The Whole World Will Be Watching

Last year’s Temple vs. Tulsa highlights …

Walk into a bar on any given Saturday as a Temple fan, even in Philadelphia,  and the drill has become a familiar one over the last half-century, maybe before that.

Between fighting the Penn State fans and the fraud Notre Dame subway alumni and the front-running Alabama fans, you’d be lucky to get someone to put on the Temple football game somewhere on the side with no one to watch but you. Forget about asking for the sound to be turned up, either.

thurweather

 

At least the weather should be good

 

Not tonight (7:30, ESPN).

The whole college football world will be watching with the sound blasting in every bar from the Northeast corner of Maine to the farthest western island in the Hawaii chain. My guess is that the crowd would have been in excess of 30K if the Owls took care of business against Villanova and Buffalo in addition to winning against Maryland. Instead, the hit from those two disappointing games will be around 8K so expect an announced crowd in the 22K range. Anything more would be a bonus.

While those die-hards like us will be there, this, though, in a made-for-TV affair like most Temple home games. The difference this time is the Owls will have a captive audience and can enhance their brand with a big win.

OK, sure, there will be an NFL game on but, hey, it’s the Jets and Cleveland which leaves most of the TVs on Temple and Tulsa.

So this is a big opportunity for Temple to establish that the Maryland game was no fluke and to prove what the rest of the team believes: That the Owls who dominated a 2-0 Big 10 team who beat Texas are the team fans should have seen from Day One.

A convincing win over Tulsa would be step two in restoring a damaged brand because so many people who otherwise not ever watch a Temple game will be there—either on the couch or in local establishments—watching.

More importantly, all of the Owls’ preseason goals are still on the table. The No. 1 goal has been to win the league championship and, to do that, the Owls will probably have to win all the AAC games they are favored in plus grab at least one win against UCF or USF(those two could cancel each other out).

It will not be easy because this is a Tulsa team that hung with Texas (28-21) in Austin before losing to Arkansas State by essentially the same score (29-20) at home the next week but winning a championship is never easy.

If the Owls play the way they did the first two games, they could easily lose this one. If the Owls play the way they played last week, there is no reason to believe they can’t win by at least a similar score against Tulsa.

To me, on the list of reasons why the Owls lost their first two games right at the top was the refusal to run the ball against a horrid run defense (Buffalo) and an FCS team that gave up 45 points against Towson. The Owls committed to the run behind a blocking lead back against Maryland and that opened up the passing game for Anthony Russo. That’s the way they won 20 games in two years and the way they can still accomplish the goals set for this year.

The Owls will play a lot of games after tonight but, chances are, this will be the most eyeballs on them in any of them even including a possible bowl. This is their big chance to make a good impression.

Tomorrow: Game Analysis

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Russo: Collins’ First Litmus Test As CEO

russocollins

By 7:30 p.m., on Thursday, we will find out if Geoff Collins is either the Miller Huggins of Temple football or the Gabe Kapler.


Patenaude has a documented
history of making mistakes
in sticking with quarterbacks
too long. He went with his boy,
Logan Marchi, for seven games
and that cost the Owls embarrassing
losses to teams like UConn

The big question Collins has to answer is if he will take charge and name Anthony Russo the starting quarterback.

The evidence would suggest he should. Frank Nutile, the starter at the beginning of the season, threw interceptions all over the place in losses to FCS Villanova and MAC Buffalo. He did not look confident nor show the kind of arm he did in five of his last six games last year. Maybe Nutile was injured all along. Maybe he just had a sore arm.

Whatever, Anthony Russo, his replacement, looked confident and sharp and managed a convincing win over a Big 10 school that beat probable Big 12 winner Texas.

No-brainer, right?

HugginsMiller

 

“Psst: Geoff. It’s me. Miller. Miller Huggins. Trust me: Start Russo”

 

Only if you let someone with no brains make the wrong decision. After the game, offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said “Frankie should be OK for Tulsa” and that statement leads me to believe that this OC is leaning toward putting Nutile back into the saddle. Patenaude has a documented history of making mistakes in sticking with quarterbacks too long. He went with his boy, Logan Marchi, for seven games and that cost the Owls embarrassing losses to teams like UConn. Only the “luck” of an injury to Marchi reversed Temple’s season.

My guess is if Dave Patenaude was managing the New York Yankees back in 1925, Lou Gehrig would have never seen the field.

Huggins, then the Yanks’ baseball manager, passed his first litmus test as a manager.  If the Hugger were still alive, he would able to pass on some valuable Cliff Notes to Collins for his upcoming litmus test.  On June 2, 1925, Huggins told Gehrig that “(Wally) Pipp wasn’t doing too well” and Huggins thought a few days of rest would do him good.  Lou Gehrig took over the rest was history. Gehrig went on to play 2,632-straight games—the longest consecutive streak in baseball or any other sport until Cal Ripken Jr. came along.

Knowing Gabe Kapler, who probably will not make the Hall of Fame, this is what he would have said: “I have full confidence in Wally and, even though Lou did well, Wally is not going to lose his job because of an injury.” It’s probably the same deal with Patenaude and this is where Collins has to put his foot down.


… it’s not even a tie.
Russo was significantly
more impressive in his
game—against a foe that
would destroy both Buffalo
and Villanova—than Nutile
was in his two

In baseball, one of the axioms is “the tie goes to the runner” and, in college football, the tie in performance goes to the younger quarterback over the redshirt senior. Crazy enough,  but, in the case of Russo and Nutile, it’s not even a tie. Russo was significantly more impressive in his game—against a foe that would destroy both Buffalo and Villanova—than Nutile was in his two.

In college football, if it’s even close, the decision goes with the younger player.

In this case, as in Gehrig’s, the better one. Now is the time for Collins’ first litmus test as CEO of the Temple football operation.

In less than 48 hours, we will find out whether Geoff Collins is closer to Miller Huggins than he is to Gabe Kapler. We can only pray he is the real boss and doesn’t cede this authority to an incompetent subordinate.

If he does, he is a weak leader who won’t last long at Temple. Or anywhere else for that matter.

Thursday: Tulsa Preview

 

Maryland: Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde

hyde

Editor’s Note: Fizz checks in on his thoughts about the Maryland game.

By Dave (Fizzy) Weinraub

In the original story, a lawyer named Gabriel Utterson investigates the prominent physician Dr. Jekyll, who transforms into the murderous Mr. Hyde.  In this version of the story, I will take the place of lawyer Utterson.  The dual personalities of Jekyll and Hyde will be played by Dave Patenaude, the Temple offensive coordinator.

power

Utterson (to Inspector Hodges):

“It was most remarkable. During the first three offensive possessions, Mr. Hyde was running the offense.  It was the same old Broad Street Offense… handoffs up-the-gut on first down, followed by straight passes with no fakes from an open backfield.  When the passes failed, it was up-the-gut on third and long.

Hodges (to Utterson):

“Then what happened?”

Utterson:

“From what I heard, there was a timeout and Mr. Hyde went to the men’s room. When he came back to the coaches’ box, he was most composed and dapper.  He’d morphed into Dr. Jekyll, and the offense was completely different.  All of a sudden there was deception in the backfield.  Receivers and running backs were going in motion and coming back to QB before the snap, sometimes getting the ball and sometimes faking. There were even tight-end screens and the defense didn’t know what was happening.  Then, QB Russo started to roll out which gave him plenty of time to  look downfield and throw very accurate passes (except for the time when he looked directly at his receiver doing a sideline pattern and was intercepted for a pick six.)   Amazingly, I saw what may be the best offensive call in Temple’s history.* On a fourth and two, Temple ran a fake punt and a reserve QB threw a touchdown pass that changed the game.”

Hodges:

“Wow!  Was that all?”

Utterson:

“Not by any means.  Russo threw a touchdown pass on a designed play where the wideout broke to the sideline and jumped up and down drawing his man and the safety. Meanwhile, the tight end ran a stop and go and was wide open down the sideline.  This is the first time since this new coaching staff took over last year, that we’ve seen imaginative and deceptive play design.”

Hodges:

“So it was a cake walk after that?”

Utterson:

“Unfortunately, no!  It was really strange.  There was a TV timeout with six minutes left in the third quarter, and Dr. Jekyll’s assistant left the booth.  When he came back, he was so startled he had to change his shorts because Mr. Hyde was once more looking at the field.  Everything then reverted back to the Broad Street Offense.  It seems that Mr. Hyde was once more playing not to lose.  Two of the most curious play calls occurred on third and on long, deep in Maryland’s territory.   On both occasions, he ran his famous up-the-gut play for no gain, and I thought he was trying to set-up a field goal.  But no, he then threw deep from a straight drop-back on fourth down.”

Hodges:

“So what clinched the game?”

Utterson:

“Well, again it was weird.  Maybe Mr. Hyde rubbed off some on the defense which had played so aggressively and outstandingly to that point and not allowed any points.  The defense seemed to relax a little, used some three-man rushes, and Maryland began to be effective with both the run and the pass. The game was saved from being a nail-biter by linebacker Bradley who had an 83-yard interception return for a touchdown.”

Hodges:

“So what’s your conclusion in regards to the coaching staff?”

Utterson:

“Inspector, if you arrest Mr. Hyde and lock him in the basement of Conwell Hall, perhaps this coaching staff will finally learn to be aggressive at all times.”

* This author made mention that the fake punt on fourth and two was possibly the best offensive call in Temple’s history.   Undoubtedly, the worst call was when I was handed the ball against Delaware in 1959, and lost three yards.

Tomorrow: What We’ve Learned

 

 

 

Shocked and Amazed (in a good way)

Sometimes you are shocked and appalled.

Others you are shocked and amazed.

Count a significant—maybe a majority—of the Temple football fanbase into that latter category today after a 35-14 win at Maryland. For the first two games, shocked and appalled would have been the more apt adjectives.

Raising my hand here because this is the team I thought I would see from the jump but due to so many head-scratching decisions of the coaching, err, brain trust we have not.

Until Saturday.

teamstats

The tight end position made a spectacular reappearance into the Temple offense as the Owls used Kenny Yeboah and Chris Myarick not only to catch key passes in the game but to essentially play the role of a fullback leading the way for Ryquell Armstead.

Anyone who has followed Temple football since Armstead arrived knows he is as good a back as any in the league while following a lead block. He does not do well when lined up in an otherwise empty backfield where the bad guys can send a blitzing linebacker at him.  The coaching staff did not give him a lead block until Saturday and they gave him several as the tight end lined up as an H-Back on Armstead carries and was put in motion with Armstead following the motion.

Why that wasn’t there from the jump is a mystery to me.

Better late than never.

It might also be helpful to use a blocking fullback in addition to the H-Back block, but maybe that’s asking for too much. Maybe Ed Foley and Adam DiMichele can talk OC Dave Patenaude and HC Geoff Collins into that.

predelicksions

Maryland site had the score right but the teams wrong

Love to see it in action on Thursday night (7:30 p.m., ESPN) against a Tulsa team that got hammered by Arkansas State last night. If it works, keep it in the offense going forward.

Anthony Russo, an Elite 11 quarterback, looked like the guy Trent Dilfer said he would be years ago.

He probably did enough to earn the job under center against Tulsa and, should he improve, keep it going forward.

Hopefully, an ancillary benefit from yesterday’s Owl win will be getting the Prodigal Son fans to return.

Some undoubtedly will be back for the Tulsa game. If the Owls can build a winning streak, more will come back and maybe, just maybe, this season will be the one we expected at the beginning.

My game watch plans were an absolute nightmare as the North Bowl location where the Temple Engineering grads had a party did not get the Big 10 Network on their TVs and instead pumped an internet feed onto a faraway screen behind the bowling alley with no sound. At halftime, it was onto Chickie and Pete’s in South Philly where the game was on two large screens in (empty) private rooms with no sound. I was the only Temple fan in there. They might as well made it a padded room because I was going nuts.

A very nice young lady ducked her head into the room when she saw me being there to cheer alone for the Owls.

“My son plays for Temple.”

“Who?”

“No. 40.”

“Yes,” I said. “Todd Jones, St. Joe’s Prep.”

She seemed shocked that I knew him.

“My mother passed this morning so I could not go to the game.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. My condolences.”

The first to congratulate Freddie Johnson in the end zone on his fake touchdown catch from Toddy Centeio?

Todd Jones.

I hope that made his mom proud on an otherwise sad day.

Monday: Fizz Breaks Down Maryland

Tuesday: What We’ve Learned So Far
Thursday: Tulsa Preview
Friday: Game Analysis

A Game Between The Lines and Ears

collinscall

“Bruce, I know you are doing commentary on the NFL, but I need an offensive coordinator”

It’s hard to imagine Temple playing a more confident team than Maryland today (noon start, Big 10 network).

It’s also hard to imagine Maryland playing a team whose confidence is more shaken than the Owls.

Between the ears sometimes means as much as between the lines and this could be one of those games.

If this game was played on Aug. 15 (the night of the season ticket-holder party at Temple), the roles might have been reversed. Maryland was dealing with a death in the program and a subsequent scandal that cost them a head coach (D.J. Durkin) who might be gone forever. Temple was coming off a convincing bowl win and five wins in its last seven games.

predictions

One program looked in disarray and another looked like it had its act together.

Fast forward a month to the day and the roles are completely reversed.

The Temple kids—essentially the same players who won the bowl game—had to watch as their coaching staff had them ill-prepared to play two inferior opponents. In the opener against Villanova, this same coaching staff completely disregarded the film of the year prior because it knew what Villanova was going to do and had no discernable plan to stop the Wildcats. In another, Buffalo—a team that proved it could not stop the run in their prior 13 games—took a deep sigh of relief when Temple did not commit to the run.

Somewhere, these same kids have to be thinking: “WTF?” (“Where’s The Fullback?”)

Conversely, Maryland had a plan and executed it well in wins over Texas and Bowling Green. Redshirt freshman Kasim Hill—the No. 6-ranked quarterback in the nation coming out of St. John’s (Md.) two years ago—is playing with a high level of confidence and should be able to make plays against a Temple defense that can’t get off the field on third downs or even on a crucial 4th and 9.

Not the kids’ fault as much as the coaches who put their starting tailback in as a situational pass-rusher when they refuse to play a real pass rusher, Karamo Dioubate, as a DE in those same situations. Dioubate was ranked about as high a DE coming out of high school as Hill was a quarterback. Now he’s lucky to get in the game as a DT behind Michael Dogbe and Freddy Booth-Lloyd.

The difference is that the Maryland coaches play Hill at his position and the Temple coaches refuse to play Dioubate at his. It’s just one example of many where Maryland has a solid handle on its personnel and Temple does not. The Owls have a great fullback, Rob Ritrovato, but refuse to use him there more than one or two times on any given Saturday. Wasted talent leads to questions of what might have been.

To blame the kids is really misguided. It’s a little like blaming the soldiers in the Confederate Army under Generals Lee and Pickett for charging a heavily-fortified Union position at Gettysburg. Dave Patenaude’s refusal to develop a ground game against Villanova or Buffalo is very Lee/Pickett-like in strategic blunder.  For Lee, a master tactician, it was an abnormality. For Patenaude, it’s an every-game occurrence. The kids should be 2-0. The coaches deserve to be 0-2.

It did not use to be this way.

The last time Temple went to Maryland, it knew was it was doing with short rollout passes from Chester Stewart to tight end Evan Rodriguez went 9-for-9 and allowed Temple to use its elite tailback, Bernard Pierce, behind a great fullback blocker in Wyatt Benson. This Temple team does not use the tight end or fullback and, probably not coincidentally, cannot create enough holes for Ryquell Armstead, a proven AAC elite champion tailback.

Between the lines, Maryland has a slight advantage in this one. Between the ears, Maryland’s advantage is a gaping one.

Has the less confident and talented team ever won under those circumstances? Probably, but the examples are few and far between.

Tomorrow: Game Analysis

Fizzy: Spread (For and against)

empty

By Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub

Editor’s Note: Fizz played with perhaps the most famous player in Temple history (famous for something other than football) but we’ll just say he also played with former William Tennent legendary head coach Bill Juzwiak and Temple administrator Joe Morelli.

THE SPREAD – FOR AND AGAINST

In reviewing last week’s game, I forgot to give Temple credit for one reverse and one halfback pass. The pass was perfect and the receiver dropped it. The reverse was run at the wrong place, the two-yard line, and only succeeded with the last minute, ad-lib flip to a split end. But at least they ran them… kudos.

Now let’s talk about college offensive and defensive football in general,

The Spread

Everyone runs some version of the spread. (Probably that’s because many coaches can’t think for themselves.) As those of us who’ve been around for a while know, offensive formations become popular until the defense catches up. It’s been this way ever since the single-wing, so here’s my analysis.

For the pure spread to succeed, you must have a fast QB who can run whenever the opportunity arises. That’s because when the receivers all over the field, the defense is “spread,” and most of the time the pass defenders have their backs to the QB. The schools with dynamic runners are the most effective because they can quickly pick up undefended yardage.

On the other hand, if you don’t have a good running QB and you’re still trying to run the pure spread, you’ve severely limited yourself. You have only one back to fake to, and he’s six yards back. It’s a slow developing, very observable running game. The advantage is tailbacks have time to see open lanes developing if there are any. Temple is in this situation and it drives me crazy.

If you don’t have a good running QB, then you should modify your version of the spread.

Villanova did a good job against us in this respect. They ran traps and mis-directions to slot and wing-backs going away from the initial direction and fake. It was effective and reminded me of the (gulp) Delaware Wing-T. Also, you can line-up in the spread, but with motion and realignment, it doesn’t end up the spread at the snap of the ball. There are all kinds of variations imaginative coaches can do, depending on their player’s skills.

Defending The Spread

If I’m defending the spread (as I’ve said many times before), here’s how I’d do it. Basically, I’d have a run defense of five guys and a secondary defense of six. (Yep, that makes eleven.) I’d have different lineman on almost every play, lining up in different locations and with the one pure linebacker blitzing and faking the blitz, all the time. Depending on the strengths of each offense we play, there would be different priorities each week for blitzes, slants, and loops. I don’t want the offense to ever be sure of what we’re doing.

The six guys in the secondary could play any number of zones depending on the strengths of the offense, and to confuse the QB. The zones would not be observable to the QB when he lines up, therefore disrupting the lineup, and the wait for the coaches play call to come from the sideline. The zones could be a 4-2, 2-4, 1-4-1, 3-3. 5-1, and 1-5, etc. Each week, during preparation for the opponent, certain designated zones would be emphasized in practice. For example; against a good running QB on a third and ten, I’d consider a 4-2 or a 1-4-1. Repeat: I don’t want the offense to ever know what we’re doing.

It’s a big country, someone has to fix it. The meek won’t inherit shit!

Tomorrow: Maryland Preview

Sunday: Post-Mortem

 

How We Went From AAC Champs To AAC Chumps In 2 Years …

sharga

OC Dave Patenaude ditching the “Temple TUFF” offense of full-time fullback (and, more importantly, Geoff Collins’ role in enabling that blunder) is the No. 1 reason why Temple went from consecutive 10-win seasons to a likely 10-loss season.

On the morning Geoff Collins was hired, while finally finding my keys, stashing my wallet away and picking up the cell phone, I looked down and it was ringing.

“Mike, what do you think?” a friend of mine said.

“Think about what?”

“Temple finally announced The Guy.”

“Who?”

chumps

SB Nation’s current (unfortunately correct) assessment of the Temple football program

“Geoff Collins.”

“The guy from Florida?”

“Yeah, isn’t that exciting? I think it’s a great hire.”

“I guess,” I said. “From some of the guys on the list, he’s probably the best one.”


These are guys who
not only do not
understand Temple
TUFF but include an
incredibly arrogant
offensive coordinator
who intentionally sabotaged
the very fullback-oriented
offense that gave Temple
20 wins in two seasons.
That was an offense and
a toughness Temple fans
came to know and love

The list included guys like K.C. Keeler, Danny Rocco, Neil Brown and Matt Canada. Keeler was a failed head coach at nearby Delaware and resurrected his career at Sam Houston State. The other guys were FCS head coaches or FBS coordinators.

Not the kind of list Dr. Pat Kraft should have doodled for an Owl program that had long stretches in the top 25 in consecutive regular seasons.

Underwhelming at best, disappointing at worst.

Given that backdrop, my “I guess” response was appropriate. If Collins had brought with him a national championship Florida coordinator and a Florida quarterback coach—like Steve Addazio did with DC Chuck Heater and QB coach Scot Loeffler—that’s one thing. It’s quite another when your top assistants are from Coastal Carolina and Kennesaw State.

By comparison, Collins has surrounded himself with incompetence and, because of it, has placed a once-great program in jeopardy of a historic free fall. Here’s the empirical evidence:

recentjawns

These are guys who not only do not understand Temple TUFF but include an incredibly arrogant offensive coordinator who intentionally sabotaged the very fullback-oriented offense that gave Temple 20 wins in two seasons. That was an offense and a toughness Temple fans came to know and love.  It was an offense that perfectly epitomized the toughness of the school, its students, the alumni, the city, the neighborhood, even the corner of the practice facility.  It was an offense that had a purpose, with the run setting up a play-action fake and every play seemingly setting up an explosive play in the passing game.  Run the ball successfully with an elite tailback behind an extra offensive lineman (fullback Rob Ritrovato) to bring the linebackers and safeties up to the line of scrimmage. At that point, the defense is susceptible to a deft ball fake that freezes the linebackers and safeties in their tracks and allows the quarterback to find open receivers everywhere. Now, nothing sets up anything else except a five-yard loss on a handoff. This scatterbrained offensive scheme, pardon my language, is complete bullshit that every single one of the 20,000 or so current remaining Temple fans rejects without question.

My feeling was then and still is now that Temple as a program after consecutive 10-win seasons and two appearances in the league championship game reached a point where it could and should have hired an accomplished head coach and did not need to roll the dice on another coordinator again.

evidence

Make no mistake, hiring a coordinator as a head coach is a crapshoot. Coordinator and head coach are two different jobs. Just because you are good at one does not translate being good at another.

The checker at your local grocery store might be the greatest bagger in the history of supermarkets but that doesn’t mean he would make a good store manager.

You could end up with a guy like Al Golden or Matt Rhule or a guy like UConn’s Bob Diaco.

All three had impeccable credentials as a coordinator—Diaco was FBS coordinator of the year as DC at Notre Dame—but there’s plenty of evidence where great coordinators fail as head coaches.

So here we are, not long removed from being a Top 25 (albeit regular season) staple to one coming off a loss to the local FCS program and a team from a lower conference (Buffalo) that the Owls beat 113-13 in their last three meetings with them.

How did we get here?

By rolling the dice on another coordinator when Temple football got to the point where it could attract an accomplished head coach. Owls rolled a seven and 11 on the last two coordinators. It was only a matter of time until their luck ran out.

That appears to be the case now.

If Collins can prove to be Temple TUFF enough to upgrade his coordinators, he has some hope for resuscitating both his career and this precious program, whatever he values the most.

If not, none of us have any hope for anything.

Friday: Fizzy Offers Some Constructive Advice (6 a.m. publishing time)

Saturday: Maryland Preview

Sunday: Game Analysis