Tough sales pitch
Hey, gotta credit Temple coach Matt Rhule. He’s fighting an uphill battle with attempting to get everyone in Cherry & White Nation to move past Saturday’s demons-erasing win against Penn State and focus on this week’s American Athletic Conference game at Cincinnati.
It’s a tough sell. An impossible sell. But, he’s trying, gosh darnit.
Funny thing is, Rhule, like his counterpart James Franklin at Penn State, was well aware that the 2015 Owls breaking a 74-year skein against the Nittany Lions was a distinct possibility … and that the hangover celebrating it could have a less-than-ideal effect. So he started downplaying PSU and pumping up Cincy before the season even started.
Oh, heck no, he wouldn’t deny the importance of playing, and certainly beating, the Lions, what the latter could, mean to his program and its evolution, how it could supercharge recruiting and bring attention to the goings-on along North Broad. But, you know, his “game plan” for this program really starts with conference success and conference championships and, that being the case, the Bearcats – take a deep breath now – were a more critical foe than PSU in determining where Temple was in its progress.
He didn’t have the audacity to share the truth, that the Bearcats would provide superior competition than the Lions, because no one within earshot would believe it. Not in Philly, at least, and not in its surrounding area. College football insight around here for the most part stretches as far as State College’s city limits go, with maybe a few facts coming out of South Bend, Ind., thrown in, or perhaps from down south, you know, that SEA or B or C or something league.
Temple, and its circuit, the AAC? Eh, that’s minor-league stuff. Not for nothing, and, yeah, we get PSU had sanctions the past three seasons, but go back to 2007 and Cincy has the 10th-best record (76-29) among FBS schools while Penn State checks in at No. 23 (69-34). The Bearcats also played in two BCS bowls since then, and Penn State one.
Their 2015 edition doesn’t have the offensive-line woes that the Lions showed against the Owls, and, really, their QB, Gunner Kiel, comes in with every bit the pedigree, and NFL-type tools, that PSU’s Christian Hackenberg has. So, Rhule was never blowing smoke – not then, not this past Saturday when he tried to refocus attention onto Cincy and not now as he tries to sell how this test is the true one.
REAL ESTATE 101: It’s all about location. That being said, someone might want to inform/enlighten/wake up ESPN’s Ivan Maisel as to where Lincoln Financial Field is. In trying to poke fun at the College Football Playoff Selection Committee’s ranking philosophy in his cute little, 3-point stance blog post Wednesday, he labeled the site as being “not so neutral” in Temple’s 27-10 victory against Penn State.
Oddly, not so sure if he meant the majority of the sellout crowd favored Penn State or Temple, but the reality is, the Linc is Temple’s home field, so it wasn’t a “neutral” game and never was viewed as such.
Well, umm, as someone there, yeah, it actually was pretty neutral in terms of which side had more fans. Very much a 50-50 deal in terms of attendance.
Not even sure what to say, mock or applaud about his ranking Temple No. 13.
So, Penn State burned the tapes from Saturday’s loss.
Take that, Temple.
Who knows, maybe the move could be taken as the ultimate compliment, a measured nod of acceptance by the Nittany Lions that, hey, Owls, you beat us, fair and square, no excuses, we had no answers, no solutions.
Or perhaps it was the opposite, a defiant “no way” to us being inferior to you non-power conference losers, that we could never be beneath you, that it was a fluke, impossible to happen again and we refuse to acknowledge that possibility by watching a single snippet of the game’s film.
I tend to think in more practical terms. In other words, the Lions and their coaches felt they had nothing to learn from it.
They already knew their weaknesses going in, particularly, if not solely, on the offensive line. All this game did was expose them to the rest of the country … in neon-Cherry & White colors.
Oh, what’s that, we’re not good at handling a blitz right up the gut? Gee, thanks for the info, Capt. Obvious, and, please, please, provide us more tape to view of that …
Yes, the Owls controlled the game in most aspects from the second quarter on, and Jahad Thomas had his coming-out party as a feature back for them, but it was the battle between Temple’s defensive front and Penn State’s offensive front that was pure domination.
Temple registered 10 sacks and countless hurries. While those clad in Blue & White throughout the sold-old Lincoln Financial Field crowd were bemoaning the seemingly run-run-run play-calling of James Franklin and Co., the reality was the PSU Xs and Os braintrust didn’t have much in the way of options.
When Hackenberg dropped back, he was under fire, heavy fire, each and every time.
It wasn’t much different than last fall, only the Owls were a step late in getting to him then. This time, they were quite successful. Keep in mind, the PSU quarterback had a rough day 10 months ago, too, tossing two picks while completing just 12 of 26 attempts for 112 yards. Pretty similar numbers to Saturday’s 11-for-25, 103 yards and one INT effort.
The ground game that spurred PSU onto victory in 2014 had no chance in this one to have a major impact. It’s not as if Temple stomped on opposing ballcarriers not named Hackenberg. Take away the yardage lost on sacks, and the Lions rolled up 139 yards on just 18 carries.
But most of those came early on, and the Owls controlled the clock, winning the time of possession war, 36:15 to 23:45.
Thing is, I believe Franklin and his coaches saw something like this coming, at least possibly coming. Despite what many believe and profess, this has hardly been a lopsided matchup this decade … aside from the won-lost mark. PSU had won four straight, yes … by 22-13, 14-10, 24-13 and 30-13 scores, the last one the result of an Owls’ late-game implosion courtesy of four turnovers after they tied the score 6-all midway through the third quarter last season.
In two of those matchups, Temple led at halftime. The largest margin between the two at the break? Seven when the Lions held a 10-3 advantage then in 2012.
Hey, they led 10-7 midway through this one, too.
A Temple win not in the cards, that it forever belonged in the “never happen” category was crafted in the fantasy-land mind of both fan bases.
Franklin feared the worst … and got it. Not the loss, a loss he knew was imminently possible, but the blatant undressing of the camouflage act PSU tried to pull in covering up its O-line woes.
Temple’s D-line, headed by a senior in Matt Ioannidis who is every bit as worthy of All-American consideration as PSU’s Anthony Zettel, was good enough to do that. Franklin was acutely aware of that, and it happened.
What would be the point of driving home a point already driven home?
Besides, Owls fans always will have copies if they're needed.
- Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org