Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The case for the defense

On the touchdown passes in the end zone, you can see Owls around the ball but nobody makes a play on it.

Temple's defense experienced the worst kind of replay on Saturday, three similar touchdown passes within a seven-minute stretch of the fourth quarter.
For all intents and purposes, the game was over right there, a 21-10 Rutgers' lead on the way to a 35-10 win.
After giving up two touchdown passes in the first quarter at Uconn, the replays are maddening familiar.
Progress, at least in this case, was the coverage.
If you look at the coverage, Owls are there. On one touchdown, it was a linebacker (Nate D. Smith) and a corner (usual lock-down left corner Anthony Robey, beaten for the first time all season for six). On another, two Owls miss tackles in the open field against Juwan Jamison, one of the best halfbacks in the conference. On another, three Owls are around the ball.
Against UConn, over the middle, nobody was.
Kevin Newsome: Too good an athlete to keep off the field.
Temple defensive coordinator Chuck Heater made the adjustments he needed to make at halftime to close off the middle and the rest of the field. There's nobody better than Heater making halftime adjustments.
Problem on Saturday was there was no halftime to make adjustments and no offense to make a comeback with.
There would have been an offense if the Owls had thrown on play-action passes on first down in the opening half (see Sunday post below), but 21-10 is too large a deficit for Temple to recover from when facing the No. 15 team in the BCS standings. Throwing is a whole different story when you HAVE to throw the ball. Temple should have mixed it up in the first half, when it didn't have to throw.
This is about the defense, though.
To me, the solution is simple: Get athletes in there who can make plays and knock the ball down and maybe even intercept it.
They don't even have to be recruited. They are already here.
Vaughn Carraway, the starting free safety who was suspended for the Rutgers' game because of a questionable hit (the hit looked OK to me) at UConn, will be back for Pitt.
He's one of the athletes. I think Carraway makes the tackle on Jamison.
I'd love to see them move Carraway to one corner and move Kevin Newsome, a three-time first-team all-state safety in Virginia, from scout team quarterback to roaming the middle of the field. It's not like the Owls don't have Big East talent back there. Carraway, Newsome, Tavon Young, Robey and Abdul Smith are Big East talents. Heck, Newsome (PSU recruit) and Carraway (Michigan recruit) are Big 10 talents. It's not like the Owls have to play MAC defensive backs against BE wideouts. It's not like the brain trust at the E-O hasn't thought about it. Newsome said as much after the Maryland game: "Coach Addazio asked me if I would play either wide receiver or safety and I said I would do anything to help the team."
The "or safety" comment was the most intriguing to me.
What happened since? I'm told Addazio was not comfortable with only having one spread offense quarterback in reserve should starter Chris Coyer go down. When you are constantly getting beaten on jump balls in the secondary, that's not a good enough reason for me. Heck, it's not like if Newsome moves over to defense he won't be available to play quarterback in a pinch.
Can you imagine how much different it would be on the back-line defense with two 6-foot-3 guys with 4.5 speed  and near 40-inch vertical jumps (Carraway and Newsome) back there to make plays?
We might be talking about three field goals and not three touchdowns.
Even with the Owls' anemic offensive game plan, we're also talking about a 10-9 lead going into the final quarter.
And maybe, just maybe, a 3-0 Big East record.
Is it too late to change secondary personnel?
Maybe,  but I think it's worth a shot even at this late juncture.
Otherwise, get used to more jump balls in the end zone landing in the wrong hands.