Temple has a Twitter-savvy football coach who waited just a few hours to send out this message Saturday after the final 2013 Owls game: "PJ and the fellas set the Temple Single Season passing record today. Time now to recruit some ballers who want to make plays."
That tweet by Temple's Matt Rhule was smart on two fronts, because it really sent out two separate recruiting messages. You offensive guys, we have a system you might really like. . . . And for the defenders: Yo, playing time is available.
Despite their 2-10 record, the Owls weren't a bad football team. They were, in fact, a pretty good offensive team. Quarterback P.J. Walker hit a comfort zone quickly as a true freshman, the Owls were second in school history in total yards (behind the 1979 team), and those yards weren't accumulated in comeback mode. They were legit.
If getting leads wasn't the problem, holding them proved to be an issue. Temple gave up way too many passing touchdowns, and too many easy ones, and usually at the wrong time.
Yes, the Owls were "a yard away" from one win, as Rhule put it, and "a step away" from a big upset. But those yards and steps usually are the toughest ones. And sometimes those steps between receivers and defenders looked mighty big.
"We have to find some players who can win those type games," Rhule said Monday at his end-of-season news conference. "We scored 42 touchdowns and we gave up 42 touchdowns," he said later. "That's unheard of. That should equate to being about 6-6, 7-5, 5-7, but the other team had, like, a 60-point advantage on us in field goals."
When you are 2-10, all other statistics are secondary, of course. Rhule starts from the bottom of a ditch, just as Al Golden once did.
But here's another smart thing that Rhule said Monday: He mentioned that the Owls never quite got to the promised land under Golden. The Owls got their feet under them with Golden - no small accomplishment. He deserves complete respect for the job he did. And it was good enough to get him the Miami job.
But under Golden, Temple never made it to the Mid-American Conference title game, or even beat a team that finished above .500 in the league. Two consecutive bowl games for Golden and his successor, Steve Addazio, were fine, but a lot of mediocre teams make it to bowls. What were the names of those bowls again?
"When I talk about the past, I always talk about my past with the program," said Rhule, a former assistant under Golden and Addazio before spending 2012 on the New York Giants staff. "There were years when we had a lot of NFL players on this team and we would still lose, 35-13, to Toledo, coming off a big win. Or we would still lose to a Bowling Green team that had four or five losses. We never were able to, as a program, come out and play game in and game out to the level we wanted."
His point is that there still has to be higher ground as a goal.
Any Temple fans who want to blame this season's problems on Addazio's recruiting are not exactly right. The players who should have been leaders on this team should have been a lot of fourth- and fifth-year guys, recruited before Addazio arrived.
That said, changing systems twice in three years after Addazio bolted for Boston College certainly had a negative impact on the Owls, especially on the defense.
"Having the same defensive system - that's like a weight lifted off your shoulders," said linebacker Tyler Matakevich, a dominating presence this season as a sophomore. He noted that it took time to learn the previous system before the team went "back to the drawing board" for a new, complex system that took much of this season for players to fully grasp.
"To be quite honest, we recognize there's some areas we need help in - that maybe we didn't realize as badly going into the season," Rhule said. "We need pass rushers. We need cover guys in the secondary. We need guys that can come in and play right away. We're out there trying to find guys who can make a difference."
In some ways, the biggest season of Rhule's head coaching career may prove to be the next one. Another year in the ditch would make it harder to climb out. That's why the Owls were on the field Monday pushing weighted plates around at 6 a.m, and why some of Rhule's tweets are written with 18-year-olds in mind.