Temple Owls

Despite change and new look, Temple now built for Notre Dame-type challenge in opener

Despite change and new look, Temple now built for Notre Dame-type challenge in opener

Geoff Collins stood behind the podium Tuesday, cloaked in Temple University getup with a white ballcap on, knowing what everyone wants to know four days out of the season opener. He sees the headlines. He’s aware of the tweets. He’s appreciative of it all.

He didn’t budge. He didn’t say a word. But reading his body language, the smile on his face, that of an affirming smirk, he knows who his starting quarterback will be Saturday in South Bend, Indiana, when the Owls kick off their 2017 campaign against Notre Dame.

When pressed about the topic again later in his first weekly press conference as a head coach, this time whether the quarterback knows, Collins went silent, smiled and paused.

Then, as he moved on to the next question, he leaned back and …

“Yes,” he said abruptly.

Temple released Monday its first “above the line” depth chart, and it featured all four quarterbacks — Todd Centeio, Logan Marchi, Frank Nutile and Anthony Russo — “ATL.” It’s believed the four-horse QB competition is down to Nutile, a redshirt junior, and Marchi, a redshirt sophomore, though it’s possible three could see action against ND.

Collins told The Temple News last week three quarterbacks could play against the Fighting Irish, and on Tuesday, he reiterated the rotation will be situational. Having four capable quarterbacks, Collins said, is a “very big challenge” for defensive coordinators.

Neither Marchi nor Nutile said they’re discouraged or surprised by the situation, and all four have pushed each other throughout the summer and camp. While Collins tipped his hand that the quarterbacks know who will start Saturday, Marchi said they haven’t been told.

"We got a good group of guys around us," Marchi said. "The decision was on the coaches and we just go out and do what we do as players. We got a good group of guys around us. No matter what quarterback goes in, there's going to be a good group."

There is more to Saturday’s season opener at Notre Dame than who will be the starting quarterback, or how many quarterbacks will be deployed against the Fighting Irish.

It will be the first game since 2012 that doesn’t feature Matt Rhule walking the Temple sidelines, and, ironically, Collins’ debut comes in the same stadium Rhule made his.

The first-year head coach’s résumé consists of defensive coaching positions. He comes from the University of Florida, where he served as the Gators’ defensive coordinator.

As a defensive coach in the past, Collins didn’t get a chance to build relationships with offensive players, which was something he said Tuesday was one of his favorite parts of his current post. He’s spread out more, forming connections with all of his players.

“I’ve had surface relationships that were really good at other places with offensive players,” he said, “but now, having meaningful relationships with those guys has been a really cool experience. Just being able to interact with them a bit has been a blast.”

There was once a time in Temple football, not too long ago, when a season opener against Notre Dame in South Bend would be an intimidating task. Too big for the program, too daunting to even consider the Owls having a fighting chance to win.

Al Golden began the culture change, and Rhule put Temple on the map. Notre Dame is coming off an eight-loss season, and its head coach, Brian Kelly, enters 2017 on the hot seat. The Irish, too, have a new starting quarterback after DeShone Kizer left for the NFL.

Brandon Wimbush will be under center for Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon, while the Irish have a new offensive coordinator (Chip Long), defensive coordinator (Mike Elko) and specials teams coordinator (Brian Polian). There are a lot of unknowns with ND.

Yet, Notre Dame enters as a 17.5-point favorite over TU. A lot of that has to do with the Irish being a power program with premium talent and the Owls having many questions themselves with a new coach, quarterback and having to replace stars on both sides.

“We know we have nothing to lose,” cornerback Kareem Ali said of Temple’s mentality. “We’re going to go hard, we’re going to kick their ass. We’re ready for it. There’s no pressure. We’ve been in this situation before. We’re going to do what we do.”

This will be the third-ever meeting between the two programs. Notre Dame has won the previous two matchups, but the last time these two schools met, it was on national TV.

The then-No. 9 Irish squeaked out a 24-20 win over the No. 21 Owls on Oct. 31, 2015, in perhaps the biggest game in Temple football history — at least of the last three decades.

“I still distinctly remember watching,” Collins said. “But the team’s different. A lot of the guys who played in that game aren’t here. Probably very few who played are here. It’s a new group, but I’m excited about the guys we have. It’s going to be a new challenge.”

Temple has an infusion of young talent jumping into bigger roles on defense. It has a new linebacking group, a couple new starters in the secondary. Offensively, the QB situation is still fluid. Ryquell Armstead takes over as the lead back after Jahad Thomas graduated. The wide receiver corps is a strength led by upperclassmen.

Still, the Owls are a confident bunch. Sophomore linebacker Shaun Bradley said the players treat “every opponent the same.” Senior D-lineman Jacob Martin said Saturday is “nothing that we can’t handle, nothing that we haven’t seen at Temple University.”

“We don't back down from anybody or any situation or any challenge,” Collins said. “That’s a testament to what the players have done here for the last 10 years.

“Establishing that culture of physicality and toughness. Anybody, anywhere, anytime.”

Fran Dunphy and Herb Magee to host an exhibition for charity

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US Presswire

Fran Dunphy and Herb Magee to host an exhibition for charity

Two legendary Philadelphia basketball coaches will square off for charity.

Temple’s Fran Dunphy and Jefferson’s (Philadelphia University and Thomas Jefferson University) Herb Magee will have their teams face off at the Liacouras Center on Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m.

All ticket sales will be donated to One America Appeal to help those impacted by recent hurricanes that hit Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

“When the opportunity presented itself to play an exhibition game to raise money for the people suffering from the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, we knew right away that we needed to be a part of it,” Dunphy said in a statement. "I called my good friend, Herb Magee, one of the most respected men in the business, and he felt the same way. This gives our fans a rare opportunity to see our programs compete while also helping out those in need.”

“It is a tremendous opportunity for our team,” Magee said. “Coach Dunphy and I have been friends for a long time. We talked about playing one day and that time is now. We're looking forward to it, especially as we begin our new era as the Jefferson Rams. Being able to provide aid to those impacted by the recent natural disasters makes this game that much more special.”

Temple requested a waiver from the NCAA to play this exhibition for charity.

The Owls tip off their season against Old Dominion in the Charleston Classic on Nov. 16, while the Rams travel to Anaheim, California to open Concordia on Nov. 3.

Temple abandons identity against UConn, now searching for how to become bowl eligible

Temple abandons identity against UConn, now searching for how to become bowl eligible

BOX SCORE

This was personal for Logan Marchi.

After all, Temple’s starting quarterback wouldn’t even be sporting cherry and white Saturday afternoons if his original plan went as scheduled.

Marchi, a Bristol, Connecticut, native, was set to attend UConn after high school. That is, until his scholarship offer was pulled by the Huskies shortly before national signing day.

Temple ultimately came back around and reoffered to Marchi, who signed on the spot.

All of that added a little spice to Saturday’s matchup between Temple and Connecticut at Lincoln Financial Field. Certainly, Marchi would want to put on a show. He just didn’t realize it would be a personal show.

Marchi dropped back for a career-high 54 pass attempts as Temple’s lopsided offense couldn’t help pull off a comeback in a 28-24 homecoming loss to UConn (see observations).

“I think any time you go into any game you want to try and be as balanced as you possibly can,” Temple offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude said. “They did a good job early on in the first half of blitzing us and being aggressive in the run game. They also came in with a fairly porous pass defense, so we knew going in we felt like we would be able to throw it.”

Oh, they threw it all right. The Owls (3-4, 1-3 American Athletic Conference) threw when they were ahead early. They went to the air when things were tight during the middle of the game. And they tossed the ball around, even more, when they were trailing late.

It made for a nice day in the stat books for Marchi (career-best 356 yards, one touchdown and one interception). But, more importantly, it threw Temple’s offense out of whack as the team attempted 55 total passes (one spike to stop the clock not charged to Marchi) compared to 29 runs in the program’s first homecoming defeat since 2008.

“I would never imagine wanting to throw it 55 times,” Patenaude said. “We’re not like a Texas Tech type of group that wants to do that over and over again. You always want to be more balanced.”

Patenaude is exactly right. No one will ever mistake Temple’s offense for the Air Raid attack used by the Red Raiders. And that’s a good thing. TU has moved its way up the college football ranks the old-fashioned way: dominating the run game and playing stingy defense.

That commitment to the run is what allowed Bernard Pierce, Montel Harris and Jahad Thomas to all eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark in recent Temple history.

Despite being banged up, Ryquell Armstead, David Hood and the rest of the team’s running backs are waiting for their chance to be able to join that list. They showed flashes against the Huskies as the rushing attack went over the century mark for a third straight game (117 yards) and produced just the second and third scores on the ground from tailbacks this season.

But that quest to have a run-first mentality wasn’t going to get started on this Saturday. The Owls were focused on putting on an aerial show right from the start vs. UConn (2-4, 1-3 AAC), which worked for a while against the AAC’s worst pass defense.

Marchi was on target early. He connected with his receivers downfield when those opportunities presented themselves. However, with the Huskies playing deep coverage, a lot of Marchi’s work came underneath. He found his backs time and again for checkdowns (Hood finished with a team-high eight catches for 91 yards).

That was fine until the Owls’ defense stumbled a bit and the team began trying to play catch-up. Then the wideouts endured a case of the drops and the redshirt sophomore QB threw a critical pick-six near the end of the third quarter to put Temple back down by 14 points.

“We’ve got to execute. We didn’t execute out there today,” Marchi said. “We’ve got to catch passes. We’ve got to make the throws that are there and move the ball better. I thought we did that well coming out in the second half, moving down the field. We’ve just got to make the plays that are there.”

“I thought Logan had some nice balls. We’ve challenged them for the last couple weeks. We’ve got to make those catches,” Temple head coach Geoff Collins said of the dropped passes. “I thought vs. ECU, we were making those catches. We were making the hard catches and we were making the routine catches. There were sometimes out there today, even some of the routine catches, we weren’t pulling down. We’ve got to make sure we do that. 

“It’s been a point of emphasis and we’ll just keep stressing it because in games like this every single time that you drop a pass or there’s an incompletion on a makeable catch, that sets you back. It hurts the momentum, it hurts the tempo. When we were clicking, we were hitting on all cylinders. We were moving the ball up and down the field. Then one drop or one missed target is going to not be good for us.”

True, Temple’s offense was clicking on all cylinders most of the day against UConn. TU won a majority of the battles on the stat sheet, particularly in total yardage (473-244).

Still, the Owls were the ones that walked away back under the .500 mark and searching for answers to how they can make it to bowl eligibility.

“There are obviously some hurt kids in there,” Collins said of the mood in the locker room.

Temple is better off when it's the one hurting opponents on the field, primarily on the ground.