SHREVEPORT, Louisiana -- With his entertaining performances at bowl press conferences that have gone viral, and his interaction on Twiter with Meek Mill, Temple interim football coach Ed Foley has been a nationwide sensation as the Owls (8-4) prepare for Thursday’s Independence Bowl against Duke (7-5).
Foley, 51, has been funny, engaging and insightful.
Since Friday, the bowl preparation has also provided a sense of refuge after the news that day that Cliff Foley, Ed’s younger brother, had passed away.
Ed Foley said on Wednesday the cause of the death was still unknown.
Cliff Foley, a 1987 graduate of Cherry Hill East where he starred in football and baseball and then enjoyed an excellent baseball career at Villanova, has been living for years in Plano, Texas.
During Wednesday’s final press conference at Independence Stadium, Foley talked about his brother and dealing with the tragic situation. (He was asked before the press conference if he would be willing to discuss his brother and Ed Foley was more than willing to oblige.)
“It’s been really hard,” said Foley, who then explained the situation to the media, that his brother had passed away in Plano.
Foley’s mother went to Plano and then asked if she could come be with him in Shreveport. Cliff Foley’s two children, Marissa and Ryan, also came to Shreveport.
“Shreveport, the people in Bossier City, and our football team have gotten around my mother and Marissa and Ryan,” Foley said. “They came from Plano to here to spend Christmas together and have Christmas dinner and I think every player on the team hugged her [his mom] and it was really comforting to have that happen.”
Ed Foley said being around his family and the Temple team has also been a blessing.
“It’s been difficult; it is like I have two families, my football family and my blood family, and to have them all come to dinner for Christmas was really special to me,” Foley said.
Foley was asked just the one question about his brother and he spoke about several topics at Wednesday’s press conference and despite his grief, was as engaging as ever.
He has spoken about his affinity for Meek Mill and the rapper recently responded to Foley on Twitter, inviting him to his upcoming concert tour.
Foley was asked about Meek Mill offering him tickets.
“He told me on Twitter, ‘Yeah, whatever you need let me know.’ That was pretty was pretty cool," Foley said. “So now my children are like, ‘Coach, Meek Mill tweeted you back!” And, I was like, ‘Of course he did, that’s my guy.”
While Foley has been entertaining, it shouldn’t mask how successful he has been as a coach. He coaches the special teams and tight ends, and since he took over as special teams coordinator in 2014, Temple leads the nation with 23 blocked kicks, including five this season.
“Ed Foley’s been there a long time; it is a passion for him,” said Duke coach David Cutcliffe.
When a reporter asked Foley about his special-teams success, he unveiled more of his trademark humor.
“Special teams is all about coaching, and we have a phenomenal special team coach -- that’s me,” joked Foley.
Then he got serious and talked about all the special-teams performers who make the unit so strong, including Isaiah Wright, who was named a first-team all-American by the Sporting News as a return man.
The press conferences, especially since Friday, have been good for Foley, a way to momentarily escape the tragedy of losing his brother.
“It’s just devastating,” Foley said away from the press conference.
Then he went to the field where Temple and joked with players as they took a team photo, another momentary escape for a coach who is dealing with so much sorrow.
Independence Bowl: Temple vs. Duke
When: Thursday, Dec. 27, 1:30 p.m. ET
Where: Independence Stadium (49,565), Shreveport, Louisiana.
Surface: Synthetic grass.
Records: Temple (8-4), Duke (7-5).
TV/Radio: ESPN/97.5 FM The Fanatic.
Coaches: Temple, Ed Foley (interim, 0-1 at Temple; career, 7-16); Duke, David Cutcliffe, (10th season, 66-72; overall, 110-101).
Series: This is the first meeting between the schools.
Bowl records: Temple, 3-4; Duke 5-8.
Players to watch: Duke - Daniels Jones, 6-5, 220, R-Jr. QB (59 percent completion percentage, 2,251 yards passing, 17 TDs, 7 interceptions, 325 yards rushing, 2 TDs); Joe Giles-Harris, 6-2, 240 R-Jr. LB (81 tackles, 7 TFL in 9 games, 1st team all-ACC, but has missed the last three games with a knee injury); Deon Jackson, 6-0, 220 So. RB (806 yards rushing, 5.3 avg., 7 TDs, 2nd team all-ACC), Daniel Helm, 6-4, 255 R-Sr. TE (22 receptions, 247 yards, 2 TDs, 3rd team all-ACC); T.J. Rahming, 5-10, 170 Sr. WR (63 receptions, 571 yards, 6 TDs, 3rd team all-ACC); LB Ben Humphreys, 6-2, 225 Sr. LB (66 tackles, 5.5 TFL in 11 games).
Temple - Anthony Russo, 6-4, 230, R-SO. QB (57.8 completion percentage, 2,335 yards, 13 TDs, 13 INTs); Isaiah Wright, 6-2, 220 Jr. WR (Sporting News first team all-American return man, ACC special teams player of the year, 13.9 punt return avg., 25.9 kickoff average, 3 return TDs); Michael Dogbe, 6-3, 280 GR DT (69 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 7 sacks,, 1st team all-AAC); Rock Ya-Sin, 6-2. 190 Sr. CB (47 tackles, 2 INT, 12 pass break-ups, 1st team all-AAC); Ryquell Armstead, 5-11, 215 Sr. RB (1,098 yards rushing, 5.2 avg. 13 TDs, 1st-team all-AAC); Shaun Bradley, 6-1, 215 Jr. LB (72 tackles, 1st team all-AAC); Delvon Randall, 6-1, 215 Sr. S (78 tackles, 3 INT, 6 pass breakups, 1st team all-AAC);
Key matchups: The Temple secondary against Jones. He was named Duke’s MVP and is considered a viable NFL candidate. As for individual matchups, Temple often has Ya-Sin on the opponent’s top receiver so look for him to be guarding Rahming.
Temple’s offensive line against Duke’s defensive line. Temple has allowed just 15 sacks this season and Duke only has 21 sacks., which was 12th in the AAC. Duke will need to put some heat on Russo, but will likely have to blitz heavily to get to him. Besides his ability to carry the ball, Armstead is a good blocker and excellent at picking up the blitz, so that will be interesting to watch.
Notable: Duke is playing in its sixth bowl game in the last seven years. … Temple has appeared in eight bowl games, with half of them coming the last four years. … Temple’s seniors are the winningest class in school history with 35 victories. … Owls WR Ventell Bryant has caught a pass in every game he has played in -- 47 games. He is Temple’s all-time leader in receptions (169) and receiving yards (2,413). … Duke is coming off a 59-7 loss to visiting Wake Forest in its regular season finale while Temple won at UConn, 57-7 in its last game. … Cutcliffe gave this update on Wednesday on the status of Giles-Harris: “We’re not sure. He’s gotten some practice time. We’re right down to the final hour." ... Duke freshman defensive tackle Tahj Rice will miss the bowl game after undergoing an appendectomy on Monday. He appeared in all 12 games and had six tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss.