As the clock hit all zeros, it all came to an end.
The game against Akron.
The 2008 season.
And the collegiate careers of 22 players on the football team.
Most notably, redshirt senior quarterback Adam DiMichele and senior wide receiver Bruce Francis donned their Temple uniforms for the final time, as these two players, so much a part of the rebuilding process under coach Al Golden, wrapped up their Owl careers with a 27-6 victory over Akron.
That victory gave the Owls five for the season, the program’s most since 1990. And while the tough losses to Connecticut, Buffalo, Western Michigan and Navy still linger in frustration, in the end, the departing seniors were not dwelling on the past.
“This has probably been the [best] three years of my life. There are no regrets,” DiMichele said. “The guys I played with are going to be lifelong friends, and it’s something special and unique. I’m just excited to be a part of it.”
“It’s been a great run,” Francis added. “I had a lot of fun playing with my teammates and being coached by these guys. It’ll hit me hard in a couple of days, but right now, I’m just enjoying the victory.”
But, at the same time, everyone in that locker room knows they are a converted Hail Mary away from being in the Mid-American Conference Championship game.
And that, combined with the other close calls, can always make a player wonder, “What if?”
“Yea, I’m going to think about it,” DiMichele said. “But you can’t change the past, and I’m not going to look back too often. It still hasn’t sunk in that [Friday] was my last game, so when that happens, I’m sure I’ll look back a little bit.”
But as DiMichele looks back on his time at Temple, he can remember entering a program with no direction, no sense of purpose, no true leadership.
And those players, the departing seniors who were recruited by former coach Bobby Wallace and managed to stay through the regime change, were the ones the Owls’ captain ended up speaking so highly of.
“It’s been an honor to play with these seniors,” DiMichele said. “There are guys that came in with them that aren’t here anymore. They either couldn’t cut it or it was too rough for them. But those guys really fought, and when I got here, they taught me a few different things.”
Francis, who walked on under Wallace, remembers how different it was back then and what he had to do to work through it.
“When they had things like study hall and practice when I was a freshman, I didn’t have to go to that if I didn’t want to,” Francis said. “We had class that wasn’t mandatory. But I’m practically proud of myself because I stuck it out when it was hard, and I’m being rewarded.”
With that, the program has certainly come a long way under Golden, as he’s changed the culture of Temple football. And the transition, the Owls’ third-year coach said, has been especially evident over the past year.
“If you think of where we were at 12 months ago, 13 months ago, it’s a completely different team right now. It’s a completely different operation,” Golden said. “We have a nice group coming back. We lose two starters on defense and four on offense. So I can’t look at it in any other way other than optimistic.”
But in the end, Golden credits his key departing seniors in helping to change the atmosphere at Edberg-Olson Hall, as they were the ones who truly bought into his system and relayed the message to the team.
“The kids know how to fight now,” Golden said. “[DiMichele] taught us, and Bruce taught us, and Terrance Knighton and a couple of other guys taught us how to do it.”
Todd Orodenker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.