The numbers were staggering. And the job, daunting.
Al Golden knew all about the football team’s less-than-stellar past when he was given the head-coaching job in December.
But he couldn’t have fully understood what obstacles he’d need to maneuver until the Owls starting hitting players wearing different-colored uniforms.
With only one winning season in the last 21 years, Temple traveled north to play Mid-American Conference foe Buffalo, a program which recently has endured just as many hard-luck campaigns as the Owls.
A 9-3 overtime loss at UB Stadium Thursday
summed up the start of yet another Temple football season. After all, the Owls have lost their last four season openers. Just typical Temple, right?
At the game’s conclusion, as the Bulls bounced around in celebration of their fourth win in a five-season span, the Owls didn’t slouch their shoulders. They didn’t hang their heads, either.
And local television feeds didn’t show a droopy version of the Owls’ first-year coach. Instead, Golden cracked a smile as he trotted across the field to shake hands with opposing coach Turner Gill.
Who would have known a road loss to start the Golden Era of Temple football could have left such an indelibly positive mark?
The fact is the Owls were competitive against the Bulls. Temple trailed for only six minutes before booting a game-tying, overtime-forcing field goal with under two minutes to play.
On the first possession of overtime, Golden’s squad squandered a red-zone opportunity to put the game in hands of Gill and the Bulls.
Overtime signaled a chance at attaining a win, something Temple hasn’t achieved on the gridiron in its last 13 tries.
Last season, the Owls came close – twice. The Bobby Wallace-led squad only stood a realistic chance at winning two games in 2005 – Western Michigan eked out a three-point win at Lincoln Financial Field on Sept. 24 of last year and Navy ran away with a win on Nov. 19 in a game Temple led 17-14 at halftime.
That was it. Two isolated moments of hope in a season to otherwise forget. Golden’s squad didn’t hold off on providing
fans with something to get excited about early. You only needed to flip on a television to see that Temple and Buffalo were neck-and-neck for nearly the entire contest.
The score told one story. But the play of some of Golden’s newcomers told another. Eleven true freshmen took the field at Buffalo and 20 players saw time in their first Division I-A game.
Some of those newcomers provided a glimpse of Temple’s stay-tuned, it-could-be-promising future.
Look no further than Junior Gallette. The true freshman linebacker, part of Golden’s first recruiting class, was electric. Not to mention he was all over the field. Gallette led the Owls with 2.5 tackles for a loss and nine total tackles.
Adam DiMichele, on the other side of the ball, was just as good. The former Penn State recruit completed 19 of 24 passes for 103 yards.
That’s the kind of effectiveness that this team will need if it is to bag a couple of wins this season.
Golden isn’t the only guy smiling. Nate Schiccatano is also sold on the Owls’ ability to win. Before enrolling as a graduate student here, Schiccatano was a fullback at Notre Dame. He knows what it takes to win.
“There’s a close, young group of kids and the one thing they want to do is win this year and I’m happy to be a part of that,” Schiccatano said last month at the team’s media day.
So in addition to providing the Owls with a spark, Golden has given this team confidence, something – for now – more important than a win.
Though, notching a couple Ws wouldn’t hurt.
“We’re trying to win each day. In practice, we’re trying to win that day,” said senior offensive tackle Elliot Seifert. “One win turns into two and turns into three, then turns into four.”
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at Christopher.firstname.lastname@example.org.