behind the receiver until the ball was released, for many obvious advantages.  Maybe after all the offensive coordinators got together and agreed to run the same plays, the defensive coordinators met and decided this was a good thing.  Wait; I know.  It was the officials, so they could call more interference penalties.

Tomorrow: The Lost Letter

Thursday: USF Preview

Friday: USF Game Analysis

 

It’s All Over (But The Shouting)

Not sure of the exact time, but the Temple football season ended somewhere in the second half in the third game of the season.

Sure, the schedule says there are still nine games to play in a 12-game season but anyone who knows anything about football and watched this team has seen enough.

This is around a five or six-win team now and I don’t see anyway around that. I hate to admit when I’m wrong, but my projection prior to the season of  eight-to-10 wins for this team is way off. It’s all over but the shouting and a lot of that shouting will be done by Temple fans who have been used to double-digit win seasons.

The blame rests not with the kids but with the coaching staff.

The capper came when Temple called an option play on a 3d-and-21 down-and-distance situation in a 29-21 win over a UMass team the Owls should have smoked, 31-6. It does not matter what the play was, but the result was a 4-yard gain and a punt. It was playing not to lose and not playing to win and that is always a bad strategy. This team has played not to lose for the last two games instead of putting the foot on an inferior opponent’s throat.

americasteam

The play call speaks to the tone deafness of this rookie coaching staff the silence has been deafening for three games now.

Sad, because the kids deserve better.

There are enough holdovers from a 10-4 championship season to have expected a much more successful season than what we are looking at now. In a nutshell, this is what we have seen so far.

  • Against Notre Dame, the Owls were blown out, 49-16, against a team which finished 4-8 a year ago. Yeah, I know it’s Notre Dame but the last we checked this was the same 4-8 team that lost to Navy and Navy was the same team that got blown out by Temple in the AAC championship game. New head coach Geoff Collins blamed the 422 yards rushing on “misfits” but he did not mention that most of the misfits were the guys he hired as assistant coaches.
  • Against Villanova, the Owls could score only 16 points on a team that got absolutely torched for 35 points by Lehigh. Let that sink in for a moment.  Lehigh. Then Collins had the gonads to call Villanova “a really good team.” Sorry, Geoff, Villanova blows and so did your game plan against that “really good team.”
  • Now we get to Massachusetts, a team that was beaten by Old Dominion, Hawaii and Coastal Carolina. Here’s the weird part. Temple hired last year’s offensive coordinator from Coastal Carolina and this year’s Coastal Carolina offensive coordinator–with Coastal Carolina talent–scored more points on UMass than last year’s Coastal Carolina coordinator with Temple talent. Maybe the Owls hired the wrong Coastal Carolina OC. He still hasn’t figured out that Isaiah Wright needs 20 touches a game, not the four he split between the last two games.

Something is very wrong with this picture and it has been that way for three games. One or two games might be an outlier, but this looks like the norm for the balance of the season.

Yes, it’s 2-1 but that’s the softest 2-1 in Temple history. Get me four more wins in the next nine games and I will be pleasantly surprised, but I do not see it getting any better going forward. It’s not the kids. It’s the coaches and I expected much better. The USF game could get very ugly fast unless major issues are addressed on both sides of the ball.

We have, oh, just four days to do that and nothing I’ve seen in the last four weeks gives me a whole lot of confidence that anything will be addressed at all.

Monday: A Blueprint

Wednesday: USF Preview

Expect Mr. Whipple to Squeeze The Charmin

The next time anyone tells you that a first-year coach cannot succeed with “other people’s players” and “it’s only his first year” offer them the example of UMass head coach Mark Whipple. (Steve Addazio’s debut also gave Temple its first bowl win in over 30 years with Al Golden talent, but that’s a story for another day.)


Mr. Whipple probably has
watched enough film to figure
out that the Temple linebackers
are the “Charmin soft” underbelly
of an otherwise pretty stout
defense so expect a lot of passes
to the tight end and crossing
routes underneath designed
to confuse that young group

In 1998, with “other people’s players” Whipple, who came over from Brown University, won a national championship at UMass. It was a FCS (then Division IAA) championship, but it was a championship nonetheless. That endeared him so much with the UMass faithful that they have given him two stints as a head coach, including the current one taking him to Lincoln Financial Field (7 p.m.) for a Friday night date against the Temple Owls.

Mr. Whipple is on the hot seat now, not necessarily for his coaching deficiencies but more due to the fact that it is impossible for an Independent not named Notre Dame to compete in the world of FBS football now. That doesn’t mean Temple should relax on Friday night because this is a guy who has always been good with his X’s and O’s going up against a rookie staff.

On December 19, 1998, Whipple’s Minutemen beat the then No. 1 FCS team in the country, Georgia Southern, 55-43, on ESPN for the national title.

That makes Whipple part of a very small club, a guy who is still coaching who has won a national title,

USATSI_8812076_149008644_lowres

Mark Whipple displays the ‘][‘ upside down.

so beware of opposing head coaches smart enough to win it all.

Mr. Whipple probably has watched enough film to figure out that the Temple linebackers are the “Charmin soft” underbelly of an otherwise pretty stout defense so expect a lot of passes to the tight end and crossing routes underneath designed to confuse that young group.

It’s up to Temple DC Taver Johnson to anticipate that mode of attack and be prepared for it, but based on the first two games, there is no evidence that he’s up to that task. That’s where Geoff Collins, who is qualified in that area, has to step in and become interim DC, at least on a defacto basis, until the problems on that side of the ball get cleaned up.

On the other side of the ball, Mr. Whipple is smart enough to know that Temple’s supposedly innovative new offensive coordinator, Dave Patenaude, has run essentially only four plays and they are these (not necessarily in order): 1) Sideline passes to wide receivers; 2) Fullback dive to Nick Sharga; 3) A wide toss to Ryquell Armstead; 4) An occasional pass to the tight end, which is always dropped.

So much for innovation.

No reverses, no shovel passes, no halfback passes, and, in the last game, two touches for perhaps the most dynamic player this team has on offense (Isaiah Wright). Only two touches for Wright is coaching malfeasance at best and borderline criminal at worst.

Surely, Mr. Whipple has seen that and will react accordingly to stop those four plays. How much Temple improvises and adjusts on both offense and defense could very well be the difference between an embarrassing defeat and a blowout win.

If the former happens, Temple’s going to need a shipment of Charmin because this season will be headed for the toilet.

Saturday: Game Analysis 

Where’s The Mayhem?

collins

I can’t believe how much coach looks like Dan Klecko in this photo.

Like many Temple fans who attended that rainy Cherry and White Day, a particular T-Shirt caught my eye among the many they were peddling along merchant row.

It was white with Cherry lettering and the words simply said: “Temple Football: Mayhem is Coming.” I thought the $33 price tag was a little steep for a cotton T-shirt, but I plucked down the big bucks nonetheless because this was something different in usual Temple athletic fashion wear.

Wore the shirt all summer to the gym and a few people asked me about it. I said, “Mayhem is getting into the backfield, creating fumbles and interceptions and scoring on defense. This is what the new coach is supposed to bring to Temple.”

So far, so bad.

maniac

 

No Mayhem, except in the coaching box.

Not that many fumbles nor interceptions from the vanilla defensive packages the defense runs nor blitzes designed to create both. After the Notre Dame game, new head coach Geoff Collins said that the embarrassing total of 49 points were on what he called “misfits” and that 90 percent of the 422 yards rushing against the Owls came on 17 plays. That begs a couple of questions. One, isn’t the nine months of practice before the Notre Dame game enough time for cleaning up any potential “misfits” and, two, seventeen plays are a lot of plays. Just the fact that the Irish gouge you for big plays does not mitigate responsibility for allowing them.

The Owls have one tackle, Greg Webb, who started against Navy and was an immovable object (against an option offense that scored 76 on SMU the week before) who seems to have fallen out of favor with this staff. The Owls showed more defensive Mayhem against Navy in that one game last year than they have displayed in two this season. The Owls have another four-star tackle, Karamo Dioubate, who the day he committed to the Owls took a phone call in Buffalo Wild Wings (Roosevelt Blvd, Northeast Philly) from none other than Nick Saban trying to get him to flip his commitment to Alabama. KD said thanks but no thanks. KD wasn’t “above the line” so he did play not at all on Saturday. KD showed flashes of that talent as a true freshman last  year and looked to be primed to break into stardom by the aforementioned Cherry and White Game. KD is not hurt nor is Webb. Let’s get these two difference-makers into the UMass game.

It would seem to me if you are going to for Mayhem without blitzing it would behoove the Owls to have players on the field who are capable of creating it on their own. To me, Villanova was more appalling than even the Notre Dame embarrassment because the Owls’ defensive secondary which shined under the “Snowstorm Defense” was cut to pieces being led by a coordinator in Taver Johnson, who did not have championship level defenses in his past. Just what has Taver Johnson done to merit him being hired as DC at Temple? I’ve looked at his bio up and down and sideways and have not seen it. At least, with Chuck Heater, Temple hired a guy who was a National Championship defensive coordinator. Let that last sentence soak in for awhile.  With Phil Snow, he was a great DC with Arizona State and UCLA in the 1980s. With Johnson, his most impressive credential is that he is Geoff Collins’ friend. No national championships, no history as a great DC anywhere previously.

Ultimately, as the CEO of this Temple football operation, Collins is responsible.

There seems to be a subset line of thought that  “it’s only one game, give the guy a chance” excuses coming out after Notre Dame followed by “it’s only two games, give the guy a chance” coming out of Villanova. Let’s get this straight: No one is calling for Collins to be fired. Anyone who knows Temple knows this guy has a job at Temple for life, unless he wins eight games and then he lets Ed Foley coach the bowl game. Let’s not kid ourselves here. If the guy who “wanted to sign a 10-year contract” is out after year four, nobody makes it to five years at Temple with a modicum of success. By “give the guy a chance” I mean dissect if what he is telling you is bull or part of an overall plan. Give the guy a chance?

The problem with that logic is one game quickly becomes two games and, before you know it, eight games become 12 games. Hopefully, those same people are not saying “it’s only been a year” and still waiting to the kind of Mayhem Collins promised he would bring. How about it getting here by Friday? You’ll know it’s here with at least two fumbles recovered and one interception to the house. Anything less (and this is a very low standard) is a Ponzi Scheme designed to sell $33 T-Shirts.

Wake me up when Mayhem arrives. Until then, that nice $33 cotton T-shirt will remain in the closet collecting the same mothballs as the Mayhem we have been promised.

Thursday: UMass Preview