A sucker bet or a sure thing?

This is how far we’ve fallen in six years.

One of the popular topics over on the OwlsDaily.com message board is about the over/under win total involving our very own Temple Owls.

The 2.5 wins posted by Vegas seems an insult to a lot of Owl fans used to winning (pre-pandemic) an average of over eight games for the previous decade.

Yet some of the responses are sad and amusing in a way.

One of the fans said: “at 2.5 I will make a small wager” and another said “four wins is doable.”

I had to shake my head. That’s the kind of stuff I’m used to reading on the Rutgers’ board over the last decade or so, not the Temple one.

This is what Temple football has become, perception-wise, after two Rod Carey seasons.

Even the Owls’ own fans have some doubts and the expectations of even the most optimistic are rather low.

I hit the 2-4-3 trifecta on the Belmont Stakes on Saturday and came away with a paltry $43. The same winning $2 bet in 2019 (thanks to a tip from The Daily News’ Dick Jerardi) cashed me $637.50. (The difference being eight horses vs. 18 and only five good ones among the eight.)

I’ll stick with the horses.

Temple winning three or four games holds no particular appeal to me, not after being so close to a couple of 10-win seasons.

Talk of the “hope” of winning four games reminds me of the Bobby Wallace days and I so wanted to forget about them.

Temple’s expectations should be much higher than that.

I’m not even sure Carey or his staff have high expectations because I have not read a single quote from either the head coach or any members of his staff even mentioning a winning season or a championship. All I’ve seen from Carey is that we want to “field a team that plays hard that our fans will be proud of ….”

That’s pretty damn vague and designed to tamp down any expectations.

I’m sure a lot of 1-11 Temple teams played hard in the past but didn’t have the, err, horses.

As far as the bet itself, I don’t see–at least at this juncture–Temple being favored in any game other than Wagner and Akron so that’s one good reason to stay away. Put it this way: Temple was an inexplicable unforced error away from being 0-7 last year, lost 15 players and gained nine and more of the 15 were proven than most of the nine coming into the E-O.

It’s neither a sucker bet nor a sure thing but low expectations should be have been a thing of the past century, not the current one.

Friday: Opening Clues

What Could Go Wrong?

The quote is often attributed to Mark Twain but there is some debate over who said it first.

“The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.”

Therein lies the rub for Temple football this season.

We outlined what could go right in Monday’s post but a lot of that was wishful thinking.

This one cuts to a lot of concerns about the Owls in 2021 because what could go wrong is Rod Carey doing the exact same things this year that he did the past two.

My Rod Carey Ephinany came in the second half of a 2019 Military Bowl loss to North Carolina.

Taking Ed Foley off the field was a bad mistake.

Several Owls were laughing and joking on the sidelines down 55-13, a score they eventually lost by that late December day.

I looked over to Carey and he just folded his arms and looked skyward.

Not to the players behind him yuking it up. Just skyward. None of his assistants did a damn thing.

I shook my head in disgust, picked up my program, and walked out of the stadium.

What would Al Golden have done?

What would have Matt Rhule?

You and i both know. They would have gone ballistic because what was happening behind them was much more important than what was happening in front of them at the time, at least in terms of the state of the program and that overused but appropriate word: culture.

There was no discipline from either Carey or his staff.

Plenty of departures from the program afterward from guys who were used to the pride and discipline.

There was no Temple TUFF on the field that day or Temple pride on the sidelines.

COVID, schmovid, it carried over to the 2020 season.

If Carey is going to survive at Temple, he needs to restore the tough level of play on the field and pride in wearing the Temple uniform on the sidelines and that involves locking down the little things like sideline demeanor.

The change is going to have to be manifested in CARING about the play of the special teams, which Golden correctly maintained was a third of the team just as important as the other two areas, offense and defense. Rhule felt the same way and, under Geoff Collins, the Owls were ranked in the top 10 in special teams. It helped that all three coaches had Ed Foley to put those units on auto pilot.

Don’t know if Carey felt this way at NIU but it always seemed to me that special teams were an annoyance to him and taking Foley off the field was proof.

Now he has to fix things that never needed fixing before at Temple and because he’s shown no inclination to fix them, that’s what could spiral the Owls downward toward a two-win season.

Can they change as a staff?

Maybe, but Twain earned a reputation of choosing his words wisely for a reason.

Monday: A Sucker Bet?

Friday: A history of openers

What could go right?

In less than 95 days, we will found out how good the Owls are.

It’s Memorial Day which signifies both a solemn and reflective day and the beginning of summer.

When it comes to Temple football, it’s solemn for a different reason in that Vegas has set the over/under for 2.5 wins so influential people on the outside think the Owls are not going to improve that position in the next three months.

Around Labor Day, though, a much clearer picture could emerge.

If this were, say, 2019 and the Owls were sitting on those expectations, it would be pretty grim but this is the era of the transfer portal and the Owls could be a much different team in three months.

Two wins is a pretty low bar but there are a number of things that could go right for the Owls not only to go over it but to surprise just about everyone with a winning season.

To me, they are improved on the offensive line, running back and at least as good in the wide receiver department.

The return of Ty Mason at one corner and bringing in a good Big 10 corner along with Freddie Johnson and a transfer from UConn makes the Owls improved at that position. Amir Tyler brings steady leadership to the safeties and William Kwenkeu and Audrey Isaacs are proven linebackers.

To me, quarterback and defensive line are unproven commodities.

If, say, D’Wan Mathis breaks out and tosses 30 touchdown passes or more and limits the interceptions, that’s one thing Vegas isn’t counting on happening.

If the Owls are able to bring in some defensive linemen who can stop the run and get after the passer–they already have three two-deep players from North Carolina and Kentucky coming in–that’s another.

Putting a real emphasis on special teams–and by that I mean blocking punts and field goals and returning kicks for big yardage–is a third area.

But, to me, it all comes down to the quarterback.

Protecting yours and putting the other guy’s on his back.

The Owls have the protection locked down and, in the coming months, they have to bring in some guys who are capable of breaking down the protection of the bad guy’s quarterback.

So far, the defensive line is just not good enough either in the stopping the run or getting after the passer department. Add a couple more edge rushers and run stoppers in what is still a very talent-rich portal and things could change. You’ve got to think Temple’s highly-paid staff knows this as well.

Their careers pretty much depend on attracting that kind of talent and the urgency is now, over the next three months, not next year or two years from now because they are staring down a 2-10 or 4-8 disaster otherwise.

That’s pretty much the hope we have going forward, that they know what everybody else knows.

Friday: What Could Go Wrong?

Monday: A sucker bet?

Newcomers: Saying all the right things

Other than the occasional PBS series by Ken Burns, I found myself slowly but surely drifting away from watching network television since the wonderful shows of the 60s and 70s (Twilight Zone, Bewitched, even Mr. Ed, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mary Tyler Moore, All in the Family, etc.). When I get home from work, I gravitate to some very good Youtube free TV content like Bald and Bankrupt (about an English guy visiting Russia), The Daily Woo (about a Florida guy visiting quirky places), Arms Family Homestead (about an Oklahoma family living a normal farm life), etc. Pretty amazing that normal people can put on more entertaining stuff than the best sitcom writers in Hollywood today.

To me, at least, that homegrown content hits, err, home and says all of the right things.

I found a little of that this spring on the Temple football twitter account.

Not knowing much about our new quarterback (D’Wan Mathis), I gravitated to this interview of him:

One minute and winning games was right at the top of the list.

While we didn’t hear too much about “winning games” from Rod Carey in the month-long spring practice, it took first-team starting quarterback Mathis about three seconds to mention the two most beautiful words in the interview “winning games.”

That pretty much cut to the chase for me.

Like the homegrown generated Youtube content referenced in the initial paragraph, Temple football has been a mostly entertaining few hours for me every fall because of the winning decade between 2009-2019.

The 1-6 disgusting and disgraceful 2020 season needs to be erased as soon as possible.

If Carey isn’t going to put the emphasis on winning, I’m glad the kids are because those are the guys who need to make the plays necessary to make it happen.

Here’s Will Rodgers:

Will Rodgers should upgrade the pass rush.

To me, the key to winning in college football is putting the opposing quarterback on his ass consistently. That leads to fumbles and interceptions and Rodgers, who already has nine Power 5 sacks to his credit at Washington State, should help the Owls in that area. He’s an upgrade over the guy (who shall remain nameless) who transferred to Penn State.

Keeping Mathis’ jersey clean is the other key and the Owls’ offensive line is one of their strongest units.

These two interviews suckered me back into buying season tickets and, if these two guys bring me a win over Rutgers, I’m all aboard the Rod Carey train. (Err, not holding my breath, though.)

Anything less and it could be a fall totally dedicated to ONLY Lot K tailgating or, even worse, bike riding and jogging on Saturday afternoons. My preference is for Temple Owl wins and at least these two newcomers said the right things.

Talking the talk is a start. Walking the walk is more important but now at least we know there is a possibility for some entertaining content starting Sept. 4. The remote will be reserved for away games.

For home games, my season ticket check is in the mail.

Going inside for the entirety of the season will depend on getting off to a good start. I have a feeling a lot of Temple fans feel the same way.

Monday: The Tunnel

Virtual Reality vs. Reality

On the first night of the NFL draft, the Temple football Owls hosted a “virtual reality” event to ostensibly talk about the state of the program via Youtube.

On the most-watched channel in the city of the Owls, the NFL draft was about to start.

Not the best platform planning we’ve ever seen. Maybe another night (err, Wednesday?) might have been a better choice.

Virtual reality vs. reality.

I will take less band and cheerleaders if I can see more of this for at least eight of the 12 Saturdays.

In that hour, we heard “Hey Jude” played by the Temple band and saw a performance by the Temple cheerleaders. We also learned about pulled hamstrings and such from a Temple doctor.

Insight into the football team?

Not so much.

We don’t talk politics here (sorry, John) but the politics we do talk about is political correctness when it comes to the Temple program. Listen, I like the band, cheerleaders and Temple doctors well enough but in an era where we don’t get enough real news about Temple football itself, would have preferred the entire hour stick to the state of the team.

On the other channel, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay were not talking to team doctors, listening to Beatles songs or being wowed by a sis-boom-bah cheer.

Kinda reminds me when I was sports editor of a Calkins Newspaper daily and the managing editor yelled across the room: “Mike, this is a parent of a band member. Can you talk to her?”

“Sure.”

More of this kind of cowbell, please.

“Why do you guys give more coverage to the CB West football team than the band? Those kids work just as hard as the football players.”

“I’m sure they do, ma’am. I have a hypothetical question, though. Do you think 10,000 fans would attend Friday night’s CB West-Souderton game if it was just the band and the football team went through drills at halftime of the band performance?”

“I guess you’ve got a point there.”

“Have a good night.”

The Temple publicity people haven’t grasped that simple concept probably because a lot of Title IX and similar rules dictate that other areas of the uni get “equal” coverage.

There’s simply not the interest there.

The host, Kevin Copp, seems like a nice enough guy. In fact, I don’t think there are too many Temple employees of the last few years (Morgan Siegfried excluded) who works as hard and is as affable as Copp. Yet there were no tough questions (“when are we going to stop fair catching?” is just one I can think of). I don’t blame Kevin at all because, as a uni employee, he is not going to rock the boat because he is “in” the boat and might not be able to swim should it tip over.

Winning trumps effort every time.

That also applies to the owner and operator of one Temple sports site.

It doesn’t appear that we are going to get answers to tough questions but Rod Carey did say he wanted to have a team that “plays hard, gives maximum effort and makes our fans proud.”

Paul Palmer had the best comment of the night when he mentioned how important it was for the Owls to win early to grab the attention of the fans. I would have liked to have heard the same from Carey.

Nowhere in that entire hour did Carey mention the most important word: WINNING. Maybe it’s just me, but I’d rather see a team that plays hard, gives maximum effort and kicks our opponents’ asses every Saturday. Everyone can try to have positive results. It takes special people to deliver those results.

The winning part appeals to me more than the effort part. Winning is not everything. It’s the only thing.

That’s the reality. I’m not interested in the virtual.

Monday: Five guys portal guys Temple should woo

Friday: Temple Guys

The New Guy Seems Nice

Hat tip to OwlsDaily’s Shawn Pastor for finding this interview with Jake Landry last year.

When I heard a guy named Landry replaced a guy named Harmon as Temple’s quarterback coach, a couple of Landry’s raced through my mind.

One was former Detroit Lions’ quarterback Greg Landry.

“Nice choice,” I thought. “Pro quarterback gets guys ready for a pro game.”

No such luck.

Jake Landry is the new quarterback’s coach and, like so many of Rod Carey’s recent hires/promotions, there is a NIU connection.

Hard to believe but former Eagles’ and Owls’ quarterback was passed over for the QB job.

Would I have preferred Adam DiMichele?

Sure.

DiMichele, like presumed starter Duece Mathis, was a Power 5 recruit who transferred to Temple. Like Mathis, he had a lot of mobility and probably could have helped Mathis navigate the transition like he did.

No use complaining about it, though.

From the interview above, Landry seems like a nice enough guy and he was also a quarterback in college so he probably brings a lot to the table. Probably the No. 1 thing is that he’s been at the table with his fellow coaches for a long time. That’s part of the problem. They all bring that midwestern nice to the feast when there is a hard edge to Philly that previous other coaching staffs had.

Carey is going to either go down with the ship or steer away from that iceberg that looks straight ahead with his guys.

Can’t blame him.

If he pulls a 2-10 (he won’t be favored in more than two games he beats Rutgers in the opener), he will probably get fired with a couple of years left on his contract and, looking back, probably would want to have no regrets in his coaching hiring.

Leo Durocher once said nice guys finish last. The Owls are picked to finish last.

Iceberg straight ahead.

Friday: Ode to Cherry and White

We’re No. 1 (and No. 119)

Duece Mathis stares down a receiver in practice. (Photo courtesy of Zamani Feelings)

A couple of recently released numbers illustrates the current state of Temple football these days.

Temple is No. 1 both in the AAC and all of G5 football in terms of transfers out via the portal (15) and No. 119 in terms of ESPN’s 2021 Power College Football Index. The network has the Owls finishing dead last in the AAC.

If you’ve been following this space since the end of a depressing 1-6 season, you shouldn’t be surprised.

Our contention all along is that too many good players have gone out the front door and not enough have come in the back door for the Owls to realistically be favored in more than two games of the upcoming 12-game season.

Not all our friends have agreed with us.

We’re hearing a lot of “now that Rod Carey has his quarterback and can run his system” the Owls will be successful.

We shall see.

When everyone on the outside says you stink and you don’t smell it, it’s probably you, not them.

When ESPN says you are back in the dreaded Bottom 10 (there are only 127 FBS teams, so do the math) and nobody in your league lost as much talent as you did, you tend to listen.

Not since Al Golden did CPR on the Temple program did I ever think we would return to those days.

We are here.

This brings us to another number.

Eighteen.

No one in my recent memory–with the possible exception of Montel Harris in 2012–has been expected to make as much of an impact as No. 18, quarterback Duece Mathis. The difference between then and now is that some publications had Harris as the preseason No. 1 player in the ACC (not AAC) before he transferred from Boston College to Temple.

The player Temple is counting on now had more interceptions than touchdown passes in his only duty as an FBS quarterback.

“Well, he’s a big-time SEC guy and Anthony Russo was not,” the contrarions say.

Remember the last big-time Big 12 quarterback Temple brought in, Re-al Mitchell? He was supposed to give Russo a run for his money and he did not look like a starting-level AAC quarterback, let alone a replacement for a top five Temple all-timer. Just because you are the No. 2 quarterback at Iowa State one year doesn’t mean you are going to light it up at Temple the next. My initial feelings after seeing Mitchell quarterback Temple was that we were fucked (excuse the language) without Russo.

That turned out to be true, at least in 2020.

Who’s to say the No. 3 quarterback at Georgia (after things shook out) is better than the No. 2 quarterback at Iowa State?

Now maybe Mathis proves to be a lot better than Mitchell.

He better, but that’s an unfair amount of pressure to put on one young guy and involves probably unrealistic expectations and that’s why the numbers don’t look good for Temple right now.

Whatever the dwindling number of Rod Carey apologists say.

Monday: The New Guy

Keeping it between the boards

Gavin Dionisio should compete for the kicking job.

As a young man, I was charged with taking a final look at the sports pages before they hit the hard-scrabble streets of Doylestown.

One guy who needed heavy editing was a NASCAR “writer” named Eddie Blain.

He always ended with a signature closing line: “Keep it between the boards.”

Except one time.

We’ll say it was a typo.

“Keep it between the broads.”

Funny line and the people in the composing room loved it, but I couldn’t let it go. I had to send another version of the story out with the correct closing line.

The keep it between the boards line referred to keeping the cars on the track and out of danger.

That story reminded me a little of the Temple kicking game last year.

It should be a little easier to keep kickoffs inbounds than it was to keep cars inside the track but each kickoff was a painful exercise in covering the eyes and listening to the play-by-play to see if it wasn’t a disaster.

The Owls had five kickoffs go out of bounds last year, two in just one game.

How does that happen?

Who allows this slop to hit the streets?

Oh.

Rod Carey.

When guys like Don Bitterlich, Nick Mike-Mayer, Brandon McManus, Austin Jones and Aaron Boumerhi were here, the Owls went four years at a time without a single kickoff going out of bonds. That’s a total of about 20 years. Even Jerry Berndt had good kickers in Cardinal Dougherty’s Bill and Bob Wright and Bobby Wallace had a solid kicker in Cap Poklemba.

Temple fans have gotten into the habit of assuming that part of the game was on auto pilot. Really, even though Will Mobley was an OK short-distance kicker, the Owls haven’t had a home run hitting kicker since Carey didn’t guarantee Boumerhi’s scholarship,, forcing him to transfer to Boston College.

They still might not, but at least they understand they have a problem and that’s a change in the right direction.

Fortunately, the Owls brought in Archbishop Ryan all-state kicker Gavin Dionisio to challenge Rory Bell for the job this year. We checked with some Ryan guys we know (it’s our other alma mater) and Dionisio did not have a single kick go out of bounds in his three years as Ryan’s main kicker. Hopefully, the competition on kickoffs makes Bell better in that area, too.

Gavin isn’t perfect–his longest field goal in high school was only 38 yards–but it’s nice to know that it should be OK to assume the kickoffs will be kept between football’s version of the boards for a change.

Friday: A Big Target

Shock: Apologies to coach Rod Carey

Thanks to Zamani Feelings for this great and rare footage of Paul Palmer against Bama.

The newest headline on Youtube by some content creators is the word shock followed by the topic of choice.

Algorithms dictate that using the word shock creates an uptick in page views but, in this case, it’s appropriate because Temple head coach Rod Carey has received (I believe) a lot of fair criticism during and after a 1-6 season.

The shock is simply this: I have scheduled my apology column to coach Carey and it will appear in this space on Nov. 28, the day after the final against Navy. As I see it now, Carey will have to pull a Jesus and turn the very few impact players he has on defense (in terms of sacks, interceptions, and fumble recoveries) into Loaves and Fishes.

Don’t even get me started on special teams.

The best thing I can say about Rod Carey right now is he has a nice hoodie.

I don’t expect to have to write it, but I hope I do.

For it to appear, though, the requirements are simply this: An eight-win regular season, not even a championship or a bowl win.

Why eight?

That’s pretty much the standard we’ve been used to around here since Al Golden went 9-3 in the 2009 regular season. Since then, the Owls have had more eight-win (or more) seasons than not and that’s the standard Temple fans have both enjoyed and expected.

The shock was 1-6 precipitated in some part by a COVID outbreak, sure, but in larger part by poor preparation. In my mind, there is never an excuse to give up 31 points to a triple-option team when you have nine months to prepare for a triple-option team and especially since two prior opponents showed your defensive coaching room how to hold said team to 7 and 3 points, respectively.

To me, a win over Navy would have been the confidence-builder needed not to get to a 2-5 season but potentially a 4-3 season but we will never know that now. Early season wins are so important not just for the psyche of the team but the psyche of a fan base.

That’s water under the dam.

Damn.

Right now, a new dam is being build at Temple football spring practice and we will see if it holds water.

If it does, a 500-word apology will appear in this space on Nov. 28 and it’s something I fervently hope to write.

Shock.

Monday: Keeping it Between the Boards

Fools Day Plus 1: Hope springs eternal

An example of a well-done AF joke is here about frequent poster and friend of Temple Football Forever Rob Vaughn.

At about this time every year on this site we’ve done our usual April Fool’s post.

Not this year.

Sometimes we crack ourselves up and, based on a lot of the comments attached below the past posts, some of those cracked a lot of you up.

Big 10 explores idea of adding Temple – Temple Football Forever (wordpress.com)

Addazio’s first 5-star recruit: Urban Meyer – Temple Football Forever (wordpress.com)

Robby Anderson: The Prodigal Son Returns – Temple Football Forever (wordpress.com)

Sky’s the limit for 6-11 walk-on freshman – Temple Football Forever (wordpress.com)

We’re glad it did.

Nothing funny (humorous) about the program this year but a lot of funny (odd) things about it.

Still, we have at least one “RutgersAl” on the Owlsdaily.com message board who really feels the Owls are going to win the AAC championship every year. (Rutgers Al would always go on the RU board and predict unbeaten seasons that usually ended up closer to 0-12 than 12-0.) A good 40 percent of the respondents agreed with our “Al” to some degree that the Owls do not face impeding gloom. Hope springs eternal, it would seem. To that, MH55–one of the more sane posters over there–replied with this:

“At the time of my post, 40% of those polled believe TU will be .500 or better. I have no idea how these folks think Temple has improved their roster to the tune of 5+ more wins. This team lost quite a bit of talent from its 1 win season and the depth is paper thin at many critical positions…”

Paper thin indeed.

Other than wide receiver and arguably offensive line, the 2021 Owls are paper thin at every other position group.

In a sport like football where guys go down all of the time, that is a recipe for disaster.

That begs a question.

Does the well-paid professional football staff at Temple even realize this or are they shuffling the papers knowing that their demise is inevitable?

Or are they kidding themselves?

On April’s Fools plus one, that is the funniest (odd, not humorous) joke of all.

Monday: Spring Practice Begins