After losses, expletives flow from defensive tackle Antwon Burton’s lips. Safety Christian Dunbar points out the specific plays in which the first-year players showed some promise. Cornerback Ray Lamb declares defiantly that the Owls aren’t intimidated by the Wisconsin “W” or the Miami “U.”
There is no shortage of vocal leaders here.
While those defensive players are calling on teammates to get better, play harder, and react faster, quarterback Mike McGann hardly says a word. A majority of the receivers, reporters are told, are long gone.
One thing coach Bobby Wallace would love to see from the Owls offense – there are many things, but he only asks for so much – is some more vocal leadership. Some more emotion. Some more yelling.
“We have a lot of players that are really good people, that are sound players, but they’re just real quiet,” Wallace said. “I don’t want to call it a problem, but I wish we had more vocal leaders. But everybody’s got to play in their personality.”
Wallace insists he won’t ask a player to be something he’s not. When the offense trudges back to the sideline after a turnover or a three-and-out, though, Wallace would love to see someone get loud. He’d love for someone to light a fire.
“We don’t have anybody on offense,” Wallace said. “Not a soul.”
“The only people who ever get vocal are the receivers when they want the ball thrown to them. I wish somebody on the offensive line would step up. I wish Mike would be a little more vocal, or Umar, but they don’t ever say a word.
“Defensively, we’ve got some personalities,” Wallace continued. “Antwon Burton, [linebacker] Rian Gore, Christian Dunbar, [defensive ends] Rodney Wormley and Mike Mendenhall, they all step up and say things at times, including Ray Lamb. That doesn’t mean we don’t have leaders on offense, but I think it would help if somebody were a little more vocal.”
Four games into the season, statistics show that the offense has plenty to be upset about. The Owls average 12.2 points per game, have compiled just 976 yards of total offense (their opponents have almost that many passing yards alone), and average 3.7 yards per play. They have scored just six total touchdowns.
In a developing trend, the defense stepped up and took the responsibility last Saturday.
“It’s a tough break, but football is about giving up less points than the other team,” Dunbar said. “Defensively we can say whatever, but ultimately we gave up more points than our offense [scored]. If we held [Western Michigan] to zero points, we would have won the game.”
Hidden in the disappointment of Saturday’s three-point loss were borderline dominant performances by six defensive players.
The front four of seniors Burton, Mendenhall, Wormley and Adam Fichter all tallied career highs in tackles and combined for 36 total tackles. Senior linebacker Manuel Tapia had 18 tackles and leads the team in that category with 41. Dunbar continued to create turnover opportunities, notching an interception, a sack, and a forced fumble.
McGann moved past running back Paul Palmer to take over third place on the school’s career total offense list. McGann got a little help from senior wide receiver Brian Allbrooks, who took a short screen pass and ran 56 yards on the Owls’ first drive of the game.
Junior defensive tackle Neil Dickson and tight end Ben Hendy made their first career starts.
Bowling Green hopes for some more good fortune
Last season, Bowling Green arrived in Philadelphia with a 1-2 record. Playing Temple gave the Falcons a chance to right themselves, and they lit up the scoreboard with 70 points and racked up 639 yards of total offense.
Bowling Green proceeded to run off seven straight wins.
Coach Gregg Brandon’s team lines up against the Owls in a similar situation this year. The Falcons are 1-2, only this time they get to be the home team.
Brandon said he had discussed the similar opportunity with his players, but added it wasn’t their biggest source of inspiration. More than anything, he said, the Falcons consider the Owls the first game of their conference season. The Owls joined the Mid-American Conference in the spring as an affiliate member.
“We’re considering this a conference game,” Brandon said. “It’s homecoming for us and we haven’t had a home game yet this season.”
While Temple coaches hope their players play for pride, Brandon noted his players will have a lot to get up for. With the home opener, homecoming, and the MAC “opener” coming on the same day, the Falcons will have a lot to play for.
“That’ll be a big day for our younger players who haven’t seen a home game yet,” Brandon said. “So that’ll be exciting.”
Loud numbers from quiet LB
Senior Manuel Tapia spent the last three years playing behind two of the more accomplished linebackers in school history. As a result, he only got in a handful of snaps, so the unassuming linebacker got to save his energy.
He has unleashed it this season, leading the team with 41 tackles after Saturday’s career-high 18 tackle performance. Eavesdropping on a postgame conversation, defensive tackle Antwon Burton interjected.
“Eighteen tackles?” Burton said incredulously. “That’s a [bus] load of tackles!”
Though Tapia, who had 35 career tackles entering this year, seems to have come out of nowhere, his coach said he wasn’t surprised.
“He’s finally getting an opportunity, and I think the reason he’s getting better each week is just because of experience,” Wallace said. “Playing behind Troy Bennett and Rian Wallace three years, he’s just had to wait his turn. I’m real pleased with the way he’s playing.”
Needless to say, Tapia has not recorded a sack and has just 0.5 tackles for loss. Many of his tackles come after the ballcarrier has gained yardage because of a breakdown in some other area of defense.
Ex-Owls progress report
Quarterback Henry Burris (1993-96) is sidelined this week with an injured thumb on his non-throwing hand. Burris has completed 59.2 percent of his passes for 3,123 passing yards this season for the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League. The injury is not expected to keep Burris out beyond this week. …
Bill Cosby (1961) has barred the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and the Boston Globe from advertising his live shows in their pages, the Boston Herald reported Saturday.
Cosby’s publicist, David Brokaw, denied the boycott was a result of recent coverage of women who allege Cosby sexually assaulted them.
The boycott is over dissatisfaction with “past coverage” of other issues, Brokaw told the Boston Herald’s Jay Fitzgerald.