Temple's Passing Game Exposed in 13-10 Loss to Bowling Green

Temple's Passing Game Exposed in 13-10 Loss to Bowling Green

The 2011 Temple Owls have proven to be fantastic frontrunners. They've also proven to be absolutely dreadful when playing from behind. Against Bowling Green on Saturday, the Owls' No. 1 flaw was fully exposed: they have an inability to throw the football.

Despite giving up over 100 yards to both Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown, the Bowling Green defense did what was most important by keeping those backs out of the end zone. And though Temple did rip off 217 yards on the ground, too many of the yards in that total were picked up on the wrong side of the 50-yard line.

Bowling Green stacked the box against the Owls and shut down the run for better part of the ball game. Yes, Pierce went over the century mark and finished with a yards per carry of 6.2 for the game, but far too few of his gains could be characterized as meaningful. As the day went on, it became clear that the junior running back was hampered by some sort of leg injury, possibly to his hamstring. Though he would gut it out as best he could, scoring a TD and continuing to run hard despite a considerable limp, it wouldn't be enough against a Bowling Green team content to let Temple run the ball.

Under center, Chester Stewart registered just 13 passing attempts. In a game where running ball clearly wasn't enough, the pass just never seemed an option. When asked to engineer drives late in the game, Stewart looked out of his element, making poor decisions and worse throws.

Sure, Stewart has been impressive simply managing the game when Temple has had success running the football, but Saturday was a reminder that he lacks the skills to do much more. Temple needed to pass the ball more than 13 times. The fact that it didn't appears to point to a lack of confidence in Stewart.

If such is the case—if Temple needs to pass the football because the running game isn't getting it done—then Mike Gerardi has to come into the ball game. Let's be clear, the junior quarterback is no savior, he's simply a better passer than Stewart. What happened on Saturday was plainly unacceptable, and it's maddening to see the the coaching staff refuse to throw the ball because they lack the faith that their quarterback—or perhaps quarterbacks—can get the job done.

When the offense did break some plays down the field, they were all too often brought back by penalties. Temple was flagged 12 times versus the Falcons for a total of 97 yards. Nearly every play broken by the Owls for a big gain was squashed by an infraction. Be sure, the penalties did play a role, but they weren't the whole story.

Coach Steve Addazio can defend his play calling and blame those penalties if he likes—he wouldn't be totally wrong to do so—but it won't change the fact that Temple refused to throw the football when it needed to most. If it's due to a lack of confidence in Stewart, then other options—Mike Gerardi, Chris Coyer—must be explored. If it's rooted in stubbornness and a refusal to change the play-calling relative to the situation, that needs to be fixed as well. But if the coaching staff's refusal to open up the offense is generated from a lack of confidence in any of the passers on the roster, then the 2011 Temple Owls are simply a flawed football team.

With that said, while Saturday's loss certainly exposes Temple's weaknesses, it hardly dooms the season. Likewise, it says absolutely nothing about whether the team is somehow worthy or unworthy to play in another conference. It's just a loss they could have—and should have—done without.

Since training camp, both Addazio and his players have asserted and reasserted that their chief goal is to win the MAC championship. Leading the Eastern division at 3-2, they're still right on track to accomplish that goal. But the road to reach the 2011 MAC title game is now a little harder; and that, by itself, is plenty bad enough.

Doug Pederson not afraid to get agressive with play-calling

Doug Pederson not afraid to get agressive with play-calling

Talk to Doug Pederson and he comes across … what’s a nice way to put it … dry?

Very nice guy. Very friendly. Very down to Earth. But not the most dynamic personality in public.

Which is why his personality on gameday has been so surprising.

Pederson is a risk taker as a playcaller. Aggressive and fearless.

Whether it’s going for it on fourth down with the lead, going for two after a successful PAT or throwing deep in a situation that doesn’t necessarily call for it, Pederson has proven to be the proverbial riverboat gambler that Chip Kelly was expected to be but never became.

“My personality is probably a little more conservative by nature, I think,” Pederson said Monday. “You'd probably agree with that.”

Pederson got a laugh with that comment because his public persona is exactly the opposite of his gameday demeanor.

It only took one day before we all got a taste of Pederson’s fearlessness.

In the season opener against the Browns, with the Eagles clinging to a 15-10 lead and a rookie quarterback making his first NFL appearance and a 4th-and-4 at the Browns’ 40--yard-line, he kept the offense on the field.

Carson Wentz responded by connecting with Zach Ertz on a five-yard gain to move the chains, and one play later, the Eagles took command on Wentz’s 35-yard TD pass to Nelson Agholor.

Six weeks in, the Eagles are 5 for 5 on fourth down. Only the Falcons have converted more fourth downs in the NFL this year, and they’re 6 for 10.

In the win over the Bears, the Eagles were 3 for 3 on fourth down, their best fourth-down conversion day in nine years.

This is the first time in 14 years the Eagles have converted five or more fourth downs through six games.

According to Pro Football Reference, the Eagles are one of only seven teams in NFL history to attempt five or more fourth down plays through six games and still be at 100 percent. The Lions are also 5 for 5 this year.

Pederson said analytics are a big part of his decision-making process, but he also trusts his instincts.

“I think it's both,” Pederson said. “But I trust our guys and I trust our offensive line and I think it sends a great message to the rest of the team, to the defense and special teams, that, ‘Hey, if we can convert this and stay on the field,’ it sends a good message.

“And on the other side of that, if you do convert, (it’s about) the message you send to the other team and the fact that you're going to stay aggressive.”

The Eagles are 29th-best in the NFL on third down at just 34 percent. But they’re one of only three teams that’s at 100 percent on fourth down.

“It's kind of a crazy deal when you're not great on third down, but you can be 5 for 5 on fourth down and convert them,” Pederson said. “It's a weird deal. But credit to the guys for the execution.

“I'm going to continue to look at it. I don't ever want to be in a position that I'm going to jeopardize the team at the time (by being too aggressive). Looking at the five fourth-down decisions this year, I don’t think they put us in any harm at that time.”

Wentz is 3 for 3 for 21 yards on fourth down, with the four-yard completion to Ertz, a seven-yard first down to Jordan Matthews in the Bears game and a nine-yard to Dorial Green-Beckham, also in the win in Chicago.

He also rushed six yards for a first down on a 4th-and-2 Sunday in the win over the Vikings. The Eagles’ other fourth-down conversion this year was Ryan Mathews’ one-yard TD on a 4th-and-goal against Chicago.

Pederson said as an assistant coach under Andy Reid, he always found himself asking himself whether he would be conservative or aggressive in crucial situations.

We’re all learning the answer now.

“Yeah, you definitely put yourself in those situations, as a coordinator and a position coach,” he said. “Putting yourself in those spots, it's a lot easier when you're not making the decision obviously to go, ‘Oh, yeah, I would have not gone for it there or not gone for it there.’

“Now, being in this position, it's my tail on the line if we don't convert.”

6 months later, Cubs' Kyle Schwarber returns for World Series Game 1

6 months later, Cubs' Kyle Schwarber returns for World Series Game 1

CLEVELAND — Chicago Cubs slugger Kyle Schwarber's rehab finished just in time for the World Series.

Schwarber will bat fifth and be the designated hitter for the National League champions in Game 1 on Tuesday night against Cleveland's Corey Kluber. Schwarber hasn't played in the majors since tearing ligaments in his left knee on April 7 in a collision with teammate Dexter Fowler.

Dallas Cowboys orthopedic surgeon Dr. Daniel Cooper operated 12 days later to repair torn anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments. He was expected to miss the rest of the season but was cleared to return on Oct. 17.

Schwarber played a pair of games in the Arizona Fall League, going 1 for 6 with a double and two walks, and flew to Cleveland on Monday.