In his first remarks at Tuesday's weekly press luncheon, Temple coach Geoff Collins started talking about how proud he was of his guys, how they fought and competed and played together to the end against a very good football team. Lucky to coach these guys, Collins said.
Let's guess that wasn't the entirety of the internal message to his guys after a second straight upset loss at home. Villanova and Buffalo were supposed to provide a smooth entry into this season.
"I'm not going to get down,'' Collins said, adding a moment later, "I'm sure the outside world wants me to be doom and gloom and upset at the world and throwing pity parties. That is the furthest thing from the truth in this organization, the furthest thing that I'm going to do."
Truth is, the world away from North Broad Street isn't thinking too much at all right now about Temple football or its head coach. That's the nature of the gig. It's only hardcore Temple fans who are focusing on the Owls right now, and 0-2 against two of the seemingly more beatable opponents on the schedule isn't cutting it for the diehards.
Let's point out that Collins is in a position right now where virtually all coaches stand at some point in their careers, where the questions are ahead of the answers and fans aren't sure what to make of the whole enterprise. Temple can get a lot better from here and still have trouble winning many games.
Collins coached the school to a bowl win last season after a tough start. He's new to head coaching, but, and this is funny to say, he's pretty good at acting like a head coach. The shoes fit just fine.
It's true that tough starts to seasons at Temple are tougher than at a lot of other places simply because attendance, still a perpetual Temple concern, gets impacted. Deflating interest is never a good thing.
That can't be front and center as a concern for Collins, though. Head coaches have to get the right messages to their locker room, and Collins clearly wanted to send a particular one this week about how the players who are playing the best also are the ones who are doing the most extra work, that small mistakes turn into big plays, that now is not the time to jump ship, time for some leaders to step up. He talked for nine minutes before taking a question.
Tremendous attitude, Collins went on, the players coming in and flying around in "a pouring rain" Sunday. An off day Monday, he said, and he genuinely missed being around them.
"The big message is: Don't let anybody else define who we are,'' Collins said. "We define who we are, how we go to work every single day, how we compete, how we play together. What a family we are, what a brotherhood we are. That is who we are as an organization. We play with tremendous effort. We're accountable to each other. The bottom line is we're tough and we're physical and we will fight to the very end."
Where the messaging falters a bit is when Collins gets more specific, talking about his "leverage-based" defense and how somebody who is supposed to get inside leverage defensively gets beaten inside or the same outside, and he's asked if he foresaw this being an issue entering the season.
No, that wasn't a question Collins was going to answer head-on. That might take the messaging into his coaching offices, and he was not going to do that.
"That's the life you live when you're playing man coverage against elite receivers,'' Collins said. "But we have some great defensive backs who are really working every single day. If you get beat at certain positions in certain moments, nobody notices. … If you get beat in man-in-man coverage, the whole world is going to notice."
All right, it was a loaded question, an 0-2 kind of question. Still, fair.
"I don't know if you guys have noticed — I'm a pretty confident guy,'' Collins said. "I'm a pretty positive guy. It takes a lot to get me down. Just coming to work every single day, seeing these guys, how they approach their daily business."
But Saturday night …
"I watched the tape. I watched the tape Saturday night,'' Collins said. "After the game, I was so disappointed in a loss. But, when you see how hard our guys competed, how hard they fought, how they stayed together all the way to the very end, you know you've got something that's really, really good."
Collins said he turned on the film "expecting to see these major busts here, major busts there," but it wasn't like that.
When he went to sleep Saturday night, Collins said, he still believed he had a really good football team.