There’s not much to tell from a first-week AAC football schedule that includes Connecticut being hammered by BYU and Houston vs. UTSA. If defense wins championships, neither Tulsa nor Tulane showed much of it in a 38-31 win by the Golden Hurricane. Fans will not find out much about East Carolina in a game against North Carolina Central.
There was, though, one game that really opened a lot of eyes and that was Temple’s 37-7 win at Vanderbilt. That’s because the Owls totally dominated an SEC team which returned 15 starters, including a quarterback Patton Robinette, who started and won games at Georgia and Florida. The Commodores’ offensive line returned intact, with the exception of one player, Wes Johnson, and this was a group that held out some of the best defensive lines in the best conference in the country.
Nine months ago, Temple made a trip to Tennessee and came away with a 41-21 win over Memphis. Thursday’s win in Nashville was even more dominating. The last group of Yankees who had that much success in that state were led by U.S. Grant.
When James Franklin left to take over the head coaching job at Penn State, he did not leave the cupboard totally bare in Nashville. This was more Temple being good than Vanderbilt being bad and, in an AAC that could be wide open, this win means the Owls could be major players in the conference this year.
UCF lost a first-round quarterback pick, Blake Bortles, to the NFL. Vanderbilt dominated Houston in a bowl game last year. Cincinnati has a talented quarterback in Gunner Kiel, but he’s also a guy who has not dropped back against a real rush in two years. That means something because Temple has a real rush. The Owls were all over Robinette like few SEC teams were and the reason was that they moved a couple of speedy linebackers up to defensive ends. The Owls had to do very little blitzing but, when they did, the consistent front four rush made the blitzes all the more effective. A blitz from linebacker Avery Williams led to a sack, a fumble and a touchdown return by nose tackle Averee Robinson.
It was some very impressive coaching from second-year coach Matt Rhule and DC Phil Snow to make those kind of personnel changes.
It’s a long season and Temple would be wise to learn from its last dominating win over a Power 5 team, when the Owls went down to Maryland and beat the Terps, 38-7, in 2011. Full of themselves, the Owls were beaten, 38-13, at home by Toledo the next week. Maybe Rhule, an Owl assistant at that time, should show them that film.
If the Owls do not get full of themselves in a week against a very good Navy team, they have as much a chance of building the kind of momentum that could catapult them to an AAC title. Of all the AAC teams so far, they have a chance of building the best resume after two weeks.