Temple Football Is 4-0 — What’s Next?
One memory comes to mind when I think of Temple football. We were driving on I-76 to a cross country meet — it had to be sometime in the early 1990s. KYW 1060’s sports report was on. The anchor got to the Temple game, and played a soundbite from the upcoming opponent’s coach. He went through the usual sports platitudes an opposing college coach says about an opponent. Something like: “They have a lot of good players, they’re really well coached, they have a great team this year and it’s going to be a tough game.”
The station returned to the sports anchor. He paused. “What team is he talking about?”
I don’t remember who Temple played that week, or if they lost. But my guess is, “Probably.” Temple was not good at football in the early 1990s. The Owls were so bad the KYW anchor mocked them. Temple, indeed, has not been very good at football in its history. The Owls were 2-9 in 1991, then 1-10 in four out of the next five seasons. (They went 2-9 in 1994.)
To be fair, the team had some good seasons in the late 1970s, going to three straight bowl games (and beating Cal in the Garden State Bowl in 1979). The school’s only other real sustained period of success was the 1930s, when Pop Warner actually coached the team. Other than that, the Owls do not have a great football history. Even recently, the team has made strides — but it’s seemed short lived. In 2009, Al Golden took the Owls to their first bowl since 1979, but the team still lost to Villanova that year. He left after one more season. Temple actually won a bowl game in 2011 — beating Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl — but coach Steve Adazzio left, again, after just one more season. The Owls then went 2-10 the next year.
Two years later, though, and Temple football is looking up. They got off to a slow start on Friday night in a rainstorm, but a 20-point third quarter turned the game against Charlotte into a rout. The 37-3 victory has Temple at 4-0 for the first time since 1974. The Owls have beaten Penn State for the first time since 1941. They’re already 1-0 in conference. They already have a wild comeback win partially because of a blocked extra point run back for a touchdown. They are favored by 15 this Saturday by one sportsbook.
It gets better: In the Sagarin college football rankings, the Owls (No. 54) are ranked higher than all of their next three opponents — with only East Carolina (No. 63) close to them in the rankings. (UCF is 0-5 and 113th; Tulane is 2-2 and 122nd.) The East Carolina game, on October 22nd, is on the road on a Thursday and could be a loss for the Owls. But if they win that, you know what that means?
A 7-0 Temple team could be hosting Notre Dame on Halloween. Since the Owls have already beaten Penn State, Temple actually has a shot to beat the consensus two most popular teams in Philadelphia in one year! Plus, Notre Dame lost this weekend, so at worst the Owls should be going into the ND game with the same record as the Fighting Irish. It’s all so very exciting for the Temple superfans who have had to sit through many seasons of losing (or mediocrity)
Is this a turnaround for the Temple Owls? Who knows. But the start to this year sure has been entertaining. And even national, respected media members have taken notice, with Sports Illustrated projecting the Owls make a New Year’s Day bowl game.
My new NY6 projections include a Peach Bowl matchup for the ages: LSU vs. Temple. No one will pass!
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) October 4, 2015
In Friday night’s win, the Owls were led by junior running back Jahad Thomas, who had 109 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns and 48 yards receiving. Quarterback P.J. Walker threw for 2 touchdowns; Temple also blocked a punt and returned it for a score. The defense this year is led by Tyler Matakevich, who has 37 total tackles — 4.5 of them for a loss — and 3 sacks on the season. Fellow linebacker Jared Alwan has 27 tackles, 2.5 of them for a loss.
Temple plays next on Saturday at noon, against Tulane at Lincoln Financial Field.
Follow @dhm on Twitter.