Head-to-Head: Inside Vanderbilt vs. Temple

Vanderbilt faces the winless Temple Owls on Saturday. Howell Peiser gives us an in-depth look at the game matchups and provides us with a prediction on the game score.

Vanderbilt Vs. Temple

Game 5

Saturday, 30-September-2006—6:00 PM CDT

 

Radio: WGFX 104.5 FM & Eight Affiliates + Sirius Radio

 

For those living in the eastern part of the country, Temple's flagship station WPHT 1210 AM is a 50KW, clear-channel flamethrower that can be heard for 1,000 miles after dark.          

 

          TV:      None

 

The Statistics

 

Vanderbilt 0-2 in the SEC, 1-3 Overall

Temple 0-4 overall (will become a full-fledged member of the Mid American Conference in 2007).

 

This is the second game in the series.  The two teams played in front of 20,000 fans on Friday night, October 11, 1935, at Temple Stadium in Philadelphia (abandoned in 1975 and demolished in 1997).

 

The 3-0 Owls, led by legendary coach Glenn "Pop" Warner, were a one-point favorite over Coach Ray Morrison's 3-0 Commodores and their aerial circus.  Morrison's Goldmen threw the ball up to 20 to 25 times a game.  The norm in those days was for college teams to throw the ball just five or six times a game. 

 

Prior to the game, Warner told the Associated Press, "Vanderbilt has the most dangerous aerial attack in football."  Unfortunately for the black and gold, a heavy rain thoroughly soaked the field, and the promised passing attack never developed.  Vandy would attempt just three passes and fail to complete one. 

 

After an apparent second quarter long touchdown run by Temple was called back for an offsides penalty, the Owls were forced to punt from near midfield.  Vandy's senior tackle Rannie Throgmorton broke through the line and blocked Glenn Frey's punt, and the Commodores were in business at the Temple 20 yard line following the recovery and return.

 

Three plays couldn't garner a first down, and on fourth down at the 18, Dick Plasman drop-kicked the ball through the uprights from the 25 for a 3-0 lead.  The score stayed that way until late in the game.  With seven minutes remaining, and Temple unable to move the ball on the ground, backup fullback John Kusko took the snap (Temple deployed a direct snap, double-wing formation), faked a run wide to the left and tossed a short, underhanded pass forward to end Lloyd Wise.  Vanderbilt had pulled out all the stops to get to Kusko, and Wise caught the ball with no Commodore defenders in his vicinity.  The 52-yard scamper resulted in a touchdown, and Temple held on to win 6-3.  Vandy mustered only one first down and 63 total yards, all on the ground.

 

Morrison left Vanderbilt to become Temple's coach in 1940 and was replaced by Vanderbilt's most successful modern day coach Henry "Red" Sanders.  Former Vanderbilt legend Josh Cody joined Morrison at Temple and later became head coach for the 1955 season.

 

Temple has not beaten a Southeastern Conference opponent since they defeated Florida to end the 1938 season.  The Owls have dropped 11 straight contests to SEC schools, the last coming four years ago when South Carolina beat them 42-21.

 

Interesting factoid:  Temple played the first indoor collegiate football game between major college teams when they defeated Miami (Fl) 34-0 on November 8, 1930.  The game was played at the Atlantic City, New Jersey, Convention Hall.  On November 30, 1984, they returned to the Convention Hall to play another indoor game there, stomping all over Toledo 35-6.  This arena was in no way the equivalent of a domed stadium; the end zones had to be shortened to eight yards each to fit the space available.  The stage (where the Miss America Pageant had been held for many years) actually held one of the goal posts. When the 1964 Liberty Bowl was played there, the national press made it out to be a huge joke.  A year later, football was being played indoors at the Houston Astrodome, and the Liberty Bowl was being played in Memphis.

 

The Matchups

 

When Vanderbilt Runs The Ball

 

After rushing for just 122 yards in the first two games, the Commodores have accumulated 419 yards on the ground in the last two weeks.  Removing quarterback sacks from the rushing stats, Vandy is now averaging 5.1 yards per rush.  To date, Vandy has run the ball 57% of the time and passed it 43% of the time. 

 

This week, I believe the black and gold will run the ball about 2/3 of the time or more.  Temple is weak up front, and the Commodore offensive line should have little trouble knocking the Owl defensive line backwards.  Temple is giving up 5.6 yards per carry (6.2 yards when you remove sacks).  Vanderbilt should easily top 200 yards rushing and could approach 300 yards if the coaching staff decides not to pass the ball much if Vandy takes early command of this game.

 

I would predict Cassen Jackson-Garrison to enjoy his first 100-yard game of the season, but I think he will be on the bench for most of the second half.  Jared Hawkins could possibly top triple digits if he gets enough second half carries and breaks one for a long gain.  Chris Nickson could also have a big night if he plays long enough.  I think he will take an early seat on the bench, as Coach Johnson wants to see both Mackenzi Adams and Richard Kovalcheck get some playing time before Vandy plays three consecutive conference games in three weeks time.

 

This also may be the week to give Steven Bright a few carries.  It looks like Gaston Miller is going to redshirt, and Vandy needs a third back for October and November.  Two backs with no bye week is a dangerous proposition.

 

My prediction here is the Commodores will rush the ball 40 times for 260 yards.

 

When Temple Runs The Ball

 

I think Coach Al Golden will try to shorten this game by having his team run the ball early and often.  Even though his troops are currently second-to-last in Division 1-A rushing yardage per game, the only way to keep this game close is to succeed on the ground.  Vandy's run defense is not as strong as Minnesota's and Louisville's, and is probably no better than Western Michigan's. 

 

Taking away the game against lowly Buffalo, the Owls have averaged just 28.7 rushing yards per game.  Still, Golden has called for his club to run the ball a few more times than to pass it.  That speaks volumes about their passing attack.

 

Jason Harper will get the majority of the carries, and he is capable of rushing for 75 yards if the Commodore front seven endures any breakdowns in technique. 

 

My prediction is Temple will rush 28 times for 45 yards.  At least two of those rushes will actually be sacks.

 

When Vanderbilt Throws The Ball

 

Vanderbilt shouldn't have to throw the ball too much tomorrow night, but I expect the yards per attempt to be the best of the season.  Look for possibly all three quarterbacks to throw passes in this game.  Nickson finally connected with Earl Bennett on a long ball last week, and it would be great to see him do so again.  I'd run the ball continually until we have a 2nd down and one near midfield.   Then, I'd fake the dive to CJG and look deep to Bennett down the sideline.

 

Marlon White and George Smith need to see some intermediate distance passes tossed their way in this game.  Nickson should be given enough time to throw 20-yard passes to both of them.

 

Bright may find it easier to get open in this game.  Temple has to worry about getting burned deep, and their safeties may have to spend too much time protecting the deep zones.  Bright can beat Temple's linebackers inside, where he will look like a man among boys.  At 6-4 and almost 250, he will tower over every Temple middle pass defender.

 

Once the reserves enter the game, it could be interesting.  Sean Walker is going to take a short pass and turn it into a breakaway some time in the future; let's hope the future is now.

 

My prediction for this stat is 15 completions in 22 attempts for 220 yards and no interceptions.

 

When Temple Throws The Ball

 

When Temple's quarterbacks throw the ball, Vanderbilt's defenders may have their best chance all season to be on the receiving end.  Owl quarterbacks Adam DiMichelle and Vaughn Charlton have averaged one interception for every 15.7 passes.  Take the Buffalo game stats out of that average, and it falls to one interception for every 14 passes.

 

Vanderbilt's speedy pass rushers should have a field day getting into the Owl backfield, especially the right outside of the defensive line.  Curtis Gatewood, Marcus Buggs, and Jonathan Goff should rise to the occasion and come up with big games once again.  Broderick Stewart should have an excellent chance to pick up another sack (or two) when he enters the game on obvious passing downs.

 

The secondary will not be tested all that much by Temple's wide receivers.  Not only are they not overly speedy, they cannot get too far downfield before the pass protection breaks down. 

 

My prediction for Temple is 12 completions in 24 attempts for 115 yards but with two interceptions.

 

Special Teams Play

 

Vanderbilt actually has its biggest advantage over Temple here.  Dissecting each individual special team shows Vandy with the advantage in just about every aspect.

 

When Temple kicks off, Vandy should take the return out past the 30 yard line.  When Vandy kicks off, Temple should find it hard getting to the 20 yard line.  When Temple punts, Vandy should finally have a chance to return one for more than 15 yards (as long as Bennett fields the punt).  When Vandy punts, Temple will probably not even bother to attempt a return.  So far, their average return has been for a loss.  Temple's field goal kicker, Danny Murphy has nailed only one, 20-yarder in his three attempts, and due to poor protection, one of his attempts was blocked and returned for a touchdown.  Bryant Hahnfeldt, on the other hand or foot, can nail 50-yard field goals when the wind isn't giving him a big kiss.

 

Vanderbilt could very well score points with their special teams tomorrow evening.  Even if they don't, they are liable to greatly improve their field position thanks to a huge advantage here.

 

The Predictions

 

PiRate: Vanderbilt 35  Temple 0

 

Vanderbuilder's Guess: Vanderbilt by 27 points (around 34-7)

 

Average of 42 Computer Rankings: Vanderbilt by 27 points.  All 42 select Vanderbilt to win the game, and by a range of 14 to 42 points.

 

Summary:  Most long-time Commodore fans can empathize with Temple's fans.  For way too long, we have had to endure the seasons where our opponents manhandled us on both sides of the ball.  Sure, Vandy hasn't ever suffered a winless season, but all of those one and two-win seasons, 27 to be exact, have been no picnic.

 

This reminds me of a story the great journalist Fred Russell wrote in his book Funny Things About Sports.  Here it is:

 

Dick Bachman, LaPorte, Ind., was one of the few Navy V-12 students at Vanderbilt in 1945 who came out for war-time informal football.  Though inexperienced, he progressed to the role of No. 2 fullback.

 

At Baton Rouge, a few minutes before the Commodores took the field against powerful LSU, young Bachman was one of the most intent listeners as Coach Doby Bartling addressed the squad something like this:

 

"Boys, the only thing I ask of you is that you be relaxed.  If there is any tightness, let LSU be the ones who are tight.  They are the ones to worry, not us.  We have everything to gain, nothing to lose.  If LSU is hot, we have no chance.  So I want you to go out there with just one idea—to have fun."

 

Bachman got into the game early in the second quarter and the first time Vanderbilt got the ball, his signal was called for a smash at the line.  Three LSU tacklers hit him at about the same time, and from every angle—jolting, teeth-rattling blasts.  His mates helped him to his feet and he staggered back to the huddle. "Fun!" he yipped, interrupting the signal for the next play. "Fun!  Jees, fellows, I'm going back to the fleet!"

 

As the LSU game wore along, Bachman couldn't get over the way Southern boys mixed it up out there.  Late in the fourth quarter, when he attempted to crack the line again, something went wrong, and a couple of Tigers banged him just about the time he got the ball, skinning his nose and stepping on his neck.

 

In the huddle for the next play, Bachman asked End Doug Malsberger: "Are you having fun up there in the line?"

 

"Well, sorta," Malsberger replied.

 

"Let's swap places then," Dick proposed.  "It's serious as hell back here."

 

This is a comparative narrative of what Temple is going through during their 16-game losing streak, their expulsion from the Big East Conference, and their having to play 19 true freshmen in four games this year.  Football cannot be much fun for them, and if Vandy comes out hot, they can win this game by 40 points or more.  Temple should enter this game relaxed with nothing to lose and everything to gain, while the Commodores could begin this game a little tight.  Once the interior lines bang heads for a few plays, it should become quickly evident that Vanderbilt has a humongous advantage in every respect.

 

If the players really want to do so, Vandy can name the score.  The second team offense should be able to move the ball against the Owls, and the second team defense should be able to stop their attack.  Barring some unfortunate mistake, Vanderbilt could keep the Owls off the scoreboard.  Figuring a total emptying of the bench while Temple keeps their starters in the game, the Owls might score three, six, seven, or 10 points.  Meanwhile, the Commodores should be forced to run wind sprints after the game if they don't score 35 or more points, regardless of when the starters take off their shoulder pads for the night.

 

If the Goldmen go full force for 60 minutes and the backups play their career games, the score could be in the range of 48-0 to 59-0.  If the team fails to play with that killer instinct, the score could be as close as 34-13.  I tend to think the backups will suffer a mistake or two, and this will allow the Owls to get on the scoreboard.  Thus, my personal feeling is this game will end up around 34-7.

 

Have fun witnessing the closest thing to a sure win for Vanderbilt since they played Davidson in 1969.  One request:  Temple will bring some fans to this game.  Remember what it has been like for you when you sat at Jordan-Hare Stadium in 1987 or at Davis Wade Stadium in 1998.  Be kind to our visitors from the City of Brotherly Love.  It is certainly no fun for them.  We definitely know what it's like.  Cheer for your team, but don't insult our guests.


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