"Not the Temple that we used to know..."
"They're a pretty good team now..."
"Put a scare in Penn State two straight seasons now..."
Blah, blah, blah... We know the story at this point. Temple is a better program than it was 10 years ago, evidenced by the three bowl games in the last three seasons. All of that has to do with Al Golden's leadership of a foundering football team, starting in 2006 and continuing now under Steve Addazio. The last time Penn State hosted the Owls in Beaver Stadium, the game became an instant classic in the series, with the Nittany Lions edging out a 22-15 victory. This year, depending on how each team develops in their first few games respectively, we might see yet another nail-biter in Happy Valley.
In our final non-conference edition of Summer Snapshot 2012, it's the Temple Owls that are under the spotlight. Join me below the break for more...
The Past Few Seasons in Philly...
Temple football was, surprisingly enough, a half-decent football team in the 1970s. They even made it to a bowl game in that decade. But since then, was, well... not half-decent. Not even close, really. Temple was the poster child for what a terrible, horrible Division I-A football program could be. The Owls were what every eastern opponent scheduled as an easy win, not excluding their in-state "rivals," the Nittany Lions. It took 30 years, but Temple somehow found its guy in Al Golden, a young, tough coach who was determined to make his mark on a program that was "unfixable" to many.
Five years and two winning seasons later, Golden was deemed a miracle maker for his improvement of the worst major college football program in the nation. It wasn't just that Temple had two winning seasons and one bowl trip in Golden's final two years. It was that the team itself was tougher, stronger, and fielding not just better players, but better people. Golden earned every bit of respect he got from the nation. But it seems he knew there was a ceiling to his success at a place like Temple, and took the job opening at Miami prior to the 2011 season.
Florida's former offensive coordinator, Steve Addazio, was hired to assume command of the team. Leaning on the experienced veterans and strong leaders like star running back Bernard Pierce, Addazio guided the Owls to another bowl berth, this time a victory over Wyoming. Now Temple returns to the conference that once kicked them to the curb--the Big East--as a BCS automatic qualifier for the first time since 2004.
It looks like a rebuilding year in Philly, especially considering the Big East schedule will be much tougher than the MAC. Temple only returns about eight starters, three of them on offense. The biggest loss was Pierce, who might have offered the workhorse leader role to that side of the ball. Matt Brown filled in for Pierce on several occasions over the last few years, but now gets the offense all to himself. Brown actually totaled 1,700 yards as Pierce's backup for two seasons. The biggest interest story here for Penn State fans is the arrival over the summer of former Nittany Lion quarterback Kevin Newsome. He will be eligible to play this fall, since he did not play for Penn State last season.
Six of the top eight defensive backs return from an already strong unit last year, but the front seven could pose some problems for the unit. The best lineman in years, Adrian Robinson, and best linebacker from last year, Tahir Whitehead both depart. Filling the holes will be tougher to do at linebacker than up front, but both units are a few rungs lower on the ladder than 2011.
Temple goes from facing the Akrons, Ball States, and Kent States of the world, to facing South Florida, Rutgers, Pitt and Louisville. Only two games on the schedule look like decent chances for victories--Villanova in Game 1; Army in Game 11--but even those are no gimme wins for this Temple team. It could be a rough time for the Owls in 2012, but not like it was when they used to lose 10 games a year by 20 and 30 points on average. Temple fights through every game now. But fight might only get them so far this fall.
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