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.

Joel Embiid expects to play in Sixers' preseason opener

Joel Embiid expects to play in Sixers' preseason opener

CAMDEN, N.J. — The long wait could be over next week.

Joel Embiid expects to play in the Sixers' first preseason game Oct. 4 at UMass-Amherst against the Celtics, he said Monday at media day.

“The first thing for me is just get back on the court,” Embiid said of his expectations this season. “It looks like in a couple days I’m going to have the chance to do that.”

Embiid has missed the past two seasons since being drafted third overall because of foot injuries. Even though he is taking his rookie year one step at a time, he has a positive long-term outlook given how healthy he feels. 

“I’m confident that I’m going to have a long, successful career,” he said. “From what it looks like right now, I’m going to have a 20-year career.”

Embiid has grown as a player and a person during his recovery. He noted had he been competing in an 82-game season, he would not have had as much time to dedicate on his development. As a result of the specialized workouts and the hours he has spent in an individual practice format, he has improved his shooting and gained strength and speed. 

“What I was two years ago, I’m not even close to what I am right now,” he said. “My game has gotten so much better ... I’m not the same guy. I’m different.”

Embiid has been following a well-mapped out rehab plan during which he has had to adhere to restrictions, and will continue to do so this season. He admits the restrictions have been frustrating, but he now understands they are being implemented for his best interest long term. The lengthy recovery has forced him to change his outlook on maintaining his health. 

“The main thing I learned about myself is, I could be patient,” Embiid said. “When I was first doing my rehab, going through that, the only thing I thought about was getting back on the court. I would try to get back on the court and play more than I was supposed to. After the doctor [said] you had to heal well and I needed the second surgery, that’s when I told myself be patient and do whatever I can and make sure I listen to what people have to say.”

Head coach Brett Brown wants Embiid to become the “crown jewel” of the defense. Embiid, who stands at a towering 7-foot-2, 275 pounds, is ready to embrace those expectations. He has studied tape of Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing, among others. Embiid likes the game of Marc Gasol and appreciates how DeAndre Jordan communicates as a big man. 

“I love playing defense,” he said. “I hate when the other team scores.”

Embiid's debut will be the culmination of years of work. Now that the season is approaching, he is eager to count down the days. 

“I’m really excited,” Embiid said. “I’ve gone through a lot and it’s been two years. The fact that I’m healthy now and ready to get back on the court, I just can’t wait.”

Inside Doop: Union inch closer to playoffs after tie in Toronto

Inside Doop: Union inch closer to playoffs after tie in Toronto

The Union left the country for a big game over the weekend and did not return to the United States with a win as they hoped.

But they did come back with a hard-earned point against the top team in the conference as well as the first MLS goal from their marquee summer signing, while inching closer to the playoffs. Here’s a look at Saturday’s 1-1 draw with the Toronto FC and what lies ahead with three regular-season games left.

Three thoughts about Saturday’s game
1. It took Alejandro Bedoya almost two months to score his first MLS goal … but what a goal it was. After collecting a pass from Fabian Herbers midway through the first half (just barely avoiding being offside), the U.S. national team starter took one dribble and fooled goalkeeper Clint Irwin with a clever chip over his head and into the net. You don’t see those kind of chip goals often and when you do, they’re usually delivered by big-time playmakers — the kind of guys the Union don’t usually have but do now with Bedoya. Head coach Jim Curtin’s decision to play Bedoya at the No. 10 attacking midfield spot with Tranquillo Barnetta injured also paid big dividends and showed the Union have more midfield options going into the playoffs … and into next season.

2. Coming into the game, a big storyline centered around center back Ken Tribbett, who got the start at center back about a month after getting pulled at halftime vs. Toronto. Another centered around right back Keegan Rosenberry, who was trying to bounce back from a rare off game in Portland the previous week. But, in the end, both players had some very good moments and helped limit the Toronto attack for much of the game, especially in the first half. Much of that had to do with another Curtin lineup decision as the Union head coach put two defensive-minded midfielders in front of the backline: Warren Creavalle, who also had a great hustle play that nearly led to a second goal right before halftime, and Brian Carroll, who’s now made two straight starts after missing six straight games with Plantar fasciitis.

3. Saturday’s game didn’t end without some late fireworks from the league’s hottest player, Jozy Altidore. Riding an eight-goals-in-nine-games streak coming in, the U.S. national team star struck the post in the 87th minute and was taken down in the box by C.J. Sapong in stoppage time on what initially looked to be a clear penalty. If you look at the replay from Sapong’s perspective, however, you could probably make the case that Sapong was going for the ball before getting impeded by Altidore. Either way, the idea of a ref not making a call that would likely decide a game (on a play that wasn’t a real goal-scoring opportunity) took some guts, especially as he got lambasted from the home team and its fans.

Three questions for the week ahead
1. The brutal three-game road trip ends Saturday as the Union, after a loss in Portland and tie in Toronto, take on the rival New York Red Bulls (7 p.m., The Comcast Network). As conservative as it might sound, another point would probably make it a mildly successful trip considering the caliber of opponent. Either way, the Union’s playoff hopes and seeding will likely come down to their final two home games against Orlando and the Red Bulls. At this point, the best they can likely hope for is to hold off Montreal, D.C. United and New England for the No. 4 seed in the East, which would ensure them an opening-round home game. Luckily for them, Montreal and New England both lost this weekend, and although D.C. picked up a big win, they did so against another team in the playoff hunt in Orlando.

2. Another week means another question about captain Maurice Edu’s health. It’s now been more than two months since he returned to the practice field and almost a month since he started playing rehab games with the Bethlehem Steel. With only three games left in the season, it’s hard to see him becoming a starter after being out so long with a stress fracture. It also doesn’t help his case that Carroll and Creavalle are both playing well at his position. But if Edu’s healthy, there’s no sense not utilizing him as a midfield reserve or even as an emergency defensive replacement. The question, as always: is this the week he finally makes his season debut?

3. While Curtin’s lineup decisions played well in Toronto, one interesting one was not playing Roland Alberg. With Barnetta out, many Union fans probably expected Alberg to start at the No. 10 position — or, at the very least, come off the bench. But with the Union never falling behind, Curtin probably didn’t feel the need to bring in such an offensive-minded player. It was an understandable move considering the context but one that was surely disappointing for Alberg, who despite having nine goals in just over 1,000 minutes, has played only 19 minutes over the last three games and has started only once since the beginning of August. By now, you have to wonder what role the dynamic Dutchman will have in the playoffs — if he has one at all.

Stat of the week
With his seventh assist, the rookie Herbers moved into the top 10 in franchise history in career assists. He’s tied for ninth all time with Barnetta, Alejandro Moreno and Conor Casey.

Quote of the week
“I kind of even surprised myself.”

— Alejandro Bedoya, on his first MLS goal

Player of the week
Gotta give it to the guy who scored one of the best goals of the Union’s season, right? The Union now hope there’s more to come from Bedoya during the final stretch of the 2016 season.