They weren’t the jilted lover who wanted to make their ex pay for dumping them. They weren’t even mad.
For the Temple Owls, who seem to change football coaches the way parents change their baby’s diapers, the sight of Geoff Collins on the Georgia Tech sideline wasn’t foremost in their minds. They just wanted to win a football game.
Mission accomplished. “Honestly, when you’re in a game everything around is blocked out and you just focus on what’s in front of you,” said safety Benny Walls, whose 74-yard fumble return touchdown, to go with an end zone interception played an integral part in the 24-2 whupping Temple’s laid on their old coach yesterday at Lincoln Financial Field. “It was not a factor at all.”
It was for Collins, as much as he tried to downplay it in the weeks leading up to the game. After going 15-10 in his two years at Temple-including a win in his lone bowl game appearance for the Owls-the native Georgian chose to return to his roots, taking over a program that had fallen upon hard times.
To do so cost the university a $2.5 million buyout, which is why they were willing to give the 48-year-old Collins a seven year contract, reportedly worth between $2.5-$3.0 million to start.
That’s what led to this unlikely scenario, which both sides conceded was a bit out of the ordinary. “Now that it is over, it was surreal,” admitted Collins, whose new club fell to 1-3 largely due to those turnovers, which included quarterback Tobias Oliver fumbling just as he was about to cross the goal line in what was then a scoreless game. “The loss hurts really, really bad, multiplied by how personal it was.
“But at the end of the game, the amount of guys who came up and shared a little story about how we impacted their lives or how we made a difference, how they miss us, how they love us, obviously that is reciprocal.
“Those moments are special. It makes you think that at least whatever you have done the last two years of your life, the investment you made in somebody’s else’s life is worth it.”
Indeed, as much as the Owls must’ve secretly loved sticking it to their former coach they conceded how much he-and the five former Temple assistants he brought with him to Atlanta-had done for them. “It’s different,” said quarterback Anthony Russo, who blossomed last season under Collins, but struggled in this one, throwing an end zone pick of his own. “As a football player you have to block out the outside noise.
“But when you spend two years of your life with those guys, grinding, doing the hard stuff-that was our family for two years. It was a little different playing against them. “But I’ve got all the respect in the world for those guys.”
At the same time Temple players have to wonder why no one wants to stick around N. Broad St. for long. It started less than a decade ago when Al Golden-after going 27-34 in five seasons-left for Florida. Steve Addazio stepped in, but was gone after two years for Boston College.
Then came Matt Rhule, who built a program that used to draw ridicule and which many thought should be discontinued into being on the verge of nationally prominence. Along the way Rhule’s Owls beat Penn State for the first time in 74 years and extended Notre Dame to the limit.
Such success made Rhule a hot item, with Baylor, still reeling from a scandal under previous coach Art Briles, making him an offer he couldn’t refuse in 2016. That set the stage for Collins, whose departure after two years may have caught some by surprise.
The quick search for a replacement turned into a fiasco when Manny Diaz, defensive coordinator at Miami, took the job, saying it seemed the right place and right time after spurning previous opportunities. Just 17 days later that was no longer the case
Just hours after Mark Richt decided to step down from the Miami helm Diaz was there to replace him. even though it cost the Hurricanes $4 million to buy him out of his Temple deal. Add it up and that’s $6.5 million folks were willing to pay not to coach Temple.
Instead it’s Rod Carey at the helm, who acknowledged after his team bounced back from a 38-22 pratfall at Buffalo last week to handle Georgia Tech, he could appreciate his players emotions facing Collins. Then again they weren’t his.
“They have-or had-the relationship with Geoff,” said Carey, after a Temple offensive line Collins conceded has “three of the best interior players in the country” sprang Re’Mahn Davis for 135 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries and Jager Gardner for 69 yards on 18 tries. “I don’t.
“I asked them about it and they said ‘This is about us.’ So I followed their lead.”
After all, Temple players have become used to playing musical coaches by now, though it’s a little different having to face the same guy who was in your corner this time last season. “I’ve had five position coaches and four head coaches,” revealed Gardner. “You get used to things like that.
“It’s part of the game and you move on. At the end of the day I’m just a competitor.”
At the end of his day Geoff Collins was still wearing Georgia Tech colors rather than the Temple cherry and white that had become so much a part of his life. Not to mention his family’s.
“I told people watching them play last week my daughter was running around singing the Temple fight song,” laughed Collins, who hopes his team can rebound against a North Carolina team that took No. 2 ranked Clemson to the wire yesterday. “I hope she wasn’t today.
“There’s irony in this and I get it. We just have to understand that was a really good football team we played, They have a great defense and they were able to be effective in the red zone. Their offensive line is really good.”
“We recruit well and we developed that talent. That’s what you’re seeing right now. But it’ll be the same thing here and soon you’ll see the fruits of that labor.”
For now, though, Collins’ new team was outclassed by his old one, though it might’ve been a bit different without all those turnovers. While he had to leave the Linc frustrated and disappointed how Tech performed, there must’ve also been a touch of pride seeing what Temple is capable of.
“Nothing personal,” was their message to him. “We’ll be just fine without you.”
It’s the same message all spurned lovers try to tell their ex-es, whether they believe it or not. The difference is for Temple it already appears to be true.”