5 Takeaways From Cherry and White

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Temple was able to close two roads and have recruit only porta potties

This year Cherry and White was more than a game or a day.

It was a two-day celebration of how special a place Temple University is, starting with the surprise celebration in Center City on Friday night attended by over 200 of Paul Palmer’s closest friends.

 

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That was important because Palmer’s induction into the College Football Hall of Fame this December doesn’t just lift him up but all of Temple football because he is the very first Temple player ever inducted.

Then, the next day, over 5,000 fans attended the Cherry and White game and, while there is always optimism on this day, this seems a little more well-founded than other Cherry and White Days. Head coach Geoff Collins addressed the football team afterward and told them they were a very good football team on the way to being great.

No denying there is plenty of talent there, but how that talent translates into number of wins is a matter of debate. It SHOULD be more than the seven last year, but whether that is eight or 12 or somewhere in between won’t be proven until December.

Here are five takeaways to consider:

Last Line Of Defense

When you lose three of four starting defensive backs—guys who were the last line of defense for an AAC championship team two years ago—there is a sense of urgency to plug those holes and, in Keyvone Bruton, Rock Ya-Sin and Benny Walls, the holes seem to be not only plugged but tightened. After Mike Jones was called for a bogus interference play on an interception in the Houston game, Jones seemed to back off the rest of the season. Bruton, Ya-Sin and Walls have a lot of athleticism but no quit in them.

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Every seat on both sides of the field taken plus a larger number of standees ringing the field

Building Depth

We all know that Ventell Bryant and Isaiah Wright are probably the most talented wide receiving tandem in the league but, after losing dynamic players like Keith Kirkwood and Adonis Jennings, it was important to find reliable backups. Enter Jadan Blue, who caught three touchdowns for the Cherry team in a 28-24 win. Sean Ryan, the true freshman from NYC, also looks like a contributor. If they can bring to the table what Kirkwood and Jennings did last year, there is not going to be a dropoff in the wide receiver room.

Bowl Winning Quarterback

With 40 bowl games, there were only 20 bowl-winning quarterbacks last year and many of them either graduated or will be in the NFL draft. That means Temple has one of the few proven bowl winners back in Frank Nutile. Fortunately, head coach Geoff Collins is showing no inclination to make Nutile a tight end. When Matt Rhule took over the program in 2013, he took a 2011 bowl-winning quarterback and made him a tight end. Those days are over and that bodes well for the 2018 season. That said, Collins said Temple is one of the few programs with four quarterbacks who are now ready to play. They only need three, so hopefully they can redshirt one.

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Every seat was taken on both sides of the field and fans were ringed tight throughout

Venue and Crowd

With 5,000 fans—every one of the 2,500 seats in the soccer stadium was taken and there were at least that many, maybe more, standing on the sidelines—this was the perfect venue for the Cherry and White game and Collins acknowledged that afterward.

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It was pretty apparent to everyone there that the spot is probably more doable for a stadium than the Geasey Field location. Temple made a mistake putting the Olympic sports there and probably should be big enough to admit it should the politicians deny the university the proposed 15th and Norris location. I hate to be a party pooper, but I don’t see how the university overcomes the obstacle of closing 15th Street to build the new stadium so Broad and Master becomes a viable option in that it is ALL on Temple property and Temple can probably sue the city in state and federal court to build whatever it wants on that site.  But that would take eating the $22 million mistake and building a football stadium on the site of the other sports stadiums. That said, speaking about pooping ….

Recruit Porta Potties

Without getting into names (there could be an NCAA violation involved), we were told there was at least one five-star and several four-star recruits in attendance. If the Owls’ recruiting class gets ranked higher this year, credit the “recruit-only porta potties” that were next to the recruit-only tent. That’s no shit (see lower right in the diagram at the top). I asked an all-time great Temple player who shall remain nameless if they had recruit-only porta potties when he was being wooed to Temple and he said, “I think they gave me a bottle to pee in.”

Wednesday:  The difference a year makes

Friday: Pumping The Brakes

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Best Cherry and White Day Ever?

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Proof that a stadium or two can be built at TU without community opposition

Back in the day, they built a $22 million on-campus stadium right in the heart of Temple University’s footprint with nary a peep of protest from the surrounding community or student “Stadium Stompers.”

That day was two years ago and it is now the permanent home of Temple soccer, field hockey and lacrosse.

It will also be the temporary home of the Temple football Owls for what could be the best Cherry and White Day ever. The game will be moved to the soccer home of the Owls a few blocks south of 10th and Diamond this year, better know as the “Temple Sports Complex” or, more specifically, Howarth Field.

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We called for this a year ago and the university listened

We’ve called for the Temple spring football game to be moved here last year (see inset to the right) and finally the university listened. Meanwhile, we had a lot of the status quo apologists on social media pooh-pooh the idea saying “you can’t do it because of recruits” and “you can’t do it because of logistics.”

Well, Temple is doing what the naysayers said cannot be done and the powers-that-be (Pat Kraft and company) need to be applauded for that, moving the football game from an overly cramped facility to a more roomy location with plenty of seating.

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The discussion last year centered on just why the university was intent on squeezing 5,000 pounds of fans into a 100-pound bag when a 2,000-pound bag became available.  Bringing portable seats for 500 people when, on a nice day, you can get 5,000 people into a little over 100-yard square area made sense when you had no place else to go.

Now they do and I hope this is the temporary spot for the game going forward, at least until a larger stadium can be built. The soccer facility opened in the fall of 2016 and the place has 2,000 permanent seats and they can still move those portable E-O seats to that location.

South Florida, which also plays in a NFL stadium, moved its spring game from its football complex to its soccer complex in 2016 and it was an unqualified success. All the Bulls had to do was line the soccer field with football yard lines, put a couple of goal posts in and away then went.

April 14th’s Cherry and White game figures to be the best ever for a couple of reasons, a celebration of the school’s third bowl win and Paul Palmer being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Bruce Arians can’t come this year due to a prior commitment, but has promised to catch a Cherry and White game in the future.

The people have been the ones who have made Cherry and White great in the past. Now that they get to enjoy it in a place slightly larger than a phone booth, the location just adds to the usual great time.

Friday: Rock and Hard Place

Monday: Scheduling Buddies

Wednesday: The Bullhorn Lady

5 Takeaways From The Spring Game

A great moment for Temple football.

One of these days someone at the Philadelphia headquarters of Comcast is going to wise up about the Temple football spring game.

On Page 39 of Saturday’s Philadelphia Daily News, Notre Dame’s spring game was listed at 12:30 live on NBC Sports Network. Thumb down a little further at 3 p.m. and you can find the Penn State spring game live on BTN. Go down a little more and you can find the Rutgers’ spring game at 5 on the same network.


Matt Rhule stunted the
development of the program
in two ways, I think,
last year. One, was rather
obvious. Temple blew out
seven teams but P.J. Walker
played, for all practical
purposes, all of the downs.
Why, in God’s name, did Marchi
or Nutile not get significant
throws in those wins?

Yes, Rutgers, a football program that even sucks at cheating.

Meanwhile, at noon, when the Temple football spring game was kicking off the Philadelphia CSN channel was showing a Poker tournament.

Poker.

I guess the AAC will have to get their own network for the Temple spring game to ever be broadcast because Comcast figured Poker would have higher ratings in the nation’s fourth-largest market.

As the old Peter, Paul and Mary Song says, “When will they ever learn?”

Ironically, the best place to watch the Temple spring game on Saturday was on TV, roughly at 11th and Diamond. I tried going inside and standing on the back row of one of the stands. Between ducking under the umbrellas raised below me in an annoying persistent rain to see the plays, I gave up at halftime and watched on a big screen TV just outside Lot 10. (Greatness Doesn’t Quit beat Temple TUFF, 17-14.)

You could learn a lot watching that way and these were our five biggest takeaways:

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Todd Centeio Is The Most Talented Quarterback In the Program

That doesn’t mean the true freshman should start, but it does give me a lot of confidence in the future. The kid has the “It” factor that I’m not sure all of the other three guys have, but he could certainly benefit from a redshirt year where he gets to spend a lot of time in two rooms—the weight room and the film room. I hope new head coach Geoff Collins doesn’t make the same mistake old coach Matt Rhule made with P.J.—burning the redshirt when Rhule had a perfectly good quarterback in Chris Coyer to hold down the fort. P.J. would have been starting at ND this fall in a more perfect world.

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Frankie Juice is a Great Nickname

Frank Nutile (pronounced New Tile) had a nice game with a touchdown pass and a touchdown run, but I don’t think that separated him from either Logan Marchi or Anthony Russo. In fact, of the three, Russo’s 7-for-11 day was probably the best passing day and, if I were a betting man, I would put five bucks on Russo starting the Notre Dame game. All three players have a ways to go and that’s why I would not put 20 bucks on it. I wonder if Collins giving Nutile a sweet nickname (Frankie Juice) puts him ahead of everyone else in Collins’ eyes? We will find out by the first Saturday in September, but I would have liked to see one guy come away with a 25-for-32 day with 319 yards and three touchdowns.  That did not happen.

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Jager Gardner is The Real Deal

Matt Rhule stunted the development of the program in two ways, I think, last year. One, was rather obvious. Temple blew out seven teams but P.J. Walker played, for all practical purposes, all of the downs. Why, in God’s name, did Marchi or Nutile not get significant throws in those wins? Probably for the same reason Gardner did not get a redshirt. Rhule knew he was outta here and used all of his available chips and overplayed the starters, thinking short-term, not long-term. Gardner getting only 27 carries all of last year was a complete joke and a wasted redshirt. Gardner will have a great year this year, as will Ryquell Armstead.

The Defense Will Be Great

Last year, “they” (pretty much the misinformed outside fans who don’t know anything about Temple football) said the Owls would take a step back due to losing three NFL draftees in Tyler Matakevich, Matt Ioannidis and Tavon Young. Those of us closer to the program knew better, said so beforehand, and were proven to be right. This year, the Temple defense, which has a single digit guy (Jacob Martin) starting at one DE and perhaps one of the best playmakers in Temple football history (Sharif Finch, five blocked punts, crucial interception against Christian Hackenberg) starting another, will be better if Taver Johnson can be the DC that Phil Snow was. The interior line is terrific (Michael Dogbe, Freddy Booth-Lloyd, Greg Webb and Karamo Dioubate) and will cause a lot of Mayhem this season. Cornerback Mike Jones went from being called the “late-round steal of the 2017 NFL draft” by Mike Mayock to Temple starter. Good move by Jones, who had an interception and a fumble recovery, and could move up to the third round or better in the 2018 NFL draft with a great year at Temple.

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Somebody get Collins a hat with a Temple ‘][‘ on it.

Who Will Be Punting?

For the first time in Cherry and White Game history, I never saw a punt return, a punt or a kickoff return. The last time I checked, you’ve got to do all of those things in a “real” game and it would have been nice for the kids to do that before the 4,000 or so fans who attended in the rain on Saturday. I suppose they will do it in the summer before nobody, then try it again before 80,000 at Notre Dame but that sets them up for a shellshock moment. Never forget Jim Cooper Jr., who never survived his opener at Notre Dame.

In short, unlike superfan Ted DeLapp, I’m not confident in winning at Notre Dame. However, I am very confident in this team kicking the living crap out of Villanova the next week and that will be the jump-start to anything from a 7-10-win season.

Hopefully, that’s good enough for a championship and a bowl win. Those two things might get next year’s spring game on TV.

Anything short and we’re looking at a lot of Poker faces.

Wednesday: Cherry and White Slideshow

Friday: The Temple NFL Draft

Monday: Poker Chips

Spring Game: What Are They Saying About The Owls

Every once in a while, a spring camp phenom bursts onto the scene and that is usually a term for baseball players who tear it up in the spring to make the club unexpectedly.

Spring’s second favorite sport—college football practice—also has a version of that.

Last year’s breakout star for Temple was a wide receiver named Marshall Ellick. Then head coach Matt Rhule said he had “five NFL scouts come to my practice on different days” and ask who Ellick was. Ellick caught a touchdown pass that could have impacted the Penn State game but it was called back due to a phantom block in the back called by (ironically enough) AAC refs on Dion Dawkins. Replays clearly showed Dawkins blocked his man on that touchdown legally on the side, not the back, but a hold like that is not reviewable.

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This is the “best” deal we’ve seen on Ebay for tickets. Drew Katz can afford it.

Ellick got injured after that and we have not heard much about him this spring, although it is very possible he will be a major contributor in the fall.

Chances are after Saturday’s Cherry and White game, we will have our own opinions but, for now, I like the comparisons fellow Owls are making of receiver Adonis Jennings.

One of his fellow Owls compared Jennings to “Megatron” and the former Detroit Lions’ player was a special kind of athlete. Temple fans got a glimpse of what Jennings could do near the end of last season and in the Military Bowl. Let’s just put it this way. If all of the Owls had the production of Jennings in the Military Bowl at their positions like he did at his, the Owls would have won the game, 56-18.

That’s the key this year as Jennings, Keith Kirkwood and Ventell Bryant give the Owls their best trio of receivers in my 40-plus years as an Owl fan. (There have been better pairings of two, but the Owls have not been able to put three receivers of this talent on the field in their modern history.)

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Channel 3 is so clueless about the Owls that they put the game at LFF; it’s at the EO (but they probably do not know what the EO is)

Other than the personnel implications, on a personal note getting to meet and talk to Geoff Collins is important. I waited in the Military Bowl tent for him for two hours but he did not show up until much later. Since I thought he was not coming, I made the sprint to tailgate with “regular” Temple fans on the other side of the stadium. While a good time was had by all, I only heard during the game that Collins made a late but impressive appearance for the fans who remained.

I hope he does the walk-through at Lot 10 that Matt Rhule made his first year as head coach. Rhule walked up to every fan and personally shook his or her hand and made a point to listen to what they had to say.

Rhule listened to me, put my ideas (fullback, play-action passing,  a blocking back to protect the quarterback against blitzes) in the circular file and went rubbishing through that file to implement them by his third year. Hey, better late than never. As a spread offensive team, the Owls won two and six games. As a play-action offensive team with a fullback, they won double-digits in back-to-back years.

It ain’t rocket science.

Collins is a little ahead of the curve since he called Nick Sharga “the best fullback in the country” on the Zach Gelb Show yesterday.

That’s a good start. No, make that a great one and Gelb asked the question of the spring. “If you had to name a starting quarterback for the Notre Dame game tomorrow, could you do it?”

Collins, while praising his QBs, said no. That’s a good thing, not a bad one. Let it all shake out over the next few months.

Hopefully, if the Owls can’t get a spring Phenom at that position, they will settle for a summer one.

Sunday: Complete Cherry and White Recap

5 Questions Dr. Kraft Should Answer

Cherry and White Day is high noon on Saturday at the Edberg-Olson Complex.

The day means different things to many people, but mostly it is a gathering of fans and friends who have not had the opportunity to meet in months all over the shared passion that is Temple football.

It also has been another thing in recent years and that is running into people who are plugged into what the university is thinking, like Dr. Patrick Kraft, the athletic director, and DIck Englert, the school’s president.

Both are approachable and friendly and both TRY to answer fans’ questions honestly.

Cherry and White Day would be a good time to get answers from them, particularly Dr. Kraft, on these five questions:

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Why is C and W Still at the E-O?

With the opening of the sports complex four blocks south that includes a 2,000-seat soccer stadium, why cram 5,000 fans into a 500-seat hole anymore? South Florida has proved for the last two seasons that you can hold a spring game in a soccer facility and Temple should do the same. Two thousand seats plus the 500 portable seats the school brings to the E-O every year should make everyone comfortable. There is a field hockey game at 1 on the adjacent field but the soccer stadium is open. It should have been used this year and certainly should be used next season.

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How close are we to an announcement on the stadium?

We’ve been hearing behind the scenes that all systems are go on the new stadium, but there have been mixed messages. Moody Nolan, the architect, has been quoted as saying that the stadium is on hold. Is it? Or have the reassurances that everything is a go are meant to keep the private donations flowing? Why can’t the university set a date to make an announcement one way or another? It is time to bleep or get off the pot.

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What’s the holdup?

We’re aware that the city certainly is an obstacle, as are the 20 or so people from the community who seem to come out to Stadium Stompers’ meetings. Why hasn’t the school approached City Council with even an initial proposal?

When Will the Revolving Door Be Replaced?

The doors to the Edberg-Olson Complex seem to open in a normal fashion. You pull them open and hold them open for the women and the older fans to enter. Around the head coach’s office is a revolving door, and has been since 2010. What is the university doing to assure fans and recruits that the new coach they hire one year isn’t going to leave the next?

Was the subject of coaching stability ever brought up in the Geoff Collins’ interview?

Or was it conveniently ignored like the Elephant in the Room? Inquiring minds need to know and there would be no better day to know at least some of these things than Cherry and White Day.

Wednesday: 5 Football Things To Look For

Friday: What They Are Saying ….

Monday: Complete Cherry and White Review

A Logical Place For Spring Game

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When you are journalism major at Temple, as I was, they make you take 75 percent of your other courses as electives. The reasoning behind that in the 1970s—I do not know if the practice exists today—was  that if you knew a little about everything,  you could report on anything.

Maybe they should adopt the practice for sports administrators.

complex

Today’s required Course Monitoring for Temple’s administration should be Logic 101.

The discussion should be centered on just why the university is intent on squeezing 5,000 pounds of fans into a 100-pound bag when a 2,000-pound bag became available in the offseason.

The latest poster on the Cherry and White Day came out and there it was, right there for everyone to see: Cherry and White Game, Saturday, April 22, 1 p.m., Edberg-Olson Hall.

Hmm.

Bringing portable seats for 500 people when, on a nice day, you can get 5,000 people into a little over 100-yard square area made sense when you had no place else to go.

Not this year.

The soccer facility some four blocks south opened in the fall and the place has 2,000 permanent seats and they can still move those portable E-O seats to that location.

South Florida, which also plays in a NFL stadium, moved its spring game from its football complex to its soccer complex last season and it was an unqualified success. All the Bulls had to do was line the soccer field with football yard lines, put a couple of goal posts in and away then went.

Plenty of seating for the fans and a great experience had by all because the sports administration there applied logic to the situation and came up with a better conclusion.

Right now, the TU administration is trying to fit a square Cherry and White game peg into a round hole when there is a square hole just down 12th Street.

As our favorite alien, Mr. Spock, would say, that’s illogical.

Monday: Fizzy Meets Coach Collins

Black Helmets and Dual Threats

Only Cherry and White helmets here and it should remain that way.

Somebody up there must not like black helmets on Temple football players.

What happened against USF—a 44-23 stunner—was just another reminder that nothing good happens when Temple football players wear black helmets. From the loss to Navy in 90-degree temperatures in 2014 and last year’s USF disaster and even some awful play against winless UCF, black helmets and Temple football do not mix. It’s just bad Karma. Temple is blessed with two great colors, Cherry and White, and the Owls should count those blessings. Counting to two should not be that hard.

Quinton Flowers, South Florida football,

Quinton Flowers

Putting the black helmets away should be the first thing on the 2016 Unfinished Business agenda, and the easiest. The next thing could be the biggest key: stopping dual-threat quarterbacks.

For all of the talk about position changes, recruiting and surprises coming out of Temple football’s 2016 spring camp, the real key for the Owls this season will be stopping Greg Ward and Quinton Flowers.

South Florida’s Flowers is on the regular-season home schedule and Houston’s Ward could play against the Owls in the AAC championship game and they better devise a method for stopping them or their expectations of a great season could be dashed. Quite likely, the Owls will have to beat Flowers to get to Ward, so today is not too early to devising a plan to stop one to get to the other.

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Flowers posted 320 total yards, passing for 230 and running for 90 with three total TDs (two passing, one rushing) in the Bulls’ 44-23 win over Temple in November. Those numbers were unacceptable because the Owls insisted on playing their base defense against Flowers with no tweaks designed to slow him down. That was pretty much their approach in two other losses to dual-threat quarterbacks. The Owls lost four games a year ago and three of them were to dual-threat quarterbacks—Flowers, Ward and Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer. The other loss was to a conventional drop back quarterback with functional mobility, Toledo’s Phillip Ely.

So what happens in the defensive war room at the team’s practice facility between now and the start of the season is just as important as any personnel developments along the way. Defensive coordinator Phil Snow could have tipped his hand this spring that help is on the way when he moved his best cornerback, Sean Chandler, to safety. Having the speedy and sure-tackling Chandler spy Flowers could cause USF problems because Flowers won’t have the time to see the field and make plays.

At least that should be the plan. Executing it will go a long way toward unlocking a great season for Temple.

Saturday: Opponents Spring Games

Monday: 5 Temple Players Who Will Be Drafted

Wednesday: One Play Away

Friday: Millennials and Dust Devils