Twenty seniors came into this season for Temple football ready for the end. The end was supposed to be a bowl. The end wasn’t supposed to be a game against UConn, a Divison I-AA school just a few years back. The end wasn’t supposed to be a fight for a fourth win.
But that is what it has turned into, as the 20 seniors turned into 19; linebacker Taylor Suman was suspended twice this season for breaking team and athletic department rules, his season ended weeks ago.
But for the rest, it ends on Saturday at noon at Franklin Field against the Huskies.
This has been a year of disappointment for Temple football. With a returning 1,000-yard rusher, defense that consistently ranked in the Top 40 this season, and a team scratching for a bowl bid, things looked bright.
Injuries darkened things rather quickly. Running back Tanardo Sharps, who gained over 1,000 yards last year, started the year injured and hasn’t looked much better when he’s been healthy. Temple’s offensive line has been in tatters. Donny Klein has played most of the season with torn cartilage in his shoulder in desperate need of surgery.
He started last week’s win over West Virginia on the sideline with his pads off. By the second half, Anthony Nembhard was injured and Klein decided to suit up. He’ll have surgery on Nov. 29. Klein might be able to play Saturday.
If he plays it will epitomize what the team has been about this year: injured but trying their best.
Temple’s best was rarely good enough this season. They went against some tough teams and played some horrible offense. If Temple’s offense was nearly as good as their defense they’d be a hard team to stop. But the offensive line was injured, Sharps was injured, receivers started getting injured and dropped like flies with torn up knees abound.
But trying your best doesn’t work when you’re playing teams like Virginia Tech and Miami. Temple’s best looked like a joke to the outside world: “here’s that awful Temple team again, when will the Big East finally kick them out?”
2004 is the answer they have been given. That will be Temple’s final season in the conference. 2005 is the year UConn enters. Between now and then Temple has a lot of questions to answer.
Can Temple’s offense and defense find an equilibrium? Can quarterback Mike McGann develop into something special? Will Temple ever make it to an elusive bowl game?
The answers will all be good ones this weekend against a young, inexperienced, barely Division-I team. After that, things get rocky. Will Temple football ever have a season that gets past disappointment? There’s one they have been asking since the ’80s. I have no answer.