EagleBank Bowl: Temple Liked the Play, Hated the Ending
Walking out of RFK Stadium, I thought about this town and something that happened here just about 150 years ago.
Ford's Theater, the place where Abraham Lincoln was shot, is only two blocks away from the Renaissance Marriott, the Temple team hotel.
I thought about the famous phrase born out of that tragedy.
"So, other than the ending, how did you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?"
If we have any Temple fans named Mrs. Lincoln who care as much about the Owls winning as I do, she'd probably say the same thing about Tuesday's EagleBank Bowl game with UCLA.
Liked both the play and the game, but the ending was, err, shot.
Check. (Owls were leading, 21-20, 2 minutes, 29 seconds into the final act, err, quarter.)
Well, 20,000 of the 23,000 were from Temple, so check. Great job by our terrific fans, by the way. Loud and proud and everything I dreamed they would be.
In the seconds before Temple scored that second touchdown, the loud "Let's Go Temple" cheer shook the old stadium so much I thought it was going to collapse.
Jonathan Tannenbaum, in his excellent blog Soft Pretzel Logic, wrote that the roar of the Temple fans after the first touchdown was "as loud I have heard for any" D.C. United soccer goal in that stadium.
D.C. United, by the way, has scored a lot of goals in that stadium. Maybe three or four thousand.
So Temple's fans deserve my MVP (most valuable persons).
Then the game, like the Mrs. Lincoln's play, imploded.
I don't care too much about theater, but I care a lot about the game, the team and the school involved, that's probably why I walked around the stadium about 45 times before leaving Tuesday night.
"I thought you were still walking around the stadium," my friend, Mark, said when I finally arrived at the team hotel.
Hell, if I didn't realize I was in a supposed dangerous neighborhood (I couldn't tell, but my pre-game briefing cautioned me), I'd probably still be walking around the stadium.
On the train down to D.C., I read a terrific article by Mike Kern on Temple's last bowl game and how Wayne Hardin outsmarted Roger Theder, the then California coach.
Hardin said Cal asked for game films, then made a point to ask his assistants which Cal assistants wanted the films. He gave them three, then tailored the game plan to counter what the Cal assistants would see.
Pure genius. Pure freaking genius.
I wasn't surprised. Hardin outsmarted everybody, including Joe Paterno.
On my 24th pass around the stadium, I wondered why it's always TU messing up on center snaps and never another team.
On my 27th pass, I wondered why Kee-ayre Griffin wasn't out there at right cornerback (I saw him at the team hotel and he looked healthy and wasn't limping).
On my 29th pass, I wondered where was WR Jason Harper, who defined the term "warrior" all season and someone who can make yards after the catch and refuses to go down.
On my 32nd pass, I wondered what would have happened had their been a smooth transition of Adam DiMichele to a quarterback with similar skills and toughness and leadership (there wasn't).
On my 37th pass, I wondered what previous starting QB Chester Stewart did wrong to lose his job over the last month.
On about my 44th pass, with steam coming out of my ears (I swear it was from being mad TU lost, but it was probably just the cold), I thought about that Hardin story.
Could you imagine Al Golden intentionally deceiving a fellow member of the coaching fraternity so Temple could benefit?
Could you see Golden cutting Rick Neuheisel's throat (I mean that figuratively, of course) to win a game?
Golden is a very good coach in every way and a great (and I mean GREAT) CEO/Ambassador of Temple football, but I'm not ready to say he's a great game coach.
Or even a better-than-average one.
I will say that when I see Temple do all the little things (i.e., fix the kicking game) a good team needs to do routinely. I mean, snaps on punts are routine for just about everyone else.
Why not Temple?
From the Ball State game on, snapping on punts has been a needless adventure and the CEO needed to fix that long before now.
That's what he needs to do before I can call him an above-average game-day coach.
Great game-day coach?
Who knows how long that will take, but I don't think it will be long because Al is a smart guy. Remember, Hardin came to Temple as a head coach with prior experience from a then big-time Navy program. Golden, who was never a head coach before, is still learning on the job.
Hardin was a smart guy and great game coach and he'd do everything short of robbing a bank to win a big game for Temple. That's how much Temple winning meant to him.
Afterward, Golden said he hopes the team learns from the experience.
I hope he doesn't exclude himself from doing the same.
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