After waiting more than two years after he was drafted with the third pick in the 2014 NBA Draft to see him on the court, Philadelphia 76ers fans marvelled by Joel Embiid’s play chanted “Trust The Process” at the team’s home opener on Wednesday.
The three words have become a mantra for the team’s fans throughout its recent rebuilding years. Temple’s football team has a similar approach as it heads into the final stretch of the season.
The Owls (5-3, 3-1 American Athletic Conference) have won four of their last five games, including three conference games, to claim first place in The American’s East Division. A win on Saturday against Cincinnati would make the Owls bowl eligible as the team tries to reach back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history.
If the team wins its final four games, Temple can play in back-to-back conference championship games, with a chance of hosting the contest.
“Honestly it doesn’t really mean anything to me,” redshirt-senior tight end Colin Thompson said of the Owls controlling their own destiny. “Like I said, we’re just focused on our process here. We’re not really worried about the week-to-week stuff. We’re really, really just worried about Cincinnati and what we have to do for them.”
The Cincinnati team that the Owls will face on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field is different from what the Bearcats looked like at the start of the season. After a stretch of three losses in four games, including consecutive losses to conference opponents South Florida and Connecticut, senior quarterback Gunner Kiel got his first start of the season in hopes of breaking the Bearcats’ slide. He completed 23-of-40 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns in Cincinnati’s win against East Carolina on Saturday.
Kiel threw for more than 400 yards in the matchup between Cincinnati and Temple last year, a 34-26 victory for the Owls. The last two games between the two conference rivals have been close. Last year’s game came down to the final drive when Kiel threw an interception to Tyler Matakevich in the red zone. In 2014, Cincinnati held on to win a low-scoring 14-6 game at Lincoln Financial Field.
“They’re just a really good football team,” coach Matt Rhule said. “We’ve always been excited to play them. They’ve been a team that we looked up to and wanted to win at the level that they’ve won at.”
Rhule improved to .500 as Temple’s coach with Friday’s win against South Florida. The team has been playing better in the second half recently, after having fourth quarter comeback drives against Army West Point, Penn State and Memphis fail earlier in the season. Temple outscored Central Florida 12-0 in the second half on Oct. 15 and outscored South Florida 26-17 in the final two quarters.
“We looked at the games we lost and it’s everybody just taking care of their job and if you do your job at a high level, it’s like you’re going to win,” redshirt-senior defensive lineman Praise Martin-Oguike said. “We’re good enough that like we don’t have any bad players on the team and we’re good enough to if everybody just does their thing, does their job, we’re going to win every game.”
Evan Easterling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Evan_Easterling.