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43 Random Thoughts on Temple

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Random musings from the weekend that was in State College

Temple v Penn State Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

On Saturday, the Temple Owls played the Penn State Nittany Lions in a contest of American football at Beaver Stadium. The Nittany Lions won 34-27. I have many thoughts, which are randomly set forth below:

  1. The weather, like this game, was an enigma. It was a beautiful morning in State College, followed by overcast skies, about 10 drops of rain, and then sticking September humidity. Still, I’m happy to avoid real rain and give the players an opportunity to play in reasonable conditions. I can’t imagine what the turnover battle would have looked like here.
  2. The first “tribute” video aired prior to kickoff. This is the only mention I’ll make of it - Paterno diehards in my section weren’t thrilled with the scope of the tribute itself, and plenty of people outside the university were frustrated that anything happened in the first place. I can’t say I envy Eric Barron and Sandy Barbour, who are neck deep in a no win situation every time this topic is broached.
  3. The crowd looked very strong on Saturday, and the figures bear that out - 100,420 in attendance for a game against a familiar MAC team.
  4. I recommend that everyone stop complaining about the student section not filing in until late in the first quarter every game. Before you say anything, take a walk by the student entrance next to the Club and Letterman’s entrance. It’s mass chaos, the ID scanners often break, and there’s a multi-step process to allow students to enter the building. It’s total lunacy, and has a negative effect on everyone’s experience.
  5. We have lots of potential at kick returner. Brandon Polk nearly broke the opening kick for six, and it looked as if it would set the tone for the day.
  6. Saquon Barkley followed with a beautiful 8 yard run. That looked good. He then hobbled off. That looked bad. Very bad.
  7. The crowd audibly gasped when Barkley got to his feet after that first carry and hopped to the sideline. Of all the injuries this team has dealt with during this young season, this one appeared at first glance to hurt the most. Last year, The Truth was the player our offense was based around. With the departure of Christian Hackenberg, there has been a real fear that Barkley was the only thing that the team could rely on game in and game out to move the ball and put points on the board.
  8. Trace McSorley and Chris Godwin dispelled that notion with speed. The 52 yard touchdown pass was a perfect strike, in stride, to one of the finest receivers in the Big Ten. Great playcall by Joe Moorhead, a well-run route by Godwin, and a terrific pass from the quarterback to put 6 on the board. Those are the kinds of plays that will be necessary.
  9. Before we forget, another word on Blake Gillikin, who has received more attention than any other freshman punter (or any other punter, for that matter) in history. That attention is certainly deserved. One week after placing the first punt of the game at the 1 yard line, Gillikin did it yet again, pinning Temple against its own end zone. He’s an incredible weapon.
  10. The defense came prepared this time, and Matt Rhule did exactly what he learned when he was a player in State College - run three times and punt. Pitt did more or less the same thing last week, but busted a big run to break out of trouble. Temple had no such luck.
  11. The three-and-out paved the way for the aforementioned 52 yard touchdown pass. I’m pleased that Penn State had the opportunity for a big strike and took it. Getting started fast was important this week. There was plenty of criticism, myself included, about the slow starts that have plagued the Franklin Era (much as they had the Paterno Era, etc.). This response shows the willingness of the coaching staff to adjust and motivate their young players effectively.
  12. I was less than pleased with the following drive, which consisted of 2 plays, including a 67 yard pass by Temple. That looked like it was going to be a momentum killer.
  13. Of course, the next drive was vintage Penn State football - 13 plays, 8 of which were runs, taking nearly 6 minutes off the clock.
  14. Nice work on the ground by Mark Allen and Andre Robinson, who certainly belong in the rotation. Nice work by McSorley for drawing the defense offside twice in a row. All in all, a well-constructed drive that led to another touchdown.
  15. The only thing wrong with that drive was the fumbled snap that lost 8 yards. That’s three weeks in a row. I don’t know whether it’s McSorley or Gaia, or just something that happens, but I think it’s time to be concerned about it. We’re talking about a quarterback in his third year in college and a fifth-year senior lineman. I know he hasn’t played center this entire time, and I know McSorley is in his first year starting, but making these mistakes against a better team than Temple is going to come back to haunt us.
  16. The next drive was a microcosm of the game itself. After a fine defensive stand (another three-and-out) and yet another outstanding return by John Reid, the offense had the ball in terrific position. It wove its way down the field with a nice mix of plays, including an impressive 19 yard run on 4th and 3 by freshman star Miles Sanders. Unfortunately, the drive also featured two fumbles - one by Sanders, and another by McSorley on a snap issue.
  17. Freshman are going to fumble. That’s life in the big leagues. It was frustrating for it to happen inside the 5 yard line with a chance to go up by 2 scores, but these things provide teachable moments.
  18. Can’t argue with Sanders’ speed, though. That kid is going to be special. I like that they haven’t put too heavy a burden on his early in the year and are letting him work his way through things. We have plenty of talented backs on the roster, including one of the best in the country. Why rush it?
  19. There’s room for each of these backs in the game plan, and I hope we continue to use all of them. Barkley is amazing, but he isn’t super human, and you can’t give him the ball every down. Keeping him healthy and fresh is paramount to a successful year, and giving Robinson, Allen, and Sanders chances to make plays is important to keeping them motivated.
  20. DeAndre Thompkins has really turned into quite a weapon, hasn’t he? 3 catches for 36 yards doesn’t look like a massive stat line, but he played a pivotal role on Saturday and seems likely to continue to do so in the future.
  21. Let’s take a moment to talk about the defensive line, which had a terrific game against a quality opponent and an excellent Temple running back. Still some flaws, but I thought they looked much better than they did last weekend against Pitt. The youngsters are learning.
  22. Was it just me, or was Robert Windsor everywhere on Saturday?
  23. Find me a player more unlucky than Nyeem Wartman-White. The closest I can think of is Jerome Hayes. Here’s hoping you’re back and better than ever, Nyeem.
  24. Just to keep track, at some point in the game, we were missing - Jason Cabinda, Nyeem Wartman-White, Brandon Bell, Evan Schwan, Grant Haley, Saeed Blacknall, Saquon Barkley, Marcus Allen and Malik Golden.
  25. Wow. I’m impressed we even fielded a team.
  26. Outstanding work by the reserve linebackers, particularly Brandon Smith. “Walk-ons make good” is one of the college football’s most cherished stories. Keep hustling, Brandon.
  27. The third touchdown drive was the Trace McSorley show in every way. We all would’ve liked to have seen him go the Full McGloin in celebration of his diving pylon touchdown.
  28. This game should have been 28-7 at the half, or at least 24-7. Instead, we let Temple back into it with a brutal two-minute drill. 21-10 is great, especially compared to last year. It’s a lot different than 28-7, though.
  29. Another nice defensive stand to start the second half, but things really broke down from there.
  30. That first drive was another absurdity. A spectacular grab by Mike Gesicki gets Penn State down inside the 10. Then, apparently we decide to run and end-around (Thanks, JayPa), which predictably loses 12 yards, and get called for holding. Suddenly, we’re at 2nd and goal from the 31 yard line. Tyler Davis is thankfully reliable, but otherwise that could have been a total disaster.
  31. It only got worse from there. After yet another good defensive stand, McSorley throws an ill-timed interception which led to a 9 (yes, 9) yard drive for a touchdown to put Temple back within striking distance. We thankfully put another kick through the uprights on the next drive.
  32. Still, the defense stood tall. They forced yet another punt, which was fantastic. The result of the punt was a total fluke.
  33. I don’t want to see anyone blaming Amani Oruwariye for that play. That was ridiculous, and there’s not a ton he can do about that.
  34. Aren’t you kind of impressed that it took Temple 3 plays to get into the end zone from 1 yard out?
  35. What can you say about Saquon Barkley? The kid is a stud. That 55-yard run to seal the deal was a thing of beauty. How is it possible he hurdled a diving defender without even seeing him?
  36. I think it’s important to recount the drives the defense gave up during this game, because when you look at it this way, it’s pretty impressive: 7 yards, 75 yards, 9 yards, 1 yard, 46 yards, 52 yards, 7 yards, 30 yards, 9 yards, 15 yards, 1 yard, 48 yards, 4 yards.
  37. The fact that Temple scored 24 points based on those statistics is ludicrous.
  38. This game was a blow out that, unfortunately, is not reflected int he box score. Temple put together a few coherent drives, but most of its points came from the combination of Penn State shooting itself in the foot and a 67-yard pass in the first quarter that made up 89% of the yards on the Owls’ second drive.
  39. Credit to Temple for taking advantage of Penn State’s mistakes. Matt Rhule is a quality coach that put an under-talented team in a position to beat an inexperienced team with superior talent.
  40. By the same token, credit Penn State for doing what it needed to do. We have said countless times that this team is going to make mistakes that will make most people slam their heads on their desks. This is inevitable. That we got away with a win despite these mistakes and the rash of injuries is a credit to this team’s guts and the work of the coaching staff.
  41. One more note about the staff - we’ve heard a lot from the “James Franklin can’t coach” crowd. I thought the work the staff put in to force Rhule to waste his time outs in the 2nd quarter was brilliant, and the team has made multiple adjustments mid-game each of the last few weeks in order to resolve some inconsistencies. Franklin and Co. can’t make Sanders not fumble, wide receivers run the exact right route every time, and McSorley not throw that pass. What they can do is coach around those issues and work toward a win.
  42. On to Michigan. Go State. Beat Blue.
  43. We are...