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When we last left our team of Larentowiczes, they had just gotten shellacked in a scrimmage by the University of Oregon football team.
The biggest issue with that is that I was actually controlling the team and not the AI. The AI will be running the legitimate part of this show and normally, the AI is hot trash. However it may be that for this particular experiment, having a non-human entity guiding the hand of Jeff (or something) may actually be beneficial.
Remember from Part One and Two that our team of Jeffs actually received pretty high ratings within the game. There’s a chance that the massive difference in speed that made beating Oregon impossible won’t show up the same way in a simulated version of the game.
But first we need a coach to lead this team.
And just like the original version of this thing, the only man Larentowicz enough to lead the Larentowiczes is Jeff Larentowicz.
The players seem excited when this coaching change is announced. They say they’re really looking forward to a coach who’s really not a real clubhouse guy and only cares about making the best decision for the team, however ruthless. Upon meeting the team, Head Coach Larentowicz declares them all to be “weak” and “lamentable” and “Not even worth half a Rudy Reuttiger.” The team responds by running even more extra windsprints until they throw up twice. This takes forever, as they’re all in incredible shape and also very, very slow.
The schedule for Temple and our team of Jeffs looks like this:
The seasons starts with one of the Generic FCS teams on the game. If anything will be a win this first season, it has to be this.
No Caleb Porter or Darlington Nagbe so maybe we have a chance.
You can see that once we get in the MAC, things should be...pretty easy right?
It’s year one. It’s a team entirely of freshman. I think making a bowl seems plausible though, as long as the team runs enough stadium stairs. Fortunately, they seem well on their way to doing that.
GAME ONE - “FCS East” Rhinos (lol)
Rain. The elements. Perfect football weather. Perfect Larentowicz weather. It’s just like that comic book character I can’t remember who gets stronger in the rain. Just like it. The Rhinos have no chance. Probably.
The crowd of thousands waits eagerly. They don’t know they’re about to see...
AN ABSOLUTE BUTT KICKING GOT DAMN.
The Rhinos are comically inept and the Jeffs control the game from the start, out-gaining FCS East 749-311. Amazingly, and against character, Jeff Larentowicz throws for 500 yards. A clever ruse from head coach Jeff Larentowicz to trick the upcoming opponent into thinking that Temple is one of the abominable “spread offenses” that are ruining college football.
The Jeffs refuse to apologize for running up the score late in the game, pointing to the writings of Friedrich Hayek on laissez-faire economics as proof that this was simply them letting the market regulate itself.
Temple is only a few wins away from a national championship. This is technically true and you know it.
In the excitement after the game, two players commit to Temple. They will not play. Not while there are Larentowiczes scattered all over the field.
GAME TWO - Akron
The Zips enter the game 0-1. The first conference game of the Jeffs’ career will take place in Akron, Ohio.
A creature unseen to the world stirs in the Mariana Trench. This will not matter for another hundred years.
The game begins with no rain this time. Could be problematic for Temple.
The first quarter ends 3-0 in favor of the Owls. The second quarter...
Ok. So. We’re learning that I might have created a juggernaut. Against all odds.
Is it possible that I was totally right about the AI thinking the team of extremely slow humans is actually good at football? Why would you question that, I am obviously right.
None of this is going how I expected though, and it’s all going decidedly better than the MLS version of the Fightin’ Jeffs. There is no need for full-hearted speeches at halftime. Everyone quietly fills out a crossword puzzle until a brief discussion about how the use of word “ewe” is excellent puzzle design breaks out. The team then returns to the field, perhaps a bit too fired up from their rigorous discourse.
Just kidding, they would never make that mistake.
The team cruises to a 61-0 win over the Zips. The team is averaging 68 points per game just by sheer willpower. This start to the season is a monument to intangibles. It’s also a monument to me probably not being entirely realistic with how I doled out attribute levels. But the biggest issue is that the Jeffs are passing so often.
For the second straight game, Temple, running the flexbone, Georgia Tech looking ass offense, has thrown for over 500 yards. This is unacceptable. I will have to fix this going forward. Somehow.
Also notable in this one, Jeff Larentowicz forced six turnovers. At least the defense is on-brand.
GAME THREE - Penn State
“We feel pretty good about our chances,” Coach Larentowicz said in his press conference earlier this week before the game on Saturday. “The field is 100 yards no matter where you play so we don’t see why we wouldn’t have a chance,” said he.
We’ll have to see if coach Larry is right on Saterday. It will be tough with Penn State trying to be “Win State” on Saturday. The game is saturday.
-Michael Stevens, Temple Student Journalist, Failing his classes
Penn State is favored by a lot. However, Temple inexplicably enters the game as the number one scoring team in football. I don’t know either.
AND IT’S RAINING.
PENN STATE IS DOOMED.
ok maybe not.
Penn State leads 28-10 at halftime. Temple and the Jeffs might be overmatched here. This is the MLS team going into Champions League and getting thrashed by Club Leon. It’s not their fault. Stop blaming them.
The game ends 55-24 in favor of Win State. It’s a loss the Jeffs will take a lot of lessons from. Mainly, that they should have scored more points.
It’s also a loss that the author will take a lot of lessons from. Mainly that the game is dumb and setting the quarters to 15 minutes like in real life leads to some teams being able to run over 140 plays on the way to scoring 55 points and throwing for 500 yards and possibly not having the most “realistic” outcomes. He’s going to fix that now. He promises.
Two Jeffs have to be separated in the locker room when one Jeff accuses the other of finishing the Sudoku sitting in his locker. Tensions are high.
GAME FOUR - Maryland
The second straight Power Five game for the Jeffs thankfully comes with a major difficulty decrease. They may have lost the battle for Pennsylvania, but there’s a chance they can win the longstanding war between owls and turtles as documented in “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” probably.
Temple comes out strong in this one. It’s a traditional Larentowicz game from the get go. The Owls kick three field goals and play keep away from the Terrapins, just like Soren (lol do you get it? “Soarin’”?) did with the amulet he kept away from the turtles in director Zack Snyder’s beloved “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” probably. Temple enters the half up 16-7 on the road.
The third quarter...goes less well. Maryland’s offense finally finds it form and the Larentowiczes stall. 17 points later, the Terrapins have a 24-16 lead. It’s just like when the turtles appeared to have taken the amulet and killed “Nyra” (voiced by Helen Mirren) in “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” probably. The Owls were able to recover and save the day in that one. Will they be able to do it here as well?
They might. The Jeffs take the ball down the field immediately and not only get a much needed touchdown but a two-point conversion to tie the game at 24. There are just seven minutes remaining in the runtime of “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole” I mean the football game.
Heartbreak. The Terrapins score with just 1:38 left.
BUT. Hope. Hope in the form of a missed extra point. A touchdown and then an extrapoint by the bionic leg of Jeff Larentowicz will win the game. These are the moments the Jeffs came to Temple for. To band together and sacrifice it all for the greater good. These are the moments that freeze you in the carbonite of Glory. These are the moments why any of us haven’t released ourselves from our hellish lives. THESE ARE THE MOMENTS WHY THE OWLS OF GA’HOOLE FIRST CAME TO BE GUARDIANS OF THE GREAT AMULET OF TERIBITHIA IN THE FIRST PLACE PROBABLY I HAVE NOT SEEN THE MOVIE.
First down: The drive starts with quarterback Jeff Larentowicz throwing the ball away. Then a false start. Decidedly UnLarentowicz.
2nd & 15: Larentowicz is sacked.
Third & 19: A completion! 13 yards. Still six yards to go...
Coach Larentowicz takes a timeout.
The Jeffs huddle. They look each other directly in the eye. They know what they have to do. They’ve gotta run the play. Not a play. THE play. The one they’ve worked on in practice all year. The one that works every. Single. Time.
4th & 6:
Temple falls to 2-2.
GAME FIVE -
OR DO THEY?
THE TERRAPINS GET GREEDY. THEY UNDERSTIMATE THE INCREDIBLE TACKLING FORM OF JEFF LARENTOWICZ. THEY COULD HAVE KNEELED THE BALL DOWN AND ENDED THE GAME BUT...
THERE. IS. HOPE.
The Jeffs huddle. They all agree not to run that really stupid play where they try and trick the defense by overthrowing the ball by 15 yards again.
There are 51 seconds left to go 88 yards.
1st & 10: Incomplete. Jeff Larentowicz tries to go deep but can’t connect with Larentowicz.
2nd & 10: This time the deep ball connects. 25 yards on the pass. Jeff Larentowicz moves to 9/21 on the day.
1st & 10, 42 seconds, 63 yards remaining: Larentowicz...takes a sack.
Timeout Coach Larentowicz
2nd & 15: A completion! (for no yards and Jeff doesn’t get out of bounds.)
3rd & 15: A jump pass! Complete! For eight yards! It’s not much but it will make things a little easier on fourth down.
The clock ticks down to 21 seconds.
4th & 8: The Jeffs hurry to the line. They know what they have to do...
Temple falls to 2-2.
GAME FIVE - Toledo
Back to MACtion. After a heartbreaker at Maryland. Temple returns to Owl Hollow for a conference game. The Jeffs have spent all week staring deeply into each others eyes and saying “Iron sharpens iron” over and over again. They are more prepared than anybody to learn from their mistakes against the Terrapins.
AND BOY DO THEY.
IT’S A DED GUM ROUT.
The Jeffs take a 40-7 lead before, in the spirit of sportsmanship, allowing Toledo to score 28 unanswered points...
One of the Jeffs, known to the others as “Simple Jeff” for only having read the complete works of John Locke twice, remarks that the second stringers were in which is probably why they scored so much at the end. He is then reminded that second stringers are all the same person as the first stringers.
While the Owls could have plaid better at the end of the football game played on Saturday, they still were able to tell the rockets Toled-no and take home the victory on Satuday.
-Michael Stevens, Temple Student Journalist, Still failing his classes and actually getting worse at this
GAME SIX - Ball State
If the MAC is MLS, Ball State is Vancouver. Everything should be fine.
The Jeffs climb over top of each other to give inspirational halftime speeches. They know they’re better than this. Hat Jeff, known to others as Hat Jeff for wearing a hat, makes some decidedly salient points about the nature of his position. Eyepatch Jeff remarks that Hat Jeff must be hiding his big brain under that hat while Straight Man Jeff implores Eye Patch Jeff to please take the eye patch off, it’s clearly messing with his depth perception. Hat Jeff has real coaching potential. He secretly wants to be a dancer.
The Jeffs roar out of the locker room and the Owls cruise to a 39-14 victory.
GAME SEVEN - Buffalo
If MLS is the MAC, then Buffalo is Orlando City. Everything should be fine.
And it is. The Larentowiczes barely break a sweat on the way to a 43-10 win. The Owls remain undefeated in the MAC.
Anyway now is as good a time as ever to check how The Jeffs compare to other teams across the country.
It feels important to note a few things. The first being that they’re still receiving a big boost from me simulating the games at full length at the beginning of the year. The second being that why in the world does the AI think this is a passing team when they run a flexbone/wishbone offense. The third being MY GOD THE TURNOVERS LOOK AT ALL THE BLOOD. It’s by far the most on-brand thing here. Ball security and forcing others into mistakes is peak Larentowicz. For what they can’t do speed-wise in pass coverage, they make up for with timely interceptions and fumbles. It’s why they’re well on their way to winning the MAC.
GAME EIGHT - Bowling Green
If MLS is the MAC, then Bowling Green is FC Cincinnati. Everything should be fine. Also, the MAC and MLS both have a lot of really bad teams. Bet you didn’t know this was going to be a learning experience.
Anyway, Temple led 41-7 at the half in this one. The most exciting moment of the game comes during halftime when the Jeffs check their phone and find out Halliburton stock went up three points. There was also 85-yard touchdown run but that doesn’t seem to get everyone as amped.
Temple wins 47-16.
The Jeffs go into the bye week on top of the MAC and on top of their world thanks to a renewed sense of confidence in their portfolio.
GAME NINE - THE Ohio University (and Cosmetology College)
FINALLY. A WORTHY CHALLENGER IN THE MAC.
IF MLS IS THE MAC, OHIO IS LAFC.
The Bobcats enter this one with a 7-1 record.
Who knows what will happen on Saturday. But we know a football match will happen Saturday. And that’s just the way we like it.
At least we know 1 thing. The players will be out there fighting like cats and....OWLS.
-Michael Stevens, Temple Student Journalist, Future CEO of Halliburton
This one will happen in the driving snow. Just how you would script it.
It’s a steady first half for Temple. The Owls pick up a couple of field goals and a touchdown, and, most importantly, keep Ohio off the board.
In fact they keep Ohio off the board for three whole quarters. The much maligned Jeff defense has come to play in the biggest game of the year. Like champions do. The Jeffs will later explain that instead of studying tape, they studied Sun Tzu the entire week. Their mistake all along had been delving into the perils of modernity.
Ohio adds a touchdown but it’s all Owls.
Temple wins 36-7 and cOnTrol THeiR OwN DeSTIny in the MAC.
GAME 10 - Miami (of ohio)
If the MAC is MLS then Miami (of Ohio) is NYCFC. They’re pretty darn good.
If last week was the penultimate scene in a action movie where the protagonist fights and beats what he thinks is the final boss, then Miami (of Ohio) is the ACTUAL final boss who slow claps off frame and then suddenly walks into reveal their self, setting up an even more legendary final fight. Except it’s the MAC so it’s probably pretty low stakes. Like a community center karate competition level of stakes. However, there is a full house at Lincoln Financial Field to watch the karate tournament so damn your contrived set of stakes. This matters to the people of Temple. The people of Philadelphia. The people of Larentowicz.
The Jeffs take a 13-10 lead into the fourth. The score reminds the Larentowiczes of this wonderful Economist article they read this week where the author discussed the rights and wrongs of central bank greenery and accidentally referred to “mission creep” as “mission crepe” and they nearly got a delay of game from laughing so hard, look It’s hard to explain, you had to be there.
A huge moment occurs when Jeff Larentowicz intercepts the ball in the Temple end zone. It’s the kind of timely turnover beginning to define the Owls’ season.
And then Jeff Larentowicz gets another interception leading to a 46-yard Jeff Larentowicz field goal to make it 16-10 with three minutes remaining.
Jeff Larentowicz gets another interception.
The mission crepe joke comes back around to being really really funny again though and the offense takes a delay of game. They still do enough for Larentowicz to kick another field goal. The score is 19-10 with 1:38 left. The Jeffs are going to go top of the MAC.
Jeff Larentowicz is named player of the game.
Temple is outgained 421-279, but five Jeff Larentowicz interceptions change the course of the game. Maybe the year. Maybe the universe.
GAME 11 - The Army
There is pain. Pain in the minds of the Jeffs. Who cannot bear the thought of having to destroy the United States Army. But they know that, like the Army, they also have a code to adhere too. It will hurt. But they must do what must be done. But no more than that.
The Owls defeat the Army 30-15.
GAME 12 - Kent State
In there first year of college football, the team made entirely of Jeff Larentowiczes has a chance at a ten win season. A remarkable accomplishment. They may be facing Kent State, but Kent State is facing Accomplish-Ment State. Accomplishment State being Temple. The team made of very familiar looking guys all named Jeff Larentowicz.
One of them actually gave me some great advice on Halliburton stock the other day. May have to look more into this businness thing. Also, did anyone else thing Army did things totally wrong the other day?
-Michael Stevens, Temple Student Journalist, Future CEO of Halliburton, Future War Criminal by Proxy
Something is happening here.
The Jeffs aren’t finishing the drill. Their entire purpose of existence is to finish the drill and yet here we sit going into the fourth quarter of the last game of the season against 6-5 Kent State and...
Fortunately, a sense of urgency picks up among the Jeffs. They score on their first drive of the fourth quarter to make it 24-21. However, with two minutes left, Kent State gets the ball...
A forty-yard bomb from deep in their own territory puts the Golden Flashes past the fifty. They hurry to the line. The Jeff Larentowicz at free safety begins giggling at “mission crepe.” Hat Jeff yells at him to get it together. An older Jeff would never make this mistake. But it’s far, far too late.
Well. Here we are. 1:32 left down four. Massive stakes on the line. Probably. I forgot to check to see if there were any real stakes to this. I mean there is pride. And a chance to prove the Jeffs have learned from their tragic series of mistakes at Maryland. This is the arc. This is the story arc happening right now. Here. This is it. What this whole thing has been building up to. This is totally worth everything. An impossible MAC game played by an imaginary group of veteran soccer players watched by a blogger in his living room. This is the most important moment in human history.
1st & 10, 70 yards to go: Jeff Larentowicz throws the ball away. Uh oh.
2nd & 10: A HUGE gain. 20 yards to the fifty on a pass play. Jeff Larentowicz breaks the school record for passing yards in a season on the same play. My God a freshman.
1st & 10, 50 yards to go, 1:24 remaining: Deep ball nearly intercepted. A terrifying moment.
2nd & 10: Jeff Larentowicz throws the ball away. 1:15 on the clock.
3rd & 10: Nearly intercepted again. We got to fourth down. The Jeffs know what they need to do. And it’s not that dumb play from Maryland. It’s the new play. The better play. The play they’ve been calling “Mission Crepe.”
It’s finally time to unleash it on an unsuspecting public.
4th & 10:
Perhaps they didn’t take as many lessons from the Maryland game as they should have.
There’s still hope though! They have all three timeouts this time. There’s. Still. Hope.
Kent State runs for three on first down. On second down they run for two. On third and five, a false start. Kent State will have to make a choice here. Run and force Temple to use its final timeout or throw for the first down.
They run. Timeout Larentowicz.
And just like the Maryland game, the Jeffs will get the ball back with under a minute left and a chance to win. The real chance to show they’ve learned their lesson. The in real life completion of their narrative journey. The thing the loyal viewers have been demanding.
They have 46 seconds to go 83 yards. This means everything.
1st & 10: Jeff Larentowicz is sacked.
2nd & 18: The Jeffs have no timeouts. They scramble back to the line of scrimmage. They snap the ball. They...spike the ball...on...2nd and...18. Oh boy.
3rd & 18, 31 seconds left: A 30-yard completion! They may have a chance!
1st & 10, 24 seconds left, 58 yards to go: Spike
2nd & 10: Nearly intercepted. A thought occurs to me that watching these plays happen might be actually making things worse. Like how when I actually played with the Jeffs they were terrible.
This is Schrodinger's Offense.
3rd & 10: Incomplete.
4th & 10: Incomplete.
Existence is pain.
Halliburton stock drops five points.
The Owls finish the regular season 9-3. They were 12 points away from being 11-1. It’s these kinds of things you have to carry with you from your freshman year. At least that’s what Hat Jeff tells the team after the loss. Smart guy that Hat Jeff.
Despite the horrific loss to Kent State, the Owls still make the MAC Championship. It’s like that time Atlanta United lost to Toronto on the last day of the season but still made MLS Cup. Exactly like it. There’s no difference.
If the MAC is MLS, Northern Illinois is Portland.
See. Exactly like it.
But it doesn’t go exactly like MLS Cup. It’s close. Real close. The Owls enter the fourth quarter up, but only by six.
The Jeffs know what happens if they need a final drive. Desperation is beginning to fill the air.
Northern Illinois takes a one point lead midway through the fourth. The panic is palpable. The young Jeffs appear steady, but inside they are frazzled. They hate the word frazzled.
Northern Illinois takes a four point lead with three minutes remaining. I...guess we’re doing this again? Yeah, I guess we’re doing this again. Dear god this thing is so long already. Can we just do a cliff notes version? Everyone ok with a cliff notes version? Good.
The Jeffs get the ball back with one minute left and a chance to win the game with a touchdown. Again. I....do not have much faith here. And neither should you. Except...
The Jeffs huddle one last time. This is for the championship. They know it. You know it. We know it. The thing is, no one wants to speak. For the first time all year, no on has a speech to give. They’re literally speechless. But then a familiar face joins the offensive huddle. It’s Hat Jeff.
He doesn’t give a speech though. He simply looks each one of them in the eye, and nods. And right when the huddle is about to break he says two words. Two simple words.
The Jeffs break out into laughter. As they run onto the field, they feel as loose as they have all season.
Larentowicz completes to Larentowicz for 20 yards. A spike. An incomplete pass. An incomplete pass. And then on 4th and 10, a completion. For exactly ten yards. 42 seconds remain. The ball is at the 45.
The ball is at the 15. 33 seconds left. Could it finally be happening? After the disaster at Maryland? After the horror show versus Kent? Could it finally, finally, be happening? In the championship??
Larentowicz completes to Larentowicz. 15 yards. The ball sits at the two yard line with 27 seconds left. Larentowicz has now thrown for over 400 yards. I am legitimately excited watching this video game thing happen. It is 2:15 a.m.
Larentowicz spikes the ball. They’ll have three downs for glory.
The Owls attempt a running play. They have no timeouts. Larentowicz is stuffed at the line. The clock ticks below 20 seconds as the Larentowiczes scramble back to get the next play off.
It’s third and eternity. 11 seconds left. Larentowicz drops back.
The Jeffs had done it. They had finally done it. The exact perfect scenario to cap off an amazing first season that will be talked about for years t—
[Enrique Iglesias begins to slowly get louder and louder]
wait why is that happening. There’s only four seconds lef—ohmygod.
Hat Jeff sits on the hood his car and stares at the ghosts of his past cascading down the Delaware River. He’s wearing a new hat today. It’s white. The lettering reads “Humanitarian Bowl Champions.”
He pulls out his phone and calls his wife. He’s talked to her every night while he’s been away. It felt like the least he could do. This had all been so hard to explain. Why he wanted to go back to college. Why he had to prove himself as a football player.
She never judged him. She simply understood. The way only she could. That’s what he loved about her.
She picked up after the third ring.
“Honey,” Hat Jeff said. “I’m coming home.”
He got back in his car. His mind traveled to the MAC Championship and that moment when the team carried him off the field. Despite the worst loss of their lives, they wanted to show they respected him. He thought about how he had been able to stand out in a sea of Jeffs not only by his hat but by his character. The weight of everything he needed to prove to himself felt brilliantly exorcised in that moment. He realized that proving yourself meant allowing yourself to trust others to carry you where you want to go.
When he heard 50 18-year-old clones of him were going to play football, it didn’t strike him as weird. It struck him as a challenge. A challenge he had no idea would teach him so much about himself.
Hat Jeff took of his hat. He looked in the mirror. His hairline had receded even more over the last season. He’s lucky he had a hat nearby to keep the others from noticing.
“36 years,” he thought. “Who would have thought it takes that long to be happy.”
The car pulled away from the river walk and disappeared into the city.
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