Mulligans and Aliens

americansked

Temple should have capitalized on having this to recruit a decent class this season.

A friend who is an amateur astronomer posted a photo of some far-off galaxy on Facebook and apologized for the quality of the photo due to atmospheric conditions.


A Virginia Tech model,
where you make a bowl
every year and reach
up and win a title
here and there, should
be a realistic
expectation for Temple
at the G5 level

My response was that someone from that galaxy probably posted a photo of the Milky Way with the same apology on, say, Cleon Facebook.

In other words, we’re not alone.

It’s a lesson Temple football fans would be wise to understand today, a couple of weeks after Signing Day. The prevalent feeling on the major Owl message board (Shawn Pastor’s OwlsDaily) is that we’re giving new head coach Geoff Collins a Mulligan on this class, but the next class better be good.

The lesson should have been don’t look back because the other beings in this football universe might be gaining on you.

That’s where the other guy comes in because new coach Charlie Strong did not need a Mulligan to haul in a significantly better class for USF and former Temple head coaches Al Golden, Steve Addazio and Matt Rhule did not need a Mulligan in their first transition classes. Despite working about a month, the classes that Golden, Addazio and Rhule brought in their first time were ranked significantly higher than Collins’ first class.

In between preparing for a medical procedure I should have done 10 years ago but had been putting off, I found a little bit of time to look at those classes.

The Charlie Strong class was easy to find. The other classes were much harder to quantify against this one. (You really only know four years from now but you can compare them against how they were ranked at the time.)  According to Scout.com, Strong’s USF transition class this season was ranked No. 95th with seven three stars. In roughly the same time frame to recruit, Collins had Temple was 127th with only three three-stars. In the same conference, both teams with a new head coach, a significant gap in results.

Strong did not have a championship trophy to carry around on a helicopter, either. It’s fair to compare the two classes. Because we have evidence to work with given roughly the same circumstances, Collins should have done better. You can talk all you want about how it is the “Temple Way” to recruit two stars and coach them up to four stars but if you get three stars, your mathematical chances of coaching them up to four- and five-stars improve. Temple should be OK next year, but the impact of this class won’t be felt until three or four years down the road and that is how a foundation is laid for sustainable success, not just one “up” season followed by a “down” season. At Temple, the goal should not be “up and down” seasons like so many other schools seem to have. A Virginia Tech model, where you make a bowl every year and reach up and win a title here and there, should be a realistic expectation for Temple at the G5 level.

An AAC trophy should have meant a better haul than the 2017 class Collins was able to bring to 10th and Diamond and long-term is where the impact will be felt. Without helicopters or AAC trophies, Temple coaches have done better with roughly a month to recruit.

transition

 

While it might have been tough to expect Collins to do a whole lot with this class, the evidence is there in black and white that he should have done better. In college football, getting to the top is tough but staying there is tougher so capitalizing on a championship season when you can with recruiting should have been prioritized.

There are a lot of football teams in this universe and, if you slip up one year, they could be passing you in two or three. There are no Mulligans when you are not alone.

Saturday: Fun With Graphics

The Curse of Russell Conwell

curse

Forget about the famous baseball curses cast on the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs, which were only recently overcome.

There is one curse that is still alive in sports and that is the Curse of Russell Conwell.

Somewhere up there, Conwell has cast a curse on the last three coaches to leave his beloved Temple University and its football program.

russell

Al Golden left for Miami and was greeted with sanctions that made it impossible to win there. Steve Addazio has taken his three-yards-and-a-cloud of dust offense to Boston College and went winless in the ACC two years ago. The jury is still out on Addazio, but it is leaning toward a unanimous conviction. Matt Rhule left Temple no more than two months ago and could hit with sanctions that would make the ones Golden received looked like a slap on the wrist.

Whatever happens going forward, you could win a lot of money in Vegas betting against any of the three having a long winning career as a college football head coach.

These are the facts that we know to this date and it is not a pretty picture. New Temple head coach Geoff Collins would be wise to stare at this portrait and get some deep meaning out of it.

All three of those coaches could have had a job at Temple for life—or at least a very long rope with to work with—but all three thought the grass was greener on the other side of the Chodoff Field fence.  In fact, there has been no grass on the other side of that fence, only dust. The only value in the move was monetary and money will not last forever.

Conwell, in some type of afterlife, must be working some serious Voodoo pins with Golden, Daz and Rhule bobble heads.

About the time Conwell founded Temple University, he was the best-known lecturer in the United States, playing to sellout crowds who wanted to hear his story of the man who traveled the world in search of riches only to find “Acres of Diamonds” in his own backyard.

Most of the Temple coaches who found substance in Conwell’s story went on to finish with better careers at Temple than they would have leaving on their own for far-off places. Harry Litwack went to a pair of Final Fours. Skip Wilson won over 1,000 baseball games without the benefit of warm-weather recruits. Under Wilson, the Owls went to a pair of College World Series. John Chaney made five Elite Eights. Wayne Hardin went 80-52-2 and made the College Football Hall of Fame. All made Temple their final stop on the coaching highway.

Those, by any standards, are success stories. Leave Temple or attempt to use this great institution as a stepping stone and the story will not have a happy ending. Compare and contrast those success stories to the ones facing the last three Temple football coaches who left on their own.

Maybe when Collins comes to that inevitable fork in the road, he will take a good look at the map and head down the road less (recently) traveled.  Russell Conwell may be watching from above.

Monday: Looking Ahead to Spring Ball

Wednesday: Press Conference Translations

The Wrong 6-6 ACC Team

This is the ceremony we stayed for despite being told to leave for the bus right after the game. Me and a fellow great Temple fan made alternate plans of Ubering it home if the bus left without us.

Obviously, the people who make the matchups on NCAA basketball Selection Sunday with an eye for storylines do not work on the NCAA football bowl side.

For years, the NCAA hoops people have been accused of pairing foes based on what would make a better story over legitimate seeding bracketing.

“I absolutely think that’s the case,” Temple head basketball coach Fran Dunphy said after the Owls were slotted down a couple of notches from what they should have been (2010 season) in order to play No. 12-seeded Cornell, coached by his old assistant, Steve Donahue.

That wasn’t the only instance on the basketball side, all you have to do is look at this year when Shaka Smart’s Texas team was paired against his old team, VCU, and Sean Miller’s Arizona team was placed in the same bracket as Dayton, coached by his younger brother.

Boy, they could have used that formula on the football side this year because they got the wrong 6-6 ACC team to face Temple in the Military Bowl in Wake Forest. They swung and missed on this one.

bowlgamephoto

It was a no-brainer to invite Boston College and old Temple coach Steve Addazio to the Military Bowl party. First of all, there is no love lost among the current Temple players for Addazio. Haason Reddick was not even allowed to take reps in practice under the Addazio regime. He will now be a first-round NFL draft pick or at worst a second-round selection.

The sight of that bald head on the other side of the Temple sideline probably would be enough to motivate even more Temple fans to go because there is also no love lost for a guy who was full of baloney the two years he was here. Addazio said Temple was his “dream job” and talked about how he wanted to stay in Philadelphia forever because he was an Italian guy who loved the South Philly macaroni. He never saw his third year and did the Owls a favor by leaving and taking his three-yards-and-a-cloud of dust offense with him. As soon as he got to the podium in Boston, he talked about BC being his dream job. A Delaware County Daily Times’ writer then came up with this clever line: “A football coach calling Boston College his dream job is a little like a chef calling  Boston Market his dream job.”

Instead of being sent to Annapolis on Dec. 27, Boston College was banished to Detroit to face Maryland the day earlier.

That’s too bad because the more compelling storyline is with a BC-Temple game and not a Temple-Wake Forest one. The ratings would have been off the charts because two large TV markets (Philadelphia and Boston) would be involved and not just Philadelphia and the small Raleigh-Durham market. Plus, there is a history between BC and Temple that dates even before the Big East. There is no history between Wake and Temple, other than one game played in 1930 that probably no one remembers. There also is a history between Wake and former ACC partner Maryland, so that’s a trade that benefits all four ball clubs.

It’s probably too late to send Wake Forest to Detroit to face Maryland, but it is a nice thought. While we’re at it, here is another one: Football should adopt the basketball version of the “eye test” because, if that were used, Temple’s wins over Navy and USF plus the championship of the sixth-best conference would have vaulted the Owls into the Cotton Bowl over a Western Michigan team that has no such credentials.

As far as Selection Sundays go, in at least a couple of important areas, football has a lot to learn from basketball.

Thursday: Elephant Hunting

Saturday: It Could Have Been Worse

Monday: The Clawson Cutoff

 

Going North To Go South

burn

If doing this a lot does not cause burnout, nothing does.

Sometime in the first year of Al Golden’s tenure at Temple University, I stopped at the SAC to purchase some Temple gear and, much to my surprise, I saw the coach jog by me in the general direction of leaving the green zone, near 12th and Montgomery.

It occurred to me then that if there was ever a time for a coach to “burn out” that was it. Golden had to deal with a 20-game losing streak, a nationally low APR, and had to weed out so many of Bobby Wallace’s mistakes that it was a wonder he would field a team.

dazio

This may have been the greatest day in Temple football history.

He didn’t, and somehow found as much strength to rebuild Temple that he showed courage in jogging toward 12th Street and who knows how far East. The 20-game losing streak would end the next week, and a bowl game came not all that much longer after that.

Now, we have learned from this story that Golden was “burned out” from the combination of coaching at Temple and dealing with unrealistic expectations at Miami. If Golden went 33-25 at Temple, like he did at Miami, there would be a statue of him in front of the E-0. Instead, for being a winning coach, he got fired. Now he is the tight ends’ coach with the Detroit Lions.

Golden went North to go South, which means that he will end up at a better place as a head coach and should be able to recharge his batteries. It’s ironic that both Golden and Steve Addazio saw fit to leave Temple and ran into tougher times elsewhere. Temple caught a huge break when Daz left on his own, because Temple does not fire coaches. Sometimes, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence. Acres of Diamonds means something here.

No one knows when or if Matt Rhule will get burned out at Temple, but he does have the advantage of not having to deal with those same APR troubles as Golden did. He seems to like Philadelphia, and has enough perspective to know that coaching his kid’s baseball team will somehow keep those batteries on constant recharge for Temple.

Knowing what happened to the two coaches who left before him might keep him grounded for awhile. At least it has got to be part of any thought process, as Golden used to say, going forward.

5 Things to Get Excited/Worry About Tomorrow

Watching Temple head coach Matt Rhule address the media one final time before tomorrow’s 3:30 p.m. showdown with Penn State, people in the media had to be struck by one thing he said about being worried the “moment would be too big” for “the kids.” He said he did not think so but just by bringing it up, the thought must have entered his mind. Nowhere in that statement did Rhule express a concern that the moment might be too big for his coaching staff.

The butterflies will be there one way or another tomorrow (3:30) at Lincoln Financial Field and we are both excited and worried about these five things.

sat

  1. Offensive Coaching

Excited About:  Recognition. Both head coach Matt Rhule and OC Marcus Satterfield seemed to say the right things about the fiasco that was the 2014 Temple offense. Rhule said that he would go back to Temple’s offensive brand, which had been running the ball with a high skill level tailback behind a lead-blocking fullback.

Worried About: Backtracking: Nothing that happened the first two years has indicated Satterfield is comfortable calling that kind of offense. It’s not what he ran while winning all of those FCS National Championships at Tennessee-Chattanooga. (Oh wait. He didn’t win any.) Now they are talking about dropping the fullback concept and going back to being “more multiple.” More multiple was the reason they were 126th and last in FBS third-down efficiency.

  1. Defense

ike

Excited About: Experience. All 11 starters from the nation’s fourth-best scoring defense return and all 11 guys are flat-out ballers who do not back away from anyone.

Worried About: Lack of Praise. We’re not talking about endorsements from the media here, but a guy in No. 50, Praise Martin-Oguike,  who provided the the Owls with a pair dynamite playmakers at DE with Nate D. Smith. Praise might be out and Nate is tough as they come, but will PSU attack the soft underbelly of the Owls’ defense with sweeps to the other side? James Franklin does not get paid $4.4 million a year to overlook those types of things. Also worried about them not rushing Christian Hackenberg, but I do not think they are stupid enough to take that same passive approach two years in a row.

gardner

  1. Running Game

Excited About: Jager Gardner and Ryquell Armstead. Those are two guys who give the Owls what they have not had since Bernard Pierce: A guy with the speed to take it to the house by merely turning the corner. Home run hitters is what they are.

Worried About: Caution. Jahad Thomas, the starter, does not seem to be a home run hitter but a guy who earned the job by having the fewest summer fumbles. Yet we’ve seen both Thomas (Houston game) and Zaire Williams (SMU) caught from behind and a premier Temple running back (Mike Busch, Tommy Sloan, Bobby Harris, Anthony Anderson, Zack Dixon, Kevin Duckett, Paul Palmer, Stacey Mack, Tanardo Sharps, Elmarko Jackson, Bernard Pierce, Matty Brown, and Montel Harris) simply does not get caught from behind. That is not what we do here at Temple. When we break into the open field, we turn it into six. Williams is now a LB. If Thomas breaks free, he must take it to the house to keep his job.

chat

  1. Tight Ends

Excited About: Colin Thompson. When was the last time Temple had a four-star recruit from the SEC (Florida) transfer here? Answer: Never. The guy has a four-star skill set: speed, size, blocking ability, great hands.

Worried About: Witness Protection. Evidently, no one told Rhule he was on the roster last year by the few times he was targeted. Why not use him the same way both Al Golden and Steve Addazio used Evan Rodriguez? Short little 5-yard waggle rollout passes to keep the rush off P.J. Walker, ala Chester Stewart at Maryland. Then toss an occasional jump pass in the back of the end zone, ala Stewart to Steve Manieri at the fake Miami a few years back. Both films are in the can at  the E-O. Rhule might be wise to dust them off one last time tonight.

hands

Even something this innocuous is an automatic 15-yard taunting penalty now.

  1. Robby Anderson

Excited About: Everything. This is a big time player who makes big-time plays against big-time teams. If, say, UCF was not a moment too big for him two years ago, Penn State will not be now. He’s got a 44-inch vertical leap, sub-4.5 speed, great hands and great moves in the open field.

Worried About: Rule changes. We’re not talking about Matt Rhule changes, but Anderson might not be aware of all the hand gestures that he made two years  ago after big catches—even innocent ones—are now automatic 15-yard penalties. He must be schooled to catch the ball, get to the end zone and simply give the ball back to Mr. Official without any histrionics. You would think Matt Rhule would have talked to him about this already, but one team in the TU-PSU game got a critical 15-yard penalty for a throat slash last year.

It was not Penn State.

Takeaways from Matt Rhule Press Conference

While winning has been, is and will always remain the No. 1 focus of any football program, we often forget the contributions of individuals to the program as a whole and that’s why Matt Rhule’s discussion of Ed Foley was the highlight of his most recent press conference.

There were just a handful of people who held Temple football together during some difficult times—Rhule himself being one in the transition to Steve Addazio—and Foley and Chuck Heater also played a big-time role in holding the program together just before the handoff to Rhule.

You need guys like that and that’s why recognizing Foley with the game ball on Saturday, two days after his father passed away, was a nice gesture. Also interesting was the fact that the entire Boston College football staff, led by Addazio, went to the funeral. Best wishes to coach Foley.

Other highlights from the press conference:

Those four fingers mean something at Temple. Often you see teams holding up the No. 4 at the start of the fourth quarter. Usually, it’s a meaningless gesture because everyone does it. Not at Temple because  it’s backed up by some pretty solid play in the fourth quarter this season. Must be a product of the conditioning program.

P.J. Not Happy. Even though he has a 64 percent completion rate and double the touchdowns to interceptions, P.J. Walker is unhappy with his QB play so far. That demonstrates the kind of standard P.J. wants to set at the position. We all know what P.J. can do. We have enough body of work. Still think he’s going to exceed his 20 TD passes of last year.

Derrick Thomas Could be the Breakout WR. According to Rhule, Thomas is close to making some explosive plays in the passing game. If he does, we can finally say, “Robbie Who?” Let’s hope he does. Here’s a preview of what is coming soon to a field near you (don’t worry about the stats, Bishop Maginn rarely passes the ball):

Sam Benjamin Punt Block Specialist. Looks like Benjamin has a knack to block punts, both in practice and in games. Temple hasn’t had one of those guys in a long, long time (a LB named Bruce Gordon also had that knack but that might have been 25 years ago). Now if we can only convince 7-foot basketball player Devonte Watson (he of the 97-inch wingspan and 41-inch vertical leap) to be the FG-block specialist, no one would ever be able to get a kick off against Temple.

Not Getting Over Navy. “And won’t for a long, long time,” Rhule said. That’s what I like to hear, a coach who stews over a loss as much (or more) than I do and I stew over every loss. Hopefully, coach Rhule talks to coach Wayne Hardin soon because he told both my and my friend, Fizzy Weinraub, an interesting and foolproof method to stop Navy’s triple option on Saturday.

Five Bowl Games TU Fans Should Watch

Hooter and Stella will be kicking back on the couch watching these five games and wishing the football Owls get their shot to do the same in a year.

Hooter and Stella will be kicking back on the couch watching these five games and wishing the football Owls get their shot to go to a bowl game in a year.

If there is one thing the bowl season best illustrates, it’s the schism between the haves and the have-nots in college football.

For the second year in a row, fan of the Temple Owls are on the outside of the bowl window with their noses pressed against it longing for the not-so-distant days when they were part of the haves. The program had a nice little run that saw the team bowl eligible for three-straight years, including the first bowl win in over 30 years, but the Owls have missed badly over the last two years. There had been some hope that first-year head coach Matt Rhule would improve the team from a four-win season in 2012 to a six-win season in 2013, but things imploded badly with embarrassing losses to Fordham and Idaho.

There is some good news, though, in that quarterback P.J. Walker was named to the freshman All-American team and that the team returns most of the players who gave AAC champion Central Florida  one of its toughest league tests for the season. In linebacker Tyler Matakevich, the team has a junior-to-be linebacker who led the country in tackles and will no doubt be on the Dick Butkus Award Watch List as the top player at his position next year.

Plus, Rhule is in the final stages of securing what many consider the best recruiting class in school history. Whether the returning players and the recruits put the Owls over the top remains to be seen and so are five bowl games that should hold a particular appeal for their fans. Of course, Steve Addazio turned a 2-10 team into a 7-5 team  and you-know-who turned a 4-7 team into a 2-10 team. For those interested, Daz’s game vs. Arizona is 12:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. Does Daz go 2-10 with this Temple team? Hell no. His relentless commitment to the run would have avoiding the uni the embarrassment of Fordham and Idaho.  I still think Rhule is a better long-term option for the program than Daz, particularly if he finds the gonads to fire Phil Snow in the next few weeks. I don’t think he has the gonads, though.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

5. Bowling Green vs. Pittsburgh

In the Little Caesar Pizza Bowl in Detroit on Thursday night, these are two old conference rivals of Temple’s and Owl fans can see what the Falcons have done with less talent and better coaching. According to one national recruiting website, Scout.com, Bowling Green’s 2010 recruiting class was ranked No. 85 in the country, while Temple’s was ranked No. 75 in the same year. Also, Temple had the No. 55-ranked recruiting class in 2012, well ahead of BGSU’s No. 82-ranked class the same year. The only year the Falcons out -recruited Temple was 2011, when their class ranked No. 84 to TU’s No. 95. Pitt was an old Big East foe of Temple.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

4. Northern Illinois vs. Utah State

In the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego also on Thursday night, the Owls get to see what another former conference foe has done with “lesser” rated talent as Temple out recruited NIU in two of the three years from 2010 through 2012. The only time a Temple class was rated behind NIU was in 2011, when the Huskies pulled a No. 90 nationally to Temple’s No. 95. The Huskies have a program-changer in Jordan Lynch, while the Owls feel they also have a program-changer in freshman All-American quarterback P.J. Walker.

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

3. Marshall vs. Maryland

In the Military Bowl Friday, Owl fans get to see former defensive coordinator Chuck Heater lead the rejuvenated defense against a Maryland team that was on Temple’s schedule in both 2011 and 2012. Heater had the 2011 Owls ranked No. 3 in the nation in scoring defense and the Owls had consecutive shutouts that season. He now has Marshall ranked No. 33 in the nation in scoring defense. His replacement at Temple, Phil Snow, has the Owls ranked No. 82 in the country in scoring defense. The last time Heater faced a Randy Edsall coached-team on Maryland soil, he held the Terrapins to seven points in a 38-7 win.

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

2. Louisville vs. Miami (Fla.)

On Saturday in the Russell Athletic Bowl, The Cardinals of the AAC get to go against a couple of familiar faces in Miami head coach Al Golden and defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio. Both held the same positions at Temple as recently as 2010. No doubt Owl fans will be rooting for Golden, who brought respect to the Temple program. D’Onofrio was a runner up for the Temple job that went to Rhule a year ago.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

1. Vanderbilt vs. Houston

On Jan. 4 in the Compass Bowl, a game holding the most interest for Temple fans is next year’s opening opponent, the Commodores, who will be playing Owl conference foe Houston. Temple dropped a 22-13 game to the Cougars earlier this year and this game will provide a barometer for how far the Owls must improve to compete against an upper-tier SEC team. Vandy head coach James Franklin is from the Philadelphia area, having played quarterback for suburban powerhouse Neshaminy High School in 1989.