REMEMBER WHEN ...
The ill-conceived career path of Chris Coyer, arguably the most under-utilized talent of the modern Temple football era, concluded two years ago with a huge game against Memphis as the former QB turned TE hauled in three catches for 129 yards, two of 'em for TDs, including a 75-yarder. That highlighted the Owls' last win against Memphis, a 41-21 thrashing.
In this fall of college football awakening, with dynastic Alabama losing a second straight matchup to Ole Miss, this time in Tuscaloosa to boot, with the Big Ten as a whole showing some semblance of rebirth as a powerhouse conference, with Notre Dame’s infirmary growing faster than one in a single season of the old M*A*S*H series, it stands to reason that some things are changing.
One constant, however, remains: timing factors.
Put it this way, as a Temple University alum who has supported the its football program, seen its positives when others didn’t in the past and recognized its warts when others haven’t right now, after observing Cincinnati and Memphis tussle Thursday night near the banks of the Mississippi in western Tennessee, won 53-46 by the host team, I’m glad the Owls got the Bearcats early and face the Tigers later on.
With the former, they were ready to pounce on an opponent more talented than themselves, but not yet prepared to go head-to-head with a team, such as Temple, on a mission. With the latter, well, here’s hoping Memphis incurs some serious, long season-induced wear and tear before coming to Lincoln Financial Field on Nov. 21.
Not for nothing, but both those teams are better than Matt Rhule’s program-building project on North Broad. They have more NFL-type talent across the board, more speed, more everything, really. A lot more? That’s debatable. But both have more, and don’t be fooled by the Owls’ 34-26 hang-on-for-dear-life victory at Cincy two weeks ago, thinking it signaled Temple’s arrival as American Athletic Conference kingpin. Temple was fortunate that time and LB Tyler Matakevich’s hands were on its side.
Otherwise, college football might be celebrating one less feel-good story in 2015 right now.
The Bearcats came into the season as the AAC favorite, and a prohibitive one at that. They had the conference’s signature player, a highly rated QB who appeared to be poised to shoot up NFL draft boards as the season progressed. Only Gunner Kiel has a bit of a turnover problem, and the Owls took advantage of that, grabbing a 34-12 lead before the big fella started to find his touch.
He never had a chance to do that last night, and Cincy might be all the better for that. Unfortunately for Kiel, injury felled him at Memphis and may mean the end of his tenure … since his replacement, Hayden Moore, a freshman, came in and set a school record with 557 yards passing along with four TDs in essentially three quarters. The youngster did throw two picks, but he was brilliant in his decision-making and athletic performance, showing an adaptability that defied description, never mind his years.
Even his second INT, the game-decider, was an incredible play with the clock winding down, him having driven the ’Cats 60 yards into the red zone. While side-stepping one would-be tackler after dropping back to pass, he got grabbed by another. Had the sack been completed, time likely would have run out. But Moore, somehow, saw his dump-off outlet while spinning toward the turf and flung it to him … only to see it ricochet off that player’s hands and into ones belonging to a Memphis defender.
The Tigers, now 4-0, merely have a legit Heisman contender-worthy QB in Paxton Lynch, who not only threw for 412 yards against Cincy but led all runners in the game with 52 yards, and have won 11 straight overall, including a 16-13 thriller at the Linc last season.
Reality is, what Rhule has been doing in North Philly, Justin Fuente has been doing in Memphis … only faster. Then again, he did have a year head-start, getting the gig there in time for the 2012 season. The Tigers took their quantum leap a year ago, in Fuente’s third season, going 10-3, and look every bit the type of non-power 5 team that could challenge for a New Year’s Day bowl.
Temple’s quantum leap appears to be going on this year, with the 3-0 Owls already winning games that they previously would not have due to an opponent’s big-name recognition, actual level of competition or circumstance, or any combo of the three.
Frankly, it would not be a surprise if both Memphis and Temple rolled into that late-November affair either undefeated, or with one or two losses (the Owls do face No. 6 Notre Dame before then).
By then, it could be all about timing – about who’s hot and who’s not, about who’s healthy and who’s not.
- Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org