Only one bigger opener than Rutgers

One of the great games in this fairly tight rivalry: Temple’s win in 1988

Arguably is one of the best words in the English language because we’re going to use it right here.

ARGUABLY the Temple vs. Rutgers opener on Thursday night, Sept. 2, is exceeded by only one other date:

Sept. 5, 2015.

That’s when the Owls beat down Penn State, 27-10, a score that was only somewhat respectable because Penn State grad Matt Rhule took three knees deep in PSU territory late in the fourth quarter and eschewed an almost certain touchdown that would have made it 34-10.

Nice catch by John Christopher

Most of us (including me) did not care one whit because of the euphoria of the moment, breaking a 74-year winless streak. Sticking around at the post-game tailgate until 9:30 was worth it, especially when the police tried to kick us out. A captain came over on his motorcycle and told his underlings: “Let these guys stay as long as they want. They waited a long time for this win.”

Before that, we saw Matt Rhule place a big wet kiss on 90-year-old Wayne Hardin’s cheek in honor of Wayne’s 10-7, 31-30 and 26-25 losses to the Nittany Lions. We also received a text from Bruce Arians saying “way to go Owls, I watched the whole game.”

Why would this year’s Rutgers’ game be nearly as important?

Put it this way: The Temple WINNING brand, which has been 73-54 since 2009, took a big hit with a 1-6 season last year.

The fans’ confidence is shaken.

Hopefully, not the team’s.

What isn’t arguable is that Rod Carey is a bum to MOST Temple fans now. If he beats Rutgers, he will be a hero. Is that fair? Maybe not. Is it true? Most definitely.

There are few FBS football schools as close geographically as Temple and Rutgers (52.1 miles). SMU and TCU (45.2 miles), UCLA and USC (13.2 miles), NIU and Northwestern (74 miles), and Maryland and Navy (30.4 miles) but that’s about it. The crowd for the 1988 Temple-Rutgers game (31,219) was the largest for any game in the history of the old Rutgers Stadium (1938-1994). This is a geographical rivalry and Temple has been the better team at least for seven of the last eight years.

Let’s put it this way. As recently as 2019, the Owls beat a Maryland team that clubbed Rutgers, 48-7.

Have the Owls fallen that far that fast?

A loss would reinforce the current national notion that the Owls are just outside of ESPN’s Bottom 10.

Hell, after all that Al Golden and Matt Rhule did to get this program back on track, Rutgers might be more important than the Penn State game.

Looking backward, I don’t believe that.

Looking forward, I sure do.

If they kick us out of the Piscataway parking lot at 9:30, that would be fine with me. By my calculations for a 6 p.m. start, that would give me 15 minutes of celebration time and a new outlook on the season.

Arguably, it would be worth it.

Monday: Looking at it from the Carey perspective

8 thoughts on “Only one bigger opener than Rutgers

  1. I would bet on Kwantel Raines and Will Rodgers coming in and making a huge statement on defense. Both used to be starters and have years of college conditioning under their belt.

    • I probably would be on that but not the game itself. I imagine the line is going to rest at two touchdowns prior to the game. Carey is going to have to show me. My confidence in him is shaken for sure.

  2. Well done, Mike. Thanks for your intrepid coverage of the Owls. Can’t wait to see what this team will be like. Go Owls!

  3. This game and certainly this season is as important as it gets. O course I’ve felt that way before, far too many times over the years.

    • A win on 9/2 would be CPR to a program currently on life support. Just think what kind of confidence-boost a win over a Big 10 team with 19 starters returning would do for the upcoming game against BC, for instance.

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