1. In Temple’s first 78 years of playing football, it participated in two bowl games, winning one. In the six years and change since, it has participated in two bowl games, winning one.
2. Hall of Famer Wayne Hardin is widely recognized as Temple’s best coach, going 80-50-3 from 1970 through 1982. Henry Miller (20-5-3) and Pop Warner (28-12-2) had better records, though.
3. The Owls went 7-4 under Jerry Berndt in 1990, then posted a 39-173 mark from 1991 through 2008, having a losing record every season, before Al Golden’s fourth squad went 9-4 in 2009.
4. The Owls compiled a 48-17-11 mark in the first eight years of their existence. In their last six years and change, they are 42-33. In between they are 201-337-15.
5. Current head coach Matt Rhule started his tenure 1-10, but has gone 11-6 since, including victories in his last five. The victim that kickstarted than run, Tulane, visits Lincoln Financial Field this Saturday.
6. Temple suffered a three-game losing skid before the current streak, falling to Memphis, Penn State and Cincinnati. It already has avenged the losses to the latter two, and hosts the Tigers next month.
Senior LB Tyler Matakevich (8) has 392 career tackles, making him the active leader among NCAA players in that category. However, it may have been his two interceptions at Cincinnati that were the most impactful plays of his time at Temple, the latter one ending the host Bearcats' potential game-tying drive in the final minute back on Sept. 12.
CAUSE FOR CONCERN?
While the Owls' defense continues to put up decent numbers, ranking 38th out of 128 teams in the country in total defense and 16th in scoring defense (15.5 ppg), their offense has been shaky, checking in at 121st and 59th (30.8) for the same categories.
A sellout crowd of 69,176 at Lincoln Financial Field saw Temple top Penn State, 27-10, last month to kick off the 2015 season. The Owls are 4-0 right now.
It’s an amazing opportunity.
So much so that the phrase “if history serves” doesn’t even apply because the past – recent, distant, anything in between – hasn’t provided any comparable evidence.
Indeed, never before have the stars aligned and fates merged to a position that would allow the Temple University football program the chance to not only stake its claim as a viable entity in national circles, but to win the hearts of those closest to home – or at least gain some recognition from it.
Think about the current situation. The Eagles are struggling. Villanova is struggling. Even that ever-present crutch so relied on by those in the area desperate to cling onto a winner located three hours away is struggling. Temple, meanwhile, is thriving, having started a season 4-0 for the first time in 41 years and beaten in-state Big Brother Penn State for the first time in 74 years – mind you, handily it at that.
In my lifetime, in your lifetime, in everyone’s lifetime, the Owls have never found themselves all alone in the driver’s seat of success when it comes to regional gridiron entities. Something always got in the way, often their own ineptitude.
Yeah, sure, Temple has had its moments in the football past. Very few and very in between. The Owls started playing the sport in 1930 and enjoyed a 48-17-11 run in their first eight years under the guidance of Henry Miller and then Glenn “Pop” Warner. They played in the first Sugar Bowl in 1935 and cracked the national rankings for the first time in 1936.
Wayne Hardin left Navy for North Broad in 1970 and produced some very nice teams, including the 1979 outfit that won 10 games and finished No. 17 in the season’s final AP poll. He finished 80-50-3 in 13 years. Not bad, not bad at all. But his greatest achievements, honestly, were the near-misses Temple had against Penn State in 1975, ’76 and ’78, efforts that saw the Owls lose by 1, 1 and 3 points, respectively.
Bruce Arians, the current Arizona Cardinals coach, followed, showing some Xs and Os ingenuity and showing off Paul Palmer enough that the running back finished second in the 1986 Heisman voting. But nothing ever materialized under his reign that signaled any real success, the type that a program could use as a foundation structure or as a drawing card, especially in a town so beholden to its pro sports.
Aside from those abbreviated pockets of relief from the abyss, all of which had less shine on them anyway due to outside factors, usually either the Eagles making a playoff run or Penn State posting another bowl-worthy campaign, Temple football has been, essentially, a black hole.
Former Penn Stater Al Golden pumped life into the program once he arrived in 2006 and carpetbagger Steve Addazio not only benefitted from Golden’s laborious efforts with a 2011 bowl victory, only the second in the program’s history, he also brought an influx of talent into the fold.
But things haven’t ever fallen into place for the Owls like they have right now, when others’ issues are mounting at the same time theirs’ seem to be disappearing. Matt Rhule, like Golden a former Nittany Lion player, lost 10 of his first 11 games at the helm after taking over in 2013. But he’s 11-6 since, heading into Saturday’s noontime kickoff with American Athletic Conference rival Tulane.
Not convinced that something special in brewing along North Broad? Consider the 2015 Temple schedule.
The Owls already hosted Penn State, before a sellout crowd at Lincoln Financial Field. They will host Notre Dame on Halloween, with another sellout possible. They also will host AAC rival Memphis in late November, a date that could take on a whole new meaning should both teams could enter it unbeaten.
Yeah, both are that good, with All-America candidates such Temple linebacker Tyler Matakevich and Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch highlighting the respective rosters.
Of course, nothing is guaranteed. Temple could crumble after its nice start.
But, for once, the opportunity is there for the Owls. They have a legitimate chance to make their mark both far and near.
This could be their one and only shot in that regard, and, thus far, they are making the most of it.