A long time ago in a college halfway across the state, a young man named Al Golden earned a Bachelor of Science degree in a new major then called sports psychology.
He found a place to put it to good use when he arrived at Temple as the youngest head coach in the country some 14 years later.
When Golden set up shop at the E-O, he found a program as fractured mentally as it was physically. The Owls would lose 20-straight games before Golden slowly started to turn things around and right a ship that has sailed pretty much in the right direction since.
Golden understood the psychology of sports as it related to winning and losing. Winning is contagious and so is losing and, for this season, the Owls not only have lost the last two games, they looked disinterested on the sidelines. Temple has to stop the bleeding starting tonight (8 p.m., ESPN) at South Florida. Losing by 63-21 on top of 45-21 can shake your belief system, so the Owls will have to show some life tonight, especially on the sidelines.
Body language is important and Golden was the first Temple coach to make the Owls who weren’t playing at the time an important part of the team by getting everybody swaying back and forth, locking hands and cheering on their teammates. It wasn’t as hokey as some of the money down shenanigans Geoff Collins pulled recently, but a useful exercise in team bonding.
That might not help the guys on the field block and tackle better but it will show everyone that their teammates care that they do. Apparent the last two weeks has not only been the lack of blocking and tackling (and catching) but an appalling sense of resignation on the sidelines. Maybe a players-only meeting addressed that issue. We will find out tonight.
One of the things that Golden did was target captains of winning high school programs. Eighteen of his first 25-man class were captains of championship teams. “It wasn’t as important to me as getting the higher-rated recruit, as it was to change the mindset,” Golden said. “I wanted winners here who refused to lose.”
So Golden not only brought those winners in, but he applied a tourniquet in some of his psychological approaches on gameday and maybe that’s what this team needs.
If Temple football is going to do something more than just make another obscure bowl game, the game at South Florida tonight represents the last stand to recapture the brand that has stood not only for winning over the last decade but for sustained excellence.
Face it: Even if the Owls cannot get past Cincinnati and UCF in the standings, what they can control is to finish the regular season 9-3 and not 6-6 and those are two polar opposite outcomes.
Nine and three would be a good record and get the respect of people nationwide. Six and six is just the middle of the pack mediocre in a business where 130 other programs are struggling to be noticed.
Owls need to show some signs of life tonight, both on the field and in the sidelines, after not showing it anywhere for the last two weeks. Showing that they care would be a good place to start.
Predictions: Another 3-3 week. Only one game jumps out at us on the schedule this week so we’re just taking Boston College to cover the 1.5 at Florida State. For the season, we are 28-22 against the spread and 32-20 straight up.
Friday: Game Analysis