At the height of his popularity and invincibility, Muhammad Ali granted a pug boxer from Bayonne, N.J. a shot. In order to sweeten the storyline, Ali noted that Chuck Wepner had a bleeding problem and promised that he could win with all body blows and to never touch Wepner’s face.
Saturday’s Temple at Massachusetts’ football game was a little like that fight, with the Temple game plan being remarkably similar to Ali’s. The Minutemen were coming off a game where their run defense bled for 390 yards in a 48-14 loss to Colorado and allowed two 100-yard rushers. Temple had the nation’s third-leading rusher, Jahad Thomas. Running the ball was a no-brainier, but the Owls eschewed the obvious and threw the ball all over the lot. Temple had 392 passing yards, but only 67 rushing yards. Had the reverse been true, they would have accomplished the dual goal of scoring points and keeping the ball away from Blake Frohnapfel, the talented quarterback of the Minutemen.
Now they have to know that ill-advised game plan that led to the unimpressive 25-23 win cost them what surely would have been a spot in the top 25. Despite going 3-0 for the first time since 2010, the fact is that that they earned no style points and dropped from No. 26 to No. 33 in the AP poll that was released on Sunday at 2 p.m. In the world of college football, often it’s not if you win but how you win, and Temple learned that hard lesson.
If any team was set up to be punched in the face, it was Massachusetts but, the Owls outsmarted themselves by throwing the ball on their first second-and-five situation of the game and then again on their first second-and-three opportunity. With a 14-0 lead, the Owls could have put the game away with successful runs against a porous run defense in those situations but inexplicably chose not to do so. Sometimes, the game plan is there right in front of your face for the entire world to see but, for some reason Temple chose not to see it. A game that should not have been that close was very close, and there were a number of reasons for that, but chief among them was not taking a page out of Colorado’s book.
Now perhaps their best chance for a top 25 spot has fallen by the wayside and it was because they chose not to hit a bleeder right in the face.