No such thing as a moral victory … but

Stopped at Vincent’s Pizza in Rockledge on the way home from the Temple game on Saturday and a couple of young girls at the counter looked at my Temple Football Forever T-Shirt.

One of them said: “Were you at the Temple game today?”

“Yes.”

Not much to choose between these two teams.

“We were too. We were at the student tailgate. It was so much fun. We only saw a little of the game because we had to get back to work here.”

“Good. I hope you guys are fans for life like me.”

“Oh we are.”

That was their first Temple football game. It was my, by rough estimation, 612th going back to the time I split as a grade school youngin between Penn and Temple football games.

When Wayne Hardin came to Temple, I gave up the Penn fandom altogether.

One school in Philadelphia had the best coach in college football and it wasn’t Penn.

Sometimes the lifelong fandom comes as much in a loss at much as a win. I’ve always said there is no such thing as a “moral victory” but maybe an exception came in a 16-14 loss to unbeaten Rutgers on Saturday afternoon.

A lot of Rutgers fans said they were going to “take over” Lincoln Financial Field. Far from it. There were at least 70 percent Temple fans there, as one of their “honest” fans said.

These Rutgers fans were on the money.

More importantly, Temple was without its best offensive lineman (Adam Klein), best linebacker (Tra Thomas) and two top running backs (Texas A&M transfer Darvon Hubbard and Illinois transfer Jakari Norwood) and played Rutgers to a virtual standoff.

Of course, a real standoff is preferable to a virtual one but the point is all of those guys will be back for the more important conference games.

The Owls were in this game against a Big 10 foe until the very end and there are a couple of “should-have, would-have” plays both fan bases can point to as keys. On the RU end, Temple’s first play from scrimmage should have been a pick 6. On the Temple side, Nathan Stewart dropped a perfectly thrown touchdown pass from E. J. Warner.

Stuff happens. A few plays here and a few plays there make the difference.

On the way out of the stadium, Tony Russo–Anthony Russo’s dad–tapped me on the shoulder. Anthony Russo is one of the top four quarterbacks, statistically, in Temple history. He was 6-4. Warner, as a 6-footer, can’t be blamed for not picking up the danger that lay ahead in a real Pick 6.

“I really like E.J. Warner,” I told him, “but if he was 6-4 like Anthony, he wouldn’t have given up the pick 6. He would have seen over the defense.”

“He’s going to be a real good player here,” Tony Russo said.

“Yeah, I think you’re right.”

Pretty good endorsement from the dad of a former player. Kurt Warner should have been there to hear it.

Minus that play, Temple wins, but it shouldn’t have come down to that.

Temple had a nice little drive going from its own 10 in the final four minutes that would have set up Rory Bell to be the hero with a field goal.

About the second play in, I was hoping for Stan Drayton to throw the halfback pass. All the mental telepathy fell on deaf ears sadly. I think it would have worked. Trey Blair, his halfback, was a terrific quarterback in high school. Pitching it out to Blair might have suckered in the RU defense just enough that Blair could have found a wide-open Adonicas Sanders behind the defense for the win.

Maybe Drayton didn’t know Blair played quarterback in high school or maybe he’s saving that play for a conference game that puts him in the championship. My guess is that the new Temple OC doesn’t realize Blair was a damn good high school quarterback and the play was not in the books.

Hardin would have thrown that halfback pass against Rutgers. Maybe it would have worked, maybe it wouldn’t but he wouldn’t have left it on the table knowing it might have worked.

Moral victories meant even less to him but if Rutgers turns out to be the best team on the Temple 2022 schedule and the Owls use that to win the rest, this will be only “moral victory” we’ve ever seen at Temple.

Monday: Legacy Analysis

RU at TU: What a long, strange, trip it’s been

Temple had to wait until late November to get its first win of the season in 1989.

Unless there are some backroom dealings we don’t know about, Rutgers will be making its last trip to Philadelphia to play Temple tomorrow (2 p.m., Lincoln Financial Field).

Maybe not ever, but certainly for a long, long time.

Temple wins this game at Temple Stadium.

That’s a shame because two FBS college football teams separated by only 67 miles should play probably every year. To put this in perspective, only few other possible matchups are shorter drives among the current 130 FBS teams. In the traditional East, Maryland vs. Navy is closer as is Pitt vs. West Virginia but that’s it.

Rutgers at Temple is not on any future schedule. Temple finishes up the current series in Piscataway next Sept. 9.

It’s a short trip geographically, but a long, strange one, football-wise, for both teams.

Many times–but not all–the unexpected happens.

That’s really a trademark of rivalry games.

Temple won its only game in 1989 by upsetting Rutgers, 36-33, in the season finale at Veterans Stadium. Not a big upset but the Scarlet Knights that year beat Northwestern and Boston College. In 1949, Temple came home from a 54-0 shellacking at the hands of Texas and beat a pretty good Rutgers team, 14-7, at Temple Stadium. RU finished 6-3 that year.

This has been a pretty competitive series. Temple voluntarily forfeited the 1986 game, which it won. The NCAA didn’t recognize Temple’s forfeit so the real lead is 20-16. Both schools, however, are going with the number that includes Temple’s voluntary forfeit so the game notes read 21-15.

Close enough.

It doesn’t really matter though because any series this tight both on the field and geographically qualifies as a rivalry.

RU has played Temple in four Philadelphia stadiums, all inside the City Limits–Temple Stadium, Franklin Field, Veterans Stadium and, now, Lincoln Financial Field.

Our picks this week: Two favorites, two dogs. Love Lance Leipold and the points at Houston, and also Purdue (which probably should be favored) at Syracuse. WSU should kill CSU as should KSU and Kade Warner Tulane.

To be honest, I thought Temple only had a chance to beat Rutgers IF the Owls won at Duke.

I still think that theory applies, but history has trumped logic a few times before in this and maybe it can again.

Let’s put it this way: Temple’s loss to Duke in Week One looked a lot worse then than it does now and Rutgers’ win at Boston College looked a lot better then than now.

Duke dominated Temple but then went on to dominate a Northwestern team that beat Nebraska. Both Temple and Northwestern had similar success, at least from the defensive end, in the second half against Duke.

Boston College, on the other hand, after losing at home to Rutgers by one, lost to a Virginia Tech team that lost to G5 Old Dominion. Then, once you thought ODU was good, the Monarchs got dominated by an East Carolina program that lost four of its six games to Temple.

The other X-factor is that D’Wan Mathis has killed Temple as its quarterback since beating Memphis a year ago. He plays for self-preservation and, if that means putting the ball don’t the ground for the bad guys to pick up, so be it. At least he’s not getting hurt.

Temple partied like it was 1999 in this game.

Rod Carey watched that, folded his arms, looked skyward and kept Mathis in the game, absorbing the beatings.

The new guy, Stan Drayton, proved to Temple fans that he won’t sit back and take beatings last week. He pulled Mathis after the second time he put it on the ground.

E.J. Warner has the opposite mindset and the team has rallied behind him. His style of ball deserves an extended look.

Behind Warner, Temple showed some life against a Lafayette team considerably better than the Wagner team that lost to RU 66-7 a week ago.

Vegas has noticed.

A lot of self-flagellating Temple fans thought the opening 16-point line was low. No doubt a lot of RU fans did, too but Vegas’ job is to set the line to get an equal number of bets on both sides.

The line has gone up to 17.5 in the last five days.

Homecoming should be a factor as Temple was an underdog three of the last four years on HC and won outright all four times. Temple fans grabbed up all of the seats on one side of this field two weeks ago and that contributed to 90 percent of Lot K being filled by Temple fans. On Thursday night, Lincoln Financial Field announced that Lot K parking–the largest lot nearest LFF–is sold out.

Rutgers, no doubt, will bring a large contingent of fans. Our sources in the LFF ticket office predict an announced attendance of 45,000, with roughly a 30,000 Temple group vs. a 15-20K from RU. Only if RU brings 20K could this announced attendance hit 50K. (They base it on Temple grabbing 90 percent of the Lot K parking spots.)

Temple could not have ordered better weather.

To be honest, I do not know what is going to happen either in the stands or on the field.

This could be anything from a 49-7 Rutgers win to Temple repeating its 36-33 upset in 1989.

What we will say is this series needs to be both extended and renewed and, if the administration of both schools is paying attention to their supporters, this better not be the last time Rutgers visits Philadelphia.

Our picks this week: Two favorites, two dogs. Love Lance Leipold and the points at Houston, and also Purdue (which probably should be favored) at Syracuse. WSU should kill CSU as should KSU and Kade Warner Tulane.

Last week ATS: 3-2 (won on Duke, App State and UTSA and lost on ODU and Vandy)

Season ATS: 3-2

Prediction update: Split on this weekend’s games, as our instincts were correct on Lance Leipold winning at Houston and Washington State killing CSU. Only a Hail Mary pass at the Carrier Dome kept us from going to 3-1 as Syracuse beat Purdue and Tulane’s win at Kansas State was a real head-scratcher.

So far: 5-4 ATS on the season.

Sunday: Game Analysis

Monday: Legacy Analysis

The ONE thing certain to shock Rutgers fans

The Temple fan experience will be a lot closer to this 2015 Homecoming Game than any recent one.

There’s a prevalent notion among Rutgers fans that Lincoln Financial Field is somehow “holding back” tickets because there are so few sections available for Saturday’s game.

Conspiracy theories abound but no one in Piscataway has come up with the correct answer. At least not among the literally hundreds of posts about the subject.

A couple of recent Homecoming Crowds: Last year for a 3-9 team, Temple drew 28,564 for the Memphis Homecoming win and, in 2019, the Owls drew 34,253  for another Homecoming win over Memphis. If the Owls get even 30,000 of their own fans and 15,000 Rutgers fans attend, the attendance for this game could push 45,000.

The answer simply is this: The sections that are not available are Temple sections because it’s Temple’s Homecoming. Temple might not win on Saturday, but on the trip back home, the honest Rutgers fans will no doubt reach one conclusion.

“There were a lot more Temple fans there than I thought would be there.”

There are plenty of reasons for this. One, since Matt Rhule started winning in Year Three of his tenure, the SMALLEST crowd for Homecoming was last year (28,564) because the fan base was shellshocked by the 1-6 Rod Carey COVID season of 2020. That crowd was still pretty loud and the atmosphere lifted one of the worst Temple teams of the past decade to a win over Memphis.

Temple beats Cincinnati in this 2018 Homecoming Game.

There seems to be a notion in North Jersey that Rutgers fans are somehow going to “take over” Lincoln Financial Field. While it was true back in 2012 when Steve Addazio was head coach of a LOSING Temple team, it does not figure to be true now.

That RU-TU game was NOT Temple’s Homecoming and that Temple team was on the way to a 4-7 season.

Temple Homecoming crowds generally average about 10,000 more than the other five home games. At least the last half-dozen HC games or so.

The best Rutgers’ fans can hope for is a 50-50 split, even though the numbers now indicate from the sections available that the Temple side is nearly sold out and it would probably be a 60/40 Temple lean.

Allentown (Pa.) nightly news anchor Rob Vaughn (the Jim Gardner of the Lehigh Valley), comments on last year’s HC crowd.

The Stan Drayton hire seems to have energized the fan base and probably the kind of atmosphere fans can expect is the Homecoming Game of 2015 (see above video). Plus, it’s Dr. Jason Wingard’s induction as Temple President and there are a lot of pre-game ceremonies planned for more than a year for this day. Temple people who see one football game a year will be at this one.

RU has never been to the Linc for a Temple Homecoming, at least since the program was revitalized by Al Golden and Matt Rhule. It literally is the ONLY game a lot of fans come to every year and that in and of itself guarantees a large Temple contingent. Temple has had its attendance troubles, but never on this one day a year. You cannot expect the average Rutgers fan understands that data. That seems to fuel a lot of misconceptions about what the size of the Temple crowd will be from a North Jersey perspective.

The only sections available on the Temple season ticket side are two at the club level.

The fact that this is a regional rival suggests there is even more Temple interest in this game than the two most recent Homecoming wins against Memphis or even the 2018 Homecoming win over a Cincinnati team that came in with a 6-0 record.

Will Rutgers bring the most impressive visiting fan contingent in the last half-dozen years? No doubt. Is Rutgers taking over the Linc?

That’s a notion certain to be disabused by late Saturday afternoon.

Friday: Temple-Rutgers Preview

Temple will have to earn TV time

The first three games are set for TV.

The damage report on the hand grenade the last Temple football head coach tossed over his shoulder on the way out the Edberg Olson door won’t be fully known for a couple of years.

That’s because the impact of roster depth and quality and recruiting usually take that long to show on the field.

We do know one thing: Fans will have to scramble to find the Owls on television for the early games, part of the collateral damage.

Temple has always done well in TV ratings, particularly in winning years like 2015, when the Owls game against visiting Notre Dame drew the highest rating for any college football game in Philadelphia EVER. That included six prime time Notre Dame vs. Penn State games.

ESPN+ is one of the best buys anywhere. For $4.99 a month, you can get most of the AAC football games and even Olympic sports like soccer and baseball.

However, it’s probably a good idea to plan a September road trip to Durham, N.C. because the ACC Network is not a part of the package. In other words, just to see the Temple game, you’ll have to make an additional subscription to the ACC Network.

Bummer.

Of course, you could try to find a bar that has the ACC Network but good luck with that. Temple has always had a significant number of casual fans who will watch home games on TV but the challenge always has been getting them off the couch and away from the potato chips and into the stadium.

Winning big road games like Duke gets the job done better than about 1,000 commercials.

There is still a chance … a chance … that ESPN allows the Philadelphia market a one-time dispensation to allow the Temple game on ESPN+. Let’s hope so, but I’m not counting on it.

It would be a terrific advertisement for ticket sales if the Owls were on TV for the opener.

The next two games will be on ESPN+, both Sept. 10 against overmatched Lafayette and the Sept. 17 Homecoming Game against Rutgers.

That won’t help ticket sales but since the Owls usually draw between 28,000 to 35,000 for Homecoming and Rutgers brings anywhere from 15-20K, the crowd could push 40-45K for that game alone.

If the Owls win, subsequent home games are headed for a big boost. I don’t care if any of the home games are televised since I will be in the stadium, but I do want to be able to see all of the Owls’ road games.

A lot will depend on them winning.

Still, much of the remaining TV schedule is listed as “to be determined” and that means ESPN and others are waiting to see if the Owls are for real.

How they do at Duke will go a long way toward determining the to-be-determined part.

Postponement just another obstacle for Owls

Now that tonight’s game with Rutgers has been postponed to Saturday at noon, the football Gods have thrown another obstacle at the Owls.

Using walk-on quarterbacks as starters?

Check (see Kamal Gray last year).

City of Philadelphia closing your practices?

Check.

Transfer portal taking six starters away and putting them at other schools?

Check.

Now it appears that the Owls are headed back to Philadelphia after spending the last 24 hours in Piscataway.

One practice and 24 hours from now, they are back on the road to the same place.

Can they overcome?

They were facing a daunting task as it was even if the game was played on Thursday night. The RU team they would be facing went to Michigan State and won its opener last year.

Now the Owls have to do it while on a physical and an emotional yo-yo.

Their fans who were planning to watch on TV might not get that chance now, as all TV network time slots for football seem to be taken by the scheduled Saturday noon games.

One thing is certain: If they overcome this to win Saturday, it’s a good omen for the rest of the season.

Sunday: My day in Piscatway

Temple-Rutgers: Only the weather is certain

Temple fans will be standing in Sections 118 and 119

Over the last few days, the betting line for the Temple at Rutgers opener has fluctuated between 14.5 points four days ago and 12.5 this morning.

Tomorrow, it could be 13.5 and Rutgers will probably remain favored until the opening kickoff.

Still, if anyone tells you they know what’s going to happen, they are just fooling themselves.

No Temple game in my recent memory is more unpredictable than this one. The Owls have a five-star quarterback under center, D’Wan Mathis, who first committed to Michigan State, then Ohio State and then Georgia.

He started the opener last year for the Bulldogs and played more like a two-star.

If he plays like the guy recruited by MSU, OSU and Georgia, Rutgers could be in trouble. Those staffs are paid millions for evaluating big-time talent and they all loved him.

If he plays like he did in last year’s opener, Temple could be in trouble.

Ironically, the weather is the only thing seemingly certain for Thursday night (6 p.m. kickoff, Big 10 Network).

It could get between moderately wet and really wet between 6-10 p.m. in Piscataway. The middle of that spaghetti plot on the left has whatever is left of Hurricane Ida pretty much over New Jersey between 7 a.m. Thursday and 7 a.m. Friday. The midpoint of those two times roughly corresponds with the three-plus hours the Owls and the Scarlet Knights will be battling.

Best way to get to Piscataway from Philly is to take SEPTA Regional Rail to the Trenton Transit Center and, from there, it’s only a 39-minute ride to the New Brunswick Station (the 1:24 estimate includes leaving Temple U.). RU offers buses right outside NBS to the game starting 3 hours before kickoff.

If Temple running backs’ coach Gabe Infante is as good as we think he is (and we think he’s a gem), the emphasis the next couple days of practice will be for his group to hold the ball high and tight.

We already know defensive coordinator Jeff Knowles placed Priority No. 1 on getting turnovers because he said so four weeks ago. The Owls have been practicing stripping the ball, going after fumbles and tipping the ball and getting interceptions on deflections. That’s been as or more important than stopping the run and getting to the quarterback.

Which team holds onto the ball and takes it away probably will decide this game.

Not touchdown passes.

Not rushing stats or first downs.

And definitely not point spreads.

Turnovers.

If the weather is as impactful as the cone of certainty suggests, this will probably be a low-scoring game, something on the order of 10-6, 14-7, even 17-7. We probably won’t see either quarterback throw for five touchdowns or 300 yards but might see a running back get 200.

Whatever, don’t forget the umbrella.

Friday: Game Analysis

Rutgers’ fans could use a slice of humility

Owls will have to gang-tackle like this if they hope to win on Thursday night.

Like any general statement, a disclaimer is usually required and we’ll offer one here.

To quote what somebody once said in 2016: “They’re bringing crime. They are rapists and some, I assume, are good people.”

Not anyone from any other country.

These are people who live only 65 miles away.

Rutgers fans.

Your pretty much typical post about Temple on a Rutgers’ board.
A Rutgers’ fan “opinion” of the Owls followed by the facts below:
Temple has won four of its last five games against Cincinnati.

Rutgers’ fans are definitely not bringing crime or rapists but the some of them being good people certainly applies.

Joe, who posts here regularly, seems a decent-enough person but I will make this GENERAL statement.

Before Carey’s 1-6 Covid year, these were the facts.

Rutgers’ fans are without a doubt in my 40-plus years of experience the most obnoxious fans of all frequent Temple opponents.

The disclaimer usually is some not all, but we’ll modify that.

Most, not all.

There I said it.

There are a couple of comparisons that come to mind. They remind me of Mets fans in bad seasons who still think their team is pretty good when they stink. They are the Mets’ fans who are yelling in your ear about how great the Mets are for seven innings at CBP and the ones who get up and leave when Chase Utley hits a bases-clearing triple in the eighth.

And they always think they are better than Temple, even in the many years they were not.

I first encountered that attitude as an undergrad carrying a transistor radio and hearing a couple of clowns on the Rutgers’ pre-game show.

“Let’s face it,” the analyst told the play-by-play guy, “Rutgers should beat Temple every year.”

“Who the hell do they think they are?” I thought out loud.

Temple won that game, 41-20.

A pretty satisfying day against a team that beat Tennessee that year, 13-8.

Another satisfying day came a few years later when Bruce Arians’ Temple team won at RU, 35-30. That RU team beat Penn State and still another great but wet night came after Temple was kicked out of the Big East for “non-competitiveness” and won at RU, 20-17. Cap Poklemba kicked the winning field goal and Tanardo Sharps only seemed to run for 8,000 yards (really, 215) in the rain. The Owls as a team ran over to the Big East logo and danced to “T for Temple U” on it.

After spending the pre-game tailgate with Joe Klecko and my friends Nick and Sharon, who graciously invited me to their tailgate, the post-game beers never tasted better. Geez, that was 19 years ago. Hard to believe, Harry.

That was the fourth-straight year Temple beat RU but RU remained in the league and Temple was kicked out.

No fan base “smells themselves” quite like Rutgers and, since they sit pretty close to the toxic waste dump that is North New Jersey, it’s not a good smell. I’m quite OK with living in the nation’s first World Heritage City instead.

Check this out.

Rutgers claims a “national championship” in 1976 and that’s laughable since Pitt was also 12-0 that year. Temple lost to Pitt, 21-7, that year and Penn State, 31-30. It’s there in writing on the official Rutgers’ sports website: “National champions 1869, 1961 and 1976.”

Don’t know much about the first two, but I was around in 1976.

The teams Rutgers beat that year?

Navy, Bucknell, Princeton, Cornell, UConn, Colgate, Lehigh, Columbia, UMass, Louisville, Tulane and Colgate.

The Navy team RU beat that year, 13-3, lost to Pitt, 45-0.

But, yeah, let’s claim a national championship year.

Typical of Rutgers and its fans, who all think they should smoke Temple not only this year but from the beginning of time.

Not sure where they are getting that from but if any fan base deserves a slice of humble pie on Thursday night, it’s that one. Hopefully, the coaching staff that is 5-2 against the Big 10 doesn’t forget to bring the whip cream.

Monday: Finally, Game Week

Friday: Game Analysis

Rod Carey knows how to beat the Big 10

Mike Locksley gets the no-look handshake from Rod Carey after beating the Big 10 in 2019
Sales of this sweatshirt go off the charts with a win at RU.

Rod Carey knows how to do two things:

Lose bowl games.

Beat Big 10 teams.

He’s 0-7 in bowl games.

He’s 5-2 against the Big 10.

Even one of the two losses to the Big 10 was a 20-13 loss to 12-1 Ohio State in 2015.

Presumably, in all seven of those games (not the bowl ones) Carey was working at a huge talent disadvantage.

That bodes well for Carey and the Temple Owls some 50 days from now in the opener at Rutgers.

Bum Phillips might have said it best of Don Shula in 1979: “He can take his ‘um and beat your ‘um.”

Gotta love the fake punt. Temple used to do that all the time.

That’s the ultimate compliment for a head coach, meaning he can take his players from either team and win the game.

Really, though, how much more talent does Rutgers have than Temple, considering the Owls beat Maryland, 20-17, two years ago for Carey’s last win against the Big 10 and later in the same year Maryland took Rutgers to the woodshed, 48-7?

It usually takes a long time for entire rosters to be recycled out of programs and that’s even the case with the transfer portal. There are enough Temple playmakers from the 2019 team to contribute in 2021.

So Carey is going to have to work whatever magic he did in that win over Maryland, plus beating an 8-5 Iowa team in 2013 (30-27), plus Purdue (55-24) that same year, Northwestern (23-15) in 2014 and Nebraska (21-17) in 2017. All the games except Maryland were on the road and all, including Maryland, came in September.

Carey knows something about putting the several months he gets to prepare for more talented opponents to good use.

The good news for Temple fans is that the core members of the NIU staff who made their fortune beating the Big 10 are still in place at Temple.

You have to assume that even this version of Temple has more talent than most of the NIU squads Carey took to Big 10 stadiums. Plus, this group at Rutgers isn’t as talented as Iowa in 2013 nor Maryland in 2019. NIU was a double-digit underdog in all four of its Big 10 wins under Carey and Temple will be probably a double-digit underdog at Rutgers.

Carey has been saying for 10 months now that COVID beat Temple in 2020 more than the six opponents did.

He gets his best chance to back up that statement on Sept. 2.

The fact that he has a pretty good history against the Big 10 provides some level of comfort and the mindset around here will change quickly if he proves his point that night.

We’ll worry about the bowl record later.

Friday: New Beginnings

Monday: WWGCD?

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

Ready for Prime Time?

For about the better part of the last year, my plan for the Rutgers’ game was to watch on TV with one hand covering an eye and the other eye catching the game.

With the recent announcement of the Owls’ opening date moving from Saturday, Sept. 4 to Thursday, Sept 2 history (at least for me) will be made.

No doubt in my mind had PJ sneaked behind Kyle the Owls would have beaten RU in Piscataway.

If the university doesn’t offer a bus (and I don’t think it will because of Labor Day Weekend), I’m planning to rent a car and drive to the game. It’s a 6:30 p.m. kickoff and it’s on the Big Ten Network.

It will be the first Temple game in at least 15 years I will not drink anything stronger than a Diet Pepsi Wild Cherry either pre- or post-game because I will be taking that rental down the Garden State Parkway and heading to the shore immediately afterward. For Temple fans who want to join me, our sections are 102, 103 and 104. You can wait for Temple to make an announcement for tickets in a couple of months or purchase them now.

You’ve heard about situations driving you to drink?

Rod Carey has driven me to be sober.

First, the 2004 Chevy Cavalier has 161,000 miles on it right now (probably 162,000 by game time) and it’s a perfectly good car that I trust for 5-mile drives to the store but not long distances.

Second, I have to have an escape plan without worrying about being stopped on the way to real fun.

If the Owls are losing, 44-0, at halftime, I’m outta there and headed for Stone Harbor by halftime.

If the Owls are winning, I’m staying to the end.

We’re No. 1 and RU is No. 2.

Are the Owls ready for prime time?

I don’t think so but I’m still going to be screaming my head off in the stands with however many Temple fans make the trip with me hoping they will win.

The penultimate time Temple played at Rutgers, Cap Poklemba kicked a field goal and Tanardo Sharps ran for over 200 yards in the rain and Temple won, 20-17. The Owls, who were kicked out of the Big East for being “non-competitive” ran over to the Big East logo and danced on it as an exclamation point. The same group of Owls won, 48-14, at Rutgers two years earlier and beat Rutgers four years in a row.

The last time Temple played at Rutgers a rookie coach named Matt Rhule had a 4th and 1 inch on the RU 20 and decided for a 5-yard deep handoff to Kenny Harper that turned into a five-yard loss when he could have had the day’s best quarterback, P.J. Walker, sneak for two inches behind the day’s best center, Kyle Friend. (Mind you, RU had no time outs left and a first down would have ended the game.)

Rutgers won on a late touchdown pass.

Live and learn.

Cap Poklemba holds up the 3 points his field goal beat RU by in 2002.

Rhule did, but too late to ever beat Rutgers.

If the lessons Carey learns from a 1-6 season makes him 6-2 against the Big 10, I’m hopping aboard the Rod Carey train. Don’t expect to, but it’s worth the trip nonetheless.

If Rod proves me and the so-called experts wrong, the post-game Diet Pepsi Wild Cherry will taste better than any Michelob Light and “T for Temple U” will be on a continuous loop all the way down to Fred’s in Stone Harbor.

Monday: What Could Go Right?