Under former head coach Matt Rhule, the Temple Owls rose to the top of the American Athletic Conference by building a dominating defense. The Owls ranked 11th nationally in scoring defense and third in total defense last fall.
The Owls’ offense, however, was a bit more erratic, but it did show improvement in 2016. Temple ranked a respectable 43rd nationally in scoring offense, but that number was bolstered by a schedule that allowed it to hang a lot of points against bad defenses or inferior opponents like Charlotte (48 points scored), SMU (45) and Stony Brook (38).
Its 46-point outburst against South Florida was impressive, and so was the Owls' performance in a 34-10 win over Navy.
It took time for Temple to get to that point offensively, and now it must continue making such strides despite losing its all-time leading passer and four-year starter Phillip Walker, versatile running back Jahad Thomas and left tackle Dion Dawkins, a second-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills.
New head coach Geoff Collins hired Dave Patenaude to be the offensive coordinator for the Owls.
A LOOK AT DAVE PATENAUDE
Patenaude spent the last five seasons at Football Championship Subdivision program Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers averaged at least 34.3 points per game in each of his five years directing the offense.
Patenaude runs a spread offense that varies its tempo. It is not a break-neck speed attack, but it can push the tempo when it wants to. His unit is built around running the football. Coastal Carolina averaged at least 189.7 yards per game on the ground in each of his five seasons, and in all but one it boasted a clip of at least 215.5 yards per game.
The Chanticleers averaged only 133.3 passing yards per game last season, a number that is terribly misleading. Injuries forced Patenaude to play multiple quarterbacks, with four different players throwing at least 20 passes. In the four previous seasons, his offense averaged between 225.3 and 265.2 passing yards per game.
His top back was De’Angelo Henderson, who was selected by the Denver Broncos in the sixth round of the 2017 NFL Draft after rushing for 4,036 yards and 52 touchdowns the last three seasons.
Just what his offense at Temple will look like is still a bit of a guess. Good coaches will adapt their philosophies and principles to fit the players they inherit or the league they play in, and in the case of Patenaude, the upgrade in talent from FCS competitor Coastal Carolina to Football Bowl Subdivision member Temple could allow him to do things he could not before.
Below is a look at what dominated his offense over the last few seasons and gives a glimpse of what fans can expect when his team takes on Notre Dame:
TEMPLE RUN GAME
Patenaude’s complexity comes in the run game. He’ll take a lot of run offense into each game in an attempt to use formations to create numbers advantages. He also attempts to find multiple ways to quickly attack up the middle and on the perimeter, and he has a number of schemes designed to bring about mistakes by the defense.
The play I’ve seen Patenaude use the most the last few years is what I call, for lack of a better term, sort of a “Mid-Zone” scheme.
It seems to be a zone-oriented concept that isn’t a perimeter play, but also not a cut-back run like the more pure inside zone looks. Here’s an example of this concept, which I’ve seen Patenaude utilize heavily in each game I broke down.
The play-side tackle has an interesting responsibility, and it’s not a concept I’ve seen much of the last couple of seasons. At the snap, he will open up and invite the defensive end upfield. Once the end commits upfield, the tackle will use a club to take him outside to open up the inside run lane.
If the end slants inside, the tackle will seal and ride him inside, and the back will bounce outside, but the goal is to attack inside of the tackle block.
The play-side guard and the center will combo block together on the defensive tackle to that side up to the play-side inside linebacker. If the linebacker attacks outside the guard will come off and execute the block, if the linebacker hits inside the center will come off.
The back-side linemen will seal inside in this look to prevent a wash down from the back-side defenders, but their responsibilities varied from game to game depending on the looks they faced.
What the offense is looking to accomplish with this concept is to attack off tackle against a favorable box, which means a box with only five defenders. It wants to get a stretch by the defense with the wide footwork of the back, which makes this play almost look like an outside stretch. Once the defense commits, the back will cut vertically inside of the tackle.
If there is a sixth defender, I’ve seen Patenaude adapt and get his tight end involved on the back side, which allows one of the back-side linemen to work upfield to help secure a linebacker. He’ll also go with a trips look away from the call in hopes of getting the Mike linebacker to bump out enough to limit his ability to crash the hole.
Another top concept for Patenaude is a quick G Wrap scheme, which is a hard downhill run that is meant to attack the A Gap. The blocking could result in a bounce into the B Gap or a cut back, but the primary design is to attack right up the middle towards the A Gap.
Again, the goal is to attack a five-man box. The center will block the first interior lineman away from the call. Since this particular play is going to the right, the center will block back to the left. The back-side guard (the left guard in this instance) will do a quick wrap around the center and look for the inside linebacker.
The right guard will block the man lined up over top of him and the right tackle will kick out the end. If the defensive tackle lined up over the right guard (No. 70) slants inside, the guard will wash him down and the pulling guard will quickly wrap outside of him, which is evidenced by the dotted line in the diagram. That is the adjustment.
The back-side tackle will look to secure the B Gap and look to get the tackle to come upfield to his outside.
Here’s how the play looks:
You can see the defensive end slants inside, so the tackle just washes him inside and the back makes a great read and cuts it back for a big gain. If the end stays outside, the back would have followed the guard into the hole.
The back will move laterally with his initial footwork in order to let the blocking develop. If he gets downhill too quickly, the hole will be clogged up.
If the defense keeps a sixth defender in the box, Patenaude will look to attack the perimeter with the pass game — where he has numbers — or he’ll get the tight end involved to help secure the play-side edge, which allows the tackle to work up for the linebacker.
Patenaude will mix things up a bit with a counter concept.
It’s the same basic counter concept that all teams run, with a kick-out block and a pulling lineman that will wrap inside as the lead blocker.
You can see it here:
What Patenaude’s counter does differently is it gets both guards involved. It’s not a new concept, but he has his own wrinkle.
Patenaude has used the speed option play a great deal over the years. It’s a double-option concept where the quarterback will read an edge player to decide to pitch the ball to the back, or to tuck it upfield and run it himself.
There are two ways that Patenaude will design the speed option, and one appears to be a quick check by the quarterback against a blitz or against a look where he thinks he can get numbers on the perimeter.
In this look, the defense is playing Cover 1, which means the cornerback is locked into man coverage against the wide receiver and the defense is showing a hard rush with just one deep defender.
The quarterback checked into the speed option and got the back in position to execute it with him. He sees there is an edge player walked up that he will read. That defender is circled in the shot above. The line will zone block to the call side and the quarterback will make his read off that defender.
As soon as the end steps to the quarterback, the ball gets pitched outside and it’s a race to the sideline between the back and the end. Here, the back wins and gets upfield or a very good gain.
Patenaude will also call a speed option play from the sideline, and there he can get more creative with how it is blocked on the perimeter.
In the clip below the end is still the player being read, and the wide receiver in the slot will crack inside and take the linebacker.
I’ve also seen Patenaude call this play against some defensive looks where the end will get blocked and the quarterback will read the flat defender for the pitch. That play takes longer to develop and I’ve seen it used less frequently.
When the play is run into the boundary (short side of the field), it is a quick hitter and is often a check by the quarterback. When the play is run to the field (wide side of the field), it is a longer developing play that stretches the defense and looks to create run lanes.
READ ZONE W/TRIPLE OPTION
Temple is likely to start a veteran quarterback — either redshirt junior Frank Nutile or redshirt sophomore Logan Marchi. Marchi is the better runner of the two, but Nutile is a quality athlete as well. Expect to see Patenaude use the read zone concept with both quarterbacks, but when he brings in freshman Todd Centeio — who I expect to play — the read will likely become a key part of the offense.
Notre Dame fans are familiar with the read zone concept, but Patenaude runs the triple option version that was common when the spread first became popular. He’ll run it often out of a two-back alignment, which you can see below.
The quarterback will make two reads on the play. His first will be on the back-side end, which is the end to the left of the offense in the above clip. If the end doesn’t crash or works outside, the quarterback will hand the ball off to the back with the line blocking an inside zone concept.
If the end comes down or towards the back, the quarterback will pull the ball and get outside. At that point he will read the flat defender or alley safety (depending on the defensive look). If that defender comes towards the quarterback he will pitch the ball to the running back.
If the defender goes for the back, the quarterback will pull the ball and run, which you see in this clip above.
Like Notre Dame under coordinator Chip Long, expect Temple to run Run Pass Options (RPO) against the Irish defense. The linked article HERE explains in greater detail what an RPO is, but essentially it’s when a run play is called, but the quarterback has the option to pull the ball and throw it outside depending on what his read key does at the snap.
The read key will be a flat or alley defender to a specific side, which the quarterback will know based on the call and what is taught to him during the week of practice. In this look the read key is away from the play call, which is the mid-zone look to the right.
By reading this defender the offense can keep a numbers advantage, one way or another.
If the alley defender stays outside, the quarterback will simply hand the ball off to the back. The offensive line is always blocking for a run and never knows if the ball is pulled and thrown outside.
If the alley defender steps down inside, which he does above, the quarterback will pull the ball and throw it outside, which gives the offense numbers/leverage on the outside.
Here the quarterback is throwing a simple outside hitch route. It’s just one route concept Patenaude will use. He likes to have screen plays to the outside with his RPO, but also prefers to have quick hitters like the play above.
TEMPLE PASS GAME
Temple’s pass concepts will vary week to week under Patenaude, like they do with every offense. There are, however, some philosophies that one can expect the coordinator to bring into the matchup against Notre Dame.
Patenaude has shown four basic philosophies with his pass game.
First, he will look to get the ball out to his backs in space. It’s not complex, but it will come in different ways. He’ll throw quick swing screens, he’ll throw quick slide routes to the outside and he’ll dump the ball off to backs with check-down throws from the pocket or when the quarterback is on the move.
The goal is to get his playmaker — and he’ll have one at running back in junior Ryquell Armstead — in space on the perimeter, often against smaller defenders (cornerbacks and safeties).
Second, Patenaude will look to attack the perimeter with quick to intermediate throws. He has shown a penchant for attacking the boundary (short side) with these types of throws, but that can often be due to not having quarterbacks with the arm strength to attack the wider part of the field.
In the above clip, the offense is attacking with an intermediate throw, in this instance a comeback route, but he’ll also use quick hitches or outs.
Notre Dame’s boundary cornerback can expect to be put in a lot of open-field tackle situations against the running back throws and against these types of looks.
Third, Patenaude will use his run game and various formations to try to get the boundary cornerback isolated in situations where he can attack with the deep ball. He has three long, athletic and talented wide receivers in redshirt junior Ventell Bryant, senior Adonis Jennings and fifth-year senior Keith Kirkwood, so you can expect this to continue.
In these instances Patenaude has no problem attacking vertically, especially with his play-action concepts. It’s not about out-smarting the opposition, it’s about getting a one-on-one with a player he believes can win that particular matchup. He throws a go route in the clip below, but he’ll also throw a post route and at times I’ve seen two-man route concepts.
Temple won’t just be a perimeter-oriented offense. He frequently isolates flat defenders and linebackers on the outside, but he also likes to find ways to exploit those same players over the middle of the field with a number of high-low concepts.
You can see an example here:
It’s not complicated. He’ll have receivers running patterns at different levels in front of and behind the linebackers. If they bail, the ball comes underneath. If they come up, the quarterback will throw behind the linebackers, or in this case, he can quickly get the ball out to a receiver in a catch-and-run situation.