Coach Bobby Wallace was adamant Monday and Tuesday that Temple has every right to expect gridiron success in the future.
Even so, he could not deny that the Big East Conference’s decision to remove Temple made coaching and recruiting far more difficult tasks.
“That hurt, there’s no question,” Wallace said. “It hurt the program. That set in motion, where are we going to be? That set in motion having a task force, deciding what we are going to do with our football program. It set in motion us recruiting 20-something junior college kids, which hurt us eventually.”
The Owls won four games for three straight seasons before the announcement in 2003 that Temple would be kicked out of the conference following the 2004 season. Between then and the announcement this past spring that Temple had accepted an invitation to enter the Mid-American Conference, Wallace and his staff were forced to sell recruits on a program with no definite future.
Without prompting, Miami coach Larry Coker mentioned the conference upheaval as a major hindrance to the Owls’ growth.
“First of all, I think [Wallace is] an outstanding person, and I think he’s an outstanding coach,” Coker said in a teleconference Tuesday. “I think his record speaks for itself with all the things he’d done before he got to Temple and at Temple.
“I think they were close a few years, right on the verge of getting over the hump and into a bowl game. The situation with the league hurt Temple football and obviously Bobby was a victim of that.”
Regardless of how the situation affected the Owls at the time, Wallace reiterated his belief that “everything is in place” for football success.
“We’re not a BCS team, and there’s nothing wrong with that,” Wallace said. “Neither are 50 other Division I schools. Neither was Utah when they went undefeated and got to play in the Fiesta Bowl. Neither is Bowling Green, who’s having all this success.
“This is a good Division I situation, and being in the MAC is a great situation. I think we’re better off now than we were when we were in the Big East.”
Inconsistent McGann meets top pass D
Quarterback Mike McGann is still maddeningly inaccurate – he has completed 43 percent of his passes – but he did improve somewhat against Maryland.
The 6-6, 225 pound senior threw for 116 yards on 8 of 14 passing Saturday, and for the first time this season did not throw an interception. The numbers are less important, Wallace said, than the timing of McGann’s completions.
“For instance, on third and four, we have a route and [McGann] throws it behind [the receiver], and he’s open,” Wallace said. “That’s a critical time to throw a bad pass. If it’s first and ten, you’ve got time to recover.”
The small strides of last week will need to become leaps and bounds if the Owls hope to stay close this Saturday. Though the names on the backs of Miami’s jerseys won’t be as intimidating as in the past, the Hurricanes boast the No. 3 overall defense in the country and the top defense in passing efficiency.
“Defensively, I’m not sure they’re not the best they’ve been since we’ve played them,” Wallace said. “They maybe don’t have the big name of a Jonathan Vilma or a Warren Sapp, but they will be big names. I’ll put it that way.”
Only one opponent has scored more than one touchdown against the Hurricanes. Clemson, now ranked No. 20, fell just short of an upset in September. Miami won that game in overtime, 36-30.
As skill positions stutter, offensive line matures
Listing the positives in Saturday’s loss to Maryland, Wallace came back to the offensive line more than once.
The Owls’ offense did not do much to distinguish itself against the Terrapins, attaining only 11 first downs and allowing the Terps to maintain possession for more than 33 minutes, the second-highest time-of-possession advantage for an Owls’ opponent this season.
In the areas the offensive front could impact, however, the Owls’ stats didn’t look as bad.
The Terps registered only one sack of quarterback Mike McGann, and the only interception was thrown by wide receiver Michael Loveland on a broken play. Senior running back Umar Ferguson nearly got his third straight 100-yard rushing game, carrying 25 times for 96 yards.
Overall, Wallace called it his O-line’s best performance of the season.
“[Tackle] John Gross was our offensive player of the game, [guard] Stanley Primus had his best game, [guard] Stephen Bell had his best game, and [tackle] Elliot Seifert played real sound also,” Wallace said.
“Alex Derenthal struggled a little bit against their nose guard [Conrad Bolston] because he’s a great player,” he admitted, “But like I said, I thought overall it was our offensive line’s best game.”
While the receivers have been ineffective because of undisciplined route-running and the banged-up running backs are limping through half the plays, the offensive line had performed relatively well against some disruptive defensive rushes.
Derenthal, who redshirted as a true freshman last year, spent a season learning at practice. Now he is getting a taste of some of the most complex blitz packages in college football.
“He’s a redshirt freshman, so this is actually his second year here,” Gross said. “He’s doing real well. He’s getting better every week.”
Gross, one of three seniors anchoring the line, is regarded as the most solid of the group. Derenthal’s individual growth might be progressing at a better rate than freshman at other positions, Gross said, due to the linemen’s personal pride in his development.
“As an offensive line, we’re always working as one unit,” Gross said. “If we have one problem the one week, then we’ll fix it and get better at it. We just work as a unit to keep pushing each other to get better.”
Gordon expected to play
Amending postgame comments from last week, Wallace said receiver Bruce Gordon initially was only held out of starting.
As the game went on, the Owls needed good blockers. Wallace said there was no opportunity to get Gordon, who catches the ball well but is a poor blocker and route-runner, into the game.
Challenge is in perception
Wallace declined to call Temple one of “the most challenge jobs in Division I football,” as director of athletics Bill Bradshaw said Monday.
The lack of Bowl Championship Series affiliation, the urban locale and academics should not hinder success, he said.
“I really don’t think this job now is tougher than any other Division I job,” Wallace said. “Being in the city, yeah, that’s different, but there are other Division I programs in cities, too. … Obviously, we had 17,000 freshman applications last year, so it’s got to be popular to some
“The academic situation is a little tougher than some places, but that’s OK,” he added. “Stanford’s done pretty well with their academic standards.”