Losing Is An Attitude

litany

Watching Army march down the field a couple of weeks ago, a thought occurred to me even before the Cadets scored the game-tying touchdown. The defensive players were looking around for someone else to make a play instead of taking that bull by the horns themselves.

Losing is an attitude and it appeared as if Temple adopted that mindset early on in the season, but especially during the UConn game.

John Chaney wrote a great book called “Winning is An Attitude” with Steve Wartenberg about Temple basketball but this Temple football book appears headed for a less happy ending unless the Owls truly embrace the principles that gave them consecutive double-digit-win seasons.

Late in both the Uconn and the Army games, you could see the Owls—especially the defensive players—look around and wonder how their hearts would be broken now.

Instead of grabbing the game by the throat and sacking the quarterback, they allowed a 59-yard draw to a slow-footed Huskie quarterback and gave comfort to a triple option team that was very uncomfortable at throwing the ball by playing a prevent defense.

wartenberg

As Harry S Truman once said, “The buck stops here” and the buck of this losing attitude has to stop at the desk of Temple football CEO.

If Geoff Collins were to write a book about the 2017 Temple football season, its title would be “Losing is An Attitude” and the subtitle might be “How I Turned Temple TUFF Into Temple MUSH in 8 Games.”

Other possible titles might be “Unfulfilled Promises” or “Undelivered Mayhem” because  Mayhem–which really is attacking the quarterback relentlessly—would have probably gave Temple wins, not losses, in the last two games.

Basically, this whole attitude was established from the first weeks of Collins’ tenure when he gave the offensive coordinator job to a spread offense guy, Dave Patenaude, who gave only lip service tribute to the Temple style of play which produced consecutive 10-win seasons. You knew this thing was headed south when, in January, Patenaude said he was going to run the tailback behind the fullback but also incorporate spread principles into the offense.

You can’t do both.

At least not effectively, and Patenaude has strayed from what the Temple personnel if best-suited for—run a great tailback behind a great fullback—to the point where the great fullback seldom even plays. The running game always set up explosive downfield plays in the passing game for Temple, making great use of play-action. The spread lends itself to punting on 4th and goal, which is exactly what the Owls did in the Houston game.

Defensively, the pressure on the quarterback we’ve been promised and subsequent backfield fumbles and interceptions returned the other way (Mayhem) has been MIA for eight games, even in the wins.

There are four more games left. It’s up to the CEO, not the OC and the DC, to order that the Temple offensive brand be restored in full and give the home fans at least a hint of the Mayhem he promised nine months ago.

Thursday: Navy Preview

Advertisements

Back to the Bad Old Days

Anyone who has followed this space for the last dozen years of its existence knows where it started and where we left off last December.

From chronicling the depths of a 20-game losing streak to the glorious championship in a great league in December, the Temple program reached the lowest of the lows and pretty darn near the highest of the highs.


This team doesn’t
have a plan on offense,
other than throwing
the ball 54 times
a game. That’s not
the Temple football
we’ve all come to
know and love.
The Temple football
we love is running
Ryquell Armstead and
David Hood behind the
lead blocks of Nick
Sharga, and letting
that set up explosive
results downfield in
the play-action
passing game

Less than a year ago, many of these same Owls were holding and kissing a championship trophy in Annapolis.

Now, after a 28-24 loss to a UConn team that gave up 70 points a week ago, we can officially say we’re back to the bad old days.

Arguably, this is worse than the 20-game losing streak because those teams had no talent. This team has three of five starters returning on the offensive line,  a 900-yard running back, the best fullback in the country, the entire wide receiver corps, pretty much the entire defensive secondary and outstanding defensive linemen like Michael Dogbe, Sharrif Finch, Karamo Dioubate and Greg Webb. Al Golden had a plan and he stuck to it and saw it through to the school’s first appearance in a bowl game in 30 years. This team doesn’t have a plan on offense, other than throwing the ball 54 times a game. That’s not the Temple football we’ve all come to know and love. The Temple football we love is running Ryquell Armstead and David Hood behind the lead blocks of Nick Sharga, and letting that set up explosive results downfield in the play-action passing game.

assistant

Our hiring advice to Dr. Kraft the day Rhule quit.

There is plenty of championship level talent here and it is being squandered.

Whatever Golden lacked in game day acumen, he more than made up in being a brilliant CEO and terrific recruiter and Matt Rhule pretty much took the baton from Golden without fumbling it.

This team has plenty of talent, but has no plan and poor leadership at the top.


Would it absolutely kill
the Owls to start Anthony
Russo for a series or
two or even the first quarter
at Army? Certainly
not as much as the poor
quarterback play is
killing this
team now

Quarterback turnovers are killing this team and the CEO in charge doesn’t have the requisite gonads to make the change that is needed now. Would it absolutely kill the Owls to start Anthony Russo for a series or two or even the first quarter at Army? Certainly not as much as the poor quarterback play is killing this team now.  This offense needs a spark and a quarterback change is the best way to ignite that spark.

Logan Marchi isn’t as much the problem–the kid is trying hard but probably cannot see the field as well as a taller quarterback might–as the stubbornness from head coach Geoff Collins and  offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude of sticking with him when Collins said unequivocally that anyone who turns the ball over would sit.

That rule only applies to non-quarterbacks, evidently.

You have to wonder what Marchi has to do to earn a spot on the bench on this team. On the Pick 6, the ball was tipped ever so slightly and, had the Temple quarterback been 6-4 instead of 6-0, the pick 6 would not have happened.

After the Pick 6, what, exactly, does Collins say to the kid?

“That’s your ninth interception in league play,” Collins might say. “You can have 10, 11 and 12 but I’m drawing the line at 13.”

Ugh.

He probably does not say anything and that’s the even worse.

Collins has one of the best kickers in the country and, instead of using him with five minutes left to kick a field goal and cut it to one, he got greedy. Had Boomer kicked a field goal with five minutes left, it’s 28-27 and all the Owls would have had to do is get into field goal range again for the win. Instead, they put their hopes on the back of an erratic quarterback and asked him to throw the impossible Hail Mary pass.

After Rhule left, we wrote that it was time for Temple to hire a head coach, not an assistant. Temple had too much talent to have another head coach learn in the job and squander this much talent.

Golden was available, and that back to the future path probably should have been the road Dr. Pat Kraft had taken. UConn made the smart hire in Randy Edsall, a guy who knows how to win there.

Golden knows how to win here.

Instead, Kraft rolled the dice with Collins and, in a matter of months, Temple went from the Penthouse to the Outhouse.

Welcome back to the bad old days. We thought they ended roughly a dozen years ago but unless key personnel, philosophical and coaching changes are made on the offensive side of the ball, they are here to stay for a long time.

Tuesday: Fizzy’s Corner

Thursday: Thowback Day

Saturday: Stacking The Box

Throwback Thursday: Half-Full Or Half-Empty?

novaone

Temple won this before 6,734 fans at Veterans Stadium.

When the fans pour a few pre-game brewskis at the first home tailgate of the year, roughly 50 percent of them will be seeing that cup as half-full and the other group has half-empty.

That’s the short view coming after a shocking, at least to me, 49-16, loss to Notre Dame in the opener.

Ordinarily, Temple losing 49-16 to Notre Dame is not shocking but count me with the half-empty group after the opening week of the season. The logic is indisputable: Notre Dame was coming off a 4-8 season and Temple was coming off a 10-4 season. During that season, Notre Dame had lost to a Navy team that Temple clocked, 34-10. Notre Dame, last we checked, did not get a significant influx of transfers in from Alabama or Ohio State. Temple, last we checked, had plenty of guys who were significant players on their championship team returning.

Temple SHOULD have given Notre Dame a much better game. Maybe not my prediction of 17-13, but, say, 28-16. Forty-nine to 16 was unacceptable and has shaken a lot of fans’ confidence in this new coaching staff. Not the players, because guys like Ryquell Armstead and Adonis Jennings and Nick Sharga were as key to the success of last year’s Owls as any of the NFL departed stars on offense and guys like Michael Dogbe, Delvon Randall and Sean Chandler were just as important on defense as anyone not named Haason Reddick.

projectmayhem

Not impressed with Project Mayhem’s debut Saturday. Hopefully, the sequel is better.

The coaches changed, mostly, for both teams one group of coaches over-performed and the other under-performed. That’s why a number of fans see what has happened so far as alarming, appalling and shocking. Perhaps just as appalling to me was the fact that Collins, in his AAC media day interview, went down a list of defensive players and every single name (at least a half-dozen players, maybe more) were players who he said “played well” or “played at a high level.”

I immediately went to the toilet and puked. (Just kidding, but no one plays well on defense giving up 49 points. Three points, yes. Six points, yes. Forty-freaking-nine points, no.)

Hopefully, like another SEC coordinator Temple hired, Steve Addazio, Collins understands our intense hatred of Villanova and coaches accordingly on Saturday. Daz “got” the rivalry and he produced 42-7 and 41-10 wins over that team. That’s what I’m hoping for Collins to produce on Saturday for this Temple fan base so bitterly disappointed by the first week.

That’s the short view, though.

Long view, over several decades, is how far Temple football has come.

One of the greatest Temple fans, Ted DeLapp, posted this remarkable headline from the 1975 Temple-Villanova game, a 41-3 win before 6,734 fans at Veterans Stadium.

That was not a misprint.

Six-thousand, seven hundred and thirty-four. Archbishop Ryan and Father Judge drew 11,000 fans to their game that same year. North Catholic and Frankford drew roughly the same amount.

One fan commented that it “was pouring rain that day” but DeLapp looked up the NWS forecast data from that day in Philadelphia and said only 0.03 inches of rain that day fell at the airport, which is only a couple of miles from the Vet. Amazing how people’s memories fail them.

On Saturday, upwards of 32,000 (or thereabouts) will see Temple host Villanova. The Wildcats are a top 10 FCS program and the Owls, while not the Top 25 program new coach Geoff Collins claims they are in the FBS, certainly flirted with the Top 25 in the last two seasons before being stood up in the last two bowl games.

Short view, for Temple at least, glass is half-empty.

Long view, half-full, especially considering that thousands of more people are both interested and invested in Temple football than 40 or so years ago.

Saturday around 6:30 p.m. or so if what’s in that cup taste like sewer water, it’s going to be a long season. Collins gets a Mulligan on the first week, but there will be no Mulligans going forward.

Sunday: Game Analysis

Game Week: Most Exciting Season Yet

kraft

The guy who is the new head coach at Temple has this fascinating way of answering questions he does not want to answer.

Geoff Collins just shakes his head.

Up and down for yes.

Side to side for no.

Smiling all the while, but not a single word uttered.

Watching Collins do this the last three or four times sold me. Simply not because of that knee-jerk reflex, but because of a thousand other idiosyncrasies he has shown since being hired as Matt Rhule’s replacement. Answering questions is just one endearing quality. More so, to me at least,  he could cite to me chapter and verse every important play a current Temple player made on film in every game he ever played. For someone who felt that Rhule never looked at tape either of his players or opponents, that was a very good sign. If this guy pays that much attention in the film room to what his current players have done, this is likely  a guy who will study opponents’ film and attack their weaknesses. I was never sure Rhule did that, at least enough on a consistent basis for my taste. To Rhule, it was enough to focus on “the process” and “controlling what we can do.”

That’s nice, but college football is a big war game and encircling your enemy and exploiting his weaknesses is at least as big a part of it.

Collins, from what I’ve seen, seems to understand that’s a part of the process, too.

Judging from the focused practices, this is a guy who won’t stand for the Owls having 120 yards in penalties at Notre Dame, like Rhule brushed off after last year’s Penn State fiasco.


This is Pat Kraft’s “Home Run”
hire and, if that lands in the
upper deck like a Rhys Hoskins’
one, we will have a repeat
championship team
at 10th and Diamond

This guy has the “it” factor that even Al Golden and Matt Rhule did not have. This is Pat Kraft’s “Home Run” hire and, if that lands in the upper deck like a Rhys Hoskins’ one, we will have a repeat championship team at 10th and Diamond.

He’s genuine, not a bull-shitter who will tell Temple fans he wants to be here 1,000 years like the message the last guy perpetuated. He just avoids that question and that’s fine. As John Chaney once said, don’t tell me you’ll love me forever if you won’t.

This guy, Collins, has the kind of charisma those two did not with the attention to detail Golden had.

Golden was the meticulously organized guy, building a binder of how to construct a program based on his years of being an assistant at Penn State, Boston College and Virginia. Rhule observed Golden and tried to follow the same blueprint. Collins believes in those concepts, but thinks just outside the box enough to be able to implement new and improved ideas.

That’s the primary reason why I am more enthusiastic about this season than I have been for any one since the late, great Wayne Hardin was head coach.

Here’s the nut graph: This Temple team can win anything from 6-12 games and that’s why I’m fascinated more by going into this season than any other in the last decade or so. Last year was the so-called “step back” year and we debunked that theory the first week before the season because we felt the guys returning were more than capable of getting the Owls the league championship.

It turned out they were.

I’m not calling for a league championship here, or even a win over Notre Dame—I think the Owls fall just short of both goals—but don’t sell this guy Collins short.

He could very well prove me wrong and I think he might. This is one time I very much want to be wrong and one guy who is capable of debunking my theories. I will be hanging on his every word of this incredibly fascinating season.

Or every nod of the head.

Wednesday: Enemy Territory

Friday: Game Preview

 

 

 

Collins Brings The Juice to Media Day

Marc Narducci talks Sean Chandler in this Media Day report.

Sometimes the most revealing answers come from the most innocuous questions.

Someone asked Geoff Collins a Media Day query about how Frank Nutile got his nickname and Collins all but named him the starting quarterback for the Sept 2. Opener at Notre Dame.

After Collins went to great lengths to NOT name a starter, even mentioning that all four quarterbacks will get simultaneous snaps in practice Tuesday, his answer gave at least a clue in what direction he was headed:

juice

“The offense kind of moves and plays better with him out there,” Collins said of “Frankie Juice” Nutile. “If you are just standing in a room, Frankie Nutile is just standing in a room with this group of guys and that group of guys and he’s just a guy that people gravitate to and one day I was out there and said it (Frankie Juice) and I can’t stop saying it, obviously.”

Collins did not single out any of the other three quarterbacks for praise, in all fairness he was only asked about Nutile. OC Dave Patenaude will have a say in this all-important decision, Collins will be the guy who pulls the trigger and, on Media Day at least, he was thinking Nutile.

There are a couple of reasons why Nutile might be considered a “safe” pick over, say, the other three. One, Patenaude made the comment about Todd Centeio questioning whether he would perform before “72,000 people” on opening day. (Does Patenaude expect 8,000 no-shows in the 80,000-seat stadium?) Two, if Nutile has less-than-stellar performance, it’s easier to go to Anthony Russo or Logan Marchi for the Villanova game. Then there is a third option. Nutile can go 24-33 with three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 35-21 win, but he showed no signs of that kind of performance in the Cherry and White game.

Other revealing Media Day answers:

Leon Johnson Taking Snaps on Defense

This is a little surprising in the sense that the Owls have plenty of high-end talent on the defensive line and they probably need Johnson to prop up an area of weakness in the offensive line.

Nick Sharga At Defensive End

Collins said that the holdover coaches said Sharga would “give Dion (Dawkins) fits” as a one-on-one scout team rusher at defensive end. I hope those same coaches told him about Sharga being the best linebacker on the field, Tyler Matakevich included, in a “real” game, a 34-12 win over a Memphis team that beat Ole Miss in 2015.

Shaun Bradley at Fullback

If the above clue about Nutile potentially starting was not enough, Collins offered that he made the switch of Shaun Bradley’s jersey number from 18 to 23 because Bradley, one of the team’s best linebackers, is also working at fullback and “he and Frankie Nutile have the same number and can’t be on the field at the same time.” If Bradley and Nutile were fourth-team fullback and quarterback, this would not be a big issue. If they are pushing for first-team time, it is.

Friday: Where Are They Now, Recruit Edition

Media Day Primer For Coach Collins

kraft

Some questions need to be answered

There have been a lot of firsts for Geoff Collins in his short tenure as Temple football head coach and today marks another one.

His first Summer Camp Media Day.

projectmayhem

While he has had other significant days with the media before, like the day he was signed as head coach and a post-mortem on a rainy Cherry and White Day, this one in the most special because he has an intimate knowledge of the personnel available to him.

This one also has a little more urgency in the sense that it will be month or so until kickoff. While Collins has pretty much winged these things in the past, here’s a primer offered to the coach for free on how he should answer some of the questions posed:

Are You Any Closer to Naming The Starting Quarterback?

What GC will probably say: “We’re going to let the process play itself out over the next couple of weeks and then make a decision.”

collinstwitter

 

What GC SHOULD say: “I could pick Russo, I could pick Centeio, I could pick Frankie Juice or Logan. I’m waiting for one guy to create enough separation so he makes the decision for me. If not, we’re going to throw four names into a hat, throw the hat up into the air and the first slip of paper that hits the ground will be the guy who starts.”

What Are the Chances of Switching to a 5-2 Defense?

What GC will probably say: “We went to a 4-3 in the spring and we’re comfortable with that going forward.”

What GC SHOULD say: “When I took the job here, I said the No. 1 thing I’ve learned as a coach is to use a system tailored to the talent you have, not try to fit the talent into a system. What I learned in the spring is that we have eight great defensive linemen and a lot of inexperienced guys at linebacker. To get another great player on the field and create the kind of Mayhem I want in the bad guys’ offensive backfield, I think we will go to a 5-2.”

What Will  Mayhem Look Like?

newfinch

What GC will probably say: “You wait and see. You’ll be pleased.”

What GC SHOULD say: “A lot of sacks, a lot of fumbles and interceptions and maybe a pick in the flat by Sharif Finch. We want to do something with those interceptions and fumbles, like return them for touchdowns.”

 

Why Has Recruiting Gone So Well?

What GC will probably say: “I can’t talk about recruiting until Signing Day.”

What GC SHOULD say: “I learned a lot of tricks as recruiting coordinator at Georgia Tech and Alabama. I’m applying them here, but can’t tell you what they are because some of our competitors might be listening.”

What Do You Tell Recruits Who Ask You If You’ll Be Around in Five Years?

What GC will probably say: “I tell them to not think about that, but to concentrate on the here and now.”

What GC SHOULD say: “I’m absolutely going to be around in five years, hopefully a lot more if they will have me. I read a great quote the other day on Temple Football Forever from coach Wayne Hardin that he made when he was head coach at Temple where he said he was happy to be here today and expected to be happy to be here tomorrow and that he had nothing to prove and no hills to climb and that winning was the most important thing to him. I feel the same way. These kids have had enough turmoil. They need a coach who is going to be around for a long time and I plan to be that guy. This fan base has enough with the revolving door of coaches here and I plan on ending that.”

Wednesday: Analyzing the Real Answers

 

 

 

 

Summer Practice: Picking Up That Can

crew

As a matter of comparison, what has happened at the quarterback position since the departure of P.J. Walker has been simply a case of kicking the can down the road.

More precisely, four cans.

This summer’s practice isn’t all about picking up the can with the best ingredients but it will be the most intriguing development.

Collins, correctly, postponed the decision on starter until the summer practice that begins in a couple of weeks.

It probably won’t be announced on the first or second week, but probably settled on by the third or fourth week. No one would be surprised if it was revealed a few days before the Sept. 2 game at Notre Dame. Game notes being what they are, and a national television audience being what it is, the crew of the game probably would want to do their homework on the Temple starter on something other than the morning of the game. So don’t expect a game day surprise.

As it sits now, I cannot tell you who will start.

Collins probably couldn’t either.

That’s because no one really has separated themselves from the other in the four weeks of spring practice. Will it happen in the summer? Possibly, but it’s also possible that the talent level will be so close other factors have to be considered.

In Toddy Centeio, the true freshman from Florida, the Owls have a high upside guy. Maybe the highest. Still, when was the last time a true freshman led a team to a P5 or a G5 title? That’s probably the best reason for a redshirt year that includes time leading the scout team, building up muscles in the weight room and loading the head with modern offensive concepts in the film room.

That leaves Anthony Russo, Logan Marchi and Frank Nutile.

In Russo, the Owls not only have their highest-ranked quarterback recruit since Ron Dickerson was able to convince Kevin Harvey to take his Parade All-American certificate to Temple, but one of the top three recruits of any school from one of the three big Philadelphia City Leagues. Russo has a better pedigree that even a couple of NFL MVPs, Rich Gannon (St. Joseph’s Prep, Delaware) and Matty Ryan (Penn Charter, Boston College). Both Gannon and Ryan had 20 touchdown passes in their final year of high school play; Russo had 35. Same level of competition.

The Owls could go to Nutile, a game manager type who was nowhere near as effective a high school quarterback as Russo.

The appeal of Marchi is that he has the mobility none of the other three have and he’s a year farther along than Russo. Given offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude’s stated fondness for a dual threat quarterback, Marchi might be the slight clubhouse leader at this point.

Collins and Patenaude will kick these cans down the interstate as long as they can, but somewhere between here and South Bend they will have to settle on one. Right now, they would prefer one of the guys to be so much better than the other three that the player, not the coach, decides.

That’s what summer practice is for but it’s also to make the tough coaching calls if a player doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity.

Friday: Class Warfare

Monday: House Money