In many ways, Temple’s task of beating Central Florida reminds me of the famous quote of British General “Bad Boy” Browning in Cornelius Ryan’s excellent book “A Bridge Too Far” when the General turns to his superior, General Bernard Montgomery, and says: “I think we may have gone a Bridge Too Far.”
At first, glance, expecting the Owls to win in Central Florida’s environment may be a bridge too far Thursday night (7:30, ESPN). That’s only if the Owls have the same kind of offensive game plan Montgomery employed in trying to take the bridge at Arnhem in World War II–trying to use paratroopers against two divisions of German Armor or, as the British spell it, Armour.
Not a good plan.
Similarly, if Brigadier General Dave Patenaude takes the same offensive approach he has in the past three games–mostly passes to the sidelines and fades to the end zone–he’s going to get slaughtered like Monty did in the Battle of Market Garden. Fades and sideline routes are the Temple equivalent of paratroopers.
This time, the key to the game is matching Armor with Armor.
For the Owls to win, they have to assume that Heisman Trophy candidate Milton McKenzie is going to play and set their game plan around their own star, Ryquell Armstead, who must play for the Owls to have any chance. I have no inside info but did watch him bounce around on the sidelines 10 days ago and he had no limp and was moving around pretty well. Plus, he’s single-digit TUFF.
Since Patenaude doesn’t
believe in using the
fullback as a lead
blocker, he is going
to have to dust off
the Maryland game plan
and put the tight ends
in motion to create just
the tiny holes Rock needs
to rip off 2-, 3-, 4-
and 7-yard type runs
against the 91st-ranked
FBS run defense
Give the ball to Rock Armstead–we’ll call him Tank for this game–and help him out by giving him as many lead blockers as possible. Since Patenaude doesn’t believe in using the fullback as a lead blocker, he is going to have to dust off the Maryland game plan and put the tight ends in motion to create just the tiny holes Rock needs to rip off 2-, 3-, 4- and 7-yard type runs against the 91st-ranked FBS run defense.
Any good General will tell you it’s always a good strategy to attack the weakness of your enemy. Fortunately, UCF has a chink in its armor and Temple has Armstead to take advantage of that weakness.
Bill Parcells employed a similar strategy with running back Ottis Anderson in Super Bowl XXV. A reporter after that game asked Parcells a question about why he kept feeding him the ball even though most of his first-half carries were only two and three yards: “It wasn’t the two and three yards, it was the cumulative effect those two and three yards had on the defense. Those runs allowed him to break the big one and win us the game.”
Pass only off play action once the run is established and only to move the sticks and keep the clock rolling. Armstead will have to carry the ball 25 times for Temple to win and none of those should be out of an empty backfield where a linebacker can key on him.
That way, two things are accomplished–long scoring drives for Temple and keeping the ball out of McKenzie’s hands. Limit McKenzie’s possessions and he won’t be able to do things like ring up 45 points (as he did against Pittsburgh). The cumulative effect will allow Armstead to do what Anderson did and rip off enough big ones that both wear down the UCF defense and keep the Temple defense fresh. This is Temple’s Super Bowl and taking a page out of the Tuna’s super playbook is probably a wise approach. Certainly, he turned out to be a better General on the football field than Monty did in Market Garden.
Anything outside of that thinking and winning in Orlando may be a bridge too far for these Owls. The MD game plan could be just what the doctored ordered to keep the Owls’ championship hopes alive.
Thursday: Final Game Day Thoughts
Friday: Game Analysis