New Rhule, slow start

Coach Matt Rhule watches Owl players before the team’s season opener against Notre Dame. Rhule has drawn the ire of fans after presiding over the worst start in six years for Temple. | Hua Zong TTN
Coach Matt Rhule watches Owl players before the team’s season opener against Notre Dame. Rhule has drawn the ire of fans after presiding over the worst start in six years for Temple. | Hua Zong TTN

Shortly after Temple dropped to 0-3 with a 30-29 loss to the FCS Fordham Rams, a thread was posted on the OwlsDaily.com message boards titled “This is what happens.”

Given the result of the game that had just been completed, the comments were predictably negative.

The original post, by “Templeinsider215,” continued the headline and said, “When you have a head coach who doesn’t know what he is doing and when you hire your staff solely on your personal relationships with them. Phil Snow? Seriously? …  I can keep going on about the staff. Before you question our talent maybe we need to look at the clowns that were hired to coach them, they are not being put in the best position to win. This is what happens when we hire a coach based off of a popularity contest by the players.”

Another similar thread, started by “OhnoWesuckagain12,” is titled “If Matt Rhule had a shred of decency and honor…” and continued, “He’d resign immediately. He’s obviously in way over his head. He’s not the right ‘man’ for the job, as many of us knew before the players hired him.”

Those are harsh words, especially considering Rhule has been head coach for three games. For his part, Rhule isn’t at all pleased with how his team is progressing.

“I’m sorry you had to watch that,” Rhule said after the Fordham loss. “Honestly, I’m completely embarrassed. I take 100 percent responsibility for that. I told the players I’d take responsibility for that, and we’ll get that fixed.”

Rhule’s losses have been by 22 points at then-No. 14 Notre Dame, nine points to Houston and the one-point loss to Fordham. Despite the progressively narrowing loss margins, given the competition, the Owls have performed worse and worse since the season started.

“Nobody is going to give you a win,” sophomore linebacker Tyler Matakevich said. “We definitely have to play better. We have to stop some big plays and we gave up some plays, we just have to stop them. We have to get ready … We can easily turn this around, which is what we are going to do.”

Rhule’s first three games aren’t nearly as bad as former coach Al Golden’s were. Golden, who was hired before the 2006 season and coached the Owls for five years, opened his head coaching career with a 9-3 overtime loss to Buffalo before losing 62-0 twice in a row to then No. 13 Louisville and Minnesota, respectively.

The program has taken a huge step forward in the past seven years, though. In the three seasons before Golden took over, from 2003 to 2005 Temple went 3-31. From 2010 to 2012, Temple was 21-15.

Since the Owls have moved to the American Athletic Conference and Rhule was hired, recruitment has improved. Per Rivals.com, Temple has its first four-star recruit since 2003 in Imhotep Charter offensive tackle Aaron Ruff. Ruff was a three-star recruit when he verbally committed to Temple in April, was given a four-star rating in May and subsequently  picked up offers from Wisconsin, Georgia Tech, Michigan State and Virginia Tech. Despite offers from more established programs, he’s said he is still committed to Temple.

In addition to Ruff, Temple has seven three-star recruits for the class of 2014, not including defensive backs DaeJuan Funderburk and Anthony Davis, who both verbally committed to Temple and have since reopened their recruitment. Even with those losses, seven three-star recruits matches the 2010 and 2013 classes for the most three-star players in a Temple recruiting class since 2002, the earliest class that Rivals’ database lists.

Rhule was able to keep most of the 2013 recruiting class from de-committing since those players were recruited by former coach Steve Addazio’s staff. Rhule also convinced freshman running back Zaire Williams to change his commitment from West Virginia – a Big 12 Conference member with three losing seasons in the past 20 years – to Temple. Williams leads the Owls in rushing this season with 171 yards, averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

“I feel dead inside,” Williams said after the Fordham loss. “I don’t like losing. It is not fun, so we are going to turn around this week and work hard.”

The Owls have certainly not had the start they hoped to have. Rhule said he is not happy with the results, but still sees a bright future.

“People should be coming after us because we deserve it,” Rhule said. “I’m just really disappointed and embarrassed, but in no way am I discouraged. I see a couple of puppies running around that are going to make a lot of plays … We have good coaches and good seniors that will hold the team together, and the young kids will come on. At some point, and I hope it’s really soon, you guys are going to look up and see a really good team. People might not believe that, but I do.”

Evan Cross can be reached at evan.cross@temple.edu or on Twitter @EvanCross.

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