Monday, September 14, 2009

Penn State Week: A puncher's chance

By Mike Gibson
Playing Penn State, for this Temple fan, has been a little like playing the lottery.
I know I'm not going to win, but I plunk down my money anyway.
Little risk, great reward.
You can't win if you don't play.
Yet you pretty much know in your gut you're not going to win.
For most of the past 20 years, Temple didn't even have a puncher's chance.
Now the Owls have a puncher's chance.
Problem is, we're Tex Cobb and they are Muhammad Ali.
Cobb is a big-time Temple football fan and a frequent visitor to Temple tailgates over the last 15 years or so.
I chalked his Temple fandom up to 20 years of getting hit upside the head until I found out reading Dan Gross' column that Cobb recently graduated from Temple as a 50-something.
No truth to the rumor that Tex enrolled when he was 18.
One of the highlights of an otherwise uneventful life for me was having his beautiful wife come up to me at one of the tailgates and plant a big wet one on my lips. I looked over at Tex and was about to shrug my shoulders, but he smiled so I knew I was OK.
I say the Owls have a puncher's chance because if there's one thing Al Golden has done well over the last four years is bring up the talent level.
Not to Penn State's level, but certainly past the Syracuse and Akron's levels and I think the Nittany Lions will find that out Saturday.
Plus, as Joe Paterno has noted, Temple has no more fat guys so he's improved the team's conditioning.
As a point of reference, Akron fell to Temple, 27-6, in the final game of last season. The Zips fell to Penn State, 31-7, in the first game of this season. Last year, Akron beat Syracuse, 42-28.
Vaughn Charlton, for all of his faults, did throw for 318 yards and two touchdowns against perhaps the top FCS team in the nation and I think he's an upgrade over Greg Paulus, who did not pick up a football in four years.
Plus, Charlton already had his day against PSU two years ago, playing in front of 70,000 at Lincoln Financial Field. In that game, he threw one touchdown pass that was called back due to a phantom hold and had another touchdown pass dropped by a freshman tight end. I don't think he will be overwhelmed by the experience this time. He's capable of putting points on the board.
Vaughn is a smart guy, so I think he will avoid throwing the type of pass (timing patterns, mostly) that caused him to throw three interceptions against Villanova.
We can only hope those pages have been ripped from the playbook.
Defensively, Mark D'Onofrio's body of work outweighs some passive play-calling against Villanova. D'Onofrio doesn't look like a passive defensive guy to me and he got away from his DNA against Villanova.
Here's hoping he brings it against Penn State.
Think the A-gap blitz Trent Cole of the Eagles pulled off against the Carolina Panthers yesterday. I'd love to see Adrian Robinson line up in A-gap blitzes against Penn State. Move Robinson around. He's your best pass rusher.
Also, the Owls have four playmakers at linebacker. I'd like to see Amara Kamara spy Darryl Clark and turn the others loose on run and pass blitzes.
If the Owls play an aggressive scheme, both offensively and defensively, they have a puncher's chance to shock the world Saturday.
If they come out vanilla on both sides of the ball, it's just another ripped up ticket to State College.