TEMPLE 27, PENN STATE 10 September 5 | Philadelphia, Pa. Owls finally knock the 400-pound gorilla from their collective back, beating the Nittany Lions for the first time in 74 years. Temple completely shut down Penn State’s offense after falling behind 10-0 early on. All told, the visiting Lions only mustered 180 yards of offense. Meanwhile, RB Jahad Thomas emerged as an electric, juking and jiving star for the Owls with 135 yards and two TDs rushing.
TEMPLE 34, CINCINNATI 26 September 12 | Cincinnati, Ohio Owls top the AAC’s preseason favorite before a record, white-out crowd in Cincy, as Thomas goes off for 193 yards rushing and returns a kickoff 100 yards for a score to offset an absolute bludgeoning Temple endured in the total yardage (557-296) battle. Temple LB Tyler Matakevich recorded his third INT of the evening in the end zone to thwart the Bearcats’ last-ditch efforts to rally.
TEMPLE 25, MASSACHUSETTS 23 September 19 | Foxboro, Mass. The Great Escape. Owls QB P.J. Walker threw for a career-high 393 yards, and was integral on the GW drive that netted 50 yards and a straight-as-an-arrow FG by Austin Jones, all of which was set up by Temple blocking a PAT and Will Hayes returning it for two points to keep the Owls within 23-22 (instead of 24-20) with 1:04 remaining. TEMPLE 37, CHARLOTTE 3 October 2 | Charlotte, N.C. Win marks Owls’ first 4-0 start in 41 years. Temple only led 10-3 at half, but a 20-point explosion in the third quarter, capped by DB Nate L. Smith returning a blocked punt 16 yards for a score, paved the way to what turned out to be an easy victory.
TEMPLE 49, TULANE 10 October 10 | Philadelphia, Pa. In typical fashion, Owls start slow on offense as the Green Wave grabbed a 10-7 lead in the second quarter. Then Temple rattled off the next 42 points, largely on the pinpoint passing of QBs P.J. Walker and Frank Nutile, who combined to complete 14 of 18 passes for 223 yards and three TDs.
TEMPLE 30, CENTRAL FLORIDA 16 October 17 | Philadelphia, Pa. It took a Sean Chandler punt return to open the fourth quarter to awaken the Owls, who found themselves – shockingly – down 16-14 entering that final frame. Soon after the 66-yard spark from “Champ,” the Owls started grinding down their still-winless foe with Thomas ultimately racking up a career-high 199 yards on 31 carries. TEMPLE 24, EAST CAROLINA 14 October 22 | Greenville, N.C. The Great Escape II. Down 10, the Owls score two TDs in the final 3:31 to win on the road, overcoming another case of the dropsies by the receiving corps. Ironically enough, one of the main culprits there, Robby Anderson, was clutch when it mattered, reeling in the go-ahead, 23-yard TD from Walker.
NOTRE DAME 24, TEMPLE 20 October 31 | Philadelphia, Pa. Even in defeat, Owls came out looking like winners, gaining respect across the country … and even some in Philly. The Irish dominated in yardage, but Temple actually led 20-17 with four minutes to go and had the ball around midfield with a minute to go before a penalty and INT derailed any Hollywood-script ending.
TEMPLE 60, SMU 40 November 6 | Dallas, Texas Walker had his best passing game of the season, completing 18 of 25 attempts for 268 yards and 4 TDs, but the nifty thing in this one was freshman RB Jager Gardner ripping off the longest TD run in Owls’ history on the second play from scrimmage – a 94-yarder. The score is deceiving; Temple was up just 45-40 with less than two minutes remaining.
SOUTH FLORIDA 44, TEMPLE 23 November 14 | Tampa, Fla. This would constitute hitting rock bottom, albeit against a rapidly improving team with speed to burn. The Owls had no answers for Bulls RB Marlon Mack (230 yards, 2 TDs rushing) or QB Quenton Flowers (230 yards, 2 TDs passing). A team loss for sure, including the coaching staff.
TEMPLE 31, MEMPHIS 12 November 21 | Philadelphia, Pa. Owls respond to that 21-point loss at the hands of South Florida the week before, their defense dominating one of the top offenses in the country. Temple held the Tigers, who came in averaging 43.7 points and 541 yards per game, to just four FGs and 232 yards, making Memphis QB Paxton Lynch, a one-time Heisman candidate, a non-factor.
Temple RB Jahad Thomas makes a cut against Memphis D on Saturday.
It is fascinating.
It really, truly is.
The rest of the country gets it. Totally gets it. Sees the big picture, grasps everything that goes into it and gives a legit, honest appraisal.
At home, locally, around the southeastern Pennsylvania/South Jersey region … umm, not so much.
That is why Temple University’s football team finds itself back in the top 25 in both the AP and Coaches polls, receiving the respect it so richly deserves – everywhere except from the place it resides and, forever in futility, so desperately wants to represent.
Honestly, if it were up to me, the only salute being given to Philly, its mostly uninformed, blinders-wearing sports fans and the equally limited media that “enlightens” them by the Owls would be a nice, collective two-fingered one, courtesy of middle digits, with, depending upon my mood, a full-blown “mooning” to go with it.
Yeah, yeah. The school bases its entire existence on welcoming one and all, and, frankly, feels it needs the city/area support to reach the level it wants on the gridiron, especially in regard to a national scope.
Over the long haul, perhaps that is true. If an on-campus football stadium is going to be built AND become a legit, revenue-generating entity along North Broad, Temple certainly would need some loyal ticket-buyers beyond the minimal alumni and fans who have been with the program all along. It stands to reason that any sound, rational-thinking administrative type pushing the program would figure a major city with a metropolitan reach of better than 6 million had the means to provide such “assistance,” but, thus far, that hasn’t been the case.
Not now. Not ever.
Granted, Temple for much of its history hasn’t exactly enticed a following with generations of mostly sad seasons and overmatched play. But that has changed, and it hasn’t just been this season. Since Al Golden salvaged Temple from the dumpster fire a decade ago, the Owls have racked up three nine-win campaigns now, under three different coaches (Golden, Steve Addazio and Matt Rhule), two bowl bids and a bowl victory. Rhule's current squad has reached heights thought to be impossible – a 7-0 start, a win against Penn State, a national-TV game of the week against Notre Dame in prime time, at home in Lincoln Financial Field no less, a national ranking, for several weeks, mind you, and a re-entry into the polls just a week after dropping out of them. Should they win this Saturday night against Connecticut – which, hello, those clueless in the sports community, just knocked Houston from the unbeaten ranks – the Owls would clinch a spot in the American Athletic Conference title game, too. They’re already going bowling after what they’ve achieved so far.
Yet, this past Saturday’s crucial AAC contest against No. 21 Memphis wasn’t seen by Philly fans as attractive enough to merit their attention. The stadium wasn’t close to half full, even with the prepaid tickets dressed as empty seats. The well-padded announced crowd, in fact, didn’t crack 32,000 in a facility that holds 69,000. Maybe everyone had to stay home in preparation for another awesome effort by the Eagles the following afternoon.
Not sure whether to view that as sad, pathetic or both.
The reality is, Philly fans are so hard-wired to follow what they’ve always followed – from the pro sports teams in town to the people who tell them to follow the pro sports teams and then, hmmm, to show a wide swath of sports knowledge, to support the likes of Penn State or Notre Dame or some other established program because, you know, no school from the area could ever develop a big-time football program.
Newsflash, self-proclaimed “most knowledgeable sports fans in the country,” Temple already has. Perhaps too fast for Philly to recognize and accept, but not too fast for the rest of the country.
Unfortunately, until those in the city and surrounding area expand their horizons and seek sports-knowledge counsel outside the likes of Fanatic yakker Mike Missanelli, a Penn State grad so poisoned by an elitist bias toward his own school and its ilk that he’d rather rip it thank credit Temple for anything, for fear that, heaven forbid, the Owls actually might get something really going and it won’t be all Blue & White all the time around here any time discussions veer from the pros, Philly ain’t ever gonna catch up and get it.
- Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
Where was everybody Saturday? Only a pair of 8-2 teams squaring off.