Best of TFF: There Are No Words

Editor’s Note: This story was first published on the day after Temple’s championship win. It received nearly 900,000 page views, the second-most in TFF history.

The morning after arguably the greatest win in Temple football history, there are no words.

Literally no words are coming out of my mouth, at least in the sense of being able to talk this morning.

The throaty and hoarse condition is more than OK because it was the result of cheering for the Owls at beautiful Navy-Marine Corps Stadium as they captured what really is their first-ever major football championship. The 1967 MAC title was admirable, but that was a day when the school played to a level of football that was beneath their status even then as one of America’s great public universities.

So this was it.

ride

Walking out of the stadium and into the concourse, I let out a very loud primal: “THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKIN’ ABOUT!!”

Fortunately, I got a few high fives and smiles from my fellow Temple fans and not fitted for a straightjacket. It also put the voice out for 24 hours, maybe more.

When it comes to Temple football today at least, you cannot think in terms of a national championship—the deck is stacked against G5 teams in an unfair system—so what happened yesterday was the pinnacle of Temple football success. Thousands of Temple fans, easily in excess of 10,000 Temple fans, made Navy’s 15-game home winning streak a moot point by turning that stadium into a Temple home field advantage and to get to that mountaintop and look down from it is incredibly satisfying.

Hey, it’s a pretty spectacular pinnacle. The only thing that would have made it better was a G5 slot in a New Year’s Six bowl against Penn State, but that’s not happening for a number of reasons that are not important today. (Objectively, would you take a team for the Cotton Bowl that has won seven straight against this schedule and beat a Navy team, 34-10, over a Western Michigan team that struggled to beat a four-loss Ohio team? I would but I don’t expect the bowl committee to be that objective. I can also grudingly see the WMU argument.)

What is important is that the Owls have gone from being a perennial Bottom 10 team and laughed at nationally to being ranked in the Top 25 for two straight years and going to a title game one year and winning it the next. When you think of the success P.J. Walker and Jahad Thomas have had here, there is a Twilight Zone quality to the parallel between this success and their success at Elizabeth (N.J.). In their freshman year at Elizabeth, they won one game; in their freshman year at Temple they won two games. In their sophomore year at both schools, they won six games. In their junior year at both schools, they reached the title game and lost and, in their senior year at both schools, they lifted the ultimate hardware together.

Truly amazing and I will miss both of those guys.

Back on Cherry and White Day, I wrote that this team will be better than last year’s team while people on other websites—notably, Rutgers and Penn State fan boards—insisted that Temple would take a step back. I was consistent in my belief that this was the STEP FORWARD year, not the step back one, and that belief was rooted in knowledge that both the defense and offense were significantly upgraded despite graduation losses. Only a Temple fan who follows the team closely would know that, not the know-it-alls who make assumptions on subjects they have no idea what they are talking about.

Today at noon, the Owls will know where they will go for a bowl game. They can finish the season in the top 25 and set the record for most wins in Temple football history.

It won’t be the cake because we saw that yesterday, but it will be the Cherry on top of that white cake and it will be delicious even going down past what promises to be a future sore throat.
Monday: When TFF Made The Big-Time Media

Advertisements

Best of TFF: Arians’ Reaction to win over PSU

For our vacation week, we are running a three-part series on the most-read stories in Temple Football Forever history. Here is one on Bruce Arians’ reaction to the win over Penn State published in 2015:
bruceandanthony1

When Bruce Arians led the Arizona Cardinals to a late-season upset of the Seattle Seahawks two years ago, it was the final loss of the season for the Seahawks on the way to winning the Super Bowl. The question for Arians then was a natural one as someone in the press room asked him if that was his biggest win as a head coach. Arians paused for a second and said, no, his biggest win as a head coach came at Temple when the Owls broke a 39-year losing streak to Pittsburgh in the 1984 season.

So, of all the congratulatory messages pouring into third-year Temple head coach Matt Rhule after a 27-10 upset of Penn State on Saturday, the one posted by Arians on his twitter page was priceless:

Rhule had one-upped Arians in the sense that he broke a longer streak over another in-state rival in Penn State (after a 74-year drought), so the two men have been in the same shoes at the same place. No one knew more what a win over Penn State could do for the Temple program than Arians, who said the first question asked of him at his first Temple press conference was, “Why does Temple even play football?” Like the presser after the Seattle game two years ago, Arians paused before a thoughtful response: “To beat Penn State.” Arians came close twice, losing to nationally-ranked Nittany Lions’ teams, 23-18, in 1983 and 27-25 to what would become an 11-1 PSU team in 1984, but never quite got over the hump.

Now that Rhule did, Arians used both twitter and the phone to express his satisfaction with the result. Rhule took the call and said, “Yes sir, thank you sir.” to a guy who was a young coach at Temple once, too. Rhule said he did not know what else to say to the NFL coach of the year. Then Rhule went out to the parking lot at Lincoln Financial Field and presented the game ball to another former Temple coach, College Football Hall of Fame member Wayne Hardin, who came close a few times against Penn State but, like Arians, could not get over the hump.

In the fraternity of college coaches, and the circle of life, all three coaches will now share a pretty neat memory forever because only those three fully understand the magnitude of the moment.

Friday: That Championship Season

Ranking Temple Schedule: 1-12

Temple fans know Daz is susceptible to a trick play. Watch the center here.

Everyone on the campus of Temple University and the extended family wants to hand Sgt. Slaughter a loss.

The man who currently is head coach at Boston College deserves his fate as the most-disliked coach on the Temple schedule in 2018.

Despite proclaiming his love for the university and “South Philly ravioli” and wanting to be “the head coach for life here” Steve Addazio skipped town after two years.

In retrospect, it was the best thing to happen to Temple football. Most at the time did not know it but me, pounding the steering wheel with unmitigated joy upon hearing the news on the car radio, knew that the Temple football program had dodged a huge bullet.

Daz wanted to run off tackle on seemingly every first and second down, passing only if it was third-and-long. That got him (and Temple) a lot of bad-end sacks. Daz staying here would have retarded the development of the program. In a way, hiring Matt Rhule was a two-step forward move without the one-step back.

Daz last season was 4-7 and, if Temple acted like a “normal” school, it would have fired him. At Temple, though, the commitment of the school is for life—or at least the full term of the contract—even though the commitment by the person on the other end is not.

All of the above being true, the Owls’ test at Boston College in late September ranks as their second-toughest of the season.

Here are our rankings of the 12 toughest Temple games, from 12-1:

12) Villanova—Beating this team “only” 16-13 was an unmitigated disgrace last year. Elon and Rhode Island had an easier time with the Wildcats. It’s high time that Geoff Collins finds the find print in his $2 million-per-year contract that dictates blowing this team out is a must.

11) UConn—The Owls have pummeled this squad in two of the last three years but last year’s 28-24 fiasco was probably the worst-coached Temple game of the last decade. Got to think that game got into Collins’ gut and he wants to throw up. Blowing this team out in East Hartford would be the perfect bromide.

10) East Carolina—The Owls won at this place, 34-10, last year with a FCS-level quarterback and a backup fullback as the featured tailback in the second half. At home, with a FBS-level quarterback and both Ryquell Armstead and Jager Gardner healthy, got to figure that the Owls could do even better this time.

buckethats

9) Buffalo—the last time Al Golden played this team at Lincoln Financial Field, he came away with a 37-13 win. As someone on one of the other boards said recently, Collins gets paid the big bucks to beat the crap out of teams like Buffalo. The only online computer simulation of this game has the Owls winning, 30-7. I think that SHOULD BE about right.

8) Tulsa—Temple won in Oklahoma, 42-22, last year with the key plays in the game made by returning Temple starters. Got to figure the Owls repeat that in the friendly confines of the Linc.

7) Cincinnati—Despite some pretty good recruiting by Luke FIckell, he is far from a proven game-day coach. The Owls won the last two games with the Bearcats pretty easily and should win this one at home.

ventell

6) Navy—This is probably the best-coached team the Owls will face all year. That said, Temple broke a nation’s-best 15-game home winning streak there in the AAC championship game last time simply because  the Owls were able to bring as many fans to the game as Navy was. If Temple fans bring the noise again, they should win this one.

5 South Florida—The Owls won the last LFF meeting between the two teams, 46-30, and USF is not nearly as it was in 2016 (now without Quinton Flowers and Marlon Mack) and the Owls might be as good as the squad that handed out that 16-point beating.

4) Houston—In Texas, it starts to get tough for the Owls against Major Applewhite’s squad. The Cougars have the best player not only in the league in nose tackle Ed Oliver but the best player in all of G5 football. Still, it’s high time for Temple to beat Houston in football, something it has never done.

3) Maryland—Owls won at Maryland, 38-7, the last time they visited but last year’s Maryland team won at Texas and improved the defense with the hiring of Chuck Heater as co-coordinator. This is a game the Owls could win, but will probably not be favored.

2) Boston College—Plenty of reasons for Temple FANS (see above) to want to win this game but that’s tempered by the knowledge that no current Temple player ever met or was recruited by Addazio nor does Collins, who also was a coordinator at Florida, has any animosity toward him. Plus, Daz has recruited many “dudes” so whether his “dudes” are tougher than our dudes is yet-to-be determined. Still, on May 8, I woke up in the middle of the night from a dream that had the Owls winning, 42-14, and Daz refusing to shake Collins’ hand afterward because Temple was throwing touchdown passes in the fourth quarter (true story). That was my favorite dream of the year and I hope it comes true.

1) UCF—Any team that goes 13-0 with a national championship (at least in the minds of the fair-minded) deserves mad respect but remember that first-year head coaches (who have not been a head coach anywhere else) not named Tom Herman struggle in the AAC and that’s the best hope Temple has of winning this one on the road.

Wednesday—Our annual one-week vacation begins but we will be running surprise “Best of TFFs” starting on this day and returning to fresh perspectives on Wednesday, July 25

 

The Big Uniform Reveal: It Looks Good

swaggyt

Conventional wisdom on social media after The Big Reveal on the new Temple uniforms yesterday was: “Well, if the kids like it, that’s the only thing that matters.”

Really?

Identity does, too.

Few of us are kids anymore but all of us once were.


A cautionary note is provided
by our friend Karma.
Since (and including)
the 2015 win over Penn State,
the Owls are 19-3 wearing
predominantly Cherry, 7-7 wearing white
and 1-4 wearing black. They are 0-0
wearing gray, but we will find
out how they fare with that color soon

The thought never occurred to me once when I was a kid that I wanted a new uniform or I was waiting for what I new uniform looked like.

Maybe thinking evolved over the last 40 or so years, but when I look at uniforms like the ones at Alabama, USC and Penn State, I’m more convinced than ever that uniforms have little to no impact upon a recruit’s decision to attend a certain school.

Those schools have a clean, traditional and some—not me—would say “boring” look but it has not affected them.

Nor should it affect Temple, which has had a pretty distinctive look of its own for the past decade or so of mostly success.

Cringeworthy is what I think when I see what Maryland has done with once pretty nice uniforms and that’s what I was afraid to see when the Owls made their big reveal on Thursday. After all, the Under Armour CEO is a Maryland grad and UA and Temple collaborated on this new look.

Fortunately, crazy did not happen. The Big Reveal actually looked pretty good, keeping the predominantly Cherry and predominantly white look while adding a touch of gray and black. A cautionary note is provided by our friend Karma. Since (and including) the 2015 win over Penn State, the Owls are 19-3 wearing predominantly Cherry, 7-7 wearing white and 1-4 wearing black. They are 0-0 wearing gray, but we will find out how they fare with that color soon.

Don’t tempt Mother Nature.

Temple did not stray far from its traditional look, adding a tweak here and there.

The basic identity of Temple is still reflective in the new look, but the identity of Temple is there and that matters every bit as much as what the kids think.

 

The Ideal Temple Uniform

friendship

Kyle Friend and P.J. Walker were happy with this helmet design.

In the grand scheme of things, uniforms and helmets rank somewhere between 4-99 in terms of importance.

Winning, of course, is No. 1, followed by finding a long-term place to play and maybe recruiting. Beyond that the branding of the program both on and off the field IS important.

In recent weeks, head coach Geoff Collins has hinted at a new look for the program in his twitter feed. Past head coaches have put their own stamp on the program’s look with mixed success.

nohelmet

Hard to read the word Temple with a black-cherry background.

Wayne Hardin got rid of the ugly Owl on the side of the helmets and chose to spell the word “Temple” in large block letters and that stuck for awhile.

“We’re Temple; we want people to know who we are,” Hardin said.

Al Golden brought that back when he took over in 2006.

“That’s the football brand, Temple,” Golden said. “The school brand is the block T but when I played at Penn State when we saw Temple on the helmet that’s the brand we respected because those guys played tough and hit as hard as any team we played. So I wanted to bring that back for my guys.”

Steve Addazio ditched TEMPLE entirely for the ‘][‘ without providing any explanation.

My two cents: I like both the ‘][‘ and the TEMPLE look and have argued for a “King Solomon” solution in this space in the past. Split the baby. TEMPLE on one end as a tribute to the football brand and the ‘][‘ on the other as a tribute to the school brand.

Matt Rhule almost nailed it when he came up with the version seen at the top of this post combining a version of the two. My only problem with that is the chin strap obscured the ][ to the point of annoyance. Put the ][ on the other side, keep TEMPLE on one and you have perfection.

Otherwise, keep it Cherry and White with the broken stripes down the pants and you have one of the cleanest and neatest looks in college football.

Now it’s Geoff Collins’ turn. In 24 hours, we will find out what he has decided.

Friday: The Reaction

Recruiting: Fireworks or Dud?

hardwork

It’s quite possible this recruiting haul on the beach last  year was better than this year.

For nearly two weeks now, the Temple football twitter site promoted July 4th fireworks with at least a hint or two that a big-time recruit will be committing on that day.

That’s the deal with fireworks. The more promises you make, the greater the expectations. Sometimes they go off in multi-colored extravaganzas and sometimes they blow up in your face. This latest rollout qualified more in the latter category than the former from what I can see.

Our thoughts on Temple football recruiting, particularly since Al Golden brought his binder to town, have simply been this:

TRUST BUT VERIFY.

The Philly.com article did not mention where the six July 4 commits received offers from in addition to Temple, but Shawn Pastor’s excellent site, OwlsDaily.com, did.  One of them was Kennique Bonner-Steward, a 6-4, 215-pound, dual-threat quarterback from William Amos High in Cornelius, N.C. Bonner-Steward had 17 offers, most from FCS schools and his top “other” FBS offers were from Tulane, Old Dominion and Georgia State (err, not Tech).

This is the spin Pravda–otherwise known as Owlscoop.com–put on the day:

pravda

A little misleading as an astute guy named Steve correctly pointed out:

stevebest

You will never, ever, ever, find Pravda criticize a Temple football recruiting class perhaps because the editor of that site is a paid Temple employee. Everything ranks from honky-dory to downright spectacular over there. Just a theory based on years of observation.

Speaking of which, that elicited a very defensive response from Gauss’ boss (John DiCarlo, above). What the hell does Tyler, Tavon, Dion, Matt and Nate have to do with Collins under-performing against P5 competition this year? And what, exactly, did Collins have to do with developing any of those above players?

The answer would be zero.

Just because Matt Rhule got the job done doesn’t mean Collins will do the same.

The other commitments were  running back Jamal Speaks (Upper Marlboro, Md), Tampa (Fla.) wide receiver Josh Youngblood and two defensive linemen from Georgia, Zaylin Wood and Jacoby Sharpe. Speaks had an offer from Maryland and Youngblood had an offer from Minnesota so, on the day, those are the two most-high profile Temple recruits.

Not the kind of fireworks we were looking for considering that the Owls were able to land much-higher profile guys under both Golden and Rhule.

Here’s another take calling out Pravda:

another

 

Temple football has a highly paid staff of professionals in charge of these things but the thought out there is that other schools have more highly paid professionals in charge of the same things and that if the two ever agreed on a player that would be a good thing, not a bad one.

Temple is never going to win all the battles with the so-called Power 5 schools for players, but our formula for long-term success is that Temple should win at least a few of them—anything from a quarter to a half—and then trust its instincts on other type players.

Those instincts have served other staffs well with guys like Muhammad Wilkerson (a two-star who turned into a first-round NFL draft choice) and Haason Reddick, a walk-on who was a higher first-round choice. Then there is Tyler Matakevich, who turned his only offer (Temple) into a national consensus defensive player of the year (Bednarik, Nagurski Awards).

Those are the exceptions, though, to the general college football rule. The really successful programs develop players in addition to be able to win a majority of recruiting battles.

Ideally, that’s the kind of recruiting balance you are looking for in a good class. This one has leaned in the developmental direction and, while that might turn out to be a good thing, it leans more toward risk than reward.

No matter how Pravda spins it.

 

5 Owl Newcomers To Watch

Very few programs update their rosters online as well as Temple’s football team does these days.

Like the U.S. Constitution, it’s a constantly changing document and staying on top of things can be a daunting task but the days when Temple announced a roster on the last day of the season and did not change it until the first day of the next one (Bobby Wallace and Ron Dickerson were the biggest offenders) appear to be over.

If you’ve made it to the July 4 holiday, that’s saying something so for our “five newcomers to watch” list this summer, we’re going with guys only officially on the roster. The others, some guys who were recruited last year and big things were expected of, obviously either are not coming or have some loose ends to tie up before admission.

We have only one definition of “newcomer” and it is this: Simply, a player who has not made a single play in a previous Temple game:

ryanerasmus

Sean Ryan

Probably the most talented wide receiver in the New York City high school leagues, Ryan takes his talents to 10th and Diamond and already has acclimated himself to the workout routine. While Temple’s receiving duo of Ventell Bryant and Isaiah Wright is probably the most talented in the league, the ranks of the PROVEN are thin behind them and there is plenty of opportunity for advancement. That’s where the next guy comes into play as well.

Jadan Blue

Blue had over 100 yards receiving and two touchdowns in the spring game—both highs for any wide receiver—and has moved to the head of the class of guys who Dave Patenaude has confidence playing in any situation.

Rodney Williams

A safety transfer from a Power 5 program, Syracuse, Williams has the edge to form one of the most dynamic safety duos in the AAC. That’s because the other safety, Delvon Randall, has been projected as a first-round draft choice if he repeats or improves on his 2017 season. Williams has started 21 games for the Orange the last three seasons, including a win defending national champion Clemson last year (one of the first plays in that game was a tackle for a 6-yard loss by Williams).

Darian Byrant

A product of Chestnut Hill Academy, Bryant was one of the Owls’ most heralded recruits three years ago as an offensive lineman. Patenaude has said “the best development has been with Darian Byrant” who, at 6-5, 320, appears ready to start at right tackle.

Tyliek Raynor

Raynor has world-class speed (4.4) for a tailback and appears ready to slide into David Hood’s third-down back role. He was Philadelphia Public League MVP in 2015 while gaining 1,327 yards on only 99 carries. He spurned solid offers from Arizona, Miami (Fla.), West Virginia and Purdue to play for his hometown school. No one knows if the torn meniscus injury suffered last year will shave a tenth of  a second or so off that 4.4 but we should find out soon enough.

Friday (7/6): July Fireworks

Monday (7/9): College Football Pet Peeves

Wednesday (7/11): The Ideal Temple Uniform

Friday (7/13): Thoughts on the Rollout

Monday (7/16): Ranking the Schedule: 1-12