Monday, November 30, 2009
Is Temple headed to the Eagle Bank Bowl through Toronto?
It's not a straight shot down I-95, but the long way could be the only way for Temple to get what to many of its fans is the more preferable bowl venue.
Right now, it looks as if the only way Temple gets a slot in the Eagle Bank Bowl in Washington, D.C. is if the Owls take Army's slot.
That leaves them holding the bag without a bowl if Army pulls off the improbable upset of Navy on Dec. 12 _ one week after bowl bids are officially extended.
After 30 years of going without a bowl bid, Temple is just not willing to take that chance so that's why many are speculating that the Owls will be going to Canada to take the MAC's spot in the International Bowl.
There is a roundabout way of getting to D.C., though.
Something tells me it makes a whole lot of sense for Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw to be working on a three-way deal with either Northern Illinois or Bowling Green, getting one of those seven-win teams to accept the risk for a nine-win team.
Bradshaw is getting on a conference call with Mid-American honchos today at 3:30 p.m.
The subject on the table is bowl scenarios.
Bradshaw (to either Northern Illinois or Bowling Green): "Work with us, here."
"One of you go to Toronto if Navy wins (lead-pipe cinch) and we go to D.C. However, if Navy loses, one of you is out and we'll go to Toronto. Who wants in on this with us?"
It's a win/win for everbody because Navy isn't losing, folks.
Temple gets an attractive foe, possibly East Carolina in a best-case scenario, and brings a large fan base to D.C.
Northern Illinois or Bowling Green gets the shorter trip to Canada and assumes only a slight risk.
When the bids are announced, they'll be announced on an either/or basis.
If Bradshaw pulls this off, he's a genius.
Let the dialing begin.
LOS ANGELES TIMES TOP 25
Saturday, November 28, 2009
It seems there aren't a whole lot of people out there who can deal with any success Temple football has.
A few weeks after Temple beat then fellow Big East conference member Rutgers for the fourth-straight season, the Owls were asked to leave the Big East for being "non-competitive."
Conveniently, Rutgers being non-competitive with the non-competitive team wasn't an issue then.
Now, after the first season in which Temple won nine straight games in its history, the Owls are being asked to leave the country.
This time, unlike the last, it's a good thing, not a bad one.
Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw appeared late Saturday afternoon on the Bob Rovner radio program on a Philadelphia station for a two-hour guest stint (WWDB-AM) and much of the talk centered on Temple football.
In it, he hinted strongly that Temple will be asked to leave the country only because it will be extended an offer to the International Bowl in Canada shortly.
Bill Cosby talks Temple football with John Kincade on ESPN radio (97.5 in Philly) Sunday morning, Nov. 29th at exactly 9:25.
One of the three possible opponents Bradshaw mentioned was Rutgers.
(The other two were South Florida and West Virginia.)
"You might think WIP and 950 are the sports radio stations in town, but we talk more Temple sports here on my show than anywhere else," said Rovner, a former state senator and Temple grad.
Although the show is ostensibly a political one, Rovner wasn't kidding. Co-host Frank Rizzo Jr. was away, so Rovner got to play sports talk show host for a day.
The show talked Temple sports, mostly football, for two hours.
Bob Bernardo, a former Owl linebacker who played for the last Temple team to win nine in a row, was a call-in guest.
The meat of the show centered on bowl scenarios.
Bradshaw also hinted (strongly) that the university might be forced to turn down an Eagle Bank Bowl Invitation for that International Bowl berth.
He speculated that Central Michigan would go to the GMAC in Mobile and Ohio to the Little Caesars Bowl in Detroit, leaving Toronto and a Big East foe on the table for the Owls.
There was another option, he said.
He noted the Eagle Bank Bowl was tricky because it would be the last invitation extended and it would be contingent upon Navy beating Army.
But that Army-Navy game is set for Dec. 12, a week after all the bowls are offered.
Should Army pull off the unlikely upset, the team accepting that contingency bid would be left outside of the bowl picture.
That's why Temple is likely to accept a bowl invitation, probably Toronto, when the initial offers are extended on Dec. 6.
"We might have that kind of choice," he said. "I should know more around 3:30 on Monday afternoon after we have a conference call with the MAC."
The Eagle Bank Bowl would be tempting in that considerably more Owl fans would be able to make the trip.
Despite forecasts to the contrary in 1979, Temple traveled very well to its last bowl game, drawing over 55,000 its 28-17 win over California in the second Garden State Bowl.
Temple could travel very well to D.C., not nearly as well to Toronto.
The allure of Toronto, though, could be playing a team from a conference that kicked the Owls out.
The interview between Rovner and Bradshaw will be rebroadcast on WWDB in one week.
By then, though, the Owls and their fans will probably be applying for passports.
Friday, November 27, 2009
After Temple's 35-17 loss to Ohio in what was the MAC East Championship game, I've reached one inescapable conclusion:
Al Golden is going nowhere.
Or make that Owl Golden.
Let's get this out of the way first: Owl Golden did a fantastic job as head coach at Temple in 2009, the best job since Bruce Arians went 6-5 against the No. 10-ranked schedule in the country back in 1986.
Let's have a little perspective, though. Arians did it against the 10th-best schedule. Golden did it against the 112th best schedule (out of 119).
Golden's work was much more impressive than Jerry Berndt's seven-win season in 1990, but slightly short of Arians' two six-win seasons against a couple of suicide schedules.
From a pure football coaching standpoint, to me, six wins against the 10th-best schedule in the country is a little more impressive than nine wins against a No. 112 schedule.
No doubt, though, Golden has proven he is the best man for the job.
He's had a lot more to do than being a full-time football coach. He's had to be a full-time babysitter, a full-time disciplinarian and a full-time public relations' man. That's just for starters. He's done much more than his job description for the university and the institution can't thank him or compensate him enough.
From academics to community involvement to character issues, he righted a ship that was listing badly and about to go down.
It's a Herculean effort even Arians could not have mustered.
But there is much more to be done and my hunch is that Golden will stay to do it.
He sweat a lot of blood and tears building this program and now that it's built and all he has to do is coach, does he want to wear all those hats and sweat all that blood again for four more years?
I think not.
Golden won't leave for another reclamation project and, other than Cincinnati or Notre Dame, every single offer he gets will involve years of building again.
Nothing Owl Golden has said has convinced me he'll be around for the 2010 season.
It's what he's done.
Or not done in this case.
All season long, I've gotten multiple reports from reliable sources both inside and outside the program that Chris Coyer was ... by far ... the best quarterback on team.
He was making the most plays in practice every day.
He was turning the most heads.
Yet he wasn't on the field.
Think about it.
I've said for 12 months between the end of last season and now, the only thing that separated Temple from a contender and a champion was the lack of a playmaking quarterback.
I urged the Owls to go get one, even going as far as pleading for Al to sign a big-time JUCO quarterback in the mold of Adam DiMichele.
That the Owls have won nine games without a playmaking quarterback is a tribute to Owl Golden and Matt Rhule.
They got this far on two "game managers" in Vaughn Charlton and Chester Stewart.
Neither one of them can be describe as a playmaker, someone who can win the game on his own, ala Adam DiMichele vs. Eastern Michigan last season.
If Owl Golden cared about himself more than he cared about the program, he would have burned the Chris Coyer redshirt at about the time Chester Stewart succeeded Vaughn Charlton as the Owls' starting quarterback.
What would he have cared if Temple only had three Coyer years left?
He sent a very loud message that he cared very much by protecting the redshirt.
We've all seen the chasm between Stewart and Charlton since.
It is large and it is stark.
That's about the difference between Coyer and Stewart.
You don't need me to tell you about it.
Coyer will win the starting quarterback's job in a three-way battle in spring ball.
Remember, if it happens, you read it here first.
In between now and then, Temple will make it to a bowl game.
It's a lock not because of what I write here but because of the NCAA rule that states you cannot take an eight-win team ahead of a nine-win team for an at-large bowl berth.
That's why the Owls will report to practice on Monday knowing they have another game left to play. They will complement perhaps the best running back in the nation next year, Bernard Pierce, with a playmaking quarterback in Chris Coyer.
With a solid defense in place back, that's an impossible formula to beat.
That's why Owl Golden will report to work the offseason on North Broad Street, knowing that the Owls will be better equipped to shock the world next year, not this one.
Then he can have his choice of moves, should he chose to go anywhere.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Owl Golden explains why he sang Zombie Nation in video above.
For the MAC East
Time: 11 a.m.
Place: Athens, Ohio
Radio: WHAT 1340
There are three ways to watch the Temple at Ohio game for the MAC East title.
One, the most preferable from my point of view, is to be there in Athens, Ohio, giving support the Temple team playing perhaps the most important game in school history.
That might prove problematic for a great majority of Owl fans who have neither the cash nor the time to get there and back. For example, the cheapest fare we could find was $577 roundtrip. You have to have some pretty steep pockets for that kind of coin.
I don't count myself among that group, unfortunately, and that leaves options Nos. 2 and 3.
So I have to settle for a different Black Friday Game Plan.
(All I'll say about the real game plan is this: Rush the quarterback relentlessly (blitz, you can count on John Haley in a big spot) on defense to force turnovers and use the run to set up the play-action pass on offense, spreading the big plays around evenly to Delano Green, Evan Rodriguez, Joey Jones, Matt Brown, Michael Campbell, James Nixon and Jason Harper. Do that and Frank Solich's head will be spinning like Linda Blair's in the Exorcist. It's that simple, but I trust Al Golden, Matt Rhule and Mark D'Onofrio have already figured that out.)
So that's the game plan for the team in a TFF nutshell. I'll expand on the game plan for us fans below.
Chester Stewart has more weapons than the NYPD's swat team.
Photo by Ryan Porter
The "real" game plan:
All I'll say about the real game plan is this: Rush the quarterback relentlessly (blitz, if necessary) on defense to force turnovers and use the run to set up the play-action pass on offense, spreading the big plays around evenly to Delano Green, Evan Rodriguez, Joey Jones, Matt Brown, Michael Campbell, James Nixon and Jason Harper. Do that and Frank Solich's head will be spinning like Linda Blair's in the Exorcist. It's that simple, but I trust Al Golden, Matt Rhule and Mark D'Onofrio have already figured that out
I thought about watching from home, but pacing the floor and screaming at the television alone is not my idea of having fun.
So I'm leaning toward the third and final option:
Finding a place to hopefully celebrate the Owls' first football championship of any kind in my lifetime with my fellow Owl fans.
Ideally, the best place would be on campus but that's shut down tighter than a drum when the kids are on break.
Fortunately, there are plenty of Temple-friendly establishments around where you can find Temple people at 11 a.m. on a Friday morning.
Forget shopping on Black Friday.
I'm spending a large chunk of it Owl-watching.
I'm leaning toward one these establishments:
FOX AND HOUND, Center City _ Plenty of TVs, cheap beer, good food and a real good shot at getting the professionals who work around that intersection to leave work early and catch a long lunch hour. A large room for plenty of fans.
KELLIANN'S, 16th and Spring Garden _ Without question, the best quality 56-inch HDTV I've ever seen and the bartender, Scott, is a good guy who will put the sound up for you if you ask nicely. There's a Temple helmet in the corner of the room. Only drawback is that it's the world's smallest men's room. (I haven't been in the women's room, but I don't think that's much larger.)
APPLEBEE'S (Roxborough) _ It opens at 11 a.m., so it opens just in time for kickoff. The bartender, Maureen (Mo), has a son who goes to Temple, so she's very Temple-friendly and good at her job as well. Get the Oriental Chicken Salad. I highly recommend it.
WINNER'S CIRCLE (Exton) _ A hangout for Temple fans in that area of Southeastern Pennsylvania, it comes highly recommended. I haven't been in there, but I've heard lots of Temple fans go there.
CALLOWAY's (Huntingdon Valley) _ Also superb TVs, good bargain on the beer and the best Caesar Chicken Salad you'll ever have. A lot of good sports fans who know their stuff in that bar.
Those are my picks.
I'd like to hear some of yours in the comment section below.
I'll follow the biggest Owl crowd.
Monday, November 23, 2009
A crowd of 21,046 watches Kee-Ayre Griffin (above) and James Nixon (below).
Photos by Ryan Porter
If you haven't seen it, I direct your attention to Mike Jensen's fabulous piece in Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer on Temple's wonderful long-time football fans.
I've said this for years and not just because he's a colleague of mine and a good guy, Mike Jensen is the best college writer in this town and he has been for years.
He's really really a terrific wordsmith, a craftsman whose effort is to be admired the way you'd look at a beautiful painting.
Bill Bradshaw's answer to my questionAfter reading "Temple of Boom" _ a terrific headline, by the way, played off a quote in the story about the bemoaning of 'Temple of Doom' headlines _ I looked at Jensen's Mona Lisa and saw a scratch mark.
Mike.....although in the Franklin field and Vet days, Temple(I'm told)
use to eyeball the crowd and throw out a number, we've come a long way
in announcing accurate #'s for attendance.
As you know, there is the
actual # at the game, sold tickets, people in suites that
sportswriters don't see, people who stay at a tailgate(with a paid
ticket), comp tickets, and hundreds of fans, at any one time in the
hallways,concession stands and lavatories.
For a sportswriter who
comes to one game, and says the crowd is slightly less than what was
announced, I would question his "eyeball count", since we have the
real data that supports our #, and he does not, nor did he ask us for
And for him to suggest that, because Temple always embellished
attendance, as a rationale for his conclusion, is quite frustrating to
all of us. Its when you always announce the same crowd, with eyeball
evidence to the contrary, that someone should be suspicious of your #.
As you know, we've announced much less in attendance for other games
this year, but we did not think anyone would question yesterday's #,
at least those who had attended other games
I felt as though I had eaten a terrific Applebee's Oriental Chicken Salad and gotten indigestion afterward after staring at the scratch mark in the Mona Lisa.
This line bothered me:
The announced attendance of 21,046 seemed slightly high - maybe old habits die hard.
Geez, I thought, when will this shit ever stop?
First of all, Temple hasn't "made up" attendance figures since the old Al Shrier days at Temple Stadium.
A writer would eyeball the crowd, and turn to look at Shrier, who was always standing with his briefcase in hand, behind the back of the press box.
"How many would you say are here, Al?" the guy would ask.
"Ten thousand," Shrier would say.
Then that figure would appear next at the bottom of the box score.
The MAC: Week 12
Central Michigan 35 @ Ball State 3 -- Att: 5,736
Buffalo 42 @ Miami 17 -- Att: 7,983
Bowling Green 36 @ Akron 20 -- Att: 9,163
Toledo 47 @ Eastern Michigan 21 -- Att: 9,967
NIU 31 @ Ohio 38 -- Att: 14,756
Kent State 13 @ Temple 47 -- Att: 21,046
Source: Supertaco, scout.com (thanks, ST)
It hasn't been that way since the day of the scanner and they've had them since the stadium was opened in 2003.
My ticket is scanned, your ticket is scanned and that goes into a computer.
The figure generated by the computer, not the Temple AD or SID, is used at the bottom of the boxscore.
Nobody's hacking into the computer.
There's no conspiracy theory.
Bill Bradshaw isn't running up to the press box and making his guy change the numbers.
It's just not happening.
I asked Bradshaw how this figure was generated yesterday and his response is posted here.
I ran into a few folks in the parking lot postgame and I mentioned I thought the crowd was "about 25,000." One guy said 27,000. Another guy said 26,000. Another guy said 23,000. My friend, Mark, said he didn't know what the crowd was but it "wasn't (as high as) 25,000."
Nobody said as low as 21,046 and none of them were named Al Shrier.
To me, after 30 years of losing, eight straight games isn't going to full the house.
That's just not realistic to expect.
But Saturday was a HUGE step in the right direction and I was very impressed with our fans and it only bodes well for future attendance.
It takes time to lose a fan base and it will take time to rebuild one.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
The sheer joy on fans' faces is evident after AR's INT.
Photo by Ryan Porter
A wall of Cherry and White watches Matt Brown run.
Plenty of credit to be passed around at Lincoln Financial Field yesterday.
First off, I can't say enough about the fans.
At least 21,000 showed up. I thought the actual figure was closer to 25K.
They were loud, proud and wore cherry (and some white).
It takes awhile to lose a fan base, like 30 years, so it's going to take awhile to build one but Lot K was full two hours before the game and there was a long line at the ticket windows when I walked into the stadium a few minutes prior to kickoff.
"YO, ADRIAN" _ Happy Birthday to Adrian Robinson. On his 20th birthday, AR got the play of his life, rushing the quarterback, getting a near sack, then doing one better by tipping the ball and picking off a pass. Then he showed some good old running back skills in moving the field position by about 30 on the plus side.
"NO FAIR CATCHES, DELANO" _ That's what I always yell from the stands at Delano on every enemy punt. I do that for a reason. He's a one-man terrific offensive play. He proved me right yesterday. Twice.
HALFTIME ADJUSTMENTS _ Al Golden said that's the most overrated notion in football. Yet I've got to like the fact that Temple was unscored upon in the second half the last two weeks in the second half and finished the last two games 49-0 and 38-0. So I like the halftime adjustments Mark D'Onofrio makes. Notice what happens when you rush the passer.
ESPN HELMET STICKER _ Believe it or not, they gave one to Travis Shelton, even though he's been gone from the program for awhile. That guy running the ball wearing No. 22 only looked like Travis. Gotta wonder if ESPN.com has copy editors.
GREAT JOB BY THE BAND _ I usually spend the halftimes in the hallways behind the concessions. I had to stay in my seat yesterday because people have been telling me how great the band has been all season. Geez, they were right. Great job and I loved the "Don't Stop Believing" Theme.
ALL THE MARBLES _ Temple is facing a one-game, winner-take-all, shot for a trip to Detroit and a chance to carry the MAC Trophy around the field on what would be one delicious victory lap. That's what this game at Ohio, 11 a.m. Friday, is for. A lot of guys never get this opportunity. Let's hope the Owls make the most out of theirs.
Last week's Los Angeles Times' Top 25:
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
A good way to send the team off would be for a crowd like this.
The sun is setting on the Owls' home season on Saturday afternoon.
By the time it goes down, if the team plays like (focused) crazed men and takes care of business against Kent State, the Owls could be celebrating a MAC East championship on the field.
A home season which kicked off in the sunset of a late-summer night against Villanova (see photo above) will end pretty close to sunset on a late November Saturday afternoon.
A terrific, fitting (and really only) way to send these exceptional young men off would be for a crowd approaching the opening-game crowd of 27,000 fans.
Don't ask for stadiums and the like if you can't get yourself and 29,999 other fans into this one.
In many ways, this is a referendum on Temple football.
If you want a perennial winner, a top 25 program that you can be proud of and the nation will respect, you will vote for it on Saturday.
But you won't be using your right arm to pull the lever.
You'll be using your two feet, making your way to the stadium for the 1 p.m. start.
Like we said, though, in an earlier post, hoping for it to happen won't make it happen.
If you live in California or Colorado or Florida, you are excused.
If you are one of the 150,000 alumni and 33,000 full-time students living in this area, you are not.
We can't count on disaffected Eagles' fans to fill our stadium.
We must do it with Temple people proudly wearing Cherry sweatshirts and game jerseys and screaming their heads off when the Owls are on defense.
"This may be the most significant home football game Temple has hosted in 30 seasons. I cannot say this more clearly: GET TO THE GAME! Bring your families, friends, Temple classmates, and all the people who said to you, 'When Temple starts winning, I’ll be there.' Now is the time: we’d love to see a 30,000+ crowd to push the Owls to victory."
_ Bill Bradshaw, AD, Temple
Be proactive the next few days in getting the crowd out:
- If you have Facebook or MySpace pages, prominently mention the game as The Event of the weekend on it;
- Search for any EVENT page on similar social networking websites and sign up pledging that you will attend;
- Call radio stations talking up the leading freshman runner in the country and the program in general. (Hint: Don't tell the producer you are calling about Temple football. Tell them you are calling about the Eagles then ease the call into talking about Temple. "I'm so upset with the Eagles, I can't watch them anymore," you say. "I have more fun going to the Temple games. At least they win."
- Sign onto Eagles' blogs and message boards with a similar take. When someone says "no one gives a bleep about Temple football" you come back wtih "it's a lot more exciting than watching McNabb choke" or a similar comeback.
- Keep telling them where you will be at 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, Lincoln Financial Field.
- Mention how fun the tailgates are in school and at your place of work.
- Tell people "you've got to see this Bernard Pierce" and "this is your last chance" and "he's electric when he touches the ball."
- Put a sign out on your lawn. "Temple vs. Kent State, 1 p.m., Lincoln Financial Field, for the MAC title."
All true and just ideas for starters. We'd welcome yours in the comment box below. Forty-eight hours to honor these terrific seniors and this team that has made us so proud.
It might be sunset for the home season, but the sun is just beginning to rise on Temple football with hopefully the best part of the season just ahead.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
By Mike Gibson
It's my week to host the MAC Bloggers' Roundtable and this week is interesting in that we have a pick 'em game on Saturday, Northern Illinois at Ohio, that could determine whether Temple clinches the MAC East on Saturday or not.
The questions to my fellow bloggers are as follows:
1) Do you like the MAC's current bowl setup in which the bowls get to pick, rather than a 1 goes to A, 2 to B, etc? Would you change that, if you could?
2) Recognizing that probably no one will probably be fired this year, who do you think will be the NEXT coach in the MAC to get a pink slip?
3) What do you think can be done, if anything, to get the MAC more bowl tie-ins?
4) Who do you like in the MAC's only pick-'em game of this week, NIU at Ohio, and why?
I will post the answers of my fellow MAC bloggers as I get them below:
Monday, November 16, 2009
Loyal Temple fans need to bring at least one other fan to the game.
Weather, SEPTA, Phillies ... no excuses on Saturday. Be there.
A quick search of Ticketmaster's data base revealed some very good news yesterday.
At least 10 rows of end zone tickets were sold in a matter of hours on Monday morning alone.
That's more tickets on one day that any other day this fall and it came on what usually is the slowest day of the week.
Who knows what moved that many tickets in one day?
Let's hope the trend continues to go upward the rest of the week.
Maybe it's the winning, maybe it's the head coach's tireless efforts promoting the program.
Probably a little bit of both.
I've always been a strong proponent that word-of-mouth is the best advertising.
It's been that way since the caveman found out that rubbing two sticks together could start a fire.
So Al Golden's radio appearance combined that word-of-mouth advertising with mass media.
Longest winning streaks
Boise State 10
Georgia Tech 8
He didn't have to and could have easily begged out.
The show, hosted by Temple grad Harry Mayes, has upwards of 200,000 listeners every Sunday so Golden spreading the Temple gospel had to have an impact.
We should all follow the Temple head coach's lead. Not all of us can get on the radio, but every single one of us can use word-of-mouth advertising.
If every one of Temple's core base could bring just one other fan, we'd have a crowd approaching 30,000 on Saturday.
If every Temple fan who has been attending all year can bring two or more other fans, all the better. If the students spread the word around campus and on Facebook and Twitter and MySpace, that will help immeasurably.
The pre-game tailgates have been great and the games have been even better.
It's a fun event that won't be duplicated in this town until next year's Mayor's Cup.
All indications are that a large crowd will be seeing off Temple's remarkable senior class for Saturday's 1 p.m. kickoff against Kent State at Lincoln Financial Field.
But it won't be the happening it should unless YOU do YOUR part.
Don't wait for someone else to do it or hope somebody else does it.
Temple has a football team that has won eight straight games for the first time since 1973.
It has a team that needs to beat Kent State in order to move a step closer to clinching a championship.
It has gotten positive mentions in Sports Illustrated and ESPN in recent weeks.
All of that coverage would pale in comparison to what might happen if Lincoln Financial Field was sold out Saturday.
I know and you know it's not going to happen, but bear with me for a second.
Temple has 260,000 alumni, 5,000 full-time employees and 33,000 full-time students.
Do the math. That's 298,000 people still living who are being directly represented by the young men wearing Cherry and White.
Subtract 70,000 from that figure.
In a perfect world, 228,000 fans would be turned away at windows on Saturday, trying to get tickets.
I realize it's not a perfect world, but we can all do a lot in the next few days to get as many of those seats filled with Temple fans on Saturday.
We can and we should.
Let's make Lincoln Financial Field a solid wall of Cherry on Saturday.
Friday, November 13, 2009
The 2008 edition of the Princeton Review ranked Temple as the most diverse undergraduate student population in the nation.
There is much to like about that.
Last night, in a 56-17 win at Akron the Owls proved that there is even more to like about diversity in an offense.
In what was Matt Rhule's finest hour as an offensive coordinator, the Owls found every conceivable way to diversify their offense.
They scored on a reverse (twice, one was called back on a penalty), they scored on a long bomb, they scored on an intermediate pass, they scored on running plays.
They established their quarterback, Chester Stewart, as a dual threat.
They even scored on special teams, a terrific punt return by the steady (and now spectacular) Delano Green.
For almost all of the seven wins prior to this one, Bernard Pierce has been carrying the Owls on his broad shoulders.
While it had been fun to watch, you kind of knew that his back would break somewhere along the way if things didn't change.
That would have been an OK plan if the Owls had no other weapons but you and I and Al Golden and Rhule all know that Edberg-Olson Hall if filled with extremely talented players who can do great things with the ball.
_ Senior guard Zack Anderson
I've been saying all year that Temple's No. 1 priority on offense should be feature the talents of Pierce, sure, but to also play off the fear of him by throwing the ball to their edge weapons downfield.
They did that on a long touchdown pass from Stewart to Michael Campbell. They did it on long reverse by Jason Harper and 4.3-40 sprinter James Nixon.
Now the Owls have planted a needed seed in the minds of their future foes: Load up and try to take away Pierce at your own peril.
It was a great night for Temple and proof that this team is getting better as crunch time approaches. The defense was great (49-0 over the last three quarters), but it's been that way all season.
The No. 1 concern was a lack of diversity on offense and it appears that the Owls have now found a pretty good formula going forward.
Last night, they showed that diversity can be a beautiful thing.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Owls must find a way to get weapons like Evan Rodriguez, Joe Jones, Jason Harper and James Nixon active and involved.
Special credit for Evan Rodriguez photo to Tom Schoenewald
Temple at Akron
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m.
Radio: WPHT, 1210AM
A very wise man (an old Owl, actually) once told me that a good offensive coordinator is like a magician.
"He'll be able to show you three shells and tell you where the ball is at and then lift it up, only to reveal the ball under another shell," the Owl, err, man, said.
Over the last few weeks or so, Temple's offense has been like that shell game.
Only over that time, the Owls showed their shells and the crowd watching guessed where the ball was pretty much all the time.
Not much magic there.
The No. 30 shell, otherwise known as Bernard Pierce, had the ball.
We knew it.
They knew it.
They could do nothing about it.
Miami (Ohio), though, was really the first team to figure out how to combat this offense.
Trailing, 31-13, the No. 1 way the RedHawks were able to get back into the game was sending 11 men to the No. 30 shell. That led to a lot of three-and-outs and a lot of opportunities for the RedHawks to get back into the game. They did, and even led, 32-21, with two minutes to go.
Temple won by countering with a pass on first down. They they ran it. Then they kicked a field goal.
Seventh-straight win, 34-32.
The Owls travel to Akron (Friday night, 8:30 p.m., ESPNU) and the Zips will be able to read Miami's blueprint to beat Temple by then.
Sell out for the run and dare Temple to pass.
That's why it might bode Temple head coach Al Golden and Matt Rhule to come with a new Golden/Rhule, ala a Chinese Proverb:
If enemy figures your plan out, go with another plan.
In this case, though, the plan is not all that hard to devise.
Temple has a new quarterback, Chester Stewart, who was a winner while playing at DeMatha in Hyattsville, Md. In his senior year there, Stewart threw for 17 touchdowns and showed the kind of rollout ability to hit moving targets on the run that caused defensive coordinators headaches. He was a major reason why DeMatha went 10-0 and won the D.C. City Title his senior year.
If the Owls want to continue this impressive winning streak, they are going to have to incorporate Stewart, with Pierce, as a major part of this new plan.
Stewart can hit talented tight end Evan Rodriguez, who opened some eyes up in spring ball with his ability to catch and break tackles, in the soft spot of the zones 15, 20 and 30 yards downfield.
He can rear back after play-action fakes to Pierce and hit 4.3-40 sprinter James Nixon on a fly pattern deep down the center of the field.
He can throw 15-yard sideline slants to Joey Jones and Michael Campbell and Jason Harper and have those guys used their exceptional speed and talent to juke defenders and make extra RAC (run-after-catch) yards.
He can and he must, but it must be part of a show formulated by Rhule and approved by Golden.
You and I know what kind of talent those guys bring to this show, but the rest of the league doesn't. Their talent has been kept under wraps.
That's the beauty of this plan.
It might not mean 40 carries for Pierce (like two of the last three games), but it will be 25 or so more effective carries for The Franchise and a number of needed touches for the incredible edge weapons this team has.
The most impressive trick in this magic show is making a blueprint to beat Temple disappear.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Something called a real job and sleep (too little of it) got in the way.
Back to game day.
If the three hours of Temple football aren't the fastest in all of sports, then the three hours of pre-game tailgating rate a close second.
In between, I almost tripped over a wire in a tent where a couple of great young alumni fans had a portable heater (it was really appreciated, by the way) but I showed the kind of balance that made me the Bernard Pierce (well, more like Shelley Poole) of my 125-pound Far Northeast traveling team back in the day.
(If I only had their speed ...)
And a good time was had by all ....
I saw a lot to like, less to dislike and, for the first time this season, I saw a head coach who showed me some cajones by making a move that had to be made.
All that said, I just want to say this:
How about 'dem OWLboys!
How about 'dat OWL Golden?
Some thumbs ups, some thumbs downs:
MARK D'ONOFRIO _ The last three years, I've become convinced that Mark D'Onofrio is the one of the best defensive coordinators in all of college football. If he isn't the best, he's the best no one knows about. No bigger MDO fan than me, but I think this bend-but-don't-break approach is absolute garbage. It killed us against Villanova. It almost got us killed against Fake Miami. I've been saying this all year and it bears repeating. Get to the g-damn quarterback. If you can't get there with four, send five. If you can't get there with five, send six. If you can't get there with six, send seven. If you can't get there with seven, send eight. Chances are almost 100 percent that you will get to the QB if you send eight. In the 2 percent event that you don't, I have confidence that Marquise Liverpool, Jacquain Jarrett and Dominique Harris are talented enough, athletic enough and fast enough to keep the damage in front of them.
AL GOLDEN _ Just an incredible ballsy move to pull the quarterback. You might ask what's so incredible about pulling the starting QB after a 5 for 17, 37 yards, 2 picks, 0 TDs? I say it is incredible. How many QBs have been pulled after winning six straight games? It says that a 5 for 17 and 2 picks is an unacceptable performance level and it sends a message to the rest of the team that everybody's performance is under review and that you must play to a high standard to keep your job.
LFF SECURITY _ Specifically, CSC Security, which holds a contract from LFF. A can of beer, smuggled in some some kids, "rolled" (or was placed, I prefer to think rolled) under the seat of an older lady sitting on the Temple side. She comes to the games every year. She never does nothing but cheer, but CSC security guards approached her, saw the can of beer under her seat, and asked her to leave. She refused to leave so they forcibly removed her to the protests of all around her. CSC guards would take no input from the crowd, they just acted as judge, jury and executioner. Big men, CSC. Kicking out an old lady. Temple should hunt that lady down and give her two free season tickets for next season.
MATT RHULE _ Nobody wants to give the ball to The Franchise more than I do, but 40 times a game? C'mon, Matt. What if he gets hurt? What's Plan B? Let's play off some effective BP runs by rolling out Chester and hitting talented guys like James Nixon, Evan Rodriguez, Steve Manieri, Joey Jones, Michael Campbell in that soft spot of both sidelines 15-20 yards down the field. Guess what? You make those throws and you might open up more stuff underneath for The Franchise. I bet you'll see him go 70 that much more when defenses don't know which shell the ball is under.
VAUGHN CHARLTON _ Yeah, you read that right, Vaughn Charlton. He's the captain of the team and the ultimate team player. What a superb job he did selling the fake FG and scoring the touchdown. Temple doesn't win that game without that play from Charlton. I love the fact that this kid took Chris Coyer under his wing in the early stages of summer ball and said, "He's just a tremendous quarterback. I'm looking forward to getting to know him." The two are roommates and, I assume, friends. If that's not leadership, I don't know what is.
THE FANS _ Although the crowd was 13,897, the fans were into it. The SEPTA strike killed the crowd from a couple of different levels. Our students rely on that mode to get to the games. Heck, a lot of our alumni do, too. Plus, the city was gridlocked for hours before the game. No one wanted to fight that traffic. (I did, and was stuck on I-95 for an hour.) Still, I got to the game with three hours to spare and made the pre-game tailgate. Once inside the stadium, thank God a talented young photographer, Ryan Porter (you've seen his work on this site), took the night off and ended up seated next to me. When I started a "Let's Go TEM-PLE" cheer he joined in and that got our entire section going. When I yelled (more than once but less than 40 times) "GIVE THE BALL TO THE FRANCHISE!" a couple of guys, complete strangers, joined in and yelled that with me. Then they came down to our row and joined me and Ryan with some full-throtted cheering the rest of the game. Other fans in different sections picked up their game, too. That's my dream. To not only get 40,000 into Temple games on a regular basis but to get them active and involved.
That's the Promised Land I see on the other side of the mountain for Temple football.
I hope I get there with you.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Owl Nation .... Photo courtesy of Owlsports.com
MAC sack leader Adrian Robinson
Thursday, Nov. 5
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
Line: Temple by 17 1/2
Records: Owls 6-2, Miami 1-8
Radio: WHAT-AM, 1340
Now that the Phillies have lost to the Yankees, there is no excuse for Owl Nation.
Show up and represent for one of the hottest college football teams in the country, YOUR Temple Owls.
Could there have been anything worse for Temple football than for the Owls to be playing a live game against the seventh game of the World Series in a town crazed for one of the participants on a cold night when the buses and subways aren't running?
That would have been a Doomsday Scenario for Temple attendance on the same level of a loss to Villanova.
Well, if you don't have a car, it might be tough to get to the Linc but the university is offering free bus rides to all interested students.
So there is no excuse whatsoever for the 10,000 students who live on campus.
It's time for the 260,000 living Temple alumni to get with the (football) program as well, since most of us have cars and can take up to five other people with us.
The football team has done their part and they are working hard to do more for our great university. They have goals far beyond what they have already accomplished.
You can help them by showing up Thursday night and showing that you care.
There are few teams playing Football Bowl Subdivision ball who need fans, a following, a crowd more than Temple does but too often crap out of the Owls' control conspires against them.
Now that the Owls are winning and the Phillies have lost, both Temple's on-and-off-field luck is changing for good.
Gosh, I certainly hope so.
Consider past happenings that have helped ruin the attendance:
The Catch That Was (but ruled wasn't) _ Bruce Francis caught a ball two years ago at UConn that would have boosted 2007 attendance immeasurably. Yet a Big East (yes, Big East) replay official ruled a catch wasn't a catch.
The Philadelphia Hurricane _ Hurricanes never hit Philadelphia, right? Wrong. The UConn rematch of 2008 was much ballyhooed and promoted with billboards. A crowd of close to 30,000 was expected but a legitimate Catergory One Hurricane (Hanna) rolled through Philadelphia just in time for a Saturday noon kickoff. On the nightly news 12 hours earlier, John Bolaris reported, "No, Temple won't be playing tomorrow. No way in this weather." Bolaris signed off before anyone could correct that boozo that football games are played in all kinds of weather. People turned off the TV and stayed away, many thinking there would not even be a game. The fact that 17,000 die-hards attended and cheered their butts off was remarkable.
The Hail Mary _ It's thrown hundreds of times and knocked down hundreds of times. One or two times every 40 or so years, somebody gets lucky. Buffalo got lucky. Temple attendance suffered the rest of the year.
The Navy fumble _ Everybody else takes a knee in the situation the Owls found themselves in last year in Annapolis. Temple decided to run a play instead, ala Miracle of the Meadowlands. So what happened? Miracle in Annapolis.
The Villanova Debacle _ I saw literally hundreds of people, guys I haven't seen in years, in the pre-game parking lot of this year's Sept. 3 game who told me how excited they were to be playing Villanova again. Almost to a man, all of them offered a caveat. "If we don't beat the crap out of this team, I won't be back," they said. "I mean it." I haven't seen a single one of them back since. That was an attendance-killer for the rest of the season, no matter what the Owls did after it. I was stunned at the depth of feeling going into the stadium and even more convinced that folks were serious about what they said when I walked out of the stadium that night. People felt that strongly about beating Villanova.
The Army Nor'easter _ Owls expected a huge crowd, about 25,000, for Homecoming against Army in October. Unfortunately, a Nor'easter picked Temple's Homecoming to ruin that day. Crowd would have been about 25K with nice weather. It turned out to be 14K and a lot of alumni just skipped Homecoming rather than deal with the wind, rain and cold.
Temple finally deserves to reap the rewards of being the biggest, most interesting, sports story in town.
Sorry to see the Phillies lose but the alternative would have been ugly for the Owls.
Now our fans can make it a beautiful night by doing nothing more strenuous than getting off their butts to get to the game and standing and cheering for three hours at the game.
It's not much to ask.