Sunday, October 31, 2010

Golden's Halloween costume only scary to foes

You know Al Golden has reached iconic status in Philadelphia when the winning costume during the third-quarter Halloween Contest was a Temple student dressed up as Al Golden.
I thought I saw Al cast a "you've-got-to-be-kidding-me" glance and a smile at the kid when he was announced the winner, so it looks like Al took it in good fun. I was rather impressed that Golden took time during the game to realize what was happening.
It all dates back to the day when Golden's mom told him wearing a sweatshirt on the sidelines made him look sloppy.
So Alfred has worn the same outfit for every game since the beginning of last year.
Tan pants. White shirt. Cherry tie.
The look has become as Temple as Bear Bryant's Hound's Tooth Hat is Alabama or Jim Tressel's Sweater Vest is Ohio State.
I must admiit I will give the kid who won (and I'm sorry that I can't find his name on the internet) major props for creativity.
Actually, two young men were weaing the Golden costume, both roommates.
I personally don't care what Al wears as long as he keeps piling up the wins.
With the 30-0 win over Akron on Saturday, Temple tied a school-record with 10 straight home wins. The defense recorded its second-straight shutout for the first time since 1971.
Pretty impressive, too (and thanks for blitzing, Mark D'Onofrio).
If the Owls get to consecutive home win No. 11, against Ohio in a Tuesday night game, it will likely mean the Owls will clinch the MAC East title, something they were unable to do last year.
In fact, now I hope he wears the Cherry tie and the white shirt because it's become a good-luck charm.
It's not a particularly scary outfit, unless you happen to be on the other side of Lincoln Financial Field wearing some other uniform.
Let's do our best to keep that outfit and the man wearing it here for a long, long time.
Becoming Iconic (with a capital I) in the World Class city of Philadelphia is a good way to start.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Man Who Saved Temple's season

ARob in action against UCLA last year.

I would be remiss if I let this day go by without thanking Adrian Robinson, who I shall refer to as The Man Who Saved Temple's season.
Think about it.
Had not ARob blocked an extra point against Bowling Green, there would be no MAC championship to play for and (maybe) the very best Temple could hope for was a repeat of the 9-3 season of a year ago.
Not what I, or probably you, was expecting or hoping for this season.
So thanks, ARob, and keep on making plays.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

MAC Blogger Roundtable: Week 9

Matt Falcone proves that when you go to Temple, you get to meet Super Bowl winning coaches. Matt was a special teams' star in 2009 from the great town of Palmerton, Pa. (Home of the Blue Ridge Country Club and not far from the Bowmanstown Diner.) I had the good fortune of meeting his Mom at the UConn game. Hurry back, Matt.

Let's Go Rockets (Toledo) is hosting this week's MAC Roundtable Question and Answer session:

1. What has been the biggest surprise for your MAC team this season? Can be good or bad, player or team?

TFF: Matt Brown taking carries away from My Main Man Bernard Pierce. I don't like it, but I have to give the little guy credit for producing (except against Penn State). I really feel Matt is best suited as a third-down back and a slotback (and emergency backup) and Bernard should get his 20-25 carries. I hope the offense evolves that way because Penn State had no shot at stopping BP before he broke his ankle. When Brown replaced him, the Nits had no problem with Brown. A steady diet of Bernard Pierce gives quarterback Mike Gerardi more wide-open play-action options.

2. Hypothetical: your team has been selected to play in a bowl game -- from which MAC-tied bowl would you like to receive an invite ?
TFF: I would say GMAC (whoops because at least Mobile, Ala. has a chance of having a 65-degree day in Jan. (Yeah, I know it was 35 degrees at last year's GMAC game but I froze my ass off in sub-11 wind chill in D.C.)

3. In your bowl game answer from above -- what opponent (any) would you like to face and why ?
TFF: Easy. Penn State. Mike Gerardi at QB AT LEAST evens the playing field vs. Penn State and that would be a huge statement win for the program, like UCLA should have been last year. I ust hope PSU gets to six wins. (I know that's more likely in Detroit than Mobile, so I'd go to Detroit for that matchup if I have to ....)
4. Only a few weeks remain in this season, what has to happen in the remaining games for your team to finish on an upswing / maintain / save the season / etc. ?
TFF: No injuries at the RB or QB positions especially.
5. Rank the teams in the order you expect to see them at the close of the season.

1. Temple
2. NIU
3. Ohio
4. Western Michigan
5. Ohio
6. Central Michigan
7. Kent State
8. Miami
9. Bowling Green
10. Ball State
11. Buffalo
12. Eastern Michigan
13. Akron

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Missing Link is the perfect description

Mike Gerardi (14) cheers on Peanut Joseph as a bench player during last year's UB game. Now he will take a more active role in the winning.

"I saw every play of the Temple vs. Penn State game and the only thing Temple needed to win that game was better quaterback play. I really think if Mike Gerardi played that game, they would have beaten Penn State."
_ Doug Graber, on ESPN Plus telecast
The dictionary has two definitions for the term "missing link."
I hadn't heard it since I used to play full court noon-time basketball at the Doylestown YMCA about 20 years ago.
We'd always call this wild guy the missing link. He was bald, big, had a beard (kind of looked like Brian Wilson of the Giants) and was muscle-bound and would camp underneath the basket and get all the rebounds.
I haven't really heard the term "missing link" again until Saturday.
The announcers on the TV during Temple's 42-0 win at Buffalo, Michael Reghi and Doug Graber, kept referring to quarterback Mike Gerardi as Temple's missing link.
I don't think he's bald, big or particularly muscle-bound so I had to page through my Merriam-Webster Dictionary to see what they were talking about.

It gives two definitions and I like the second one best:
  1.  A theoretical primate postulated to bridge the evolutionary gap between the anthropoid apes and humans. Not in scientific use.
  2.  Something lacking that is needed to complete a series.

Something lacking that is needed to complete a series.

That pretty much describes Mike Gerardi to me and what he means to Temple's football team.

Too many series have been left on the field and, to me, the position mostly at fault was the quarterback one.

Too many interceptions.
Too many fumbles.
Too many overthrows.
Too many left plays on the field.
Not anymore.
Gerardi threw a pair of interceptions that could be forgiven today because both were right near the hands of the wide receivers and both came after Gerardi demonstrated an ability to make positive plays with the ball.
This team has so many weapons and now, for the first time all year, I feel confident that they can be used properly.
Something had been missing all year until now.
Missing link?
If your talking about the second definition of that term, I think that's the perfect description for Mike Gerardi.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Temple Game Day: Keyword is kiss

This is what happened the last time the Owls had a road game in New York.

When I think about the keyword being kiss, I'm usually thinking of weathergirl Cecily Tynan of Channel 6, WPVI, the ABC affiliate in Philadelphia.
She's the only person these days who makes me want to pucker up and kiss the TV screen.
I'm pursing the lips today while I think about watching Channel 6 (noon) for the Temple at Buffalo game because if Temple can use the word kiss as its guide things should go fairly smoothly.

Outfreaking (and I'm not talking about Dave Roberts)

Al Golden isn't stupid, but the coaches under him have coached the last two weeks like they are.
He's the boss. He's got to dictate the game plan, so it's on him today.
If Al Golden knows what he's doing (and I think he does), it's very simple this week:
1) Establish Bernard Pierce left, right and up the middle (that won't take long, he's THAT great);
2) Play off the (now) fear of BP getting the ball, by faking to (duh?) BP and throwing the ball downfield to wide-open receivers like Evan Rodriguez, Rod Streater, Michael Campbell, Joey Jones, Delano Green, etc. Those throws must be made by Mike Gerardi and not Chester Stewart because CS cannot complete a play-action pass to save his life.
3) Go after the new Buffalo quarterback with blitzes. You let any quarterback, including me, sit there for five seconds (like we have all year) and they'll pick you apart. (I would pick us apart by throwing the ball 20 yards downfield because I can't throw any farther, but a D1A QB given time picks any defense apart). So the goal is to cut those five seconds of slack down to 1.2 or less this week.
If the above three points are followed, Temple wins, 38-17.
If two are followed, Temple wins, 27-20.
If none are followed, Temple loses, 24-21.
That's what I'll be doing to the screen if Al Golden follows my simple game plan.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Temple Football Forever hosts MAC Week 8

Much to my chagrin, most of my fellow Temple fans are not as rabid a MAC football fan as I am.
My Temple loyalty dates back 30 or so years.
My MAC loyalty dates back about half that time.
My real job involves covering high schools for  a major urban newspaper and I got to following MAC football because it was the only game on TV on Thursday nights roughly 15 years ago.
This was long before Temple got involved with the MAC and long before I ever dreamed such a pairing would ever exist.
The TV was always on in the background and the MAC game would invariably draw me to it like a magnet.
My co-workers then would be more than happy to verify that this is what I used to say when MAC football came on TV:
"God, I love this conference."
Probably because, as underdogs, these guys used to pull off upsets like Northern Illinois over Alabama and Toledo over Colorado on a semi-regular basis.
Loved it then.
Love it now.
According to the results of our latest poll, 75 percent of you care more about Temple changing QBs than the Chilean miners being rescued. Thanks for voting.
I only bet the MAC when it comes to Saturdays and the first scores I look for are MAC games. (For reasons of loyalty, I never bet Temple games.) I don't care about the SEC or Big 10.
Only the MAC.
Since Vegas doesn't follow the MAC nearly as closely as I do, I consider my knowledge of MAC outcomes virtual insider trading.
It's the conference that loves you back.
So it is my honor and privilege to be part of the MAC bloggers' group and host Week 8 this week:
Here are my questions and answers returned to me so far:
Let's Go Rockets (Toledo):

Bull Run (Buffalo):

Fire Up Chips (Central Michigan)

Over The Pylon (Ball State)

Orange and Brown (Bowling Green)

Totem (Eastern Michigan Eagles)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Coachspeak and Goldenspeak

On this video, Al Golden announces a change from the 5-2-4 defense to the 8-3 defense (not really but we can dream, can't we?) for this week's game at Buffalo.
I want to see three things this week:
1) Gerardi starting/Coyer backing up;
2) A steady diet of Bernard Pierce;
3) A change in the defensive philosophy that puts the emphasis on all-out blitzing from the pre-game introductions until the post-game singing of T for Temple U.
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine told me to not take what Al Golden says seriously.
At least not in public.
This is a guy who hears what Al says at the media luncheons and a guy who is privy to hearing what Al says behind the scenes.
That's cool, I thought.
I really don't care what Al "says" as much as what Al "does."
Yet I've found, for the most part, that Al Golden usually means what he says so these little contradictions don't bother me as much.
The topic came up because last week Al supposedly told everybody, his kid brother, the truck vendor, the security guy, that Mike Gerardi was going to start against Bowling Green.
Then Chester Stewart starts.
Then Chester Stewart throws a pick 6 on his third pass.
Then Gerardi comes into the game.
Al Golden did the right thing by putting Gerardi into the game. Stewart has been killing this team all year and the pick 6 was the last straw. He killed them at Penn State. He killed them at NIU.
Three passes into the game, he was killing them against Bowling Green.
The important thing to me then, as now, was what Al Golden does.
Golden says that Gerardi and Stewart "are battling it out" this week for the quarterback position and that backup Chris Coyer is "one snap away."
Unless Stewart comes in on an end reverse, runs into Gerardi and both are knocked out of the game, I don't see Coyer as being one snap away.
The math doesn't add up.
So there's a contradiction in what Al Golden is saying against what he probably will do.
Your guess is as good as mine.
But because Al eventually ended up doing the right thing last week, I hope he will do the right thing again this week.
I want to see three things this week:
1) Gerardi starting/Coyer backing up;
2) A steady diet of Bernard Pierce;
3) A change in the defensive philosophy that puts the emphasis on all-out blitzing from the pre-game introductions until the post-game singing of T for Temple U.
The doing trumps the saying every time.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Golden Rhule: Give the ball to Bernard Pierce

I'm glad a brought a transitor radio with me to hear Saturday's Temple game at Lincoln Financial Field.
While watching it, I had the transitor nearby on the ledge but inadvertantly turned off for the entire first half.
I thought I might be going crazy for thinking some of the things I was thinking, but then I turned the radio on in the second half and heard my exact same thoughts spill out of the mouth of a Maxwell Award-winning quarterback.

"We really didn't need this drama. They should have been giving the ball to Bernard Pierce all along."
_ Steve Joachim
"We really didn't need this drama," Temple radio color man Steve Joachim said. "They should have been giving the ball to Bernard Pierce all along. I said that in the first half and I'm saying it now."
That's what I'm talkin' about, Steve.
It's much nicer to learn lessons after a 28-27 win than after a 29-28 defeat, but the lessons must be learned.
Here are two of them:
1) How about going back to what (and who) worked on offense last year?
2) How about dedicating the rest of the season on defense to doing something different, like putting the other quarterback on his ass by rushing eight and dropping three instead of the other way around?

  I trust a career defensive guy, like Matt D'Onofrio, to fix that more than I trust another career defensive guy, like Matt Rhule, to fix an offensive problem.
Right now, we'll concentrate on the offensive lessons that must be learned.
I wish Al Golden had a little violent streak in him because, if he did, after a film session on Sunday to determine what went wrong, he would take offensive coordinator Rhule by the ears and bang his head into the Edberg-Olson film room blackboard after each of these words:

Mark, Matt, I called you here to discuss some things.
 We can only hope ...
"Matt, you are killing me here. Give the damn ball to Pierce. Have Gerardi run some play-action fakes after we establish Bernard. Mark, if you want Bruce Arians here after I'm gone, keep playing that passive bend-but-don't break defense. That's not Philly-style football. Philly-style football is aggressive and attacking. That sign behind us on game day says 'Attack the MAC.' It doesn't say 'Sit Back in a Prevent and Let the MAC Attack us.' Philly-style football is going after the quarterback. Let's go after the quarterback big-time from now on. If we can't get to him with three, we sure as heck can get to him rushing eight and let's do it."
(banged head)
 (banged head)
(banged head)
(banged head)
"the ball"
(banged head)
"to Bernard"
(banged head)
(banged head)
"do you not understand?"
Capisce? Understand?
Am I going crazy here?
Bowling Green could not stop Bernard Pierce if they played 20 guys on defense, yet for reason known only to Rhule (and I hope not Golden), Temple's offensive coordinator insisted on trying plays other than handoffs and pitchouts to Bernard Pierce.
Temple had one play that worked every time.
Every time.
Until Bowling Green, the 111th (of 112) FBS teams against the run proved they couldn't stop it, what sense does it make to do anything else?
Was Matt Rhule trying to help Bowling Green?
I'm sure it was something else (the word incompentence comes to mind).
What the hell is going on here?
Matty Brown is a nice player, nice ... nice ... nice player but he's not a Gosh-darn superstar.
He's a nice player, I get it.
That's all he is, though.
Bernard Pierce is a gosh-darn superstar.
He wasn't hurt.
Give him the damn ball.
When a career linebacker, a linebacker coach, is calling the signals, I have to question his acumen for offensive football.
I trust what I see and when 20 minutes after I see it, a Maxwell Award-winning quarterback who was tutored by the greatest offensive mind in the history of college football (Wayne Hardin) sees the same thing, I trust that more.
When what Rhule does week after week fails to utilize the enormous weapons he has at his disposal, it's time for someone to knock some sense into his head.
Maybe not as violently as I depicted it, but in very strong terms.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

MAC Blogger Roundtable Week 7

The greatest graphic ever by Tim Riordan (not the ex-Temple quarterback).

Every college football season, two things happen.
The days get way too shorter earlier and the season comes to an end way too soon.
So it goes with the MAC season this year.
Six games are completed and I don't know where the time went.
Here are the Week 7 MAC Blogger Roundtable questions and my answers.
1.) After 6 games, we're halfway through the season or damn close if you've had a bye. Are you pleasantly surprised with your team's performance so far? Angrily apathetic about what you've seen? Right where they were expected to be? Give your team a mid-term grade.

TFF: Not pleasantly surprised. Quarterback play has been the worst I've seen in the Golden Era, leading directly to both losses. People in practice this week say Golden is going to Plan B, a first-team all-state kid, Mike Gerardi, from New Jersey. I don't know if this is true, but if Al has any sense left in his head he will make that move. In fact, he probably should have pulled this ripcord earlier. Will he show rust or will he step in like the Rutgers' kid did and light it up? I think the answer lies somewhere in between.

2.) This weekend there's a bevy of MAC action. Taking your own game out of the equation, what game are you looking forward to? What game gives you the potential for the most information about what teams are for real and which teams are anything but?

TFF: I'm looking forward to Western Michigan vs. Notre Dame. I think Philly homeboy Bill Cubit will give the Irish a decent game and think the 22-point spread is way too high.

3.) As it's Columbus Day week, what MAC coach has clearly not lived up to the adventurer spirit and should be shipped somewhere far and distant... for Queen and honor of course.

TFF: English from Eastern Michigan. Not because of the losses but because of the lopsidedness of the losses.

4.) More on a national purview, with Alabama's loss the door is wide open for perhaps a non-automatic qualifying conference school from Boise, Idaho to shove their way into the national championship. Is this the year that the "little guy" finally earns the respect of the BCS conferences?

TFF: Yes. I think Boise State could beat anybody right now.

5.) Rank 'em, worst to first.

13. Akron
12. Eastern Michigan
11. Kent State
10. Ball State
9. Bowling Green
8. Buffalo.
7. Toledo.
6. Western Michigan.
5. Miami
4. CMU
3. Ohio
2. Temple
1. NIU

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Changes in the wind on Saturday

This is what Mike Gerardi should be doing mostly on Saturday.

To say there will be a healthy breeze on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field when Temple takes on Bowling Green for Homecoming Day, would be a bit of an understatement.
The National Weather Service in Philadelphia is calling for gusts in the 50-60 mph range and that's a pretty damn good breeze.
Kind of a good metaphor for what will happen on the field as well.
I had a feeling Al Golden would be going to Mike Gerardi as Saturday's starting quarterback no later than with two minutes left in the loss to Northern Illinois when Chester Stewart forgot how many downs there were, ruining any remote chance the Owls had of winning the game.
It was about that time, around 3 in the afternoon, that Golden mentally checked out on Chester Stewart right about the time Stewart mentally checked out on him.

"When the curtain came down on Parsippany Hills' football season, college coaches practically made a conga line into Vikings coach Dave Albano's office.

"The subject of the coaches' admiration: Par Hills quarterback Mike Gerardi.
What was there not to like? Gerardi wowed college recruiters for the entire season, led his team to a state championship game, and was an Associated Press first-team All-State player."
_ Bergen County (N.J.) Record, 2/9/07
It's one thing to forget how many downs there are when it's first down.
It's quite another to forget how many there are on fourth.
Since Mike Gerardi was listed as the No. 2, I figured Golden made the move no later than 3:30 or so Saturday afternoon.
It turns out I might be right.
The word I get from the kids (Temple students) who saw Monday and Tuesday practice is that No. 14 was taking a good deal of the reps.
That's all I needed to hear.
Quite frankly, it's about time.
Quite frankly, too, I don't expect Mike to light it up on Saturday.
If he can learn how to hand the ball off to The Franchise (No. 30) and mini franchise (with a lower case f, No. 22), he should do just fine.
Bowling Green can't stop the run. Bowling Green can't run the ball on its own. It's got a decent passing game, but how decent can passing be throwing into 50mph?
So, if Gerardi can hand it off and avoid the turnovers, he should do just fine.
Save the touchdown passes for next week because even Payton Manning ain't getting anything accomplished in this wind.
Quarterback is a funny, as in curious and interesting, position.
You either have it or you don't.
From my experiences with 20 or so past Temple quarterbacks, I've found that if you don't bring an impressive resume to North Broad Street you are just not going to get it done once you get here.
Vaughn Charlton was second-team all-league in a weak (and now defunct) Southern Chester County League, throwing all of nine touchdown passes as a high school senior.
Chester Stewart threw for 17 as a high school senior in a weak D.C. City League (rough equivalent of the Philadelphia Public League).
Both were projects, guys who Al Golden felt he could "coach up" into serviceable Division IA (or FBS) quarterbacks.
Adam DiMichele, on the other hand, threw for 36 touchdowns as a high school senior in the WPIAL.
He was a first-team All-State player.
Golden never had to coach him up. He was already up when he got here.
Other successful Temple quarterbacks, like Matty Baker, Tim Riordan, Lee Saltz, Brian Broomell, Doug Shobert, Steve Joachim, etc., were either first-team All-State in high school or close to it.
None of those guys were projects but they came to Temple polished and all Wayne Hardin had to do was impart his own shine on them and that worked out well for Temple.
Mike Gerardi was a first-team all-state player at Parsippany Hills in New Jersey, which is a very high level of high school football. He threw for 35 touchdowns as a high school senior.
I like that kind of pedigree in my Temple quarterbacks.
In football, as in business, the best predictor of future success is past success.
If he succeeds at Temple, I would not be surprised.
He deserves a chance to show what he can do both this week and next when the winds die down.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Defense, QB come up small in Illinois

Proof positive that even a JC quarterback can routinely hit Rod Streater in stride.

Does an AVERAGE Division I-A (FBS) quarterback miss that wide-open Rod Streater for a touchdown with the Owls down, 24-17?

Does an AVERAGE Division I-AA (FCS) quarterback miss that pass?
Does an AVERAGE Division II quarterback miss that connection?
Does, say,  West Chester University's  Sean McCartney (who completed 36 for 44 for 447 yards in a win over East Stroudsburg Friday night) complete that pass?

Let's start the blame game for Temple's 31-17 loss to Northern Illinois on the right foot.
The right foot was the defense, which returns six All-MAC performers.
No way a defense with more than half the MAC all-star team should yield 31 points to any MAC offense.
 That said, I hope all of the Chester Stewart fans are happy now. I haven't been one and that's been well-documented here.
Temple won some thrilling games that didn't need to be thrilling early because, in my view, Chester Stewart brought the Owls down to the level of competition, not up. Freaking Ball State put up 31 points on Central Michigan, but not Temple. Freaking William and Mary put up 34 points on Villanova, not Temple. Freaking Illinois put up 33 points on Penn State, not Temple.
Yet I would take all of the weapons around Chester Stewart (Bernard Pierce, Matty Brown, Joey Jones, Rod Streater, James Nixon, Evan Rodriguez, Michael Campbell, etc., etc.) over all the weapons on Ball State, W&M and Illinois combined.
So who's fault is it when the offense underperforms?
I've been saying all season that Chester Stewart's performance needs to come up a level or two or three for Temple to win the MAC title.
My detractors said to shut up, he's got the Owls to 4-1.
I told them the Owls have got to 4-1 in spite of his consistent overthrows, fumbles and interceptions.
He proved me right today.
Does an AVERAGE Division I-A (FBS) quarterback miss that wide-open Rod Streater for a touchdown with the Owls down, 24-17?
Does an AVERAGE Division I-AA (FCS) quarterback miss that pass?
Does an average Division II quarterback miss that connection?
Does, say, West Chester University's Sean McCartney (who completed 36 for 44 for 447 yards in a win over East Stroudsburg Friday night) complete that pass?
It's a simple pitch and catch, yet Stewart not only missed it on Saturday but he's missed it on the other Saturdays and the Thursdays and Fridays Temple has played this year.

What concerns me more than Chester missing that toss was that Al Golden and Matt Rhule do not have confidence in the backups to make it.
If they can make that simple toss, they should be playing.
If they can't, Temple is in trouble the rest of the season.
This is the week some hard choices have to be made at that position.
Because Al Golden made those same hard choices this year at about the same time, I'm confident he could pull the trigger again.
But will he?
One of the other guys should have a chance to try these weapons on the Bowling Green firing range.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Is it Week 6 already?

Man, this season is going fast.
It's time for the weeklhy MAC football bloggers roundtable.
Here are the questions thrown my way and my answers, as always, are Golden, as in Al:
1. What are your realistic best- and worst-case scenarios for the rest of your team's season?
My worst-case scenario is that Bernard Pierce doesn't get fully healthy. Even though Temple beat Army with a 226-yard, four-touchdown performance by backup Matty Brown ... Matty Brown is no Bernard Pierce. Penn State could not handle Bernard Pierce in the red zone before BP sprung an oil leak, err, ankle sprain. Penn State had no problems at all with Matty Brown. So while a lot of Owl fans are excited about Matty Brown going forward, I look at him through the Prism of the PSU game. Best case? Chester Stewart becomes Randall Cunningham and BP comes back and Temple runs the table.
2. If you could pick a single down that's been played this year to give a different result, which play would you choose? Why that play? How would you like it to go?
Pick is a good word. I can't pick a single down. I can pick three downs and I have to use the word pick three times, which is precisely what Stewart did on the three absolutely worst reads of a defense by a Temple quarterback I have ever seen in the Penn State game. That game was Temple's for the taking, even without Bernard Pierce.
3. Which MAC team is better than their record? Which is worse?
Miami is definitely better. I saw the Florida game and the Red Hawks hung. I think Central Michigan is probably worse than 3-2, although you couldn't tell it from the Temple game.
4. What remaining game are you most looking forward to?
Just one. Northern Illinois.
5. Rank 'em, in whatever order and by whatever criterion you prefer.
1. Temple
2. Northern Illinois
4. CMU
5. Miami
6. Bowling Green
7. Toledo
8. Buffalo.
9. Western Michigan
10. Ball State
11. Kent State
12. Eastern Michigan
13. Akron

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Looking ahead to Northern Illinois

Scott Hartkorn's great video over TU's encounter with the other Huskies.

In a perfect world, this would be a good time for a nice bye for the Temple University football team.
Don't get me wrong.
I hate byes.
A weekend without Temple football, to me, is a lost weekend.
Still, I can't think of a better time in recent Temple football memory (starting with the Al Golden years) for a bye.

How good is Northern Illinois?
Well, the Huskies have won at Minnesota, 34-23. (Doesn't it seem like yesterday when the Owls lost at Minnesota, 62-0?)
They have beaten North Dakota, 23-17.
They lost at Illinois, 28-22 (a team that gave Ohio State all it could handle).
They lost at Iowa State, 27-10 (a team that buried Texas Tech, 52-28).
They won at Akron, 50-14.
This is a very good team.
The Franchise, AKA Bernard Pierce, could certainly use an extra week to heal his ankle.
The team has just been through a gaunlet that included winning a trophy for football superiority in its hometown (a must game, if there ever was one), beating the perennial league power (Central Michigan), winning a grudge match against both a good football team (UConn) and a league (the Big East, with a lower case t) and winning at Army's homecoming before 33,000 fans.
If a team ever needed a rest, it is the Owls.
So Al Golden gave them one.
Two days.
That's it.
Now the Owls have to fly halfway across the country and play a Northern Illinois team that might be the best team they've played so far and that includes Penn State. (We don't know that for sure so that's why we're using the word might. If Penn State beats Illinois by more than 28-22, Penn State will have been the best team on Temple's schedule.)
There's not much a belief that the Owls can beat this team at this time, if the nation's bettors are any indication.
The Huskies opened as 1 1/2-point favorites on Sunday night. By Monday morning, it was 2 1/2. By Tuesday morning, it was 3 1/2. By this morning, it is 4.
A lot of that is the uncertainty over whether Bernard Pierce can play and how effectively he can play if he does.
Maybe at least a little of it is the bettors watching Chester Stewart game film.
Either way, it does not show a whole lot of confidence in the Owls.
Stewart is going to have to play better, avoid a Penn State-like three-pick performance  and his penchant for fumbling for the Owls to have a chance.
There's very little in the game film to believe that he will.
Chester improved over the Penn State game, but the improvement was inches, not feet. He did fumble a ball that Army recovered late in the game, but that was not reviewed. Good for Temple that it wasn't, but an indication that the bad habit hasn't been shaken.
I think Temple's best chance is to have both Bernie and the Bug back there in a two-man set and have the NIU defense on their heels.
Throw on first down to keep them on their heels more. Use play-action on second and third down. Get Joey Jones in there to run reverses and then have him throw off reverses.
It's going to take a full bag of Matt Rhule's tricks to win this one.
If the Owls can pull this off, on the road and  as tired mentally and beat up physically as they are, it will be their most impressive win of the season.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Temple rises to the challenge once again

Temple fans got to experience a beautiful setting and a win Saturday.

Rather than feeling blue once they arrive later this week in Illinois to face a Northern Illinois team that won at Minnesota and is coming off a 50-point outburst in a win over Akron, Temple's football players might be in a bit of a comfort zone once they arrive.
Heck, playing perhaps the first- or second-best team in the Mid-American Conference is  a challenge, but this season has been one step steeper than the other so far.
They are used to challenges and, in almost all cases, they've risen to it.
Nothing new to these Owls after what they've been through, the latest a come-from-behind 42-35 win at Army.
This is the dangest schedule I've ever seen Temple play.
Maybe not the toughest, but I don't remember ever seeing a schedule where the next week's challenge was tougher than the last one.
The Villanova game presented a huge monkey in the form of getting back the Mayor's Cup and credibility in the old hometown.
Central Michigan meant slaying the reigning perennial champion in the league.
UConn might have been the biggest one of all, sending a message to the Big East that Temple, not Villanova, was the Philadelphia team they should have kept and should go after.
Penn State would have been a program-defining win and shocked the world, but who could forsee losing a Heisman Trophy candidate on the day when the quarterback would throw three picks?
Now Army.
It's almost impossible to fathom a Temple team scoring 29 straight points against a good team in front of 30,000 of their fans, but that's what happened yesterday.
"It was the biggest win we've had since we've been here," Al Golden said.
I believe him. I believe it, too.

I thik in many respects this opponent was even tougher than Penn State was because the Owls had to get that one out of their heads and, at the same time, focus on how to stop a difficult offense in a short work week.
Now Northern Illinois.
They don't seem to be getting any easier, do they?
Maybe this schedule provides just the focus these Owls need to avoid pitfalls.
Great job by Matt Brown, but also a great job by Mark D'Onofrio making the necessary adjustments to shut down Army's sophisticated scheme. Quarterback Chester Stewart played better, didn't panic, didn't throw into reads. Maybe he learned something watching Penn State game film. Still holds the ball too much like a loaf of bread for my taste, but maybe some more film study will rid him of that bad habit.
And who knew Joey Jones could throw the tightest spiral of the day?
The schedule has demanded the team and the fans focus on the next challenge and I wouldn't want it any other way.
Apparently, neither do they.