Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Worried about Army? Heck, yeah

Walking out of the Penn State game on Saturday, someone wearing Penn State blue told me not to worry.
"Who do you have next week?" the man asked.
"Army, at Army," I said.
"You should spank them pretty good."
“I don’t think they can spank anyone right now,” I said. “I don’t think they’ve found the paddle.”
Mixing metaphors, I really don’t think they’ve found the trigger to their offense.

Bernard Pierce says he's a fast healer, but
 unless he went to Lourdes,
I don't think he'll be able to play this week.
They have all kinds of weapons and plenty of gunpowder, but I question whether they have the right guy to light the fuse.
Tom Leonard had a great line earlier this week, tossing in another metaphor.
“He’s got a gun for an arm but he has no scope.”
Everyone said I should not judge Chester Stewart on the basis of the Penn State game because the Lions are too good.
Fair enough, but the four-game body of work is not all-that-impressive, either.
Sure, there was the game-winning drive against Villanova and the 62-yard touchdown pass to Michael Campbell.
Those were two drives out of 28 Temple drives that night.
Where was Chester the other 26?
That’s a fair question. To say he disappeared would not be an unfair answer.
Thirteen points against a Central Michigan team that Northwestern put up 30 on is not all that impressive, either.
The Owls were down, 16-14, when Adrian Robinson stole the game.
They added to that total behind Delano Green and Bernard Pierce, not Chester Stewart.
I didn’t see very many big plays from Chester in that game, either.
Against Penn State, I saw a true freshman quarterback play like a redshirt junior and a redshirt junior play like a true freshman. A program-defining win theirs for the taking and only a 46-yard, three-interception performance prevented them from taking it.
Forgive me for not enjoying that.
So do I expect Chester to break out against Army and throw for 300 and three touchdowns?
That’s neither fair nor realistic.
I would not be surprised to see the Owls to be impotent on offense once again, especially if The Franchise (see crutches above) doesn’t take the field. Although Army's 24-0 win over North Texas doesn't look all that impressive on paper, North Texas won at Florida International (the same FIU that took Rutgers down to the wire) and North Texas lost excruiatiingly close games to in-state rivals Texas A&M and Rice. Army led at Duke, 35-7, before winning that one, 35-21. Before you dismiss Duke, the Blue Devils scored 48 points on Wake Forest. This Army team can score and ballhawk.
If the game is low scoring, this is a game Army can win. If Temple can only put up 13 against Central Michigan, will it put up a lot more than 13 at Army?
I doubt it.
Yeah, I’m worried.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Penn State 31, Temple 30: The Video

No, that headline is not a typo and I know Temple lost to Penn State, 22-13, not, 31-30, on Saturday.
I came across this terrific video the other day while preparing for the Penn State vs. Temple game.
I looked at it again tonight.
It's from the 1976 Temple vs. Penn State game, a 31-30 final with the bad guys, as usual, on top.
Temple coach Wayne Hardin went for two to win it (there was no overtime in those days) and the ball agonizingly went off the Temple player's fingertips.
One of the things that struck me about it was how well Terry Gregory passed in that game and how well-conceived the offensive game plan was.
That was 1976, but the way Temple passed the ball in the 2010 game, you'd think we were back in the single wing days now and not then.
Terry Gregory was not even the 10th-best Wayne Hardin quarterback in my humble opinion but Hardin could recognize good quarterbacks when he saw them. Steve Joachim, Marty Ginestra, Frank DiMaggio, Tim Riordan, Lee Saltz, Brian Broomell, etc., all were better quarterbacks than Gregory. Why was Temple able to get those guys then and not now?
Call it what you will but Al Golden has struggled with identifying good quarterbacks or at least putting good ones on the field. He lucked into his best QB, Adam DiMichele, when Alex DiMichele was recruited as a fullback by former coach Bobby Wallace.
Since then, the Temple quarterback play as been spotty at best and that's probably a generous characterization of it.
I think it's pretty obvious the 1976 Penn State team was better than the 2010 Lions, so Gregory lighting them up for 300 plus yards was impressive.
My Kingdom for a Terry Gregory-type quarterback now.
Or an Adam DiMichele.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Forty-six yards passing doesn't cut it

Subliminal message No. 1 for AG
UNIVERSITY PARK _ I had three overriding thoughts after this long day and a three-hour tease they called a game today:
1) Forty-six yards through the air ain't cutting it. I don't know if it's Matt Rhule's fault or Al Golden's fault or Chester Stewart's fault, but 46 yards through the air ain't cutting it and it's got to be fixed. After the Navy game last year, I mused out loud if Al Golden had the err, intestinal fortitude, to make a quarterback change. It turned out he did and I applauded him for it. How many coaches have the stones to remove a quarterback who has won six straight games for underperforming?  It turned out Al Golden did. Vaughn Charlton's numbers against Navy last year were 5 for 17, 36 yards, two INTs. Chester Stewart's numbers against Penn State on Saturday mirrored those, except he threw one more INT. I'm sure Chester is a nice kid, just like Vaughn is but now, like then, I think it's time for a quarterback change. If Mike Gerardi or Chris Coyer can't get me 200 yards in the air against Army, we've got to rethink our quarterback recruiting. But I think either one of them gets two bills against Army. Chester Stewart is a one bill quarterback, if that. You just can't win over the long haul in major college football these days without a viable passing attack and Temple did not display a viable passing attack in any of the first four games.
Subliminal message No. 2 for AG.

2) Temple is just not any better than an above-average team without The Franchise in there. When TF (or BP) is in there, Owls are a great team. Without him, Owls struggle and I mean struggle to win the MAC (and probably fall short). Keep our fingers crossed that BP returns next week or the week after. Matt Brown is a great third-down back, but he's not a feature back. It's no coincidence that, with St. Bernard/The Franchise/Bernie's MAC Show in there, Temple had a lead. When he left, it all went to the crapper. That's pretty much the way the season has played out so far.
3) Unless a miracle happens, the best-case-scenario for Temple fans is two straight trips to Detroit, one for the MAC title and one for the bowl sponsored by a Pizza company. I only have one word for that. Ugh. I will make one but not both trips. I just have to figure out which one. Probably the MAC title tilt, since I want to see the Owls prance around Ford Field with the MAC trophy secured. I'm sure the walk from the parking lot to the indoor stadium will be too cold for at least one Temple fan to make either trip.

Black Shoe Diaries: The best site on the internet

I can tell you somewhat fewer than this number are in the stadium now.
UNIVERSITY PARK _ My relationship with Black Shoe Diaries doesn't go back as far as my relationship with Penn State fans, but both are solid and based on mutual respect.
I've been coming up here for 30 plus years and have gotten nothing but first-class treatment from Penn State fans. I can't tell you how many times I've had my Temple sweatshirt or jersey on and been invited to Penn State-run tailgates. I've made a lot of great Penn State friends over the years that way.
Once inside the stadium, it's been the same thing. Penn State fans are tremendous fans.
Black Shoe Diaries found me about five years ago and we've had this question and answer session once a year every year since.
My thanks to Mike of BSD for the great questions and for keeping the comments on topic.
I do not tolerate personal attacks on my website and it's good to have people out there like Mike and Shawn Pastor ( and John DiCarlo ( who won't tolerate personal attacks on theirs.
Today is all about the game. That's all real Temple fans should be thinking about.
Is it the biggest game in Temple history?
No and yes.
No, because losing it wouldn't be as big a blow to the solar plexes as losing to UConn would have been (Big East explusion, Big East refs, etc.).
Yes, because Temple would have the most to gain from this win over any other in its history. Win this one and the regional respect soars through the roof. Win this one and it clears the table for 12-0.
The benefits of 12-0 are enormous.
Can you say Rose Bowl?
Can you say Heisman Trophy?
I thought you could.
Go Owls.
(No prediction other than 24-21, either way.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

MAC Blogger Roundtable: Week 4

Graphic by Tim Riordan, Buffalo blogger

Let's Go Rockets (Toledo) is hosting this week.
With further adieu or even Freddy Adu, we'll get right to the answeres:

1) What would you say is the biggest story line in the MAC so far this season? Surprises, injuries, etc?
The biggest story line has been the first win over a BCS program in awhile (UConn) for the league. Last year, Central Michigan did it at Michigan State. I really feel we're going to get a couple big wins this weekend.

2) Which other team in college football most closely mirrors your respective MAC school (whether it be personnel / talent, coaching, reputation, injuries, etc.) ?

Penn State. Great running backs (Pierce/Royster), developing quarterack (Stewart, Bolden), solid defense.

3) If you had to select one player from any other MAC team to add to your roster -- which player would you choose and why ?

Garrett Barnas from Northern Illinois. I would have loved to seen this JUCO first-team All-American get one shot (just one) at quarterback. He might also start for Temple at free safety if that didn't work out.

4) What have the first three games of this season showed you about your team ?
They can win the close ones without their best player on the field for most of the time. It also showed that the starting quarterback is steadily improving, but is not significantly better than he was last season.

5) Rank the MAC Teams: 1 to 13.
TFF's rankings (first to worst, because I can't count backward):
1. Temple

2. CMU


4. Northern Illinois

5. Miami

6. Bowling Green
7. Toledo

8. Buffalo.

9. Western Michigan

10. Ball State

11. Kent State

12. Eastern Michigan

13. Akron

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Thoughts on the Temple vs. Penn State game

Way back on June 24, I hesistated to write this post because I knew Temple's first three games were a mine-field.
I knew Temple could just as easily be 0-3 going into Penn State as 3-0.
Even most Temple fans I knew thought the Owls would be 2-1.
I went ahead and wrote the post anyway because I felt this was the year Temple is best-equipped to beat Penn State and it focused on what beating the Lions would mean to the Owls and their long-suffering fans.
Now that the Owls have zig-zagged their way through the mine field, this game should be fun.
The Owls can win this game.If there's any pressure, it's not on them but the Lions.
The Lions have quarterback issues.
Temple's got a good defense.
If Bernard Pierce gets in a groove, the Owls can shorter the game on offense with some clock-consuming drives.
The Owls have a terrific punter and a great place-kicker.
They have six returning all-league players back on defense, so they should be able to contain a Penn State offense that had trouble sustaining drives even against Kent State. Despite the fact that defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio has not been as aggressive as I would like in rushing the passer, I think he's figured out one of the best ways to win is rattling the true freshman into interceptions and fumbles. So maybe the Owls will change up and bring the heat this week. I trust D'Onofrio whatever he does.  He might be the best coach on the field Saturday.
Chester Stewart, the Owls' quarterback, has improved slightly with each game and that's a good sign.
Yeah, this is the year.
Will they get it done?
Hard to say.
This looks to me like a 24-21 game either way.
In that case, I'm glad Brandon McManus is on Temple's side.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Signs that Joe Paterno is losing it

One of the great things about having a job like this, operating a successful, independent and award-winning blog, is that you don't have to answer to anyone.
It's a little like the job Joe Paterno has.
Kamara nominated for special award
Temple linebacker Amara Kamara (No. 56) has been recognized for his efforts off the playing field. He is a member of the 2010 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team®, which recognizes players for their outstanding community service work.

A total of 112 players across all collegiate levels of the sport were
nominated for the award by sports information directors on behalf of
their teams, and Kamara was one of 22 players selected. His impressive
resume of community service accomplishments follows:
  • A strong advocate for bone marrow donor awareness, he assisted in the
    registration of 1,270 new marrow donor registrations – the largest donor turnout in the history of the program.
  • Coached over 500 kids grades K-12 on football techniques at three
    different youth football camps
  • Named the 2010 male recipient of the Athletic Department’s Temple
    Teammates Award and the 2010 T.E.A.M. Award, designated for
    student-athletes that have demonstrated leadership and exceptional
    community service efforts.

The 2010 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team® features two 11-player teams,   one for the Football Bowl Subdivision (Div. I-A) and the other for the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, Divisions II, III and NAIA. All players, including Kamara, will be invited to New Orleans in January to participate in a special community service project before the 2011 Allstate® Sugar Bowl.
He's successful. He's won coach-of-the-year awards. He doesn't have to answer to anyone.
I admire the guy. I really do. He's one of my favorite people in sports.
Like everyone else, Joe has a bad day. So what if he snaps out on a reporter now and then? The reporter can cry and scream and whine until he's blue in the face and Joe can just ignore him.
Nobody's going to fire Joe Paterno. He can coach until 100 if he wants to and he can say whatever he wants.
But that doesn't mean the signs of slippage  go unnoticed. Take Tuesday's press conference, for instance. Maybe Joe had a bad day, but he forgot the focus of at least one Temple question and his UConn-Michigan score was off by only 16 points.
No biggies, but food for thought.
 Here's just one question from the official transcript:
 Q. Temple's running back Bernard Pierce, what does he present for your defense this week? COACH PATERNO: "I think the whole Temple team presents a problem. Al Golden, he has two other kids that played for us, that are on his staff, one is defensive coordinator (Mark D'Onofrio), one is the offensive coordinator (Matt Rhule). And I think they're very, very sound. They've gotten better each year. The kid you're talking about is a fine linebacker. Does a lot of things really well. And they ask him to do a lot of things. But they've got a couple other people, they've got a couple of down kids who are big offensively."
 Err, Joe, the kid they were talking about, Pierce, isn't a linebacker but a tailback. Wait. There's more. PATERNO: "They've played a couple of good teams since. Central Michigan is a good team and Villanova is ranked the best in their division (FCS) by far. And they beat them in a tough ball game. And they had a tough one with a good Connecticut team, (which) lost by four points to Michigan."
Err, Joe, UConn lost to Michigan by 20, not four.
I saw this transcript and got to wondering if this slippage might result in a mistake or two during the heat of the battle on Saturday afternoon against Temple.
Joe's been a pretty sharp guy for 50 plus years there, but the knife gets dull for everyone at a certain point.
In a game as close as Temple and Penn State might be on Saturday, every edge helps.
I've got to believe a 41-year-old Al Golden might be a little sharper than a guy more than twice his age.
The last time Temple avoiding losing on a football field to Penn State, a 7-7  tie, the Owls' quarterback was named Gavin White, Jr., who later became athletic director.
The year was 1950. Robin Roberts and Curt Simmons, not Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, were the Phillies aces.
And that guy with the glasses on the Penn State side of the field, the quarterback coach for Rip Engle, was none other than someone named Joe Paterno.
You've got to admire his durability. When you think about him being a coach on the sideline in Philadelphia when across town Chuck Bednarik was playing his ROOKIE year with the Eagles, that's truly amazing.
Way to go, Joe.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Penn State week: Robinson stole the ball

"You know I'm going to take that ball from you the next time you see me," Adrian Robinson appears to be telling his cousin, Penn State's Curtis Drake.

"I saw the ball and it was loose, I ripped it out and it was Murder-She-Wrote from there."
_ Adrian Robinson.
I don't have access to Harry Donahue's call of the play of the game Saturday vs. UConn, but if Chick Hearn was calling the game, it might go something like this (apologies to John Havlichek):
"Adrian Robinson stole the ball. Robinson stole the ball. Game over."
Well, the game wasn't over then be it might as well have been.
Adrian Robinson has been making big plays all of his life. Defensive players of the year make defensive plays of the year and Robinson's strip of Jordan Todman might have been just that.
"I saw the ball and it was loose, I ripped it out and it was Murder-She-Wrote from there," Robinson said.
It was a great non-call from the officials because Todman was fighting for extra yardage. How many times have you seen guys fighting for extra yardage break out of piles like that and score? I've seen it a lot. (How about Navy two years ago?)
Much to the credit of the UConn fans, nobody was calling for that play to be blown dead.
They were too busy killing their own team in general and their fine coach, Randy Edsall, in particular.
How is it that the Friday BEFORE the Temple game these same fans were saying Temple's got no chance, Temple's no good and the Huskies might be better than the 1966 Michigan State Spartans.
Then the day AFTER the Temple game, UConn stinks in their eyes.
Can't have it both ways.
I guess they confused Temple with Texas Southern.
Edsall gave Temple no credit, but the UConn players were unanimous in their praise of the way the Temple kids played and hit.
The kids on the field know. They know.
The adults on message boards not so much.
The implosion on, the UConn message board, is about as impressive as the explosion caused by the Enola Gay in 1945.
It's a nuclear-type jaun, as my friend, Jay "Chief" Cooke, used to say.
Yet  it's also an over nuclear reaction if you ask me.
All week long, I got responses to my messages on the Bonehead, err, I mean Boneyard, board asking me to come over and "apologize for my Temple lunacy" at about 3:30 on Saturday afternoon.
My response was simple.
"I hope you do the same, apologize for your disrespect of Temple, but I don't think you have the class to do so."
Just like the Big East ref/touchdown flag prediction, I was right.
The same guy who called me out for my "Temple lunacy" never apologized for his "UConn lunacy."
A little perspective is in order.
For three years with each MAC foe falling to Temple for the first time, I'd go over to the vanquished foe's message board.
The reaction is the same and can be summed up in one sentence.
"I can't believe we lost to Temple."
Gradually, they've gotten used to it.
UConn will, too.
Good Temple football is here to stay. Get used to it.
Al Golden promised when he arrived on North Broad Street that he was "building a house of brick, not straw."
That means IF he leaves, it will be in good hands. Whether those hands belong to Mark D'Onofrio or Bruce Arians, Golden has proven one thing.
You can win at Temple. The Owls have now won a school-record eight home games in a row.
Last year, they beat an Army team that beat Vanderbilt and a Navy team that crushed Missouri and beat Notre Dame.
This year, they beat a UConn team with a relatively recent win over South Carolina.
If he can finish that fancy porch he's putting in by Saturday, the house might be so nice Golden could take a long look at it and said, "Heck, I want to live here."
Let's hope so.
"We're finally a Division I program now,"  he said on Saturday.
There's a lot of wringing of hands on the UConn board these days but I think that's premature.
The Big East is so bad I wouldn't be surprised if UConn ran the table the rest of the way.
In fact, I hope they do.
I hope Temple beats Penn State next week (Temple is significantly better than Kent State) and I hope UConn and Penn State (and, of course, Temple) run the table after that.
Then maybe our friends at UConn will finally develop the same kind of perspective it took the MAC awhile to accept.

UConn vs. Temple pick: Follow the money

The late great Hal Holbrook had a great line in the movie "All The President's Men."
"Follow the money," he told Woodward and Bernstein, played by Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman.
Follow the money.
That's pretty much how I feel today.
I never bet Temple games. There's too much heart involved and not enough head.
In a perfect world, where all the refs and the replay judges were robots and not hired by conferences, I really believe Temple would win today, something like, 28-21.
This is far from a perfect world, this college football thing. When you have BCS schools controlling the fate of non-BCS schools, that's corrupt. When conferences take their "own" officials on the road with them, that's corrupt.
So college football is, in large part, corrupt.
Too many strange decisions are made on the field by people who are supposed to be robots.
Follow the money.
This line opened with UConn giving 4 1/2 points. It ballooned to 6 1/2 points in a day or so.
Do the bettors know something we don't?
I wouldn't put it past them.
So I think this game is going to go UConn's way, maybe 24-17, with a Temple touchdown or two called back by Big East refs. Maybe Temple will get called for breaking the huddle with 12 players (when it has a no-huddle offense).
Some fair games to bet on:
(favorites underlined)
North Carolina will cover the 1 1/2 over visiting Georgia Tech
East Carolina will cover the 19 1/2 at Virginia Tech
Alabama will cover the 24 at Duke
Central Michigan will cover the 10 at Eastern Michigan
Toledo will cover the 3 1/2  at Western Michigan
Troy will cover the 3 1/2 at Ala.-Birmingham

Maybe something else highly questionable will happen.
This is one game that begs for a Mountain West crew, but the Big East and its damn corrupt self will be here.
If Temple wins, it restores my faith in humanity.
If Temple loses without any touchdowns or big plays called back, I can accept that and will tip my cap to the Huskies.
If Temple loses with question marks, I will raise my postgame glass to the late Hal Holbrook and say, "you were right, pal."
Or, in his case, Hal.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

UConn: Double, triple and quadruple revenge

The Husky Pokey, written and sung by Jimmie Ross.
There's been a lot of talk about UConn being a "double revenge" game for Temple.

Temple AD Bill Bradshaw expects at least 25,000. Let's surprise him and the suits in the Big East office and put 30K in there.
Might as well be a triple or quadruple revenge game, mostly revolving around Big East refs, who will unfortunately show their ugly faces on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.
Let's count the ways:
Temple was kicked out of the Big East and UConn was the replacement team. True, UConn was in before Temple was out but UConn wouldn't have been in if Temple wasn't out.
Two questionable losses. Announcers from both teams (radio) and the regional television audiences felt Bruce Francis clearly caught the ball on replay, but Big East replay official Jack Kramer didn't. This angle above shows feet in and a Philadelphia TV station showed clear possession on the reverse angle. In Philadelphia, Travis Shelton ran a reverse to the UConn 1 on the first play of overtime that was called back by (you guessed it) a Big East ref on a phantom hold.
There was no Temple player near the play. "That was a brutal call," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said on his weekly radio show. "Our coaches looked at it and we looked at it again. The Temple guy who they said held wasn't even in the play and he didn't hold anyway. Temple deserved to win that game."
Tickets free for students
Will the Owls stay undefeated at the Linc? Be there on Saturday to watch it happen as Temple takes on UCONN Kick off is @ 12!

Free Student tailgate starting at 10:30am=FREE FOOD!
Free Student Buses start @ 9:30am from J&H, SAC and 1300
Free Student Tickets-pick them up at the Liacouras Center box office or look for athletics department representatives around campus at the SAC, Liacouras Walk and IBC all week!

The Big East invited a Philadelphia team, Villanova, that has no stadium to play in over a Temple team that already has a D1A program and an ironclad lease in the best stadium in the world through 2018. Disrespect? Stevie Wonder could see that.
Randy Edsall said his team respects Temple because anybody can lose to anybody, then compared it to James Madison beating Virginia Tech and North Dakota State beating Kansas. One problem. Those were FCS programs. Temple is a FBS program, just like UConn.
Arrogance on the Boneyard board:

"If this game is closer than 28-10, I'll be surprised."
_ Section 138
"We're on the road. The place will be morguelike."
Yeah, I'd say so.
Double revenge.
This game is like the cycle of revenge games for Temple.
Temple fans packed the Linc for the Villanova game, drawing 30K of the 32K fans.
They have much more reason to do so on Saturday.

Temple fans have to make this kind of showing, like in the Villanova game, where it was wall-to-wall people wearing Cherry (except for one section of Nova fans) filling the entire lower bowl of the Linc. Bring your "Let's Go Temple" signs and make some noise like the rowdy and enthustiastic Philadelphia fans you are.
UConn fans expect the atmosphere at the Linc to be "morguelike" ... it will be if you consider the following morguelike:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

MAC Blogger Roundtable: Week 3

Graphic by Tim Riordan, Buffalo blogger
"We would like to get him the ball. ... Hopefully we'll be able to get him in the game and get him going a little bit."
_Al Golden
on Bernard Pierce vs. UConn

MAC blogger questions this week. My answers are Golden, as in Al.

1. For the season, excluding intraconference matches, MAC teams are
0-10 against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents. Which MAC team will
be the first to record an out-of-conference win against any FBS team?
Temple against UConn. All indications are Al Golden will get Bernard Pierce on the field, something he hasn't done nearly enough of in the first two games. Temple had a pedestrian running back named Jason Harper get 134 yards behind a suspect offensive line in 2007 at UConn. Pierce is not pedestrian. When he's in there for a whole game, Temple's offensive production triples. Temple's last two games vs. UConn (a 22-17 win that was a loss) and a 13-9 OT loss. I'm concerned about quarterback Chester Stewart, though. I was expecting another Adam DiMichele this year. Instead, I've gotten another Tink Murphy. He needs to elevate his game and keep more drives alive.

2. Three teams -- Akron, EMU, and Bowling Green -- remain winless; when will each team record a win? Temple is undefeated; when will they take their first loss?
Bowling Green will win first. Clausen is a very good coach who almost knocked off Troy. Not easy. Temple's first loss will be at Penn State. I think. The Owls have shown some chinks in the armor (bad game coaching, poor personnel packages, poor offensive scheme) that have alarmed me.

3. Although teams have only played two games, that is nearly 17% of the season. How has your team's performance so far compared to your
preseason expectations? What key factors will you be watching over the
next two weeks?
Below my expectations. I expected a 35-14 win over Nova and a 27-17 win over CMU. Nova is better than James Madison, which knocked off Virginia Tech, so that win looks a lot better for Temple now. Had Pierce played more than a half, maybe I would have gotten my 27-17 win over EMU.
4. This Saturday, Central Michigan visits EMU. The last time they
played in Ypsilanti (2008), a school-record 26,188 fans turned out to see the teams run 174 plays, combining for 1,171 total yards of
offense, 15 touchdowns, and 108 points. How many people will show up
at Rynearson Stadium this Saturday, and how many yards of offense and
points scored will they see?
8,000, six thousand of them CMU fans. 28 points. 21-7, CMU. 300 yards total offense.

TFF's rankings (first to worst, because I can't count backward):
1. Temple

2. CMU


4. Northern Illinois

5. Miami

6. Kent State

7. Toledo

8. Buffalo.

9. Western Michigan

10. Ball State

11. Bowling Green

12. Eastern Michigan

13. Akron

Friday, September 10, 2010

Some fixes in store for the Owls

Temple AD Bill Bradshaw expects at least 25,000 and the weather should help. Be there, wear Cherry and yell like hell.

Back in 1979 and 1980, the Cleveland Browns were known as the Cardiac Kids.
Twelve of their 16 games in both of those years were decided by seven points or less, hence the tag.
Those Cleveland Browns had nothing on this year's Temple Owls, though, now 2-0 as a result of essentially last-second field goals.
I'll take it, warts and all.
Don't kid yourself.
There were plenty of warts in both Weeks 1 and 2.
"We can't play like this and beat UConn," Al Golden said.
Right on, Al. I would add we can't coach like this and beat UConn, but I hope he knows that, too.
My goal for this team was to beat the UConns and Penn State's of the world and if the Owls play the next two weeks like they played the first two, they won't get within a sniff of the Huskies or the Lions.
Two flawed wins over two great programs is better than two flawless losses, though.
The good news is that the warts can be fixed.
The bad news is that I don't know if they will be fixed.
Some suggestions:
Wart: As someone who watched and admired the flawless game plans and play-calling of Wayne Hardin for 13 seasons, I can tell you right now our offensive scheme is way out of whack. We throw when we should run. We have the wrong personnel on the field. We have a Heisman Trophy candidate who doesn't start. We have a playmaking tight end we don't throw to at all. Our offensive coordinator is a career linebacker at Penn State, who was a linebacker's coach at Temple before being moved over to offense. Doesn't make much sense to me, nor does our scheme. Our biggest chess piece is a runner with world-class speed and size (6-0, 218) and moves to scare the bejebbers out of defenses, yet he doesn't play much more than half the downs. Put Bernard Pierce is there and everybody else gets open. Throw the ball to Evan Rodriguez, not Vaughn Charlton. What is AG trying to prove with this overuse of VC and Matty Brown? I don't get it. Fake to Bernard Pierce when he doesn't get the ball and throw downfield. Do that and you win games by touchdowns in the first, second and third quarters and not by field goals in the fourth quarter or overtime. I liked our play-calling and personnel packages a lot better when Bruce Arians, a starting quarterback at Virginia Tech, was making the calls. Would Bruce Arians ever sit Paul Palmer? No. I knew Paul Palmer. I liked Paul Palmer, but Bernard Pierce has more talent than Paul Palmer. He should be out there.
Fix: If Bernard Pierce is healthy, put him in at least on first and second down. Matt Brown is a good change-of-pace, third down, back. Put the fear of God (i.e., The Franchise) into opposing defenses, then play-fake, ball-fake, to Pierce and you'll see Rod Streater and Michael Campbell and Evan Rodriguez running wide open through the secondary. If Chester Stewart can't hit them in stride, bring in someone who will.
Wart: We let immobile (i.e., slow and white) quarterbacks kill us by letting them sit in the pocket. Yeah, I said it. Slow, white quarterbacks. I can say it because I'm slow and white, too. These are guys who can't hurt us running, but can do big-time damage with any time at all back there. Play the contain defenses against option quarterbacks, not the slow ones.
Fix: Let's start putting them on their asses with all-out blitzes. Mark D'Onofrio called a couple of nice safety blitzes late in the fourth quarter that seemed to work. Let's hope he sticks with it.
Special Teams
Wart: We've got the best kicker in the league. He should be the one kicking it through the end zone, not the Central Michigan kicker. Work on those high snaps to Vaughn Charlton. Twice in two weeks is two too many.
Fix: I think Brendan has been told to kick it high. When he kicks it on a line, it goes through the end zone. I like that.
This is football, not rocket science. Our coaches aren't working for NASA. They are not trying to hook up two space crafts going at 25,000 mph.
These are easy fixes and we have enough time to do it.
Let's  use this time to get smart with our game plan and put our best players on the field in a position to utilize their talents. That gives us the best chance to win.
Temple can't beat UConn playing, or coaching, like it did against CMU.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Will the real Bernard Pierce please stand up?

Once BP gets into the backfield, nobody's catching him.
Thumbing down the roster about an hour before the Villanova game, I was heartened to see the number of my favorite Temple player right next to my favorite Temple player's name.
No. 30.
Bernard Pierce.

Then the game began and that wasn't MY Bernard Pierce wearing No. 30.
He had a couple of OK runs, but OK runs won't get you on a Heisman Billboard.
I've called him "The Franchise" from the first day I saw him play. Others call him BP. Others call him St. Bernard.
Another website even called him Bernie's MAC show.
I like The Franchise.

That's why tonight's game (7 p.m., Lincoln Financial Field) against Central Michigan is so important. Temple needs the real Bernard Pierce to stand up. Temple needs Bernard Pierce to make a Heisman run for it to have any chance to run the table and Pierce needs Temple to run the table for him to have a chance to win the Heisman.
It's a symbiotic relationship.

I don't know what mind games Al Golden was or wasn't playing, but there's no way a 5-foot-5, 150-pound back should be starting over a future NFL first-round draft choice. Matt Brown is a great little change of pace back, but he's not Bernard Pierce.
Golden started Brown because he said Brown "worked harder." Well, I'm 5-5 and I might have worked harder than Pierce if I was 30 years younger, but I'm no good. Somewhere talent has to be factored into the equation.
Yeah, I said it.
Bernard Pierce will be a first-round NFL draft choice and it will be on an April day after his Temple junior season is completed.
Not the pedestrian Bernard Pierce I saw against Villanova, but the Bernard Pierce who won the PIAA high school state championship in the 100-meter dash as a senior and the Bernard Pierce who broke every single Temple freshman running back record last year.
So the question begs answering?
Why only 75 yards on 20 carries against Villanova last week?
The reasons are many and varied.
Let's look at five possible choices:
1) Starting Matt Brown
Golden started Brown because he said Brown "worked harder." Well, I'm 5-5 and I might have worked harder than Pierce if I was 30 years younger, but I'm no good. Somewhere talent has to be factored into the equation.
I don't think St. Bernard ever got into a rhythm and that might have been the chief reason.
2) Villanova's eight in the box
Villanova keying on him might have been another reason, but a lot of teams keyed on Pierce last year and he flat-out abused them.
3) Offensive line was a little off
Even though BP ran behind the same 318-pound (average) line last week he ran behind last year, I don't think those 318-pounders played up to their potential last week. Except for Colin Madison's pancake block to free Brown for a 17-yard touchdown, I didn't see any pancakes.
I didn't see any syrup or butter or bacon, either.
So factor in the line's subpar performance as the third reason.
4) Is Bernard hurt?
I heard a couple of students at the pre-game tailgate say they saw him limping to class last week, but I didn't see Bernard limping on the field so he's healthy enough.
5) Bad game?
Another possible reason. Everyone has bad games. Gale Sayers had bad games. Heck, even Paul Palmer had bad games.
That's why tonight could. ... SHOULD ... be bounce back night for BP, his offensive line, Temple's coaches and everyone else.
If he doesn't go for at least a buck 50 and at least couple of scores, I'll start to worry but I don't think I'll have to because the Bernard Pierce I know from last year was relentlessly consistent.
I expect relentless consistency tonight. I expect the real Bernard Pierce and the real Temple offensive line to show up and explode off the ball like only they can.
Throw in a few Chester Stewart/BP ball fakes followed by long touchdown passes to wide-open Owls and this offense will really be humming.
Then the numbers will match up with the names in the program and this offense will blow the MAC up.

The MAC Roundtable

As you can see by the large numbers of people wearing Cherry on both sides of the field, pretty much the entire stadium was the Temple side against hometown rival Villanova.

Students get the fun you paid for:

Students have already paid for tickets with their student activity fee, so get what you paid for as the Owls return to action this Thursday night (9/9) at 7 p.m. vs. 2009 MAC Champion Central Michigan at Lincoln Financial Field.
FREE STUDENT Buses will shuttle back and forth from campus to the stadium beginning at 4:30 p.m. up until kickoff.
FREE FOOD will be at the student tailgate from 5pm until kick off.
Students be sure to pick up your FREE TICKET at the Liacouras box office before the game or at the Linc box office the day of the game.
Our friends over at the other MAC blogs are mulling these questions this week.
I thought I'd chime in with the official TFF answers:

1). The MAC has looked weak so far against out-of-conference opponents. Is this shaping up to be a down year for the MAC?
It was Week 1. I don't think you can tell until you get more of a body of work and compare what the Week 1 teams did down the line. Ask me in three weeks. Heck, I might ask myself in three weeks. For instance, I think Villanova beats Hampton or Jacksonville State 46-7 and nobody bats an eye because that's how good a national champion FCS is with 16 starters back, so that changes the whole perspective of the question.

2). Why don't our fans come to games? Whether it is Buffalo in a large city or Bowling Green off the side of a highway, our stadiums are generally...uninspired. Even after Central Michigan's GREATEST WIN OF ALL TIME against tormenting in-state rival MSU, Central Michigan's stadium was half full the next week against Alcorn State. Can anything be done to at least get on par with a Tulsa or ECU?
Our fans are coming. The entire lower bowl of an NFL stadium was full of Temple fans, sans just two sections of Villanova fans. Most people I talked to in the parking lot said 30,000 of the 32,123 were wearing Cherry, but I'll give Villanova a huge benefit of the doubt and give them 5,000 tops. I'll try to post a couple of photos with this post. It takes time to lose a fan base and it will take a little more time to build it up.
3). People act like a win for Boise State is a win for the "little guy." Is Boise State really carrying water for the non-aq's anymore? It seems to me they are essentially a BCS program at this point in time.
Not the little guy when a Boise State coach can walk into any recruit's home in the country and be welcome. That's how far they've come.
4. The game of the week has to be Temple versus Central Michigan on Thursday night (ESPNU). Who ya' got in that match-up?
Temple. A far inferior team with a far inferior Chester Stewart forced into QB action before he was ready got beaten up there two years ago 24-14 and was in the game for three quarters against the then MAC champs. Temple's won six straight at Lincoln Financial Field and is 12-2 against MAC teams there over the last 14.

5. Which MAC QB is going to take the crown as "best of the conference" when the dust settles at the end of the season?
Zac Dysert.
6. Rank them FIRST to WORST.
1. Temple
2. CMU
4. Northern Illinois
5. Miami
6. Kent State
7. Toledo
8. Buffalo.
9. Western Michigan
10. Ball State
11. Bowling Green
12. Eastern Michigan
13. Akron

Friday, September 3, 2010

Villanova's Talley shows real class in defeat

Major props to the Temple fans who represented wearing Cherry on both sides of the stadium.

"I'm happy for Al. I expect big things from Temple."
_ Andy Talley, Villanova national championship coach and person

If there were any Villanova fans on the other side of the field, they were dressed in cherry.
If you go to the Temple-Villanova football game next year, best bring a defribulator.
That will be on my pre-game check list, right next to the Coors Light and the reduced fat wheat thins (hey, got to cut calories somewhere).
Defribulator because after the last two Temple-Villanova football games, I spent the hour or so afterward trying to start my heart again.
They've been that exciting.
The toughest part after Temple's 31-24 last-second win over Villanova on Friday in front of a partisan Temple crowd at Lincoln Financial Field is getting back to a normal heartbeat again.
Watch the game here
I think I'm OK now.
Playing Villanova for the past two seasons has been that draining with a mixture of extreme disappointment and exhilaration.
Temple 31, Villanova 24.
Temple's Justin Gildea, the kid from the Altoona area, put an exclamation point on the game with a fumble return for a touchdown on the last play.
First the officials said it didn't count, then they correctly looked at the replay and said it did after the game was over.
Didn't matter.
Two scores in three seconds of clock time, about 15 seconds of real time. Two incredibly loud roars in the stands back-to-back.
The heroes, in my mind, were Brandon McManus, the Temple placekicker, who calmly stroked the game-winner with three seconds left and his holder, former Temple starting quarterback Vaughn Charlton.
Temple head football coach Al Golden said Charlton would be a major contributor to this team, but I think he might have been talking about tight end.
What Charlton did, using his 6-foot-5 frame to reach up as high as he could and put the ball down quickly for McManus, was a remarkable play: a winning play made by a winning kid.
His successor as Temple quarterback, Chester Stewart, could have packed it in after fumbling to give Villanova the lead (don't know why he didn't just hand it off to still-Heisman Trophy candidate Bernard Pierce on that third-and-1), but Stewart was another hero, orchestrating a game-winning drive.
Golden himself showed a remarkable insight into the Temple fan psyche with this quote:
"All the old time Temple people, they know," Golden said. "A minute fifty left, fumble the snap, and there's 250,000 alumni who shake their heads and say, here they go again."
Man, the guy has been here only five years, but he nailed it.
I thought initially that 5-foot-5, 150-pound Matt Brown starting over Pierce was some kind of message Golden was sending to Pierce, but a few of the people on campus said that Pierce was seen limping around on his way to classes so he's hurt.
He looked OK to me on the field.
Whatever, Villanova did a good job overall. It stacked the box, and Stewart only made them pay occasionally.
The Wildcats, with 16 starters back from a FCS (Division I-AA) team, will win the national championship again.
They are that good. If they stay relatively healthy, nobody is beating them.
They have a tough-as-nails quarterback, Chris Whitney, who for some inexplicable reason, Temple has refused to blitz for the past two years.
Villanova would be the second-best team in the MAC, in my opinion. That's not a knock on the MAC as it is a tribute to what Andy Talley's been able to do at Villanova.
I will go on record here as saying Temple will beat Central Michigan by a larger score than it won against Villanova.
People don't give Division I-AA football enough credit.
Villanova has a lot of good, tough kids, and Andy Talley is a great, great coach. Is there a classier guy out there than Talley?
I don't think so.
"I'm happy for Al," Talley said after the game. "I expect big things from Temple."
Most of all, I was happy for the Temple students.

There was a legitimate 32,163 in the stands, and I bet at least 27,163 were Temple fans. Of those, I bet there were about 15,000 Temple students.
When McManus' kick went through and when Gildea scored his touchdown, I heard a wall of joyous sound louder than anything outside of an Eagles' game in Lincoln Financial Field.
Those same Temple students could be heard walking out of the stadium last year, saying, "Same old Temple."
This year I heard a new refrain.
"Let's Go Temple," they chanted on the way out.
Perceptions are changing, both inside and out.

These girls got to their seats way too early, but they had fun and that's what was most important. I hope they recruit 15,000 more of their fellow students for the Central Michigan game on Thursday night. Somebody put this on Temple's cable TV station. Nice job, girls.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Today's subplot: Owl Nation vs. Phillies Nation

Owl Nation (left) and Phillies Nation
Still time for students to get their free stuff:

Every Temple student is entitled to receive one (1) free ticket to all home Temple Football and Basketball games per their student activities fee.

For Temple Football games, students may pick up their free ticket up to two days prior to the game at the Liacouras Center Box Office. Students may also pick up their free ticket the day of the game at the Lincoln Financial Field Box Office. Student must bring valid student ID to receive their ticket.

Student Bus Information for Football Games:
For all home football games, the Temple Athletic Department provides students with free transportation to and from Lincoln Financial Field. Buses will pick up students two and a half hours prior to game time at four different Temple locations: 1300 Cecil B. Moore Ave, Johnson & Hardwick Dorm, the Student Center, and Ambler Campus. Buses on main campus will run shuttles to and from Lincoln Financial Field leading up to the start of the game. Conversely, buses will only make one pick-up for students at the Ambler Campus. Buses will return to campus when the football game is over.

Football Student Tailgate:
Temple Athletics hosts a free Student Tailgate for Temple students before all home football games at Lincoln Financial Field located in Lot K. The tailgate starts an hour and a half prior to kickoff. Free food, drinks, and music will be provided to all Temple Students with proper Temple Student ID.

You've seen them everywhere all summer.
From Citizens' Bank Park to Chicago to San Diego, Phillies Nation has been one damn impressive fan base, often outcheering folks in far-flung cities.
At home, they usually arrive 3-5 hours before game time and tailgate their asses off in the Lincoln Financial Field Lot K.
Only problem is that Lot is taken over by Temple fans during Temple home football games.
So even Phillies Nation doesn't have a clue, though, what will happen later on today.
Owl Nation, armed with a little knowledge that Phillies Nation doesn't have, will grab those tailgate spots between 12-3 for a 5 p.m. game. The Phillies fans will arrive around 3 and mutter "what the f*ck" under their breaths, forced to find spots on the street.
Because Phillies Nation probably doesn't follow Temple football and probably is unaware that a Temple game is even taking place, thanks to the pro-sports oriented Philly media.
So score one for Owl Nation, which is quite aware of the Phils' start two hours later.
They haven't tallied (err, maybe I should use a different word there) the final numbers of tickets sold quite yet because Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw expects a huge walk-up for the game with Villanova.
Bradshaw mentioned the number 10,000 as a walk-up number, saying that was approximately the walk-up in the 2003 and 2009 meetings between the teams at Lincoln Financial Field.
I said back in June I'm sticking with it that the attendance for this game will be around 37K. I'll be disappointed if it is less and mildly surprised if it is more.

Could be a couple of thousand more, a couple of thousand less but I said back in June I'm sticking with it that the attendance for this game will be around 37K. I'll be disappointed if it is less and mildly surprised if it is more.
Looks like Owl Nation will be a big-time winner in this fan game, with anywhere between an estimated 28K and 32K rooting for Temple and 5-8K rooting for Villanova.
But Villanova isn't a loser in this fan race, though.
If the Wildcats bring 8K, they will be bringing 3K more than they did in three of their last five home Division I-AA playoff games. For a shore week, those are impressive numbers.
The fan base losing out is Phillies Nation, which usually wins everywhere else.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Villanova's recent scores against most 1-A (FBS) foes should foretell Friday

This thing has gnawed at stomach and head for 363 days and no amount of Pepto Bismol or Advil has been able to get rid of it.
That's how bad I took losing to Villanova last year.

Err, no, I didn't enjoy this.

That's how bad I still take losing to Villanova 363 days later.
"If you didn't enjoy that, you don't enjoy football," Temple head coach Al Golden said after a 27-24 loss to Villanova 363 days ago.
No, Al, I didn't enjoy it.
But I do enjoy football.
What a good 1-A (FBS) team should do to Villanova:
2005: Rutgers 38, Villanova 6
2006: Central Florida 36, Villanova 15
2007: Maryland 31, Villanova 14
2008: West Virginia 48, Villanova 21
My tailgate friends told me a long time ago to get over it, but the only medicine I could order for this ailment arrives in two days.
A convincing Temple win over Villanova.
Nothing more.
Nothing less.
I won't predict a score because of the variables involved.
There could be a Hurricane, then again there could not.
There could be a little wind or a lot.
There could be five unforced turnovers or not.
Temple's coaches could elect to play it close to the vest, like last year, and that would shorten the game in my opinion and play into Villanova's hands.
I would like to see Temple's defense set up camp in the Villanova backfield. By that, I mean constant pressure on Villanova quarterback Chris Whitney and by constant pressure I mean bringing him to the ground and not just getting close.
If you can't do that with 4-5 rushers, do it with 7-8 and don't wait until it's too late to turn up the heat.
If Temple stops the run and RELENTLESSLY rushes the passer, it could put up 70 points on this team.
I'd like to see that.
I really would.
That would be "enjoyable" to me.
Realistically, though, it should fall somewhere in between 27-24 and 70-14 if that happens.
If not, if Mark D'Onofrio inexplicably allows Whitney to dink and dunk, like last year, it could be 27-24 either way.
I'd like not to see that.
I really do not want to see that.
That would not be enjoyable.
So I fully expect D'Onofrio to learn from last year's game and attack, attack, attack.
I hope that's the medicine he ordered and I fully expect it won't take effect until 8 p.m. or so on Friday, but it should work.
Then the feeling many of us have had for 365 days or so should be finally gone and we can all smile again.
Former Temple kicker Cap Poklemba said it best in the Villanova pre-game tailgate last year, talking about the Mayor's Cup.
"There should be no other name on that trophy besides Temple," Cap said. "It should say 2009 winner: Temple, 2010 winner: Temple and so on. Temple's name should be the only name on that trophy."
Right on, Cap.
That problem gets corrected on Friday.
"We want to win because that trophy belongs here," Temple's Bernard Pierce said.
Temple will bring its 30,000 fans. If Villanova brings 7,000, we should get to my target number of 37K. If Villanova brings its usual 5K, we'll hit 35K.
Those numbers aren't nearly as important to me as 70-21 or 35-14.
Seventy-to-21 would be enjoyable, but I could also get enjoyment out of 35-14.
In two days, I will get this bad feeling out of my stomach and my head.
Only then will I forget about last year's pain.
No better bargain in Philadelphia sports than a partial Owl season-ticket plan. Do yourself a favor and get one now and avoid future walk-up hassles: