By the luck of the draw of scheduling, the American Athletic Conference has given Temple the chore of sending off UConn in style.
The Owls are 29.5-point favorites and for good reasons. Rod Carey can probably run up the score on the Huskies if he chooses to do so and no one in the league offices would blame him.
Nor in the athletic offices over at the Star Complex on the campus of Temple University.
Temple was the team the then Big East decided to kick out of the league and UConn was the team that the league decided to replace the Owls with and, pretty much since then, Temple football has been on the ascent and UConn football pretty much on the decline. The year after Temple was kicked out, the Owls put up 56 on the Huskies in a game at Franklin Field that opened with Mac Fenton taking the kickoff to the house. That game finished 56-7.
Last year, the Owls did it one better, 57-7.
Even in the year the Huskies made the Fiesta Bowl, Temple hung a 30-16 number on the Huskies at Lincoln Financial Field.
UConn has told the league it no longer wants to play basketball in the conference but asked to continue playing football. It took Commissioner Mike Aresco all of about two minutes to essentially say: “We don’t want your crappy football program.”
So the Owls committing a program to the trash heap of college football with a big win today would be more than a fitting sendoff.
There is, though, a much more important chore at hand: Giving the seniors a big win in their final game at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Owls will lose perhaps the best three linebackers they’ve had on the same field in a long time: Shaun Bradley, Chapelle Russell and Sam Franklin. All played with a fierceness that benefited their single digits.
At the season ticket-holder party a couple of years ago, Russell sought me out like he seeks out quarterbacks but, instead of putting me on the ground hard, he extended his hand and said simply: “Thanks for coming.” I told him I thought the team would be a lot better than the projections and he responded: “We know it.”
Three years ago at the same function, Isaiah Wright and Linwood Crump Jr. were among the five people at my table. Wright called me “Mr. Mike” (I like that better than sir and Mr. Gibson) and asked me if I thought the stadium would be built by the time he was a senior. I said, “I don’t think so. Too much politics.” Sadly, it turned out I was right.
I’ll miss my yearly, albeit short, conversations with guys like Wright and Russell and what all of the seniors brought to the field during their careers. These guys deserve to see the Owls score early and often and, if Carey decides to run it up, nobody in the league office will get upset.
Sunday: Game Analysis
Tuesday: Regular Season Roundup
Thursday: Our Dream Bowl Matchup