Editors note: This interview was made possible thanks to our corporate sponsors: - Chesapeake Energy, Pepsi, AAA, The Oulets at Hershey, AT&T, Weis Markets, PNC, Penn State Alumni Association MasterCard, Berks Hot dogs, Rockvale Outlets, Sherwin-Williams, and Highmark.
In anticipation of the tomorrow's match up between the #23 Penn State Nittany Lions and the 3-0 (I know, shocking) Temple Owls, Mike Gibson from Temple Football Forever was kind enough to answer some of our questions.
Former Penn Stater Al Golden has done some great things down on North Broad Street. Temple is about as competitive as we've seen since the mid 70's. A win over Penn State would be a huge stepping stone for the Owls. Let's see what Mike has to say:
QBSneak12: What are the expectations for Temple now that they are 3-0 and just won their first game against a BCS conference school since 2004?
TFF: Hard to say, but higher than last year's 9-3 regular-season record. If ... and this is a big if. ... Temple can win in Happy Valley, it can run the table. Central Michigan is likely the best team the Owls faced in the MAC and they beat the Chips with only a half of Bernard Pierce, who is pretty much more than half the Owls' team.
QBSneak12: "Heisman candidate" Bernard Pierce was finally able to get going last week, carving up UConn for 169 yards, 3 TDs (1 receiving). Pierce did not play much against Penn State in 2009 (27 yards on 6 carries), what can Penn State fans expect to see out of Pierce on Saturday?
TFF: Al Golden didn't really know what he had in Pierce by the Penn State game. He was given clearance by the NCAA to play hours before the Nova game, then had 44 yards on six carries in that one and 27 on 6 against PSU.
QBSneak12: As you may have read, Penn State's running game is not doing so well this season. UConn had great success against Temple this past Saturday (240 yards 1 TD), do you think Penn State's Evan Royster or Stephfon Green can expect to have break out games against the Owl's run defense?
TFF: Someone made a great point on Owlscoop about the Owls' defense never and I mean never getting set. They are trying to recognize the formation right up to the snap and that hurts them in the run game. But do hit like crazy, especially No. 5 (Jaiquawn Jarrett, who is Green's boyhood friend). Maybe defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio iron out the other wrinkles. I think it's more likely PSU can pass on TU than run on TU.
QBSneak12: Besides Bernard Pierce, who is a name we should watch out for on Saturday?
TFF: Kicker Brandon McManus (19), kickoff returner James Nixon (23) and punt returner Delano Green (10). All have been spectacular in their jobs for two years.
QBSneak12: Temple's defense was pretty opportunistic against UConn (Adrian Robinson's forced fumble and TD late in the game), how will they attack the Spread HD let by true freshman QB Robert Bolden?
TFF: They have more trouble with the dink and dunk than the spread. Golden has a pretty good record against spread teams (he's unbeaten against other Spread teams, not named Penn State the last two years), but that's more DC D'Onofrio.
QBSneak12: How worried are Temple fans that this is Al Golden's last year leading the Temple Owls?
TFF: They are pretty much realistic. AG has picked his spots, turning down ECU and Cincinnati and feelers from Tennessee and ND. Those aren't areas he was comfortable in and with. I think he would go to PSU in a heartbeat. D'Onofrio has let the powers-that-be know he won't go with AG this time, like he did from Virginia to Temple. He wants the Temple head job and I think he would be a spectacular replacement, maybe even an upgrade.
QBSneak12: What are your three keys to the game?
- Establish Bernard Pierce early. Which means accepting a few 1-2-3-yard carries before he pops one.
- Rush the true freshman passer. MDO has been reluctant to do that. He prefers to play a prevent-type defense, but this might be one guy he sends the house on because Temple's got good edge speed on defense.
- Play off the fear of Pierce with play-action to Michael Campbell (84), Evan Rodriguez (88) and Joey Jones (26). All are real good athletes and can get open if Tom Bradley's D cheats up to stop Pierce.
QBSneak12: This is by far the best Temple team Penn State will have seen since Al Golden has taken over. How do you see things going down on Saturday?
TFF: It's not a round ball, so anything can happen. Temple's defense is better than Kent State and the Owls' offense put up 47 points on Kent State last year. So PSU will find out Temple is no Kent State fast. This will be the most competitive Temple-PSU game since I went to Temple and some of those scores were 10-7, 31-30 and 26-25.
Now time for some bonus questions:
QBSneak12: What are your thoughts on the extension of the PSU vs. Temple football series?
TFF: Outstanding. I love going to State College, especially at the Rathskeller bar in 1979 when I picked up the Centre Daily Times and saw Temple was a 2 1/2-point favorite at PSU. I turned to my friend, who was the editor of a defunct State College paper called the Pennsylvania Mirror and said: "Look at this. This might be the last time in my life I see that." The games were much better back then. As good a CEO as Al Golden is, he's not 1/100th the game coach Wayne Hardin was. Not a slight on Golden as much as a tribute to Hardin. This is the Holy Grail game for Al, though. So keeping PSU goes a long way toward keeping Al. If and until TU beats PSU.
QBSneak12: Do you think Temple feels a little slighted (as a former member of the Big East) that the Big East (according to reports) has expressed interest in adding Villanova, an FCS(1-AA) school? With the improvement Temple has shown on the field, do you think they would have a chance in the Big East this time around?
TFF: I think everybody felt slighted and that includes the players. I've never seen a Temple team hit so hard as on Saturday vs. UConn. In the post-game, several UConn players mentioned that. So maybe the Big East animosity had a little to do with that. The funny thing is Temple drew 32K fans to the Nova game and between 28-30K of those fans were wearing Cherry and White. So Temple not only beat Nova on the field, but slaughtered them in the stands yet the invite goes to a team that has no place to play and no identifiable football fan base. If you are Temple, got to wonder what you have to do.
Well there you have it folks, Temple fans are pretty optimistic about their chances tomorrow. Thanks again to Mike from Temple Football Forever. Saturday is going to be closer then a lot of people think.