Russo: Collins’ First Litmus Test As CEO

russocollins

By 7:30 p.m., on Thursday, we will find out if Geoff Collins is either the Miller Huggins of Temple football or the Gabe Kapler.


Patenaude has a documented
history of making mistakes
in sticking with quarterbacks
too long. He went with his boy,
Logan Marchi, for seven games
and that cost the Owls embarrassing
losses to teams like UConn

The big question Collins has to answer is if he will take charge and name Anthony Russo the starting quarterback.

The evidence would suggest he should. Frank Nutile, the starter at the beginning of the season, threw interceptions all over the place in losses to FCS Villanova and MAC Buffalo. He did not look confident nor show the kind of arm he did in five of his last six games last year. Maybe Nutile was injured all along. Maybe he just had a sore arm.

Whatever, Anthony Russo, his replacement, looked confident and sharp and managed a convincing win over a Big 10 school that beat probable Big 12 winner Texas.

No-brainer, right?

HugginsMiller

 

“Psst: Geoff. It’s me. Miller. Miller Huggins. Trust me: Start Russo”

 

Only if you let someone with no brains make the wrong decision. After the game, offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said “Frankie should be OK for Tulsa” and that statement leads me to believe that this OC is leaning toward putting Nutile back into the saddle. Patenaude has a documented history of making mistakes in sticking with quarterbacks too long. He went with his boy, Logan Marchi, for seven games and that cost the Owls embarrassing losses to teams like UConn. Only the “luck” of an injury to Marchi reversed Temple’s season.

My guess is if Dave Patenaude was managing the New York Yankees back in 1925, Lou Gehrig would have never seen the field.

Huggins, then the Yanks’ baseball manager, passed his first litmus test as a manager.  If the Hugger were still alive, he would able to pass on some valuable Cliff Notes to Collins for his upcoming litmus test.  On June 2, 1925, Huggins told Gehrig that “(Wally) Pipp wasn’t doing too well” and Huggins thought a few days of rest would do him good.  Lou Gehrig took over the rest was history. Gehrig went on to play 2,632-straight games—the longest consecutive streak in baseball or any other sport until Cal Ripken Jr. came along.

Knowing Gabe Kapler, who probably will not make the Hall of Fame, this is what he would have said: “I have full confidence in Wally and, even though Lou did well, Wally is not going to lose his job because of an injury.” It’s probably the same deal with Patenaude and this is where Collins has to put his foot down.


… it’s not even a tie.
Russo was significantly
more impressive in his
game—against a foe that
would destroy both Buffalo
and Villanova—than Nutile
was in his two

In baseball, one of the axioms is “the tie goes to the runner” and, in college football, the tie in performance goes to the younger quarterback over the redshirt senior. Crazy enough,  but, in the case of Russo and Nutile, it’s not even a tie. Russo was significantly more impressive in his game—against a foe that would destroy both Buffalo and Villanova—than Nutile was in his two.

In college football, if it’s even close, the decision goes with the younger player.

In this case, as in Gehrig’s, the better one. Now is the time for Collins’ first litmus test as CEO of the Temple football operation.

In less than 48 hours, we will find out whether Geoff Collins is closer to Miller Huggins than he is to Gabe Kapler. We can only pray he is the real boss and doesn’t cede this authority to an incompetent subordinate.

If he does, he is a weak leader who won’t last long at Temple. Or anywhere else for that matter.

Thursday: Tulsa Preview

 

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How We Went From AAC Champs To AAC Chumps In 2 Years …

sharga

OC Dave Patenaude ditching the “Temple TUFF” offense of full-time fullback (and, more importantly, Geoff Collins’ role in enabling that blunder) is the No. 1 reason why Temple went from consecutive 10-win seasons to a likely 10-loss season.

On the morning Geoff Collins was hired, while finally finding my keys, stashing my wallet away and picking up the cell phone, I looked down and it was ringing.

“Mike, what do you think?” a friend of mine said.

“Think about what?”

“Temple finally announced The Guy.”

“Who?”

chumps

SB Nation’s current (unfortunately correct) assessment of the Temple football program

“Geoff Collins.”

“The guy from Florida?”

“Yeah, isn’t that exciting? I think it’s a great hire.”

“I guess,” I said. “From some of the guys on the list, he’s probably the best one.”


These are guys who
not only do not
understand Temple
TUFF but include an
incredibly arrogant
offensive coordinator
who intentionally sabotaged
the very fullback-oriented
offense that gave Temple
20 wins in two seasons.
That was an offense and
a toughness Temple fans
came to know and love

The list included guys like K.C. Keeler, Danny Rocco, Neil Brown and Matt Canada. Keeler was a failed head coach at nearby Delaware and resurrected his career at Sam Houston State. The other guys were FCS head coaches or FBS coordinators.

Not the kind of list Dr. Pat Kraft should have doodled for an Owl program that had long stretches in the top 25 in consecutive regular seasons.

Underwhelming at best, disappointing at worst.

Given that backdrop, my “I guess” response was appropriate. If Collins had brought with him a national championship Florida coordinator and a Florida quarterback coach—like Steve Addazio did with DC Chuck Heater and QB coach Scot Loeffler—that’s one thing. It’s quite another when your top assistants are from Coastal Carolina and Kennesaw State.

By comparison, Collins has surrounded himself with incompetence and, because of it, has placed a once-great program in jeopardy of a historic free fall. Here’s the empirical evidence:

recentjawns

These are guys who not only do not understand Temple TUFF but include an incredibly arrogant offensive coordinator who intentionally sabotaged the very fullback-oriented offense that gave Temple 20 wins in two seasons. That was an offense and a toughness Temple fans came to know and love.  It was an offense that perfectly epitomized the toughness of the school, its students, the alumni, the city, the neighborhood, even the corner of the practice facility.  It was an offense that had a purpose, with the run setting up a play-action fake and every play seemingly setting up an explosive play in the passing game.  Run the ball successfully with an elite tailback behind an extra offensive lineman (fullback Rob Ritrovato) to bring the linebackers and safeties up to the line of scrimmage. At that point, the defense is susceptible to a deft ball fake that freezes the linebackers and safeties in their tracks and allows the quarterback to find open receivers everywhere. Now, nothing sets up anything else except a five-yard loss on a handoff. This scatterbrained offensive scheme, pardon my language, is complete bullshit that every single one of the 20,000 or so current remaining Temple fans rejects without question.

My feeling was then and still is now that Temple as a program after consecutive 10-win seasons and two appearances in the league championship game reached a point where it could and should have hired an accomplished head coach and did not need to roll the dice on another coordinator again.

evidence

Make no mistake, hiring a coordinator as a head coach is a crapshoot. Coordinator and head coach are two different jobs. Just because you are good at one does not translate being good at another.

The checker at your local grocery store might be the greatest bagger in the history of supermarkets but that doesn’t mean he would make a good store manager.

You could end up with a guy like Al Golden or Matt Rhule or a guy like UConn’s Bob Diaco.

All three had impeccable credentials as a coordinator—Diaco was FBS coordinator of the year as DC at Notre Dame—but there’s plenty of evidence where great coordinators fail as head coaches.

So here we are, not long removed from being a Top 25 (albeit regular season) staple to one coming off a loss to the local FCS program and a team from a lower conference (Buffalo) that the Owls beat 113-13 in their last three meetings with them.

How did we get here?

By rolling the dice on another coordinator when Temple football got to the point where it could attract an accomplished head coach. Owls rolled a seven and 11 on the last two coordinators. It was only a matter of time until their luck ran out.

That appears to be the case now.

If Collins can prove to be Temple TUFF enough to upgrade his coordinators, he has some hope for resuscitating both his career and this precious program, whatever he values the most.

If not, none of us have any hope for anything.

Friday: Fizzy Offers Some Constructive Advice (6 a.m. publishing time)

Saturday: Maryland Preview

Sunday: Game Analysis

Temple: Worst-coached team in college football

digest

With the possible exception of Willie Taggart’s Florida State football team, it’s hard to come up with a convincing argument that Temple is not the worst-coached team in college football after two games.


No matter how hard
you work Sundays
through Fridays,
you are judged what
you do on Saturdays
and this Temple coaching
staff is a complete and
utter failure on the
most important day
of the week

We’ll go with Temple only because Taggart coached his way into two Power 5 jobs and he’s proven himself as a head coach in other places.

There is no offer on the horizon for Geoff Collins’ staff this year and maybe not for several.

Not only did the Owls lose to a FCS crosstown rival, Villanova, they had to beat in order to retain any football street cred in Philadelphia, Collins and his staff botched a simple game plan that was handed to them on a silver platter.

Playing a Buffalo team that gave up 199 yards to FCS Delaware State and was ranked No. 95 in the nation in rushing defense this year (and No. 96 last year), the Owls refused to go with the one offense—tailback behind a fullback—that would have kept the ball away from the two NFL players the Bulls had, Tyree Jackson and Anthony Johnson.


Playing a Buffalo team
that gave up 199 yards
on the ground
to FCS Delaware State
and was ranked No. 95
in the nation in rushing
defense this year
(and No. 96 last year),
the Owls refused to go
with the one offense—tailback
behind a fullback—that would
have kept the ball away
from the two NFL
players the Bulls had

Collins and offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude had just two jobs—score points and run the ball effectively enough to have six-, seven- and eight-minute drives and chew up the clock.

The Owls scored enough to win but they did not provide their defense with the requisite help needed by keeping the ball away from the Buffalo offense.

Temple had consecutive 10-win seasons by playing an every-down fullback but, on Saturday, did not have fullback Rob Ritrovato on the field to lead the way for Ryquell Armstead even once. With Ritrovato—an outstanding blocker in his own right—Armstead would have had essentially another offensive lineman in front of him and probably a lot more than the 107 yards he had on the ground. More importantly, had Armstead been able to put 200 yards on the board, Jackson and Johnson would have had far fewer possessions and Temple would have been able to come away with a much-needed win. Ritrovato was on the field to gain a short-yardage first down on a running play, but Wayne Hardin (Henry Hynoski, Kevin Grady and Mark Bright), Bruce Arians (Shelley Poole), Al Golden (Wyatt Benson) and Matt Rhule (Nick Sharga) would have been able to tell Collins a fullback can and should play a more vital role.

They either don’t care to use a fullback or don’t know how. Either way, it’s a bad look and not a Temple one.

Collins and Patenaude seem oblivious to that simple concept given an ill-conceived game plan that stopped the clock far too many times on incomplete passes and gave Buffalo far too many needless possessions.

Coaching is all about tailoring your schemes to the strengths of your players and attacking the weaknesses of your opponent. Temple’s coaches have failed miserably in those two most important areas in consecutive weeks. No matter how hard you work Sundays through Fridays, you are judged what you do on Saturdays and this Temple coaching staff is a complete and utter failure on the most important day of the week.

Unless something drastic changes, Temple is looking at a maybe two-win season coming off 27 wins in the past three years after losing two games in which it was a solid favorite. In one game, the Owls watched Villanova do the same damn things it did last year and showed zero adjustments. In another, the Owls stubbornly refused (or did not know how) to use a fullback leading a tailback to chew up clock and keep the ball away from a dangerous offense.

That’s about as bad a job as can be possibly done.

In fact, we’ve scoured the 127 FBS teams and haven’t found a worse coaching job after two games. The scary thing is that nobody will do a damn thing about it. That might not be Temple TUFF, but that’s tough for Temple players and fans who deserve better.

At least Taggart won his nightmare game last night. Temple fans have lived through a pair of nightmares and there’s a lot more tossing and turning ahead.

Tuesday: Fizzy Checks In With Buffalo Thoughts

Thursday: How Did We Go From AAC Champs To AAC Chumps in 2 years?

Saturday: Maryland Preview

Sunday: Game Analysis

Game Plan: No Wild Winging Against Buffalo

nitro

Hopefully, Nitro being named a game captain means he will be an every-down fullback which is just what the Temple offense needs right now.

Although both Villanova and Buffalo wear different shades of Blue and White, there is no doubt about one thing.

Buffalo is a better version of Villanova. Just because Buffalo is better than Nova, there is no reason for Temple to panic (3:30 p.m., Lincoln Financial Field, no over-the-air TV) against its former MAC rivals.

conditional

Fortunately, transitive property has been proven faulty on many occasions and matchups are more relevant than any other factor in college football.

In that area, Temple would seem to have the advantage.

The game will simply come down to this: Temple exploiting the one weakness Buffalo has demonstrated not only this year but over the past 13 games: Run defense. Against a very bad FCS team, Delaware State, the Bulls yielded 199 yards rushing. Villanova might be the Alabama of FCS football (although that is yet to be proven), but Delaware State is probably closer to the New Mexico State version of FCS football and the fact it could gain that many yards against a FBS team is alarming. Of the 127 FBS teams, Buffalo is ranked No. 95 against the run. Last year, the Bulls were even worse—ranked No. 96th (195.3 ypg) against the run in a 12-game season. This is probably not the game OC Dave Patenaude should have Frankie Nutile winging it all over the lot nor the kind of game he throws a couple of passes after getting first-and-goal at the 1 (like the Army game a year ago).

So if the Owls commit to the run behind a proven AAC championship tailback (Ryquell Armstead, 916 yards, 15 touchdowns in 2016)  following a fullback like they did in back-to-back 10-win seasons, they can accomplish two very important things:

  • Controlling the clock and the game, chewing up big chunks of yards and scoring touchdowns on the ground;
  • Keeping the ball away from the two NFL prospects on the Bulls, quarterback Tyree Jackson and wide receiver Anthony Johnson.

Jackson a very accurate 6-foot-7 passer and can see over a Temple pass rush that is already down one starting defensive end (Dana Levine, out 4-6 weeks with an injury). Levine’s subs got pushed around by the Villanova starting offensive line while the only heavy lifting at the defensive end position was being done by Quincy Roche at the other end. Too bad the Owls couldn’t recruit a guy who was named the No. 12-ranked DE in the United States when he got out of high school three years ago.

What’s that?


This will not be the easiest
game of the season, but
it will certainly be the
easiest game plan
of the remaining dozen or
so games left on the schedule.
In about 24 hours, we will
have a good idea if the highly
paid professionals running
the Temple program are able
to figure out what anyone
with a minimum football IQ can

 

They did?

Oh yeah, Karamo Dioubate is getting limited snaps in the interior of the line while walk-ons back up the other end. It would seem to be a simple move to slot Dioubate in his more comfortable position so as to help Roche create additional pressure.

A lot of things that appear logical to the casual observer about this Temple team were illogical the first week of the season.

Maybe naming fullback Rob Ritrovato one of the four game captains is a sign that the Owls are getting back to the Temple TUFF brand of running game Owl fans know and love. Maybe it’s just window dressing like calling Nick Sharga “the best fullback in the country” one year ago and limiting him only to five downs or less in the actual games.

This will not be the easiest game of the season, but it will certainly be the easiest game plan of the remaining dozen or so games left on the schedule. In about 24 hours, we will have a good idea if the highly paid professionals running the Temple program are able to figure out what anyone with a minimum football IQ can.

Sunday: Game Analysis

TU Offense and Geoff Collins: Sockless

 

Someone needs to show this film to Geoff Collins

The routine practice here is not to post about a game until a full day has passed so as not to let emotion get in the way of calm and rational thinking.

It usually works.

Not this time.

performance

It’s one thing to put up ugly numbers against USF; it’s quite another to fail against a team that lost to Rhode Island and Elon … that’s right, Elon… last season

No matter how many hours pass, nothing will change what we witnessed on Saturday, an Epic Coaching Fail that will rank with some of the worst days of The Unholy Trinity of Temple head coaches (Jerry Berndt, Ron Dickerson and Bobby Wallace). Don’t blame offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude or defensive Andrew Thacker, either.

This one falls squarely at the sockless feet of Geoff Collins, who is the CEO of this football operation and the buck clearly stops on his desk. He certainly either does not know how to utilize the talents of his best tailback or simply refuses to do so. Rob Ritrovato can pick up where Nick Sharga left off and lead the way for a successful running game, which will be the key to opening everything else up.

Collins hired Patenaude to run an offense ill-suited to the personnel recruited by Matt Rhule, the previous coach. Rhule said that the Owls did not experience the kind of success he envisioned until he went with his instincts, which were power I with a fullback to clear the way for a running back, bring the safeties and linebackers up to the line of scrimmage, and use play-action fakes to pass over their heads. In that kind of offense, Temple wide receivers were so open that quarterback P.J. Walker often had a hard time choosing which one would be on the receiving ends of his passes. In this offense, nobody fears the run and, as a consequence, nobody gets open in the passing lanes.

Clearly, Patenaude stubbornly wants to force this square peg into a round hole and it’s not working nor probably ever will.

This is what we said in our preview two weeks ago:

tome

Yesterday, guess how many opportunities Ryquell Armstead—a downhill back recruited to run behind a fullback—got to run the ball behind a fullback?

Zero.

As in none.

Instead, Armstead got limited chances in an empty backfield and that’s a recipe for disaster.

Someone—maybe Ed Foley, maybe Adam DiMichele—who understands the meaning of Temple TUFF and how it applies to offensive football, should take the film at the top of this post into Collins’ office this week.

Defensively, this is what we wrote about the Villanova game plan on Aug. 8, meaning roughly that the Owls had one full month (really, nine full months) to get ready for this:

“Villanova is going to throw to the tight end—a lot—and going to try to throw crossing underneath patterns to backs coming out of the backfield” _ TFF, Aug. 8

What did Villanova do?

Throw the ball to the tight end a lot and also gained the majority of its 405 yards total offense on crossing patterns to the running backs.

Then there is the matter of defensive ends or lack of them. That stuck out like a sore thumb when the “above the line” depth chart was released a few days ago. It’s not that the Owls lack defensive ends, it’s just that they have two really good ones—Dan Archibong and Karamo Dioubate—playing on the interior of the line where they are already set with tackles Michael Dogbe and Freddy Booth-Lloyd.

nitro

Nitro, Temple Nation Turns its lonely eyes to you (but as an every-down fullback, not as a tailback).

The Owls got pressure from only one end, Quincy Roche, when they could have both Roche and Dioubate meeting at the quarterback on a regular basis. So to get to the quarterback, they had to blitz, which resulted in a game-winning touchdown on 4th and 9.

When you don’t have to blitz, you can move your other defensive resources elsewhere and stop some of that crossing pattern bleeding. Plenty of questions, very few answers, on that backbreaking play. The first is what idiot  forced a lefty quarterback to run to his left–and most comfortable–side, when the rush could have been set up to flush him to his right make the more difficult throw across his body? Could that have been none other than The Minister of Mayhem?

If that all of those errors weren’t grievous enough, Collins proved that he was very bad at math.

With Temple up, 17-13, with 6:52 left and a 4th and 2, he went for a field goal that was missed. Forget the fact that it was missed. Remember that, up four, a field goal does you absolutely no good because a Villanova touchdown wins the game either way because it sends a deflated Temple into overtime in a game the Owls knew they frittered away. Conversely, a Temple touchdown there probably wins the game. A FG missed or made does zero good. Simple math. People in the stands were saying that before the kick. If Joe Blow knows it, a guy who is paid $2 million per year to make those decisions should know it, too.

Steve Addazio

“At least I beat Nova 42-7 and 41-10”

Collins needs to get better in a whole lot of areas but going back to Temple TUFF power football with a fullback and a tailback would be a good place to start. If Patenaude doesn’t like it, he can go back to Coastal Carolina. We hear they like that brand of football there.

Rhule did not have success here until he had that kind of an Epiphany. Collins won’t until he does the same.

Monday: Fizzy’s Corner

Wednesday: Ancillary Impact of the Villanova Loss

Friday: Buffalo Preview

Sunday: Game Analysis

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

atlphoto

Move Archibong or Dioubate to DE and you’ve solved this problem.

For a program that prides itself on “position flexibility” it boggles the mind that one position in particular sticks out like a sore thumb on the “above the line” so-called depth chart:

Defensive end.

footballseason

The weird thing is that it doesn’t have to be this way and there is a fix right under the coach’s noses. You’ve got to wonder if they are so close to the trees they can’t see the forest.

Or vice-versa.

What’s that, you say? “Mike, the coaches are around these guys all the time. They know what they are doing.”

Err, you mean the same guys who said at this time last year that Nick Sharga was “the best fullback in the country” and did not use Nick Sharga as a fullback? Those guys? The same guys who thought Logan Marchi was the best quarterback on the team for the first seven games when every fan who watched the Army game would tell you Frank Nutile was 10x better? Those guys? Yeah, I thought so. Not buying the excuse by the Collins’ apologists that Sharga was “hurt” because the same guy led the nation in special teams’ tackles in 2017. You don’t lead the nation in special teams’ tackles by being a cripple.

But back to this year’s sore thumb problem, though.

The Owls have only one proven defensive end—last  year’s sack leader, Quincy Roche—but an overabundance of flexible above the line talent in the interior of the defensive line.

All they have to do is move an All-American defensive end (that’s right, defensive end)  in high school, Karamo Dioubate, to one end and the problem is solved. Dan Archibong, another outstanding tackle, can also play end. Meanwhile, Michael Dogbe and Freddy Booth-Lloyd are two of the better interior tackles in the American Athletic Conference. There simply just aren’t enough snaps to get all of those guys the reps they need inside but there is plenty of opportunity outside the tackles.

If I was Dioubate or Archibong, I’d walk into Geoff Collins’ office today and tell him I think I can help the team better by rushing the passer and stringing out running plays from sideline to sideline.

Meanwhile, I can’t believe the defensive coaches don’t see that for themselves.

If there is a subplot to watch in tomorrow’s opener against Villanova (noon, Lincoln Financial Field), it is finding out whether the coaches are as flexible in their thinking as they hope the players are in their positioning.

Putting players in the best position to win is the definition of good coaching. In less than 24 hours, we will find out a lot about both.

Sunday: Game Analysis

Tuesday: What We’ve Learned After Week One

Thursday: Buffalo Preview

 

Playing Villanova: Coach Hardin Had The Right Idea

dogsofwar

Temple appears to have the talent to put a hurting on Villanova

On or about the time Temple was flirting with the Top 10 in the 1979 season, a reporter once asked Wayne Hardin why the Owls were still playing teams like Delaware and Villanova.

“I believe in playing Delaware and Villanova and beating the crap out of them,” Hardin said.

It wasn’t very politically correct and probably didn’t play well with large groups of local fans, but it was his mantra and it was Temple-centric.

Usually, he did.

clouds

Hopefully, the shower part will be after 3 p.m.

It helped having a Mensa IQ of 159 that translated to outsmarting just about every coach he ever played, but having the talent advantage helped even more.

Hardin won seven of his last nine games against legendary Delaware coach Tubby Raymond—father of the first Phillie Phanatic—and beat Villanova, 42-10, that year on the Main Line.

I thought about coach Hardin when reading a large sentiment on social media of current Temple fans’ opinions on this series.

“We have nothing to gain and everything to lose by playing Villanova.”

“It’s a no-win situation.”

“If you win, meh, but, if you lose, it’s a disaster.”

Around and around that goes and where it stops defeatism knows.


Last year’s 16-13 game
was a complete disgrace
and hopefully put as bad
a taste in the players’
and coaches’ mouths as
it did with the Temple fans

 

Coach Hardin was right. Temple SHOULD be playing Villanova and Temple SHOULD be beating the crap out of them. First, even though Villanova has contributed only about 2-3,000 fans to the last three games (all over 30,000), the game does get Temple fans motivated to put down the remote and potato chips and get to a game in person. Temple should never be “scared” to play Villanova in football.

If you are scared get a dog.

Fortunately, head coach Geoff Collins—who is a little more politically correct than Hardin was—has the dogs of war to beat the crap out of this team.

Do you think Villanova basketball goes around worried about playing Temple?

No. Villanova basketball is, for all intents and purposes, a Power 5 team now playing Temple, a mid-major basketball name.

They just go out and beat the crap out of them.

The roles are reversed in football with Temple being the FBS school and Villanova a FCS school.

It is high time Temple football fans got the same level of satisfaction out of this meeting the Villanova basketball fans routinely get. They got that during Hardin’s years and during the two Daz years (42-7 and 41-10). Last year’s 16-13 game was a complete disgrace and hopefully put as bad a taste in the players’ and coaches’ mouths as it did with the fans.

Now it’s just a matter of restoring the normal order of things.

Friday: Seeing The Forest Through The Trees

Sunday: Game Analysis