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

Temple-UCF: Inside the War Room

Gotta wonder what happens when all the Temple coaches get together to game plan the next opponent on the schedule.

Since what happens in the Coaches Conference Room at the E-O is not televised, we can only imagine.

Full disclosure: After watching the first few Temple games, I’m convinced they don’t even game plan for an opponent.

Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt that they were so embarrassed they lost 62-21 to UCF at home last year and they don’t want that history to repeat itself before a national TV audience (ESPN-U, 7:30 p.m.) on Saturday night.

Rod Carey: “Fellas, we’re feeling a little heat here. Temple fans are used to winning and my plan to use this fall as an extension of spring practice probably isn’t working. I got hammered by an anonymous fan on Temple Football Forever Thursday. I want to win. You want to win. Anyone have any ideas how we extend the game to the fourth quarter Saturday night and steal it then?”

Mike Uremovich: “Rod, you know what we did at Northern. We played the RPO every game and accepted the results.”

Rod: “Gabe, any ideas?”

Gabe Infante: “We are playing into their hands that way. If we run the RPO, they don’t respect the quarterback’s ability to run the ball, and they are going to come after Anthony on the next two downs. He will probably either get sacked or throw incompletions. Not Anthony’s fault at all, but asking him to run is not his forte and probably will result in giving Dillon Gabriel about a zillion more possessions than he needs to have.”

Rod: “What do we do to avoid that?”

Gabe: “When I was the head coach at (St. Joseph’s) Prep, we played a lot of nationally ranked Florida teams with much more speed than us but we always beat them.”

Rod: “How?”

Gabe Infante after beating Florida’s top-ranked high school team.

Gabe: “Put two tight ends on the field, put a fullback on the field, line up in run formations on first down. They’ve seen our film. They expect the run on first down. Fake them out by throwing short passes, run on second down, keep the sticks and clock moving. Take a chance every now and then with a fake to our tailback, followed by a deep ball. Keep the defense off balance. Those high-octane offenses never saw the ball. We had eight-minute drives each quarter. We’d get seven points one quarter, three points the next, seven at the beginning of the third and, before you know it, we had a 17-0 lead and they were playing catch up. We’re from Philly, 17th and Thompson, and that’s only five blocks west and five blocks south from this room we’re in now. We used our toughness to our advantage.”

Rod: “Sounds good but we run the RPO. That’s what we do.”

Gabe: “That’s precisely the point. That’s what they do. They are more comfortable with us doing what they do, throwing passes, stopping the clock, giving them more possessions. I’d say let’s make them uncomfortable and keep our defense off the field. I’m the running backs coach but I’m all for helping our defense any way I can.”

Rod: “Mike, what do you think?”

Mike: “We didn’t do that at NIU, Rod. I’m not comfortable with a fullback and two tight ends.”

Rod: “That settles it. We’re going to do what we do and let the chips fall where they may.”

Gabe: “But, Rod, the chips haven’t fallen our way so far, let’s try other chips.”

Rod: “Gabe, I love you, man, but this is what got me to 52-30 at NIU and I’m sticking with the plan Saturday night. Meeting adjourned.”

(Coaches get up leaving the room while Adam DiMichele can heard mumbling under his breath: “That’s also what got us beat 62-21 last year.”)

Rod: “Adam, did you say anything?”

Adam: “No, nothing, Rod.”

Rod: “OK, let’s do this. Let’s beat them at their game.”

Picks this week: Went 1-2 opening week against the spread and skipped last week, but like a few games on the docket this weekend. First, Friday night the Florida Atlantic Owls covering the 8.5 spread at nearby FIU. On Saturday, taking Wisconsin to cover the 3.5 at Michigan and Penn State the same number at Nebraska. For the final game, going for Louisiana Tech to cover the 1.5 against the visiting Rice Owls. All favorites this week, no underdogs.

Update: Evened the season record at 3-3 by going 2-1 against the spread. FAU easily covered the 8.5 as did Wisconsin the 3.5. Only loss was Nebraska beating PSU. LT and Rice postponed due to COVID. Record this week: 2-1. Overall: 3-3.

Saturday Night: Game Analysis

Two Guys To Be Thankful For This Season

rodster
“Even if I was with the Patriots, I’d be asking Tom Brady to read the option and run every once in a while. Yeah, I know it probably wouldn’t work there, either, but that’s the only offense Mike knows how to run.”

There are plenty of things to be thankful for as Thanksgiving rolls around today. This season flew by and there is at least one more chance to get together with my football friends on Saturday, so there’s one thing.

Maybe a bowl game if it’s in D.C. or NYC as well.

Keeping this post to football, though, I’m thankful for two people this year what I believe is far too much criticism on social media: Our quarterback and head coach.

First the quarterback.

Screenshot 2019-11-26 at 9.23.17 AM

Adam DiMichele’s first two full years at Temple were 2006 and 2007

As Temple fans, we can pretty much agree on the following:

Steve Joachim, Henry Burris, P.J. Walker, and Adam DiMichele were great quarterbacks wearing the Cherry and White.

Screenshot 2019-11-26 at 9.13.49 AM

Anthony Russo’s first two full seasons at Temple compares favorably with any of the great quarterbacks at the school, even with a full game left in the regular season.

Guess what?

Anthony Russo’s first two years at quarterback–with a full game to go–stacks up with the first two years of any of those above quarterbacks and he still has another year to go, so that’s something to be thankful for.

Screenshot 2019-11-26 at 9.12.07 AM

Henry Burris’ first two full years at Temple were 1994 and 1995

I’d love to see Russo run a similar offense to Joachim (the veer), Burris, Walker and DiMichele (NFL-type pro sets) but his stats in variations of the spread have been pretty darn good. Give him a more traditional NFL-type offense than a college one and he would thrive. Nobody asks those NFL quarterbacks to run with the exceptions being the Jacksons and the Wilsons.

To me, the No. 1 stat for a quarterback is wins and losses. Russo was 7-2 last year as a starter (losses to Villanova and Buffalo went to Frank Nutile and the win over UConn to Todd Centeio) and is 7-3 this season and about to finish 8-3. That’s 15-5 and only Joachim, the Maxwell Award winner as a national college football player of the year (1974) was better in his two seasons (17-3).

No other quarterback was close in modern Temple history and that’s pretty rarified air.

Screenshot 2019-11-26 at 10.35.50 PM

Steve Joachim’s first two (and only) seasons at Temple were 1973 and 1974. Surprisingly, he had a much better passer rating at Penn State (162.5) than he did at Temple (141.7).

The next most important stat is touchdown/interception ratio and Russo improved on his 14/14 line with 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this season.

In the area of cold statistics, Russo completed 418 passes in 721 attempts for 5,049 yards with 33 touchdowns and 25 interceptions. Compare that to Joachim’s first two seasons (208 completions in 380 attempts, 3,262 yards with 31 touchdowns and 23 interceptions).

Henry Burris and Adam DiMichele could not compete in the area of wins but put up some impressive, albeit, inferior statistics to Russo. Henry, a legend in the CFL, completed 354 passes in 709 attempts for 4,720 yards with the same amount of touchdowns (33) but four more interceptions.  ADM? 273-443, 3,113, 22 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in his first two full seasons.

P.J. Walker had 20 touchdowns to 8 interceptions in his first season but never had a better TD/INT ratio after that. He did throw for nearly 3,000 yards in each of the years after Rhule ditched the spread option for more of a pro-style attack using a fullback. That led to a championship appearance one year and an outright championship the next. There is still time for Russo to do that but he will need to get some help from Carey in the form of an offense more suited to his passing skills than his running ones.

Screenshot 2019-11-28 at 10.47.40 AM

P.J. Walker went from 20 TDs and 8 INTS to a sophomore slump of 13/15. He threw for nearly 3,000 yards ONLY after Rhule switched to a fullback-oriented play-action passing game in P.J’s final two seasons.

For someone who remembers and cringes thinking about the quarterbacks of the Al Golden Era and before that, I’m glad that Anthony Russo is my quarterback.

Carey has deservedly received some criticism here because he did not tailor his offense to the talents of his players but I’m also glad he’s my head coach for one reason.

Manny Diaz could have been.

Screenshot 2019-11-26 at 11.06.53 PM

This was our blog post on the day Temple hired Manny Diaz. We were off only about 348 days.

Diaz lost to a team, FIU, last week that lost to both Tulane (42-14) and FAU (37-7). He lost to a Georgia Tech team that Carey beat 24-2.


I have to laugh at the
criticism of both guys,
Russo and Carey. Guess what?
Jalen Hurt and Nick Saban
are not walking through that
door to quarterback and coach
Temple. If you don’t like
Carey as Temple coach, who
would you have hired instead?
Chris Creighton? Lance Leipold?
I don’t think either would
have done appreciatively
better here.

Despite my criticism of Carey’s blind spot (not running a play-action run-oriented offense to open up passing lanes for Russo), I’m also glad he’s my coach because there is no way Temple beats Georgia Tech, Memphis and Maryland with Diaz as my coach.

I have to laugh at the criticism of both guys, Russo and Carey. Guess what? Jalen Hurt and Nick Saban are not walking through that door to quarterback and coach Temple. If you don’t like Carey as Temple coach, who would you have hired instead? Chris Creighton? Lance Leipold? I don’t think either would have done appreciatively better here.

To me, if Carey had run a pro set with a fullback and two tight ends and established the running game against Cincy, Russo would have had plenty of time to find receivers on play-action fakes and thrown four touchdown passes in a 40-15 win instead of a 15-13 loss. Scoring points on Cincy with the talent Temple has on offense (Russo, Ray Davis, Jager Gardner, Jadan Blue, Isaiah Wright, Branden Mack, Kenny Yeboah, etc.) should not have been that hard. The system has to be designed around the talent and this system does not do that. That’s what I believe now and that’s what I believed after Matt Rhule’s first two years of doing the same exact thing before Matt adopted our suggestions in Year Three. (Matt admitted to me in a phone call that he read this blog the entire year he was an assistant at the New York Giants. I doubt he stopped once he became Temple head coach.)

Maybe Carey will have a similar Ephinany after his first year like Rhule did after his second. I think Rhule was more pliable but I hope Carey surprises me.

Is there room for improvement for both coach and player?

Yes.

That’s why next year is an important one for both and a major reason we should give thanks today and be excited about the future.

Saturday: Two Proper Sendoffs

Sunday: Game Analysis

Carey on Foley: Plausible Deniability

retained

Carey’s litmus test going forward is to protect these other three guys and give them room to thrive.

A few weeks ago we wrote that Rod Carey had some “splaining to do” after the incident that caused Temple football to be jettisoned from a loyal soldier, Ed Foley.

The explanation came in a recent Marc Narducci story where Carey said that he had “too many offensive coaches on the field, including myself” and wanted to put a talented young defensive assistant, Tyler Yelk, on the field.

Narducci has been on fire recently, with a piece stating that Isaiah Wright wants an expanded role and another giving detail on Manny Diaz’s departure from Temple, but his stories detailing both sides of the Foley issue might have been the best of the summer.

Foley said he was leaving to go “with someone I trust and respect” and the implication was that he did not trust and respect Carey.

Then Narducci came back with Carey’s side of the story. 

A lot of fans, this one included, are still irked that Foley is gone but, given Carey’s explanation, it makes sense.

TLNXruN

Pretty much every Temple fan now watching how Carey treats our beloved trio of Adam DiMichele, Fran Brown and Gabe Infante.

One, Foley could have remained in an off-field capacity if he wanted and both men admitted that. Two, Temple did seem to be top-heavy with offensive coaches in a program that, as Carey has said, “hangs its hat on defense.”

Plausible deniability should Foley’s absence be felt this season. By that, I mean deniability that he’s trying to get rid of the Temple holdovers in favor of NIU guys. The litmus test going forward for Carey is to protect the other three guys (Fran Brown, Gabe Infante and Adam DiMichele) and give them a chance to thrive at Temple. Rod, we’re watching you. 

The bottom line is that Temple, which generally never had to worry about special teams, has one more thing to worry about now. That’s why Carey gets paid the big bucks, though, to make sure everything runs smoothly, including special teams.

The Owls have a serviceable kicker in Will Mobley, who did a nice job when Boston College transfer Aaron Boumerhi had a hip flexor last year. Boomer had the range, while Mobley was essentially a solid extra point kicker. They also have the nation’s best returner, Isaiah Wright, so the special teams should be OK.

Where I think Temple fans will really notice Foley gone is in the area of blocked punts, field goals, and extra points. Foley consistently had the Owls in the nation’s top 10 in those categories because he was an aggressive coach who went after kicks. There is little in Carey’s history to suggest NIU was anywhere near as consistent in that area as Temple was.

When Al Golden got here and brought Foley with him, he said special teams were as important as offense and defense and he practiced what he preached. Let’s hope Carey continues that tradition. 

Monday: Up Against The Walls

Temple-ECU: Fork in the road

Adam DiMichele

If Adam DiMichele called the plays, Temple would beat ECU, 48-14; Patenaude evens the playing field or might even give ECU an advantage.

Back in the day, before the great Johnny Carson died in 2005, the former Tonight Show Host had a very funny bit introducing late night movies as a character named Art Fern with a pretty blonde sidekick.

Well into the skit, Carson would give directions to the auto dealership which sponsored the movies and include “Slawson Cutoff” and “Fork in the road” as the landmarks.

updated

Well, in this Temple football season, we’ve reached a Fork in the Road for the Owls (Saturday, noon, Lincoln Financial Field).

Make the right turn, beat ECU, and the road could lead to the AAC championship game at Lincoln Financial Field in December or, at worst, a seven- or eight-win regular season. Lose to ECU, and there is a brick wall at the wrong turn and maybe another win or two. Owls need this one as a confidence-builder after offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude single-handedly blew a potential win at Boston College last week by not utilizing the unstoppable Ryquell Armstead, his best offensive weapon, on third-and-two.

Way to take the game out of the kids’ hands, Dave.


The fact that offensive
coordinators with lesser
talent at Towson and
Stony Brook got more
production out of their
kids against Villanova
than Patenaude did with
FAR better talent
is truly sickening

Makes one think about the way things would be with the current QB coach, Adam DiMichele, in charge. DiMichele–way more than Patenaude–understands that this group was recruited to run the ball behind an elite tailback following a great blocking fullback with two tight ends to establish the run game and set up play action.

Patenaude thinks he’s still back at Coastal Carolina where he wants to spread the field. That’s Coastal Carolina Soft, not Temple TUFF.

This game is far too important for Patenaude to be messing around with his pass-first, second and last system. Run the damn ball and pass only on play-action.  Beat ECU and the Owls go 2-0 in the AAC and control their own fate.

That’s how important this game is.

Fans should not make the mistake that because the Owls won last year’s game, 34-10, the Owls will automatically win this one at home. Lincoln Financial Field has not been a home-field advantage for the Owls this season. Rather, a house of horrors, losing to an FCS team and a MAC team. That FCS team has subsequently lost to both Towson (45-38) and Stony Brook (29-27). That MAC team got destroyed by Army, 42-13.

Not a terrific endorsement for the Temple football coaching staff. Nice job by Patenaude putting up nine offensive points against Nova and 22 offensive points against the worst run defense in the FBS the last two seasons. The fact that offensive coordinators with lesser talent at Towson and Stony Brook got more production out of their kids against Villanova than Patenaude did with FAR better talent is truly sickening.

Now that staff is at a crossroads. ECU is a team with a Villanova moment of its own, losing to in-state FCS rival North Carolina AT&T in the opener. It also has a Power 5 moment, beating in-state rival North Carolina. The Tar Heels turned around and beat another Power 5 team, Pitt, which beat another Power 5 team, Georgia Tech.

ECU also beat Old Dominion, a team which beat Virginia Tech. This is a better squad than Villanova, Buffalo or Tulsa and the Owls better buckle their chinstraps and Collins better be prepared to overturn Patenaude’s play calls.

Temple’s Power 5 moment was a 35-14 win at Maryland, but the Owls staff did not take the day as a teaching moment because the H-back blocking look that opened running lanes for Ryquell Armstead and passing lanes for Anthony Russo has not been shown before or since.

That’s a good look for the Owls and the personnel groups they have on offense, but does this staff even realize it?

We should find out tomorrow at, say, 3:30 p.m. Based on the other two Saturdays at home, I’m more hopeful than optimistic.

Hopeful that Patenaude oversleeps and misses the team bus and Temple TUFF Adam DiMichele is forced to call the plays.

Otherwise, about 60,000 nails belonging to 20,000 people are in jeopardy of being bitten off.

Saturday: Our For Amusement Only Picks

Sunday: Game Analysis

Heating Things Up: Hiring Adam DiMichele

Every once in a while, Temple coach Geoff Collins does something that makes you think he gets his surroundings.

Hiring Adam DiMichele certainly qualifies with one of those somethings.

DiMichele is now the “recruiting coordinator” and the 10th fulltime assistant as allowed by the NCAA as of last Tuesday.

Hey, he could have hired another Coastal Carolina guy.

DiMichele kicks McNabb's butt

Adam as a Philadelphia Eagle (hey, they still need a backup to Sudfeld)

I’m not so provincial that I believe Collins should hire all Temple guys to coach at Temple but, with Adam, I’ve got a soft spot.

Including P.J. Walker, Steve Joachim, Matty Baker, Tim Riordan, Henry Burris and Lee Saltz, Adam DiMichele is my favorite Temple quarterback of all time.

Notice I wrote “favorite” and not “best.”

Favorite is because he was the conduit between a lot of bad years and a lot of good ones.

Sitting at Franklin Field right behind the late, great Peter “Doc” Chodoff watching Temple get waxed during the Dark Ages that culminated in a 20-game losing streak, Doc turned to me and said, “Mike, why does every other team have a better quarterback than Temple?”

“I’ve always said the same thing. Seems like it’s been that way forever, Doc. I don’t know.”
Doc Chodoff got a field named after him a few years later, right around the time  I got my quarterback who was better than the bad guy’s quarterback.

His name was Adam DiMichele.

DiMichele was the bridge between the 20-game losing streak and what Temple football is today. Had not Buffalo completed an inexplicable “Hail Mary” pass, he would have led the Owls to a bowl game in 2008.

Had not Joe Paterno denied him a transfer waiver, DiMichele—not Chester Stewart nor Vaughn Charlton—would have been the quarterback in the 2009 Eagle Bank Bowl and there is no doubt in my mind he would be the difference.

DiMichele was part of a lot of great plays while at Temple, my favorite being the “fake knee down” against Navy in the 2008 season. Temple looked like it was going to run out the clock but DiMichele feigned the knee and pulled it up just before it hit the ground and found Bruce Francis 30 yards behind the nearest defensive back. Francis walked in but the Owls lost that game, 33-27, in overtime. The year prior, DiMichele flipped the ball back to D’yonne Crudup on a double-reverse and Crudup tried to hit him in the end zone for a game-winning TD against UConn, but DiMichele tipped the ball to Francis, who caught it but it was ruled a non-catch.

DiMichele was always the quarterback of a fullback-oriented offense that head coach Al Golden and offensive coordinator George DeLeone believed in and was the beneficiary of a strong running game that set up great play-action passing. Hopefully, Adam will have enough influence on Dave Patenaude to go away from Coastal Carolina Soft back to Temple TUFF. If anyone can convince Patenaude to put Nitro back there leading the way for Rock and David Hood, it’s Adam DiMichele.

More than that, though, he’s got to convince Collins and, by getting hired, he’s at least halfway there.

Monday: The 2018 Power 5 Opponents

Best QB Prospect in Pa.? He’s Going to Play in Philly

A great quarterback prospect is like the famous Potter Stewart quote about pornography: “It’s hard to define, but I know it when I see it” he said in the case of Jacobellis v. Ohio, 1964.

The Supreme Court Justice went to Yale, so he was around when Brian Dowling was throwing around the pigskin for the Bulldogs. Being a smart man, he probably also know great quarterbacking when he sees it. So do most of us. I knew Adam DiMichele had “it” the first game I saw him in a Temple uniform. I also knew whatever Chester Stewart had wasn’t it in his first game, a 7-3 loss to Western Michigan on a dreadful day at Lincoln Financial Field.

Ben DiNucci after winning WPIAL Class AAAA championship for Pine-Richland.

Ben DiNucci after winning WPIAL Class AAAA championship for Pine-Richland.

Trust me on this one: Pine-Richland’s Ben DiNucci has “it.” He will go down as the most productive quarterback of the next four years on the college level Pennsylvania, too, including whomever Temple, Pitt or Penn State recruit. The 6-3, 190-pound Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year became the first Pennsylvania player to throw for more than 4,000 yards, setting a PIAA record for single-season passing with 4,269. DiNucci was 32 of 46 for 383 yards and four touchdowns in a 49-41 loss to St. Joseph’s Prep in the Class AAAA title game Saturday night. DiNucci also set a PIAA playoff record with his 32 completions and a championship game record with 383 yards passing. His four touchdown passes tied Berwick’s Ron Powlus (1992) for the most in a championship game.

More than all of those records, though, he possesses the elusive “it” factor in quarterbacks that make or break coaches. Forget that he wasn’t offered by the big schools. Big schools often miss big players. Ask Marty Ginestra. Or Henry Burris. Or Brian Broomell. Or Matty Baker. Or Tim Riordan. DiNucci falls into the category of a very good quarterback who can be very productive for Temple.

Some people have a better “it” radar than others. Al Golden’s Achilles’ heel was not having a good quarterback GPS installed (he inherited ADM from Bobby Wallace). To borrow a Potter (not Chester)  Stewart term, the jury is still out on Matt Rhule’s quarterback radar.

Trust me with this one, though: Ben DiNucci will be a great college quarterback at any level and the good news that he has chosen to play his college football in Philadelphia. The bad news is that it will be at Penn.

DiMichele currently is spending the weekend recruiting in the Pittsburgh area. If he’s smart, he would swing by Pine-Richland to investigate the level of interest DiNucci has playing the game at its highest level in the same city for Temple. If Temple is smart, it would offer him a scholarship now.