5 Things We Won’t Miss About Mr. Mayhem


The promised Mayhem really never arrived in the form of a national top-ranked defense.

Sometimes you have to look back to look forward.

Today is one of those times.

Geoff Collins is now Georgia Tech’s problem.

In my mind, at least, he earned no higher than a “C” grade in his two years at Temple. The Mayhem promised really never materialized and his defensive reputation never transferred with him to Temple, where the Owls were torched for 52, 45 and 49 points in three important games, only one of which was a win. He had 10-win talent in his first season and won seven and probably an even better team in his second and won eight. A good grade (B) would have resulted in more wins than that. A great grade would have been beating the teams he should have beaten and won a game or two against teams he  was not favored to beat.

To me, the essential questions after the Collins’ departure is, “Do you believe Collins was JUST a good coach for Temple and do you believe there are better coaches than Collins for Temple?”

The answer to both questions is yes and I believe Rod Carey is part of an unidentified number of available head coaches who would be BETTER for Temple than Collins was. (I also believe guys like Chris Creighton and Lance Leipold would have been better, but we will never know.) What we do know is that a staff at James Madison University, led by current ECU head coach Mike Houston, was able to beat Villanova with JMU talent 37-0 only a couple of weeks after Collins’ staff lost to the same team, 19-17, with Temple talent.

Whether Carey is better will be determined in December, not before. These are five things that we will not miss about Collins:


Above The Line

For a number of great reasons, the tradition of the Temple depth chart will return and not something vague as the “above the line” concept of Collins. I have not talked to a single ex-Temple player who ever thought getting rid of a depth chart was a good idea. Mike Curcio, a great Temple linebacker who later played with the Philadelphia Eagles, told me nothing motivated him to become a starter than seeing his name as No. 3 on the TU linebacker depth chart. Above the line served no useful purpose. Now the players know where they stand and what they have to do to move up the depth chart and that’s a good thing.


Money Downs

Nothing made more a mockery of the money down thing than for Temple to be rated No. 129 in third-down conversions halfway through the season than to see “money down” signs on third down. While the Owls improved after that, they were in debt most of the season.

An Offensive Abomination

Nick Sharga’s lead blocking as a fullback for tailbacks Jahad Thomas and Ryquell Armstead was as big a reason as any for the 2016 Owls winning the AAC title. The two combined for nearly 2,000 yards of rushing and Armstead scored 14 touchdowns, 13 of them behind devastating Sharga blocks. Before the 2017 season, Collins promised that “we are going to use (Sharga) even more than they did last year” and that “I’m his fullback coach; he’s the best fullback in the country.” Yet Collins stood idly by and did nothing as his OC, Dave Patenaude, eliminated the fullback position at Temple. Patenaude was probably the most ill-suited coach for Temple, head or assistant, since Jerry Berndt. His passing on first-and-goal after Isaiah Wright was tripped up at the 1 cost the Owls a win at Army in 2017. His passing on first-and-goal at the Navy 7 with 1:28 left and the Middies with no timeouts left resulted in an interception and a near-loss. His game-calling against Villanova directly resulted in one loss and nearly another. Only 45 offensive touchdowns on a 2018 team that included Anthony Russo, Ventell Byrant, Armstead, Wright, Branden Mack and Rob Ritrovato was malfeasance of the highest order. Atlanta is going to love this guy.

WWE Superstars at Practice

Collins had WWE Super Star Titus O’Neil visit practice in the week before the 2017 Villanova game. I can’t imagine how that helped the Owls avoid three-straight offsides penalties that the defense incurred in that game.

Less Talk, More Action

At Rod Carey’s first press conference, he said that good football teams don’t talk about being tough they just are. Collins talked a lot about juice. The hope here is that the juice will be seen and not heard.

Friday: Comparing First Seasons


Christmas: Best Gift Could Arrive Two Days Late

Love the way coach Foley cracks up Christina Applegate here. 🙂

If Christmas comes two days late for Temple in the form of some valuable hardware, the Owls will have to send text messages in the direction of Detroit.

They will have one guy to thank for it and it was a guy who came under a lot of criticism in this space over the last two years.

Geoff Collins.


Give credit where credit is (or will be) due this game week.

“When I got the (Temple) job, I saw a lot of guys coming and going,” Collins said at his inaugural Georgia Tech press conference. “The one thing I made sure to say the last day I talked to the team was that this wasn’t going to happen now. I told all of the (assistant coaches) to stay in Philadelphia and concentrate on winning the bowl game. I felt I owed the Temple kids that much.”

Collins can do Temple
another solid by taking
Dave Patenaude’s fate out
of Manny Diaz’s hands and
offering him a GT job. That
way, we can get back to
the Temple football all
Owl fans know and love–a
pro set with a heavy run
package with plenty of
play-action designed to
accentuate explosive downfield
plays in the passing game
and one that is perfectly
suited to Anthony Russo’s talents

Collins will be in Detroit for Georgia Tech game against Minnesota the night before in the Quick Lane Bowl. Mix in a trophy ceremony after that game and chances are that Collins is still in the stadium late  and to expect him to make flight connections for a 1:30 start in Shreveport the same day is a little unrealistic. He won’t be coaching GT–legendary Paul Johnson will finish up–but he will be there to press the flesh with Yellowjacket fans just like he did in Annapolis with Temple fans two years ago.

Wherever he is, though, the Owls will owe him some thanks because Matt Rhule put Ed Foley behind the eight ball for the 2016 Military Bowl against Wake Forest. While Wake head coach Dave Clawson had a complete group of well-paid Power 5 professionals  Temple really only had Ed Foley and offensive line coach Chris Wisenhan as constants. Pretty much the entire Rhule staff spent the time recruiting for Baylor and making a bare minimum of Temple practices. Foley had no choice but to assign grad assistants to run eight Temple defensive practices.


Our Oct. 19th poll

It showed in Temple, a 14.5-point favorite, falling behind, 31-6, at halftime. The offense made a gallant enough run, but the Owls fell, 34-26.

Temple’s only a four-point favorite this time and Foley said he’s learned a few things this time. That, and having a full complement of assistants should be enough. Diaz has the best special teams’ coach in the nation in Foley and, after Ed hoists the bowl trophy, he deserves to stay right here.

Collins can do Temple another solid by taking Dave Patenaude’s fate out of Manny Diaz’s hands and offering him a GT job. That way, we can get back to the Temple football all Owl fans know and love–a pro set with a heavy run package with plenty of play-action designed to accentuate explosive downfield plays in the passing game and one that is perfectly suited to Anthony Russo’s talents. If the nightmare scenario happens where Collins is gone and Patenaude stays, Russo remains a read-option quarterback and he’s no more of a read-option quarterback than Tom Brady is.

If Collins’ departure means Patenaude is gone and Diaz finds a pro set coordinator, that’s a net plus for the good guys who remain.

Wednesday: Bowl Preview

Friday: Bowl Analysis

Isaiah Wright: Temple’s Answer


There are not many vexing questions out there regarding the Temple football team for 2019.

The Owls appear to be even more loaded next year than they were this year with the exception of one sore thumb question:

“Who is going to replace Rock Armstead as the elite featured back?”

The answer is right under our noses: Isaiah Wright.

matt rhule, temple football,

“If we didn’t have Jahad Thomas or Ryquell Armstead at tailback,  Isaiah Wright is capable of playing the position and I’m sure he would do a great job.” _ Matt Rhule, 2016

This is what Matt Rhule said about Wright after the then true freshman gained 48 yards on seven carries in a 38-0 win over Stony Brook in 2016: “The great thing about Isaiah is his versatality. If we didn’t have Jahad Thomas or Ryquell Armstead at tailback, Isaiah Wright is capable of playing thet position and I’m sure he would do a great job. The challenge, really for me, is to get him the ball a lot more.”

Rhule could never follow through because Thomas and Armstead were there to block Wright’s progress as a running back but at least he instituted The Wildcat for him. (I don’t like the Wildcat because everyone knows Wright is going to run when he comes out in it. The Wildcat is effective only if IW throws it 50 percent of the time and runs it the other half.)

Getting the ball to Wright was a challenge inherited by the Geoff Collins staff and, quite frankly, they have not been up to it. Wright doesn’t get the ball nearly enough even though Army coach Jeff Monken called him “a touchdown waiting to happen” in his assessment of the Owls before the 2017 game at Army.


Our picks for today’s games

For the record, I like Jager Gardner as well but, for some reason, Gardner has disappeared as the Armstead backup. He did score a nice touchdown at UConn. Gardner and Wright should battle it out as Armstead’s replacement and the Owls will be in good shape, but I think that’s a battle Wright would win given a fair opportunity. Tyliek Raynor as a third-down back (a Dave Meggett-type) would give the Owls a terrific trio of running backs next season.

First, though, Wright has to have every opportunity to grab the No. 1 job in spring ball.

The Owls can afford to move Wright from receiver to tailback because they are so deep at wide receiver. Randle Jones and Freddy Johnson return, as does this year’s true freshman Sean Ryan. The Owls have plenty of options at wide receiver.

“Armstead is the toughest running back in our league to stop,” Houston head coach Major Applegate said after the Owls won, 59-49, in Texas.

Putting Wright back there would give the Owls that same important advantage next year as well.


Dark Side Is a Matter of Perception


Did the Purple People Eaters ever give up 52 points in a single game?

How about the Monsters of the Midway?

Or The Steel Curtain, Killer B’s, Orange Crush or Fearsome Foursome?

No, no, no, and no.

Yet Temple’s not-so-famous “Darkside Defense” has now given up 52 points and 45 points in two separate games.

It’s getting pretty close to infamous.

Time to hand in that nickname badge at the door unless the team does something spectacular to earn Temple head coach Geoff Collins’ given nickname for his defense, like shutting out a high-powered  Houston squad on Saturday night (7 p.m., CBS Sports Network).

It used to be back in the not-so-olden days that you had to do something to get a unit nickname, like, you know, earn it. The 2011 Temple defense that posted consecutive shutouts under DC Chuck Heater probably deserved a nickname. Based on the body of work so far, this one does not. You can make all of the nice graphics about defensive statistics, but the one that should count the most is points allowed and, in two important games, this defense has come up short.


Now Collins hands out nicknames like candy and The Dark Side is appropriate only if you were a Temple fan watching the gloom and doom of UCF scoring 24 second-half points on it.

The Owls, who by and large had been a sure-tackling team this season, got no pressure on the quarterback and gave a clinic on bad arm tackling in the second half that should be put on a DVD and sent to every high school coach in America to show kids how not to tackle.

Make no mistake, there is plenty of talent on this defense but there are no sadder words than what might have been. Could you imagine a Temple front four of Karamo Dioubate (6-3, 295) and Quincy Roche (6-4, 235)  at the ends and Freddy Booth-Lloyd (6-1, 330), Dan Archibong (6-6, 285) and Michael Dogbe (6-3, 280) clogging up the middle? Imagine is something you’d have to do because the Owls have rotated in two smaller ends and played High School All-American DE Dioubate out of position as a DT. As a result, they get pushed around too much in the middle and are vulnerable on edge rushes.

It would seem to me that keeping the “good guys” in the game should be a priority going forward. I’d rather have a “gassed” Dioubate, Roche, FBL, Archibong and Dogbe in there than some of the “fresh” other guys, so maybe that’s something the rookie defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker has to take a look at.

Rotation is supposed to be to keep the guys fresh but when the above playmakers are in the game, the Owls are a pretty good defense. They get into trouble when the smaller starters are in to get more easily blocked or the less talented backups. It all starts up front.

That’s part of the reason the points continue to pile up. Another could be a departure from fundamentals.

After a similar poor-tackling game against Pitt in his rookie year, Bruce Arians called a 6 a.m. practice where everyone put on full pads and hit for three hours. “Rookie coaching mistake,” Arians said of the Pitt game. “I let up on them because we had some injuries and we were not nearly physical enough. We hit in practice for enough hours until I was satisfied with their tackling. We really got after it and that was our most physical practice of the season. The kids got the message. People who played us the rest of that year had a lot of bruises and bumps and injuries in the training room the next day.”

Collins loves this team to death, but maybe some tough Arians’ love is in order now.

There is enough quality on this defense to finish out the season strong, but probably not enough quantity. The Owls should ride the quality as long as they can.

Until then, let the nicknames be earned, not given.

Friday: The Houston Side

Sunday: Game Analysis

Now for the Bright Side

Maybe it was being spoiled by the two years BGC (Before Geoff Collins).

Maybe it was the six weeks spent in the Top 25 one year, followed by seven weeks in the Top 25 the next.

As I saw it then, Matt Rhule set up GC pretty well for the next two years. The talent level was going to be Top 25 caliber for awhile and the momentum seemed to be there to keep the ball rolling.

The major difference
between the coaching
transitions at UCF and
Temple was that Josh
Heupel did not change
a thing about the
offensive identity
of his team, while
Collins allowed Patenaude
to completely gut an
offensive identity that
worked just as well
for Temple

In the prism I look through, every year Temple should do exactly what those 2015 and 2016 Temple teams did (either compete in or win the AAC championship game). Temple is the only school in its conference playing football in the exact geographic center of 46 percent of the nation’s population and should, in my mind, be able to recruit enough great football players to dominate a league of teams from places like Hartford, Greenville, Tampa, New Orleans, Orlando and Dallas on that fact alone.

Mix in the fact that Temple is a great university–one-sixth of the nation’s professionals are educated here–in the only World Class City (as named by the International Heritage Foundation) in any college football league, either P5 or G5. Stir another tidbit,  that most “regular” students in all surveys prefer a city environment for college to a rural one for their college experience, and Temple is in a most attractive position for recruiting.

Temple should dominate this league.

Something happened in between and, in my mind, it was abandoning the offensive scheme that these players were recruited to excel under (three-down fullback, two tight ends, establish the run and use play-action fakes for explosive plays in the downfield passing game).


Birmingham still remains in play as a possible bowl destination for the Owls

It won’t dominate the league this year because its much-ballyhooed defense on Thursday night couldn’t tackle a drunk fat guy stumbling out of a bar at 2 a.m. It won’t because its offense could score only six in the second half after scoring 34 in the first half and the OC seemed more satisfied with the first half than disappointed with the second one (see video at the top of this post and thanks to Bob for supplying it). It would seem to me that scoring more than six points in the second half against the 91st-ranked rushing defense in the nation should not be all that hard, especially with backs like Ryquell Armstead, Jager Gardner, and Tyliek Raynor. Give those guys a caravan of blockers in the form of H-backs, fullbacks and tight ends in motion and it’s a pretty good bet that the Owls don’t have the red zone problems they suffered from in the second half.

Now you say it’s still mathematically possible for the Owls to win the league but too many difficult things need to happen. First, the Owls have to run the table. That’s the minimum. Second, either Navy, Cincy, and/or USF would have to beat UCF.  Central Florida would have to lose twice. (I could see Cincy beating UCF but not USF or Navy.) Cincy could run the table and have the same loss in the AAC East that Temple has and Temple would be playing in the title game, but that’s not happening.

So what is the bright spot?


The bright spot is simply this: Even IF the Owls had won the AAC, there is probably no way they would represent the G5 in an NY6 bowl and, if you win the league, you should probably go to an NY6. The Owls forfeited that slot with two brutal opening losses where they were outcoached by a team that started 0-4 in an FCS league. Nobody is going to pick a G5 team with an FCS loss for any New Year’s Six bowls.

So what could happen?

A strong argument could be made that Temple could even lose to Houston and win the next two and still be in the same kind of bowl game with a 7-5 record that it would be with an 8-4 one. Hell, Temple could have probably won the league and not received a better bowl with a 9-3 record that it could with a 7-5 one.

That’s the bright side. The league would probably allow the Owls to pick from the either the Military Bowl (where they could play a beatable ACC team like Syracuse or Virginia Tech) or the Birmingham Bowl (where it could play a 6-6 SEC team) and that would probably be the best bowl matchup for Temple since UCLA in 2009.

And probably a lot warmer in Birmingham than Annapolis.

Next year, we can all get back to looking into that tunnel and demanding that the Owls take their first games as seriously as they are taking the last few and play in the same championship games they did in consecutive years before the current staff got here. The major difference between the coaching transitions at UCF and Temple was that Josh Heupel did not change a thing about the offensive identity of his team, while Collins allowed Patenaude to completely gut an offensive identity that worked just as well for Temple.

That’s the Top 25 baton the Matt Rhule staff handed off to the Geoff Collins’ one and, so far, it’s been dropped twice.

How many times do we have to say “maybe next year” for a return to the Top 25?

Wednesday: The Dark Side

Friday: The Houston Side

Sunday: Game Analysis 

Shallow Owl


Ninety percent of Temple fans see the bloated Gweneth Paltrow when they look at Dave Patenaude; Geoff Collins evidently sees the slimmed-down version

“Anybody who can line up with two tight ends and a fullback and run the ball, I think that’s really awesome.”

_ Dave Patenaude, Jan. 15, 2017, the day he was hired as OC

They like to talk about measurables–height, weight, speed, vertical jump, strength–when the focus is on the athlete.

Accurately assessing those measurables, and weighing it against the intangibles, often determines the success of an organization.

There are measurables that determine the success of coaches, too, and the No. 1 thing is wins versus losses, but other factors can be weighed.

That’s why Geoff Collins’ love affair with his offensive coordinator, Dave Patenaude, is perplexing. It reminds me of the movie “Shallow Hal” when the lead character sees the bloated version of Gweneth Paltrow as beautiful and everybody else has a different view. When we (well, at least 90 percent of Temple fans) see Patenaude we see a guy who has all kinds of neat weapons and shoots them like a blind guy. He’s certainly not a trained Marine marksman with the, err, AR-15. You want measurables? Here are some facts on Patenaude, ranking his offense against the other 130 FBS offenses:



3d down conversion–59th

4th down conversion–63d

Time of possession–108th

Want more measurables?

Against Villanova, Patenaude put up nine offensive points while coaches in the same position with less talent (Stony Brook, 29; Towson, 45 and even Maine, 13) put up more against that same defense.


Pretty grim, huh?

Those figures are remarkably consistent with last year’s ones as none of the Owls’ offensive stats above were in the top 50 in the nation. At the end of last year, Collins announced a staff shake-up where he named Ed Foley the head coach in charge of the offense but kept Patenaude in the OC role. It’s been quite apparent that Foley’s position is just lip service with Patenaude holding the keys to this Ferrari. He’s crashed it into the wall for the second-straight year.

We’ve seen the same failings this year as last with the offense and Collins is just as responsible as Patenaude if not more so. Last year, Collins called Nick Sharga “the best fullback in the country” but our charting of plays had Sharga playing an average of 4.7 plays per game as a fullback. Shouldn’t “the best fullback in the country” be in there, if not for every down, at least for 20 offensive plays?


(Before you say he was injured, he was healthy enough to lead the nation in special teams’ tackles so he was healthy enough to play offense as well.)

The team’s current fullback, Rob Ritrovato, is largely limited to the same special teams’ role and he has punched the ball out for Temple recoveries twice in it. You’d love to see a blocker like that lead the way for tailbacks like Ryquell Armstead and Jager Gardner, but Patenaude stubbornly won’t show that look and Collins evidently is fine with that. It’s a good look because both players benefited from it in a 10-win season.

So we’ve reached this point. An offensive coordinator who wants to change everything that worked in two 10-win seasons for everything that does not work the last two. There is no hatred here for the man himself; there is much hatred here for his stubborn refusal to use a system that is best suited for the personnel under his command. He completely overhauled an offensive concept that worked beautifully for two seasons for one that has been an utter failure for the last two. This guy is the most ill-suited coach for Temple, assistant or head, we’ve seen since Jerry Berndt tried to jump here from the Ivies after ruining things for those other Owls, Rice.

The defense has done the job this year. The skills of the players on offense are at least as good as the defense, maybe better.

The lack of production on one side of the ball can only be attributed to a scheme that does not work and needs to be changed. Run an elite tailback behind a great fullback, establish the run, and hit explosive downfield plays in the passing game by using play-action fakes.  I see that. You see that (at least 90 percent of you) but, unless Collins sees it, the full potential of this program will never be realized.

Next Thursday would be a perfect place to implement that kind of game plan.

Don’t hold your breath.

Saturday: Around The AAC

Monday: The Fans





A Very Special Temple Homecoming

This is Temple TUFF offensive football. Owls need to get back to it.

Since Temple football emerged from the dark ages around the year 2009, there have been some pretty good Homecomings.


Maybe the top one in my memory–and perhaps the best including the crowds of 70K for Notre Dame and Penn State games at Lincoln Financial Field that season–was the 35,711 fans who showed up for a 48-14 win over Tulane in 2015.

That’s because literally no one came from Tulane and the lower bowl of a 70K-seat stadium was filled entirely with Cherry and White fans. Thirty-five thousand and seven hundred eleven exceeds the capacity of many of the AAC stadiums so it was a tremendous crowd. Plus, it was 4,000 more people than attended the previous game, a 30-16 win over Central Florida at LFF on the preceding Saturday night (a much more attractive time for a home game).

That’s what being 6-0 and ranked nationally will do for you.

That is also the situation visiting Cincinnati (6-0, ranked No. 20 in the AP poll) finds itself in when it travels to Lincoln Financial Field (noon) on Saturday for Temple’s Homecoming game.

The numbers indicate that this should be a crowd that slightly exceeds the 30K mark, probably not quite up to the 32K mark for Temple’s home opener this season so it should be a special Homecoming. Every Homecoming is special because it attracts the same kind of softcore fan base that usually attends only Temple home openers. For the last eight Homecomings, for instance, the Homecoming Game drew an average of 7,654 more than the previous home game.


Figure in far right column represents an average of 7,654 more than the prior home game attendance in each of those years.

Will this be as special as Tulane?

Only if the Owls emerge with a win and the people in Vegas are counting on it. The line opened at 3.5 points on Monday and moved slightly up to four points on Tuesday and now back to 3.5 again Wednesday. Last week’s Temple line at Navy opened with the Owls as a 4.5-point favorite on a Monday and that moved to 5.5 on Wednesday before eventually settling on seven points by Saturday morning.

The Owls won, 24-17.


If nothing changes, expect Temple to win, 24-20.

Still, the game is played on the field and not in Vegas and Cincinnati has a formidable 12th man.

Dave Patenaude.


Three years ago today when No. 4 was a full-time fullback leading the way for Ryquell Armstead (and Jahad Thomas, pictured) and play-action fakes to the tailbacks allowed Ventell Byrant and Isaiah Wright to run so free through the secondary P.J. Walker did not know which one to pick out.

The Temple offensive coordinator has somehow managed to turn a team with a pretty good line and dynamic players like quarterback Anthony Russo, fullback Rob Ritrovato, tailback Ryquell Armstead, and explosive downfield wide receivers like Ventell Bryant, Isaiah Wright and Branden Mack into the 89th-ranked total offense in the country.

That’s a pretty hard thing to do but when you have a great fullback you never use as a fullback and, by doing so (err, not doing so) you pretty much pull the lynch pin out of this grenade and blow the whole offense up. Run Rock behind Nitro, establish the run, set up the play-action pass and Bryant, Wright and Mack become 10x more effective than they are now.

Also, both Patenaude and head coach Geoff Collins have been quoted as saying the reason they don’t run the ball on first and goal is because of the defense the bad guys are in dictates the Temple play call. That’s ridiculous on face value. From the time Walter Camp invented football, it has been the offenses, not the defenses, who dictate the play call. Do you think Matt Rhule EVER cared what defense Cincy was in the video at the top of this post?

If Temple is truly calling
passing plays on first and
goal based on the alignment
of the defense
across the ball, then the
coaching here is worse than
any of us ever thought and,
for the last two years, many
of us think it is appallingly
bad. An offense with these
players should be ranked
in the top 10 in the country
in total offense, certainly
not ranked No. 89 as it is now

If Temple is truly calling passing plays on first and goal based on the alignment of the defense across the ball, then the coaching here is worse than any of us ever thought and, for the last two years, many of us think it is appallingly bad. An offense with these players should be ranked in the top 10 in the country in total offense, certainly not ranked No. 89 as it is now.

That’s an indictment on the brain trust.

Somewhere in Waco, both Glenn Thomas and Matt Rhule have to be shaking their heads because you know they are laughing at Patenaude’s play-calling and personnel groupings. Knowing how much they love these kids they recruited, there are probably a few tears being shed as well.

We will ever see the Temple football Owl fans have come to know and love? That is an every-down fullback (Nitro) leading the way for an elite tailback (Rock), setting up explosive downfield plays in the play-action passing game to receivers like Bryant, Wright and Mack? Probably not as long as Collins is the enabler to this spread crack addict named Patenaude.

As Temple fans, we can only hope the talent overcomes the coaching or these coaches take a good look at the video at the top of this post and the light bulb finally goes on in their collective heads.

Saturday: How Good is Vegas?