Sometime after Temple did not bother to challenge an obvious touchdown by Isaiah Wright at the end of the half, a long-time Owl fan sent this message on social media:
“This is sad.”
The fan was not referring to Temple eschewing a challenge and taking a field goal there, he was talking about the utter non-competitiveness of UConn.
My response was swift and definitive:
“Happy for me. Any time the good guys have a lot and the bad guys have a little, it is a great game.”
On Saturday afternoon, the good guys wore the white hats and won, 57-7.
It was reminiscent of an almost identical score in 2001 when Makonnan Fenton took a kickoff for 94 yards and a touchdown in a 56-7 win over a UConn team that was pegged to replace Temple in the Big East.
Wright went six more yards than Fenton did on his kickoff return, also the pivotal play (if there can be one in a 57-7 win).
You can have all the last-second exciting back-and-forth wins you want, give me a good Temple 57-7 win over that kind of excitement any Saturday of the week.
While the 56-7 win was a vindication that the Big East was getting rid of a far more competitive program for a less-competitive one, the 57-7 win becomes my favorite for reasons that extend far beyond that single point.
It vindicates the Owls as one of the premier programs in the stepchild of the Big East, the AAC, and comes at the end of a five-year bowl-eligible run for Temple
Really, since 2001, the odyssey in this space I’ve always wanted for Temple football is respect and the Owls now have that on a global level. Be bowl eligible every year, win a championship every few years, have everyone say what a tough team Temple is and that’s all we has Temple fans can ever hope for on a regular basis.
It certainly beats the 20-game losing streak and (mostly) 20 years of losing seasons that existed between 1989 and 2009. (Only the 7-4 team of 1990 broke what would have been a 20-year losing skein.)
More importantly, a culture of toughness has been established that existed once under Wayne Hardin and Bruce Arians and was only was later given recessitation by Al Golden.
Fair to great hirings by Bill Bradshaw (Golden, Steve Addazio, Matt Rhule) and one by Pat Kraft (Geoff Collins) kept that ball rolling. That ball looks like it will continue to roll for the next two years because the current sophomore and junior classes appear to be at least the equal of any of the best similar groups of the Bradshaw coaches. The Owls have a great quarterback, Anthony Russo, for the next two seasons and seem to have a succession plan in place after he leaves with Toddy Centeio and Trad Beatty waiting in the wings.
It could all blow up if the Owls do something stupid and follow the blueprint of bad coaching hirings established by, say, UConn but having a ex-Big 10 football player like Kraft doing the hiring probably precludes that. Collins seems to fit this school well, even if his offensive coordinator does not.
We learned a lot about the Owls this year. Mostly, that sad beginnings can lead to happy endings if the culture prevails.
There’s one more chapter in this 2018 book to be written and, if the Owls are able to beat a Power 5 foe (I really don’t care where) and hoist another bowl trophy, that would be an even happier ending than the one that closed the regular season.
Baylor in the Armed Forces Bowl would be my heavy lean (negotiate a trade with Army by putting it in the Birmingham Bowl) and hopefully the crafty Kraft is working on that now.
Tuesday: Fizzy’s Corner: Poetic Justice
Thursday: How The West Was Won
Saturday: Temple’s Version of Allen Iverson
Monday: Bowl Selection Analysis