Fizzy’s Corner: TU’s Regression

alumni

No truth to the rumor that Temple band alumni were playing taps for the season after that fiasco that some describe as a game on Saturday.

Editor’s Note: Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub has played for Temple and coached subsequently. He’s seen the most well-coached Temple teams offensively (Wayne Hardin) and, now, the worst-coached Temple team, at least offensively, against UConn on Saturday. His recap follows.

By Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub

I would like to begin with a quote from my teammate, Dick Gabel, a former superintendent of schools.  “Worst coaching experience since I played for Pete.”  He’s referring to our coach in 1959, Pete Stevens. (He was a fine gentleman, though.)

collinstwitter

Geoff Collins should whack Dave Patenaude like Tony Soprano whacked Ralph  Cifaretto for burning down the stable where his horse lived. (Figuratively, not literally, though. Patenaude has plenty of horses and has been killing  them with this ill-advised offense.)

After seven games and three woulda, coulda, shouldas, because of the offensive play calling, Dave Patenaude has proven to be an incompetent play caller with absolutely no instinct for the right play at the right time. Again, and this time twice, he’s failed to score from first and goal. That’s mostly because his first two plays are always run up the gut. He doesn’t understand that the only down you can really fool a defense in that situation, is first down, not third down. First down is when you should run the fake into the middle, and then there’s a multitude of options.

Speaking of the goal line, how about the most bizarre play call I’ve ever seen. On fourth and one, he puts in the wildcat against a gap defense.  Not only does that make no sense, he then runs a slow developing fake to the outside, and when the tailback finally turns to run up the middle, he’s overwhelmed by the penetration.

 By the way, I’ve nicknamed his offense the Broad Street Offense.  That’s not because Temple is on Broad Street, but because Broad Street is one of the longest, straightest streets in the country.  Patenaude’s offense is almost always straight ahead.  I have to say almost now, because in our seventh game yesterday, he finally ran a reverse which gained thirty-five yards, and never came back to it.

There were a multitude of other coaching mistakes. There were twelve penalties, and this shows an undisciplined team, and that’s carried over from the beginning of the year. Then there was unbelievably poor clock management at the end of the first half, and at the end of the game. The coach let the clock run down despite having three timeouts available in the first half, and two in the second half.  It’s my guess they were afraid Connecticut would get a first down.  Is that a way to coach a game?  Last but not least, it took the coach until the second half to realize he had to blitz and get pressure on the quarterback.

I’m probably missing many more coaching mistakes, but I forgot to bring my notebook to the game.  I do know one thing, however.  To earn even a six-six record, Dave Patenaude cannot be allowed to call the offense.

Throwback Thursday: When Passing Wasn’t Fancy

 

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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

Missing In Action

shargamilk

Arguably, there were a lot of valuable players on the 2016 AAC championship team but, if you were to take a super secret vote of the players, it might have come down to two.

P.J. Walker or Nick Sharga.

Frankly, I don’t know who would have won and it would not have surprised me if Sharga did.

That’s why, even with the euphoria on Saturday of watching my beloved Temple Owls finally play like the team I thought they were before the season started, there was a tinge a sadness in that the best fullback in the country was limited to largely a special teams’ role.

If the full potential of the Owls are going to be realized, then the talents of the most valuable player on a Power 6 championship team should be maximized, not minimized, going forward.

Imagine this scenario, for instance.

David Hood’s hands on the back of Sharga as the fullback pancakes one linebacker on the way to a big gain. Over and over again. Then he does the same for Rob Ritrovano, whose “Nitro” nickname might be the best Temple football moniker since Gerald “Sweet Feet” Lucear.

This pile does not begin to move until Sharga takes charge. 

Then, if Ryquell Armstead’s recovery takes a little longer than expected, Sharga leading the way for Isaiah Wright on little swing passes out the backfield as a counter to blitzes on quarterback Logan Marchi.

All of these things open up options for the best group of wide receivers I’ve ever seen at Temple—Ventell Bryant, Keith Kirkwood, Marshall Ellick, Adonis Jennings and Brodrik Yancy.

Sharga’s just another weapon in what would be a nuclear arsenal and plugging him back in there on every down adds megatonage for every other weapon.

When I was introduced to Geoff Collins at the season-ticket holder party, I asked him to do me one favor.

“What is it?” Collins asked.

“Never take Nick Sharga off the field,” I said. “At least on offense. He’s not only the best fullback in the country, he’s the best blocker in the country and that includes offensive linemen. He’s probably also your best linebacker.”

“Don’t worry,” Collins said. “I won’t. We’re going to be using him even more this season.”

That promise was not kept on Saturday.

Keeping it in the final six games could be the difference between greatness and mediocrity.

Thursday: A Throwback

Cooking With Gas

Somewhere near the bottom of yesterday’s post, I wrote:

“If Temple wins 41-10, then we are cooking with gas.”

Well, it was 34-10, and probably would have been 41-10 had Geoff Collins not called off the dogs on the final six-minute drive.

So where does that leave us?

Cooking with gas, which means a lot of the more realistic goals for the season are in sight.

Before yesterday, it would have taken a lot to get a spark by rubbing two sticks together.

No one—not even me—expected the Owls to repeat as AAC champions, but, with six games remaining in a 3-3 season, a bowl game and a bowl win are something even the most pessimistic among us feel is possible.

Really, the only game I feel the Owls will be in over their heads is the UCF game, but they can win four or five of their last six. Five would get them to eight and that would be an outstanding season. Splitting the final six would be a minimum expectation.

There were plenty of things to be happy about and only a couple of questions but we’ll get to those in the Tuesday post.

The positives:

  • Logan Marchi finally played like the quarterback Dave Patenaude thought he was with two touchdown passes and over 300 yards of passing. There is some promise there and plenty of room to improve.
  • Keith Kirkwood’s one-handed catch on a crucial third down was another ESPN Sports Center highlight.
  • The defense showed a relentless pass rush, led by senior Jacob Martin.
  • Walk-on fullback Rob Ritrovato showed that the position will not die with the graduation of Nick Sharga, who was strangely AWOL during this game but played well (as he usually does) the few opportunities he got.
  • Third-down back David Hood showed that he can ball on first and second down as well and he has an uncanny knack for staying on his feet after the first hit, even using his hands to regain his balance.
  • Unlike the better part of the last three years, when Temple got a comfortable lead, the second-string quarterback was allowed to come in and he moved the team. That is a nice insurance policy should any injury to the starter take place. Let’s face it, had P.J. Walker gone down in any game last year, there would have been no championship season. Marchi’s development probably wouldn’t have been stunted had he had the same game reps in the last two seasons.

Since Temple beat ECU, 34-10, and ECU beat UConn, 41-38, that bodes well for a nice Homecoming if the team continues to improve. (Heck, even Lafayette—a team that Villanova smoked, 59-0, beat a Holy Cross team UConn struggled against.)

The pre-game burgers should be tasting pretty good and, if the Owls play next week like they did this one, so should the post-game ones. After that, it’s about improving each game.

Fire up the Kerosene.

Tuesday: Missing Without Action

Game Day: A Fork In The Road

fork

The Mayhem  Express has reached a fork in a road and the map doesn’t indicate which road to take that might lead them to the Promised Land.

Go down the wrong one and this already long season could get a lot longer.

Make the right decision and the Owls could be on a journey that leads to that elusive bowl win that even their last two Top 25 teams could not get.

I must admit that the normal amount of confidence I had in the Owls getting this job done in Greenville, North Carolina (ESPNU, noon today), has been shaken.

Not by the players, but by the coaches.

The Owls have doubled-down on a quarterback who has thrown six interceptions in the last two games and an offense that is ill-suited to the personnel they have. The head coach who assured me personally that he would never take Nick Sharga out of the game looks the other way when his offensive coordinator pulls Sharga  out routinely for three wide receivers. Sharga has not played a single game that he was in for more than 15 offensive plays this year and that’s a disgraceful misuse of a wonderful blocking asset.

sack

The defense has shown signs of life only recently after getting uncharacteristically and shockingly gouged on long running plays in the first four games.

The personnel on both offense and defense is fine, so the logical conclusion is the coaching is not up to last year’s standards.

Phil Snow’s defenses were not spectacular but were sound. Except for the opening-game debacle versus Army, when the scheme was wrong, each player was in the right spot to make a play most of the time. This year, they’ve been caught in wrong slants and coverages and the coaches said they were only “misfits” that would be cleaned up next game. Then the next game came and there were more misfits. Defensively, we will find out if the better performance versus Houston was an anomaly or a harbinger of things to come.

Am I the only one who did not hear the word “misfits” applied to a Temple defense in the last two years?

I don’t think so. When you don’t need excuses, you don’t need to come up with them.

If we don’t hear the word misfits in the post-game media session today, you can assume Temple has won what figures to be a low-scoring game.

Something like 16-13 because this OC is a very stubborn man who is never alarmed by scoring 16 or fewer points. That’s where I think this result will fall, something like 16-10, 16-13, 21-17. If Temple wins 41-10, then we are cooking with gas.

If not, we’re rubbing two sticks together and hoping to get a spark.

If we do hear the word misfit against an offense that can put points on the board, just assume the Owls have taken the wrong turm and are on the road to oblivion and that’s the kind of Mayhem none of us expected when the season started.

Tomorrow: Game Analysis

Houston: Does This Staff Have The Wright Stuff?

What are you waiting for, the bowl game?

It might be a little harsh, but the term brain dead about a first-year coaching staff occurred to me more than a few times during the Notre Dame debacle, the USF debacle and similar near-debacles against UMass and Villanova.

Last year’s championship staff figured out, early on, that getting the ball in the hands of a talent like Isaiah Wright might be a pretty good idea.

connection

Wright, playing part-time tailback, had 46 yards on seven carries in a 38-0 win over Stony Brook. Temple had nice tailback options in that game, including Jahad Thomas and Ryquell Armstead. Matt Rhule, a $7 million-per-year coach, chose Wright. Before you dismiss the Stony Brook program, it was in a tight game this year at South Florida in the fourth quarter.

Temple was not.

Rhule stated to the press that one of his priorities early in last season was getting the ball in the hands of the elusive Wright. They met across the long table in the coach’s office at the Edberg-Olson Complex and came to the conclusion they could use Wright as a wide receiver, a tailback and a Wildcat quarterback.

They only put the Wildcat package in BECAUSE they had him, not because they wanted to do it.

performance

“Operator? Please get me Waco, Texas; a listing for Glenn Thomas or Matt Rhule. Thanks.”

What did this new genius from Coastal Carolina do with Wright the last two games? Give him the ball four times in two games. For Louisville math majors, that’s two times in each game.

Ryquell Armstead is banged up and he looks slow behind an offensive line that returns three of its five starters. Those three starters blocked well all of last season, so it’s not on them. Having Wright in the backfield with his explosive first step and his multiple-cut abilities can only help whomever is the quarterback.

Getting the ball in his hands a lot more than two times might be the difference between victory or defeat on Saturday afternoon (noon start, be there or be square, that’s why we never give TV info for home games).

For the first four games, we’ve learned this staff is–to be overly kind–slow on the uptake. To me, you can maximize any slim chances you have against a 3-1 Houston team by the number of times you get the ball in the hands of your most explosive player on a team that, by the way, that has a number of explosive players still. His touches work at wide receiver, they work at running back and they work at Wildcat quarterback. He’s had only 10 so far and he’s produced 194 yards. Too few touches in my humble opinion. Give it to him double-digit times, and you open it up for guys like Armstead, Sharga, Keith Kirkwood, Adonis Jennings and Ventell Bryant.

Wright can THROW the ball on a dime from 70 yards and he can do a lot on CATCHING swing passes out of the backfield to beat a blitz or even a conventional rush. Geez, you would think this staff knows that by now. Certainly the other staff did.

If Wright gets the ball only two times again, we can officially declare this new staff brain dead and take them off life support. We will track each and every Wright touch against Houston and it will be the subject of our next Thursday post.

Geoff Collins, since you are the CEO of this organization, it’s ultimately your responsibility. This will not be on Dave Patenaude. You must tell him what to do and expect him to do it.

Sunday: Game Analysis

Tuesday: Fizzy’s Corner

Thursday: Tracking The Wright Touches

When No News Is Bad News

snipthree

Nobody has scoops anymore and, now, more than ever, Temple fans are looking for scoops around what has been an under-performing program for the first four games of the Geoff Collins Era.


In a search for
the news that
should be happening
(but is not), our
alter-ego Scoop Jackson
wrote these three
fake news stories
that we only wish
were true

The falloff has been dramatic from a year ago. Temple, arguably, was the most over-performing team in college football in 2016 because the Owls were a nation’s-best 12-2 against the spread. That meant the public perception of Temple was raised to stratospheric levels. Against the spread this season, the Owls are 0-4 and darn near a real 0-4.

The public perception is Temple is back to being the “old Temple” and that the last two years were a flash in the pan. That is not good.

If not now, when do things change?

In a search for the news that should be happening (but is not), our alter-ego Scoop Jackson wrote these three fake news stories that we only wish were true:

snipone
By Scoop Jackson
After an embarrassing loss to USF, Geoff Collins said that he will shake up his Temple football staff in an attempt to turn things around.
“I’ve promoted Adam DiMichele to offensive coordinator and given Dave Patenaude the recruiting and quality control responsibilities that Adam has now,” Collins said. “Adam is a guy Temple fans are familiar with and he will bring that ingrained Temple TUFF attitude to the offense. Adam said he’s going to open up the playbook and get away from the three plays we’ve been running all season–the fullback dive, the pitch to the tailback, sideline patterns to wide receivers. Adam showed me a film where he faked a kneel down, got up and hit Bruce Francis for a 50-yard touchdown against Navy at the end of the half. I like that kind of stuff.”
For his part, DiMichele promised fun.

“I won’t be yelling at the guys on the sidelines like Dave did,” Adam said. “Football is supposed to be fun. We’re going to incorporate things we did at Temple under Al Golden and Matt Rhule–jump passes to the tight end, shovel passes, things like that.

“The big thing coach Collins and I have is love of our kids. It’s OK to love them, but loving them means you put them in the best position to succeed.  I think we’re going to do this by doing things like giving all four quarterbacks a shot in the game. I sucked in practice, but Al Golden had a hunch and gave me a chance in a real game and I proved to him I was a gamer. I have a feeling one of our kids needs that same chance. I also believe that we should be getting the ball to Isaiah Wright in space. When you have a talent like Isaiah, got to get him in the game at a number of positions. I’m thinking tailback for Isaiah might be his best position this year. A little swing pass to him out of the backfield now and then and a couple of carries as a tailback will do so much to open up the offense and make everything else work. We haven’t seen that so far. We will now.”

sniptwoBy Scoop Jackson
Mostly, at every Temple press conference, Geoff Collins is asked why Anthony Russo–the team’s most highly-regarded recruit at that position for the last 20 years–is not given a chance to play.
Usually, Collins will say all four quarterbacks are above the line but that Russo did not get in because he didn’t have time to prepare him.
Nobody bothered to ask a follow-up question until Donald Hunt of the Philadelphia Tribune asked him this: “If Russo is above the line and you said you hate depth charts, why can’t he play? I noticed he is the only position player who is ATL who doesn’t play. Why?”
“I’ll have to be honest with you, Don,” Collins said. “Dave Patenaude hated his guts. Dave recruited Logan to play at Coastal Carolina and wouldn’t have had a sniff at recruiting a kid like Russo so he buried the kid. Now that Adam’s in charge and understands what it takes to throw 35 touchdown passes in a single year for a great Pennsylvania high school program, maybe the kid will get a chance.”

snipfour

 By Scoop Jackson
The War Drums are the only ones beating at Temple football practice these days because Geoff Collins has banned the real ones.
“Rookie head-coaching mistake,” Collins said. “When I said after USF that this loss was on me, this is what I meant. That time we could have been practicing our pass blocking schemes and fake field goal attempts were spent on things like listening to a kid from the Temple band play the drums and Nick Sharga play the guitar. Love our band and love Nick, but we should be using the limited time we have practicing football.”
Sharga, arguably the team’s best linebacker, was set to practice with the ones on defense the day he was sent to the top of the E-O to play linebacker, err, guitar.
“Yeah, my bad,” Collins said. “I told Nick we were only going to use him 15 plays on offense and thought he would be more valuable playing the guitar that day. We’re going to the 5-2, putting FBL over the nose, making Dogbe and Julian the tackles and putting our two best linebackers on the field, Nick and Chappy. That should cut down on the crossing patterns underneath that had been killing us. The 5-2 will give us constant pressure on the quarterback without blitzing and that pressure will lead to quick throws under duress that will allow our great secondary, including Champ, Delvon, Artrel and Mike, to return those throws the other way for six. That’s the new plan. It should have been the old one.”

That news is sweet music to the ears of Owls’ fans.

If only fake news were true in this case.

Friday: Houston Is A Problem

Sunday: Game Analysis

Tuesday: Fizzy’s Corner

Thursday: Tracking Wright’s Touches (it could be a short post)

Saturday: Game Preview