How Good Is Vegas?

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On face value, today’s 3-point Temple line as a favorite over visiting Cincinnati does not make much sense.

The Bearcats are 6-0 and ranked No. 20 in the latest AP poll and the Owls are 4-3 with some head-scratching losses.

The above paragraph is what we know. The first paragraph of this post is what Vegas knows.

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Really, it’s hard to beat Vegas.

Trust me, I know.

Take last week’s games for instance, specifically the Temple game. It opened with Temple a 4.5-point favorite over a Navy team that had won 18 of its last 20 games at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.

It did not matter to Vegas, which set the lines as it always does–not predicting a winner or loser per se but predicting which way the bets will come in and that’s why Vegas is so good. Temple was favored because Vegas had an inkling that the bets would come in Temple’s way and that’s exactly what happened. The point spread opened at 4.5 on Monday, went up to 5.5 on Wednesday and settled on 7 points just before the game started.

Temple won 24-17, a push.

That meant neither the people who bet on Temple nor the folks who bet on Navy won. That meant the house won and that’s really the goal of Vegas all along.

That doesn’t mean Temple will win 13-10 or 23-20 today, but that’s where the smart money is going. Vegas looks at a number of factors including the fact that Temple is 4-1 since a new starting quarterback took over and probably should be 5-0. It also looks at the fact that Cincy’s opponents are 13-25 and Temple’s are 24-23. Temple got a nice win at Navy, something Memphis–a team many consider better than Cincy–could not accomplish this season.

Is Vegas always right?

Err, no, but it’s amazing how much it is right. Last week, for instance, BC was a 14-point favorite over Louisville (it won by 18), Northern Illinois was a 4-point favored over Ohio (it won by 3), Virginia Tech was a five-point favorite at North Carolina (it won by three), Florida a seven-point favorite over Vandy (it won by 10).

And, of course, Temple nailed the line against Navy.

The games are played on the field but, every week, Vegas gives you that much reason to respect the amount of research it puts into each matchup. Of course, Vegas probably doesn’t put a lot of stock into the strange offensive proclivities of Dave Patenaude or its computers probably would blow a circuit or two.

Whatever, we can only hope they are right and Temple clicks on all cylinders today.

Tomorrow: Game Analysis

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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.

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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.

homecomingattendance

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.

Uncanny.

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.

elizabeth

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?

Cross: Klecko Was the Best I’ve Ever Played Against

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Randy Cross back in the day

Five takeaways from the Navy game:

In between former All-Pro Randy Cross pulling out the hairs on his head questioning both Temple football offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude’s personnel packages and play calls, he dropped this gem when a photo of Joe Klecko playing for Temple was displayed during CBS Sports Network’s broadcast of Temple at Navy on Oct. 13.

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“In my 12 years in Pro Football, Joe Klecko was the single best player I’ve ever played against, any position,” Cross said. “In my mind, he should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and it’s kind of a travesty that’s he’s not. I mean, how many players in the NFL have made the pro bowl at three different positions (tackle, end, nose guard)? I would venture to say none.”

Cross’ Temple Connection

In the interest of full disclosure, Cross said: “I have a Temple connection. My niece went there and she’s a proud graduate.” Not because of that or because of the Klecko comment, but Cross–perhaps more than any other color commentator in recent years–did his homework on the Owls and a great job on the game itself.

Not very many UCLA graduates have a Temple connection and, in December, Cross will have two when Paul Palmer is inducted into the college football Hall of Fame. Cross was inducted into the same Hall of Fame in 2011.

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Freddy Booth-Lloyd’s Recovery

Seeing nose tackle Freddy Booth-Lloyd (err, Freddy Love) writhing on the ground in pain, it looked to me like he was done for the season. He was reaching down and holding his knee and it did not appear to be a cramp but something like a tear so to see him come back into the game and play like, well, Joe or Dan Klecko in completely bottling up the Navy dive play was a miracle. Maybe one of those Blue Angel jets gave him a quick ride to Lourdes but it was perhaps the most amazing recovery I’ve ever seen a Temple player make during a single game. He should make for a great Temperor should he not make the NFL.

russo

Anthony Russo Should Be 5-0

Through no fault of his own, Anthony Russo chalked up the L against Boston College. That’s a little like Harvey Haddix pitching a 12-inning perfect game in 1959 and losing, but that’s what he did. Russo was not perfect against BC, but one of his interceptions was delivered right between the numbers of a Temple player, who saw it bounce off his chest and then reached up and grabbed it with both hands only to see it bounce off those hands into the arms of a BC defender. Owls were driving for a sure score there with a 21-13 lead and 5:08 left in the half and that turned the game around. Toss in a perfectly thrown bomb that was dropped (by the same Temple receiver) and a horrendous coaching call on a third-and-two play and his teammate and offensive coordinator did him no favors. Here’s how impressive that would have been: No QB in the history of Temple has ever started 5-0 and that includes Maxwell Trophy-winner Steve Joachim and bowl-winning quarterback Chris Coyer, both 4-1 and 4-0, respectively. For a guy who really hasn’t played any meaningful downs in two years, that’s remarkable.

Navy Controversy

After watching the game, I went out to the local supermarket and was able to pick up the Navy post-game show on WBAL (1080 AM), Baltimore. All they did for a good 45 minutes after the game was talk about a “bad call” that “affected the outcome.” I’m thinking, “What bad call?” Evidently, they felt a block in the back a Navy player had on Freddy Love was erroneous but the replay of the game clearly showed the Navy player used both hands to push down on FBL’s back. None of the announcers had any problem with it and it just goes to show you two sets of fans can look at the same thing and come to different conclusions. That’s a call that had to be made, though.

Thursday: A Special Homecoming

Saturday: How Good is Vegas?

Sunday: Game Analysis

 

 

 

 

Fizzy’s Corner: Could’ve, Would’ve, Should’ve

weinraub

Editor’s Note: Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub (pictured), a former Temple player and later a coach, educator, and writer, provides his expert perspective in this space every week.

By Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub

Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen of Temple University rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Armstead, Wright, Gardner, and Russo. They formed the crest of the Broad Street cyclone before which another fighting  Navy football team was swept over the precipice as spectators peered down on the bewildering panorama spread on the green plain below.

fizz

Wait, there’s something wrong.  The master horseman wasn’t there.  Armstead was on the sideline watching the drama unfold as he was too injured to play.  Why?  Well because Coach Collins allowed him to continue to play in a blowout the week before, even after an injury in the fourth quarter.  To make matters worse, the coach refuses to address either the injury or his mistake. Yesterday when asked, he shrugged and said, “We’ll keep getting better.”

It’s the measure of a man who admits his mistakes and apologizes.  Coach Collins needs to come out front.

Now, on to the game with Navy.  For those who think I’m beating a dead horse, let’s look at the first two offensive series yesterday.  Do you think we really wouldn’t have scored with a first and goal on the half-yard line if Ryquell was playing?  Do you think we’d have fumbled the ball right back again on the second series if the master horseman was riding?  That’s a possible fourteen points and could have put the game away, right away.  As we get ready to play three top 25 teams, we need our best running back to be healthy.

To borrow a word from Grantland Rice above, there were some bewildering offensive play calls as usual.  Play fakes on third and long, two up-the-guts after a first down incompletion (borrowed from Andy Reid), a punt on fourth and one from on the Navy side of the field, throwing from an empty backfield on second and short, and the fade that was intercepted in the end-zone with two minutes to play.

On the other hand, the draw play for a touchdown was a terrific call, and we continue to see Russo roll out and run a few keepers.  I’d really like to see him run some RPO’s.

It’s very tough to evaluate the defense when it’s playing against the triple option, as there are many theories out there.  Wayne Hardin once told me his theory was to over-shift the defensive line to the strong side. Some coaches will assign one linebacker to tackle the fullback, one to hit the QB, and one for the pitch.  As Navy doesn’t throw well, man-to-man pass coverage should suffice.  I’m thankful we got ahead just in time to force them to do that.

A win is a win.  However, in Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda Land, we are now 6 – 1.

Tomorrow: 5 Takeaways From the Game

Thursday: A Special Homecoming

Saturday: How good is Vegas?

Sunday: Game Analysis

You Get What You Need

There’s no way Mick Jager could have been inspired to write “You can’t always get what you want” unless he would have stepped into the H.G. Wells’ Time Machine and watched Temple’s football game at Navy yesterday before going back to 1969.

If you are a Temple fan, you can’t always get what you want, but, at least yesterday, thanks mostly to the kids who tried all the time, they got what they needed.

A win.

That’s the bottom line but it’s not really all that mattered.

If this team is ever going to achieve the potential it both wants and needs, it is going to need fundamentally better coaching. We haven’t seen very much evidence of that in this 4-3 season. Seven and Oh talent, a 4-3 season because in part of what of the kind of head-scratching play-calling and personnel packages we witnessed on the first and penultimate drives of the game.

raynor

What I–and I suspect a great majority–of Temple fans wanted after the Owls got a first-and-goal at the 1 on the first drive of the game was to put a fullback in the game and pound Jager Gardner behind him for the easy six. Somehow, though, offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude got his 147th brain cramp of the year and put two defensive players–Freddy Booth-Lloyd and Dan Archibong–in the game and that pushed the ball back another five yards due to an illegal procedure penalty on the second play of that series. The first play was an unnecessary quarterback sneak. The First and goal from the 1 is no time for a sneak or exotic personnel packages. Asking defensive players to rush into the game and hear a snap count they are unfamiliar with is a recipe for disaster.

Disaster went down like sewer water yesterday.

It is high time to put Nitro in at fullback (his natural position) and giving the ball to Jager Gardner for the easy six. If Gardner doesn’t get it on first down, he almost assuredly does on second or third. Don’t try to be a rocket scientist when you know basic geometry–the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

Memo to Patenaude: This SHOULD be Temple football on every first and goal. Do you think Matt Rhule ever cared what defense Cincy was in here?

But …. nooooooo … these guys are so stubborn they don’t want to use a traditional fullback behind a pretty good tailback.

Twilight Zone was revisited on the penultimate drive of the game, with 1:48 left and the Owls getting a first down at the 9. All the Owls had to do was put a fullback in the game and run Gardner behind him for three downs, using the clock, perhaps scoring. Instead, this genius from Coastal Carolina decides to throw a ball into the end zone, committing two unpardonable sins–stopping the clock and turning the ball over.

Less than two minutes left with a first down inside the 10 is not the time to get greedy.

Or stupid.

Speaking of stupid, the very smart announcing team–led by former All-Pro Randy Cross–was aghast (aghast, I tell you) about the Owls approach to running down the play clock which could be described in two words: Ignoring it. On just about every play, the Owls were snapping with 11-13 seconds left on the play clock, when they could have run that down to 2 or 3 seconds before snapping. Cross estimated that the Owls wasted “about a minute and 42 seconds” by snapping the ball early.

“What’s the rush?” Cross said.

Randy, meet Dave Patenaude, who seldom makes any sense.

The Owls got what they needed yesterday. To win a title that these kids deserve, they better start getting both what they need and what they want and that is an offensive coordinator who understands even the most basic elements of Football 101.

Monday: Fizzy’s Corner

Tuesday: What We’ve Learned

Thursday: A Special Homecoming

Saturday: How Good is Vegas?

Sunday: Game Analysis

How Good is Temple? More Clues Today

todayuni

Today’s uni … maybe they are saving the Cherry helmets for Homecoming…Photo: Zamani Feelings

A very wise sage named Bill Parcells once famously said: “You are what your record is.”

Another wise sage named Lee Corso is just as famous for his catchphrase: “Not so fast, my friend.”

As far as how good this 2018 Temple football team is, we found out a little last night and will find out a lot more today. Certainly, the Parcells’ quote does not apply to this squad because it is 3-1 since a new quarterback took over for the one who went 0-2. This is a Lee Corso-type squad.

Not so fast, my friend. As presently constituted, this is no doubt a better team than what their record is (3-3, 2-0).

Exactly how much better is a question we should have a handle on by nightfall.

combos

We got a little glimpse last night when USF struggled to beat a Tulsa team Temple hammered (31-17). Even though USF is unbeaten and ranked No. 23, it also struggled against an ECU team Temple dismantled, 49-6. One comparative score could be misleading. Two is a trend. Should both Temple and USF play their best, got to like Temple’s chances in that game a few weeks down the road.

First, though, Navy is up (3:30 p.m. in Annapolis, CBS Sports Network).

No predictions on that game here because Navy is always good at home, where it beat a very good Memphis squad, 22-21, earlier this year. Temple fans are in a show-me mode today. Show me you are good by beating Navy.

Still, one other game today will give Owl fans a pretty good grip on where their team stands in the overall league picture because Houston travels to ECU as a 16-point favorite. I think that line is way too high and I would not be surprised if ECU pulls this out. In an upset, I’m picking the Pirates, 27-25. That would mean Temple is very, very good.

Here are the other five in this week’s six-pack:

Toledo 21, at Eastern Michigan 14 _ Toledo is just a much-better program and will cover the two-point spread.

Georgia Tech 35, Duke 31 _ Georgia Tech, not Army or Navy, has the No. 1 rushing offense in the country and, although I like both head coaches, I like GT’s Paul Johnson (former Navy coach) more. Georgia Tech covers the three-point spread.

Notre Dame 42, Pitt 14 _ Central Florida beat Pitt, 45-14, and Penn State beat them, 51-6. If the host Irish have designs on a four-team playoff, they need similar style points. Pretty hard to convince the committee to pick them over UCF and PSU with, say, a 29-22 win. So ND easily covers the 21-point spread.

Central Florida 29, at Memphis 20 _ Memphis has shown some chinks in the armor. UCF has not. Knights easily cover the 4.5-point spread.

Texas 54, Baylor 25 _ Sorry, Matt Rhule, Texas has found another gear since losing to Maryland and should cover the 14-point spread. Rhule is getting the Bears better with a 26-7 win over a Kansas team that destroyed Rutgers and another win over Kansas State, but the Longhorns are a different animal than a Jayhawk or a Wildcat.

Last week straight up: 4-2

Last week ATS: 2-4

Overall straight up: 11-6

Overall ATS: 8-10

Today’s TV Schedule:

tvlistings

Temple-Navy: Creating Separation

separation

That guy closest to the Temple fans was Colin Thompson, all alone on this throwback pass from P.J. Walker against USF.

If there was anything Temple could take from the first six games of the season is not to take anything for granted.

As the Villanova debacle gets farther back in the rear-view mirror, the more devastating that train wreck looks (and it looked pretty bad when it happened). Dave Patenaude, who probably should have been fired the next morning as Temple offensive coordinator for putting up only nine offensive points against that squad, is still around so anything can happen. Patenaude has to know offensive coordinators with far lesser talent than Temple (Towson and Stony Brook) put up 45 and 29 points, respectively, against what head coach Geoff Collins then called a “clever defensive scheme.”

thompson

This is what I call separation, the end result of the photo at the top of this post.

It’s only clever if you can’t figure it out.

Since then, like last year, Temple made a quarterback change and, like last year, Temple is a completely different team since.

Really, the Owls should be 4-0 since Anthony Russo took over for Frank Nutile but aren’t because two of their eight-deep receiver rotation had the dropsies against Boston College. One of the drops robbed Russo of a beautifully thrown 80-yard touchdown bomb; the other bounced off the chest and then the hands of an Owl and into the hands of an Eagle. The Owls were almost certainly headed for a touchdown on both drives and that was the ballgame.

On Saturday, Temple’s game at Navy (3:30 p.m., CBS Sports) should be all about creating separation–not only in the league race against a respective foe from another division but the kind of separation that gets Temple receivers out of that traffic in the middle of the field and into making game-changing plays.

annapolis

Definitely a Cherry sweatshirt day

There are four things that can happen when the ball is in the air and three of them are bad–a drop, an incompletion, and an interception–but there are methods that can optimize the chances for good and minimize the chances for ill. Creating separation–which the Owls really haven’t done for Russo so far–is a must going forward. Too many of Russo’s throws are designed to throw into coverage and an Owl receiver has to make a spectacular catch to wrestle the ball away from a defender.

That’s playing with fire and Patenaude must find ways to put that fire out.

There are at least five (of many) good ways to do that:

First, establish the run. With an elite tailback like Ryquell Armstead (assuming he’s healthy), the Owls should control clock and yardage with gouging runs against a Navy defense that has been close to porous.

Second, help the tailback accomplish that goal. For reasons known only to Patenaude, he has eschewed the lead fullback block that would make things soooooo much easier for Armstead. However, he did show the blocking H-back look using the tight ends as lead blockers against Maryland, so maybe he only uses it for games played in that state. We can only hope.

directions

Best way to go is 301 through a small part of Delaware and a larger part of Maryland

Third, play-action. With the run established, deftly fake the ball into the belly of Armstead (or Jager Gardner), bring the linebackers and safeties up to the line of scrimmage in run support, and make the easy pass over their heads into Owl receivers running so free through the secondary that Russo won’t know which one to pick out.

Fourth, the pump fake. We’re talking about the type of play that Kenny Yeboah ran free for a touchdown against the Terps here. Russo pump fakes a quick out to Ventell Bryant, who sells the play with a 37-inch vertical leap, and both the safety and the corner go for him leaving the tight end (safety responsibility) running free down the sideline for an easy six. The fact that we’ve seen only one of these plays this season is a real head-scratcher.

Fifth, the throwback pass (see above): P.J. Walker had a throwback pass to tight end Colin Thompson that created a whole lot of separation in a touchdown against South Florida. Walker rolled right and looked in the right corner of the end zone before finding Thompson (far left in the top photo and all alone in the middle photo) for a score.

Easy peasy stuff. If Patenaude can’t figure it out for himself, maybe he should place a call to the offensive brain trusts at Towson and Stony Brook. They can draw it up and send him a fax within seconds.

Saturday: Predictions

Sunday: Game Analysis