Tuesday, March 30, 2010

2 plus 2 equals 4 (p.m.) for Temple-Villanova

Blame Friday game on shore and Joe Banner, not in that order.
There's this thing called The Shore and it's a phenomena peculiar to Philadelphia that the town virtually empties out the weekend of Labor Day

So I'm driving on I-76 today and thinking how It's too bad I don't have a digital camera.
(When I get enough donations to buy a camera and a portable computer called a netbook, so I can take Temple Football Forever on the road with me and post daily news and photos on the Owls, I will.)
Back to the desire for a digital camera, though.
I'm driving by at 50 mph in a monsoon today on the Schuylkill Expressway and I see a Temple billboard that proclaims "Friday, Sept. 3" as the date of the home football opener with Villanova.
It meant only one thing. Temple's "negotiations" with the Eagles over its preferred date, Sept. 2, fell through.
Then I put two and two together and come up with four.
Oddly enough, that's the starting time of the game but it's not how this mostly mathematical equation was solved.
Two plus two equals 4 p.m. basically because Sept. 2, the date Temple AD Bill Bradshaw long sought as primo time for the game was denied the Owls by the landlord Eagles, leaving 4 as the only logical time for the game.
Temple could have played on the Saturday of the Labor Day weekend, when no one would have been in town. There's this thing called The Shore and it's a phenomena peculiar to Philadelphia that the town virtually empties out the weekend of Labor Day, leaving only the homeless and poor behind. Philadelphia is unique because The Shore (capital T, capital S) is only 50 miles away and Philadelphians see this weekend as their abosolutely last chance to get away before a long, cold, winter. The magnetic attraction of that to a region of 6 million people cannot be minimized.
So Saturday was out.
The Eagles could have done the "community" a favor and moved their game to Sept. 3 and allowed Temple and Villanova to play on the date best suited for a big college crowd. The Eagles being the Eagles could have gotten their 70K on either date but, no, the Eagles had to put the screws to Temple and Villanova.
"We want to play Thursday night," was basically what Joe Banner told Bradshaw.
"But, Joe, you'll get your crowd either night...."
"No, we still want to play Thursday night. Good luck, though."
Typical Eagles.
The Phillies were already scheduled for Friday night (7).
Since two crowds in excess of 40,000 (hopefully for Temple, definitely for Phils) would be showing up at the same time, the Owls reluctantly were forced to pick 4 p.m.
It's a stroke of genius, in my mind.
The Temple and Villanova fans get to arrive, say, at 2 p.m. for tailgating, taking all of the tailgate spots used by Phillies fans.
Phillies fans arrive at about 4, then start frantically texting "WTF?" messages to their fellow 20-somethings.
If there's a silver lining to this scheduling nightmare, that's it.
Now let's get a crowd large enough to steal all of their parking spaces.
Better yet, let's get them into our game first by offering half-priced tickets for those who show Phils' stubs.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

March 20: The first day of spring (practice)

Temple fans want to see more sacks like this one.
I have a feeling the Owls are going to find a couple of reliable long-snappers, a quarterback who has moxie and becomes a weapon both with his arm and feet and a defense that can provide a relentless pass rush
Never let the facts get in the way of a good story, someone once said.
I've never believed that because I think the facts around the story are often more interesting than the story itself.
I'll relent, though, when it comes to headlines.
Yesterday, not today, was the first full day of spring football practice at Temple University. It's just a better headline when you combine the first day of spring with the first day of spring practice.
It was also the last full day of the men's basketball season, the only other marquee sport at Temple University.
No doubt.
An interesting fact?
I've never hided that I consider Temple men's basketball nothing more than a worthwhile distraction between the final day of the football season and the first day of spring practice, but I didn't think the two would run so seemlessly as they did this year.
I often get grief from my Temple football friends on why I only attend two or three basketball games a year, but I tell them the same thing I write here.
I just don't enjoy the sport as much as football.
I understand, though, that many of them do.
For me, though, it's not even close.
I like the fact that a football field is split in two and that strategy is involved in both protecting your turf and probing into the enemy's.
If you have better men and material, like the Union did in the Civil War, you are probably going to win the war. If you have a better Field Marshall, like the Nazi's did with Rommel in the Sahara and the Confederates did with Johnson and Stewart at Bull Run, you are going to win your share of battles.
There's some of that in basketball, but when a dude sticks a 35-footer three straight times down the court, that game is a little too skewed for my taste. So hat's off to Fran Dunphy and crew, who did this university proud by winning three straight A-10 titles and 29 games this season. There are few people who do more for this university than Fran Dunphy. In fact, I can't think of any. There are no two better ambassadors for this great university than Fran Dunphy and Al Golden.
As I write this, it is 10 in the morning on the Saturday on the first day of spring.
The birds are chirping, it's going to be a 75-degree day, and my beloved Temple (Football) Owls are working to find better ways to defend their turf and grab as much of the bad guy turf as possible.
The particulars will unravel over the next month.
What we already know is that 17 of the 22 starters return from a 9-3 team and some of the redshirts who sat  last year may be better than a handful of the starters, let alone as replacements for the five departed.
Defensively, I see this team as perfectly suited to a 3-4, rather than the current 5-2 alignment. That way, you have two athletic 6-5 defensive ends (Mo Wilkerson and Kadeem Custis) coming at the quarterback with a future NFL tackle in Levi Brown playing nose guard and being a lock-down run-stopper. You can move Adrian Robinson to linebacker and just have him blitz on every passing down, but from all different gaps.  If I was a quarterback facing that, I'd run the other way.
Offensively, I'd like to see a quarterback who can make plays both running and passing. I think that quarterback is here.
On special teams, I'd like the see the long-snapping situation tighten up.
Fix all of those fixable items and you have a team with designs on much better than 9-3.
I have a feeling the Owls are going to find a couple of reliable long-snappers, a quarterback who has moxie and becomes a weapon both with his arm and feet and a defense that can provide a relentless pass rush.
Hope springs eternal, but this time the hope comes with a lot of supporting facts.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The strong case for a 3-4 defense at Temple

If I'm Mark D'Onofrio, I'm seriously considering going to a 3-4 with Amara Kamara and Robinson returning to their natural outside linebacker positions and using Robinson as a "rush" linebacker, like the Giants did with Lawrence Taylor
Every once in a while, I check in with what Al Golden has to say on Twitter.
You can, too.
It's permanently on the sidebar of this website, about halfway down the right side.
According to Al's latest tweet, the coaching staff is in the film room right now.
Here it is:
"Spring practice is getting close," Al said. "Only a couple of weeks for the staff to fine tune and evaluate the film from the fall to improve the team."

Evidently, they haven't come out because the last tweet was on Feb. 22 and that was four days before the last big snowfall and that seems like a long time ago.
Well, we've been studying the film, too.
We've got high definition DVDs of many of the games and this is what I would do to improve the team:
1) Have a real competition for starting quarterback. Take the red shirts off and allow the guys to get hit. Allow them to run the ball against a live defense. Let them throw the ball with a guy in their face.
If somebody gets hurt, so be it.
They'll have all summer to get healthy.
We're going to need to find a gamer at that position and you don't find that person in a seven-on-seven passing drill. Mike McGann was the greatest seven-on-seven practice passer I ever saw at Temple, yet when he got into the game he had this annoying habit of throwing to guys who weren't wearing Cherry or White jerseys.
You can't have a turnover machine at that position or someone who can't duck out of a pass rush and make positive yards.
The Owls need more than a "game manager" at that position this year. They need a "game changer."
I think they'll find one. God, I hope so.
At last count, they have Vaughn Charlton, Chester Stewart, Chris Coyer, Mike Gerardi at the top of the depth chart. They have other guys who have played the position in high school either already here or coming in, like Aaron Haas, Matt Falcone, Andre Coble, Connor Reilly.
2) Get the gang of 100 players in a circle and ask who snapped the ball in high school. Ask them to have their high school coaches send film of them snapping. Pick the best three and have a competition. If one, two or three are excellent or even good, make long-snapping a part of their daily routine (even five minutes). Long-snapping is a routine play at about 118 other Division IA schools. Let's make it that way again at Temple.
3) Improve the pass rush. I'm a big fan of blitz packages that send more than one linebacker or safety on certain down-and-distance situations. Temple needs to turn up the heat on opposing quarterbacks. Adrian Robinson is the best pass-rusher in the league, but wouldn't it be nice to consistently collapse the pocket with another "Adrian Robinson" coming from the other side.
If I'm Mark D'Onofrio, I'm seriously considering going to a
3-4 with Amara Kamara and Robinson returning to their natural outside linebacker positions and using Robinson as a "rush" linebacker, like the Giants did with Lawrence Taylor. Moving Robinson all over the field will make him harder to find.
I'd use Big Mo Wilkerson as one defensive end, Levi Brown as the nose guard and Kadeem Custis as the other defensive end and rotate guys in after that. Imagine, if you will, what a nightmare, say, Chris Whitney's life would be if he had two 6-5 athletic guys coming at him from both DE positions and still had to account for Robinson's presence? I'm liking it already. I want to see Whitney and every other quarterback who plays Temple hit the ground hard multiple times before being able to release the ball.
I'm hoping that is the plan Al Golden and staff have come up with between Feb. 22d and now.
The time to implement it would be in a few days when spring practice starts.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Thoughts on the 2010 schedule

(some dates and times unofficial :) )
Fri., Sept. 3: VILLANOVA Lincoln Financial Field, 5 p.m.

Thu., Sept. 9: *CENTRAL MICHIGAN Lincoln Financial Field, 7 p.m.

Sat., Sept. 18 CONNECTICUT Lincoln Financial Field, 12

Sat., Sept. 25 at Penn State University Park, Pa., 3:30

Sat., Oct. 2 at Army West Point, N.Y., 12

Sat., Oct. 9 *at Northern Illinois DeKalb, Ill., 1

Sat., Oct. 16 *BOWLING GREEN Lincoln Financial Field, 12

Sat., Oct. 23 *at Buffalo Buffalo, N.Y., 12

Sat., Oct. 30 *AKRON Lincoln Financial Field, 2

Sat., Nov. 6 *at Kent State Kent, Ohio, 1

Tues., Nov. 16 *OHIO Lincoln Financial Field 8 p.m. ESPN2

Tues., Nov. 23 *at Miami (Ohio) Oxford, Ohio 7 p.m. ESPN2
I don't know about you, but I've given up on circling wins and losses on a schedule a long time ago.
It was about the season that Jeff Garcia replaced an injured Donovan McNabb and took the Eagles on a six-game winning streak.
That was the year the Birds were at Giants, at Redskins and at Cowboys all in consecutive weeks.
All the talking heads had the Eagles losing all three.
When McNabb got hurt, they all said it was over.
Wrong on all counts.
The Eagles won all three and did it without McNabb.
Who knows what the future holds for any team, although it appears the Owls are swifter, stronger, more talented and more experienced than any other team in their league.
I wouldn't bet against them.
When this schedule came out, though, I thought this was the perfect for me schedule because:
1) I hate byes
2) It opens up with three straight home games.
After the way the team opened up last year against Villanova, don't think that they aren't excited about getting that bad memory out of their heads forever.
I think they will.
If they do, it sets up a well-attended next two games.
If they win those, the attendance momentum will just continue.
Picture, for example, the EagleBank Bowl experience in terms of a roaring loud crowd and a real homefield advantage and you'll get what I'm talking about. At the EBB, I saw a loud, involved, Temple crowd. It stunned UCLA and it sure stunned a lot of us who had season tickets for the past 30 years.
A good start brings that kind of excitement back in a way nothing else can.
I'm selfish about the byes. I know they sometimes help heal an injured team, but I don't see the use in them.
Kids are, what, between 18-22, and they should be able to play every week.
Plus, the Owls get 10 days between a couple of games so it shouldn't hurt them too much.
I hate byes because that means a week without Temple football and my autumns have been consumed with the Owls.
That's why this is the perfect schedule for me.
I get to talk, breathe, blog and live Temple football each week.
It's a good schedule.
Bring it on, the sooner the better.