Al Golden promises Temple football’s misfortunes will all change one day.
One day, the offensive line will mull its opponents backward long enough for a Temple running back to convert a fourth-and-one situation at a game’s critical juncture.
One day, an opposing quarterback will chuck a Hail Mary high into the air, and an Owls defender – or maybe even more – will be there to knock the ball to the ground.
One day, the Owls will take a 20-point lead into the fourth quarter and end the game with a victory. They might even add to that lead, if you can imagine that.
But that one day was not Sept. 6 against Connecticut. It was not Sept. 13 against Buffalo. And it sure wasn’t last Saturday against Navy, when the Midshipmen rallied from a 20-point fourth-quarter deficit to win, 33-27, in overtime.
“We gave the kids an opportunity to win,” Golden told reporters. “Eventually, these games are going to turn.”
Really, what else can he say?
As coach, Golden has to believe more fortunate days are ahead, even when no one else does.
Saturday’s performance – the Owls could host a seminar on the various ways to blow a game – reconfirms its status as a very bad football team.
Even good teams lose games on a freakish last play, like the Hail Mary Buffalo senior quarterback Drew Willy tossed to propel the Bulls to a victory against Temple on Sept. 13.
Some mediocre teams manage to do it in consecutive weeks. Optimists hoped this was the case when Temple lost back-to-back games on the final play earlier this season.
Bad teams blow games often and ugly. Blowing three fourth-quarter leads during a 12-game season classifies as often. Squandering a 20-point lead epitomizes ugly.
The Owls have long defined ugly football.
But during the previous two seasons, they have fought like rebellious teenagers, desperately trying to create a new image.
They won three straight games last season after opening 0-5. But the Owls’ leader, then-redshirt junior quarterback Adam DiMichele, suffered a season-ending injury during that third win, and the Owls managed only one victory in their final four games.
With DiMichele returning – and nearly every other starter, for that matter – the Owls entered the 2008 campaign with the most confidence they’ve had since the first George Bush called the White House home.
That experience was supposed to translate into the most successful season this team has had in years.
In all honesty, this Temple team has been a much more competitive group than in recent memory. But once the fourth quarter begins, the Owls revert to their old, losing style.
Against Connecticut, the Owls held a 6-0 lead entering the final quarter. Temple surrendered two field goals in the quarter, then lost in overtime.
Against Buffalo, the Owls entered the fourth deadlocked at 21-21. DiMichele fired what appeared likely to be the game-winning touchdown with just 38 seconds remaining on the clock. But redshirt junior kicker Jake Brownell booted the kickoff out of bounds, and the Bulls eventually scored on a Hail Mary.
Against Navy, the Owls surrendered two touchdowns to see a lofty lead fall to 27-20 with 3:37 to play.
Still, the Owls looked poised to run out the clock, but freshman running back Kee-ayre Griffin fumbled the ball, and the Middies returned it 42 yards to tie the game with just 37 seconds left.
In overtime, Temple failed to convert both third-and-one and fourth-and-one goal-line situations.
Midshipmen sophomore quarterback Ricky Dobbs showed the Owls how to convert a short-yardage situation, scoring the winning touchdown on a 1-yard rush.
“That’s four games [counting last season’s loss to UConn],” Golden said. “In 21 years of college football, I don’t think I have ever been involved in anything like this — to lose four games like that. It’s heartbreaking, but we’ll get them back.”
John Kopp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.