Saturday, November 17, 2012

Better late than never

Montel Harris (8) needs a lift  to see what is distracting Cody Booth (38) and Wyatt Benson (44).

Two phrases rattled around my head during the fourth quarter of Temple's 63-32 win at Army on Saturday:

  • That's more like it.
  • Better late than never.

This is the Temple football team I envisioned back in August and September.
No, I'm not crazy enough to think that Montel Harris would have gone for 351 yards and seven touchdowns every Saturday but I thought both Harris and Matty Brown could go near or over 100 yards each game and that their running ability would set up some "explosive plays downfield in the passing game" that head coach Steve Addazio promised in the summer.
Temple football records Saturday:
Most rushing yards game individual: Montel Harris (351)

Most touchdowns game individual: Montel Harris (7)

Most career points individual: Brandon McManus (332).
Most touchdowns game by a Big East team (9).
Whatever the Owls lacked on defense I thought could be made up by an offense turning the Lincoln Financial Field scoreboard into an adding machine.
And, I thought, that would have been good for at least six wins and, maybe, as many as eight.
Now, the best the Owls can do is five because those explosive plays in the passing game never materialized, simply because the Owls stubbornly tried to pound the rock against bigger, more talented, defensive fronts for most of October and November. They might as well have been pounding their heads against a rock with that misguided approach.
The Owls were just as stubborn on Saturday in a 63-32 win over Army, but they could afford to do that against a team ranked near the bottom of the country in rushing defense.
They also helped themselves by eliminating the turnovers which, as Michael Vick can tell you, is the key to winning any football game.
If the Owls can somehow parlay Syracuse's fear of Harris (and Brown) into some, err, explosive plays downfield in the passing game (perhaps off a fake to Harris on an early down), they can make a statement that they are ready to make a run at the top of the Big East ladder next year by rudely sending Syracuse off to the ACC.
The Owls won't have Montel or Matty next year, but Jamie Gilmore and "Montrell" Dobbs figure to have the requisite three-star talent to pick up where those two left off.
And, pretty much, the rest of the team is back although I'd like to see a serious upgrade in the defensive secondary (hint: Kevin Newsome).
Harris' performance was an eclipse that obscured a lot of other good things on Saturday, but it should not go unnoticed that Brandon McManus set the school record for career points by an individual, breaking Bernard Pierce's standard of 324. McManus needed four going into Saturday's game.
Another great kicker, high school All-American Jim Cooper, Jr., arrives for summer classes in July.
Other than that, as Jose from Norristown might say, it was amazing to see how much misinformation is out there.
Twice during the game, CBS Sports announcers said that Harris was the "leading rusher all-time in the history of the ACC' and, later, the "15th-leading rusher all-time in the history of the ACC."
Both were wrong.
In reality, Harris is still the second-leading rusher in the history of the ACC, falling 828 yards short of Ted Brown's record set at North Carolina State. He is only 50 yards away from another 1,000-yard season.
I was privileged to see Paul Palmer's 349-yard game against East Carolina and Saturday's performance by Harris was even better, both on the stat sheet and stylistically.
Harris will have spent only one year here but he will always be remembered by me as a warrior and a great Temple Owl.
So will Brown and McManus and the rest of the seniors.
They deserve to go out in front of a large, appreciative home crowd on Friday.

Tomorrow: You think you've got troubles?
Tuesday: ???
Wednesday: A tribute to the seniors 
Thursday: Throwback Thursday 
Friday: Game Day Preview