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.

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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

5 Things Learned From Spring Practice

Connecticut v Temple

Sharif Finch #56, Tavon Young #1, Jahad Thomas #5, and Dion Dawkins #66 of the Temple Owls celebrate with the American Conference East Division trophy. Most of the guys in this photo return.  (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

The outside perception of Temple football is that the Owls lost so much senior leadership that they cannot possibly repeat as AAC East champions, let alone contend for the title.

Temple fans know differently, though, because the tradition of single-digit numbers dictates the Owls have plenty of battle-tested leadership returning. Teammates vote single digits to the nine toughest players on the team and five of those single-digit players from last year are returning this season. That’s a solid enough foundation of both leadership and toughness returning for the Owls to make a significant run at the overall title.

Other than the bombshell of three-year starting receiver Romond Deloatch being switched to defense, the Owls had a number of surprising developments coming out of the annual Cherry and White game on Saturday. These five stood out most for head coach Matt Rhule’s team.

Connecticut v Temple

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

5. Jahad Thomas Could Be Switched To Slot

Thomas was named first-team All-AAC tailback with 17 rushing touchdowns and 1,287 rushing yards, but all six of his 100-yard games were in the first half of the season. To maximize his game-breaking talent and preserve his body, Rhule said Thomas could be split out and used as a slot receiver.

Temple v SMU

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

4. Ryquell Armstead Leads Tailback War

The war for starting tailback appears to be won by sophomore Ryquell Armstead, whose experience as a high school track star—he ran a New Jersey state-best 10.8 in the 100 meters as a senior—makes him a home run threat. Do not sell another sophomore, Jager Gardner, short. Against SMU, Gardner had the longest run from scrimmage, a 96-yard touchdown, in Temple history.

AAC Championship - Temple v Houston

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

3. Sean Chandler Moves To Safety

Only two players in the nation had multiple interception returns for touchdowns and one was Temple cornerback Sean Chandler. With the emergence of four-star recruit Kareem Ali Jr. at one corner, Chandler could take those break-on-the-ball instincts to the middle of the field and play safety.

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2. Linebackers Strength Of Defense

While Temple opponents can be comforted by the fact that All-American linebacker Tyler Matakevich has graduated, Temple fans know the real deal is that three starting linebackers—Avery Williams (2), Jarred Alwan (41) and Stephaun Marshall (6)—return with a total of 40 starts under their belts. “Our chemistry was ridiculous (in spring practice),” Alwan said. That meant ridiculously good, not ridiculously bad.

AAC Championship - Temple v Houston

  (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

  1. QB P.J. Walker Is Difference-Maker

While the focus is on Houston quarterback Greg Ward and USF quarterback Quenton Flowers, P.J. Walker could be the conference’s best quarterback this season. If he makes the same jump from junior to senior year as he did from sophomore to junior season, the Owls could take home the AAC title. Walker jumped from 13 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions as a sophomore to a 19 and eight as a junior. A similar jump should mean a title.

Thursday: Real Key To Season

Deloatch Could Make Impact At Defensive End

Matt Rhule hits on some key points postgame.

The hard numbers coming out of Saturday’s Cherry and White Game were three touchdown passes by P.J. Walker in the White’s 35-25win over the Cherry.

That’s important, because Walker is going to have a big year and the Owls are going to crush Army and Stony Brook in their first two games. With a four-year starter like Walker at quarterback, I also like their chances against anybody Penn State uses at quarterback in the third, which leads us to the rest of the story (as Paul Harvey likes to say).

Putting pressure on that PSU quarterback is going be more important and a guy like Romond Deloatch could hold that key.

Romond Deloatch, Temple football,

When we last saw Romond Deloatch, he was walking off the field in disgust following the Toledo game.

Three years ago, Matt Rhule dipped into Charlie Strong’s playbook when he decided to discipline wide receiver Romond Deloatch for missing a team meeting. As a punishment, Rhule put Deloatch on defense.

The only punishing done that day, though, was by Deloatch, who had what is believed to be a team-high seven sacks in a scrimmage. The move was reminiscent of Strong, then the Louisville head coach, who punished a quarterback named Marcus Smith by putting him at defensive end in a practice four years ago.

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The difference, though, was Strong kept Smith at end and he became a first-round draft choice of the Philadelphia Eagles.  Rhule, having made his point, put Deloatch back at starting wide receiver for Temple. Rhule and the defensive coaches filed away that sophomore performance and now Deloatch is back at defensive end in Saturday’s annual spring game. Quarterback P.J. Walker’s White team beat Deloatch’s Cherry team, 35-25, but the score in these games are never has important as the personnel moves and Deloatch’s is certainly one of the most unusual in Temple history.

At times, Deloatch appeared unblockable, but because the quarterback was not “live” there were no stats kept on sacks. Like Smith, though, Deloatch’s long arms, leaping ability, first step to the quarterback and lean frame (6-foot-4, 220 pounds), make him an intriguing weapon at defensive end. At the very least, the experiment will continue into the fall and Deloatch could be a specialty pass rusher in third-and-long situations. Either way, if Deloatch is able to disrupt things there are a whole lot of talented guys on that DL that can contribute to collapsing the pocket, too.

If he gets seven sacks in the opener against Army, and seven more against Stony Brook, the PSU quarterback—whoever he is—might be wise to take out an insurance policy.

Tuesday: 5 Things We’ve Learned This Spring

Thursday: The Real Key to the Season

Saturday: Opponents Spring Games

Cherry and White: A Day For Good Guys

My favorite answer here comes at the 10:35 time stamp.

Full disclosure: I hate the Cherry and White game, but love Cherry and White Day.

I always have felt the same way about the game, because the Cherry and White game pits the Good Guys vs. the Good Guys. If, say, Marshall Ellick beats Nate Hairston on a fly pattern for six, half of me is high-fiving, but the other half is not returning the high five. The reasoning is simple. Half of me thinks we’re going to have a great vertical passing game and the other half is concerned about replacing Tavon Young at a corner.

If our defensive line gets 10 sacks, I’m worried about our offensive line. If Jager Gardner, Ryquell Armstead and Jahad Thomas gain 300 yards against the defense, I’m just as worried about the defensive line as I am excited about the offensive line.

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Work, in  a manner of speaking, already being done on new stadium site.

And on and on …

You get the idea.

There are really no winners and losers when the good guys play the good guys. To really get a feel for how the Owls will be this summer, we will all have to wait until the Army game. Or Stony Brook. Even then, it might be too early because

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Field samples taken earlier this week.

Penn State should be the telling game.

For the first 10 or so Cherry and White games, I left Geasey Field or Temple Stadium or Ambler thinking the Owls would go unbeaten. It’s the last 30  years or so I’ve discovered the real truth. You cannot tell anything from the game itself.

The day, though, is another story. It’s a chance for Temple fans to get together again and that is  where the real victory is. There is no better place to pick up Temple “stuff” than Cherry and White Day, so bring cash.

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Just what is this guy’s problem?

This year, with a new stadium on the horizon, there should be a palpable excitement among those fans knowing this is one of the last two or three games on the East side of campus. With that in mind, it would be nice to see a drawing depicting two things: 1) What the stadium will look like; 2) Will it be North-South or East-West? Fifty percent of the people swear up and down on a stack of bibles that the stadium will be East-West, while another 50 percent will swear that it is North-South. Me? I would like for it to be North-South (better view of Center City), but the land configuration dictates East-West.

Other than that, as Jose from Norristown might say, I would like to see a donation jar to purchase former Owl kicker Wes Sornisky his own grave stone (he is buried anonymously in a Potter’s Field in Delaware after dying alone in a fire),  a folding chair in Doc Chodoff’s name to given to a loyal fan and the revival of the Mark Bresani Spirit Award given to the most spirited player of the spring.

Maybe not this year, but certainly in the future.

Sunday: General Cherry and White Thoughts

First Game Week Of Season

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When you roughly have only a dozen games per season (and hopefully a couple more this one), it is more than OK to count the Cherry and White Game as one.

It is and it isn’t.

The great Paul Palmer—in my mind, the greatest Temple football player of my lifetime—messaged me a couple of days ago and said he did not play in a single Cherry and White game, so take this game for what little it is worth.

The actual game itself is not as important as getting Temple fans together. In my mind, Temple fans are the greatest fans in the country. You know, the few, the proud, the Marines? That’s Temple fans. It takes a leather neck and a leather heart to be one as I have been for nearly 40 years now. It’s easy to be a fan of Alabama. That team goes to a bowl every year. Try being a fan of a team which wins a bowl once every 32 years.

That’s hard.

So getting together with the guys who have been through these wars will be a special reunion. It is never near the absolute heroes who were getting shot at on Wake Island or Iwo Jima, but the verbal insults hurled by Fordham fans (“Temple sucks”) hurt in their own small way nonetheless.

I will admit that the Temple sucks from lowly Fordham probably was the low point.

Temple doesn’t suck anymore and let’s keep it that way.

If anything, Cherry and White represents hope for the future and the one game where there is a metaphysical certainly that no one will yell “Temple sucks” after it is over.

Wednesday: Practice Concerns

My invitation must have been lost in the mail

This is where Pitt is playing its spring game.

The Cherry and White scrimmage has been canceled.
Now that I’ve got your attention with that opening sentence, I want to clarify it.
The Cherry and White scrimmage has NOT been canceled officially.
In reality for many (most) of us, though, it has.
I received a letter in the mail yesterday from “Temple athletics” and eagerly ripped it open, hoping that it was my “few invited guests” invitation to this year’s Cherry and White game.
Instead, it was a form letter signed by Steve Addazio and Bill Bradshaw saying that “due to safety concerns and space limitations at our facility, it is necessary to limit the number of spectators at this year’s final scrimmage to recruits, families, and a few invited guests of the football program.”
I guess my invitation has been lost in the mail.

This is where Temple should play its spring game.

Which means I will probably miss my first Cherry and White game in 32 years as it stands now.
Really, this means that if you are a member of the Owl Club or a big booster, you are in the door.
If you are a “regular season ticket-holder” _ even a 30-year one like me _ tough luck.
Talk about class warfare in an election year. ….
Let me go on record as saying if I don’t get an invitation, that offer of $365 million dollars to Temple football is officially off the table. If you didn’t like me when I was poor, I don’t want you coming to me when I’m rich. Since the Mega Millions is $290 million this Friday night, that could be very soon.
It didn’t have to be this way.
Actually, it still doesn’t.
Temple tried to get Lincoln Financial Field, but Jeff Lurie made the price so high that it was cost prohibitive.
Temple’s Ambler Campus Field was determined unsafe (don’t know why because it was safe enough for Al Golden to take the team there five years ago).
High school fields were determined out of the question because of the “small-time” perception involved.
I’m not buying that last excuse.
Pitt is playing its spring game at North Hills High because, like the Linc, Heinz Field is unavailable or cost prohibitive on that date. Pitt wants its fans to have a full spring game experience and damned with what everybody else’s small-time perception is.
Temple should do the same for its fans.
North Hills seats 5,000 people and has a brand new sprint turf field.
Northeast High in Philadelphia, less than five miles from the Edberg-Olsen Complex, seats 9,000 people and has a brand new sprint turf field. Northeast is a great venue for both football and tailgating, with many Temple grads as teachers, and would welcome the Owls with open arms.
Pitt doesn’t give a damn about perception.
Neither should Temple.