A little bonding between a fan base and a team is always a good thing.
On Wednesday night, at the beautiful Aramark Center—the indoor home of the Temple football Owls—there was a lot of it.
Out of the blue (well, mostly black uniforms), Temple linebacker Chapelle Russell reached out and approached me and shook my hand.
Now I have never met Russell before nor him me, nor do I even know if he knows who I am, but I appreciated the gesture. He honed in on me like I hope he does the Villanova quarterback on 9/1, reached out his hand and shook mine and said this:
“Hey, thanks for coming.”
“You guys are going to be really good,” I told him. “Enjoy the season. It’s going to be special.”
“We all know it,” Chapelle said.
“I can’t believe we have some Temple fans say this is a seven-win team,” I said. “This is a nine-win team at worst.”
To me, it all depends
on whether Temple does
what it did in 2015 and
2016—get back to its Temple
TUFF offensive philosophy
of an elite running back
following an extra offensive
lineman (fullback) through
the hole to establish the
run and then explosive
downfield plays in the
play-action-faking passing game
“Yeah, we’re going for more than that,” he said. “Everything is looking really good. I mean, really, really good on both sides of the ball.”
Then we shook hands again and parted. I will never forget his amiability to a total stranger.
That was just a small part of what went on that night, with Temple fans and Temple players mingling and mind-melding. The good vibes were all around.
“You guys are the best fans in the country,” Temple quarterback Frank Nutile said in that deep New York accent. “You’re going to see a lot of great plays with a lot of great players on offense.”
On defense, tackle Michael Dogbe said: “We’re ready to go up against any offense in the country.”
Nutile might have been right on both counts. Temple fans make up more in quality than they make up in quantity and the last decade or so has rewarded them for sitting through a 20-game losing streak and 20 years of unmatched futility. On his other point, he has an AAC championship tailback to hand the ball off to (Ryquell Armstead) and plenty of athletic touchdown-makers to throw to, including Ventell Bryant (who caught a TD pass in the title game) and “touchdown waiting to happen” Isaiah Wright.
Dogbe and safety Delvon Randall have a chance … chance … of being first-round NFL draft choices. This is at least the equal of the two 10-win Temple teams in 2015 and 2016 seasons and the talent level just might be better.
To me, it all depends on whether Temple does what it did in 2015 and 2016—get back to its Temple TUFF offensive philosophy of an elite running back following an extra offensive lineman (fullback) through the hole to establish the run and then explosive downfield plays in the play-action-faking passing game. That’s the kind of offense that has a defensive coordinator’s head spinning, not an ill-advised spread that features an empty backfield that invites both blitzes and sacks. Matt Rhule said 2014 was a wasted season because he allowed his OC then to talk him into the spread.
These kids, and these fans, deserve head coach Geoff Collins to put his foot down and get the most out of this talent and not allow the current OC to make the same mistakes the one in 2014 made or that the current guy did for the first half of 2017.
Meanwhile, at least on this night, the fans, coaches and players were all on the same page. It was a beautiful thing to see.
For me, at least, I can’t wait to see Ryquell Armstead and Jager Gardner putting hands on the back of Rob Ritrovato and finding big holes to run through. Then, watching the bad guys’ safeties and linebackers inching closer to the line of scrimmage to stop that run and Owl quarterbacks deftly faking to the tailbacks and finding receivers running so open through the secondary they won’t know which one to throw to. … at least that’s the plan.
That’s Temple TUFF.
We haven’t seen it since 2016.
If we see it in a couple of weeks, nine wins might not even be the ceiling.