If adversity builds strength, then the football team should be the Incredible Hulk by now.
After all, it’s lost three times on the final play of the game and a fourth time by only four points.
Yet, the strength that’s supposed to come from those debilitating losses is still nowhere to be found on the actual football field.
Back in September, the Owls followed their overtime loss to Connecticut with the Hail Mary defeat at Buffalo. The subsequent week, Temple lost more than just the game at Penn State – it lost its starting quarterback for three games. Only after the narrow Homecoming defeat to Western Michigan did the Owls finally come back and win the next game against Miami (Ohio).
It remains to be seen what will happen at Kent State tomorrow night after the debacle at Navy 11 days ago.
But change, apparently, is at least starting to take shape inside the locker room.
“Since our return [from Navy], we’ve had leadership like we’ve never had before,” coach Al Golden said. “We’ve never had that kind of leadership, what I call ‘enter the danger,’ where they would challenge each other. It’s always been the status quo, don’t make any waves. Once we got over the initial depression after the game, the dynamic finally was that they took ownership, where it was like, ‘Hey coaches, shut up, we got it.’”
One of those leaders is senior wide receiver Bruce Francis, Golden said. Francis, who tied the Temple record for career touchdown receptions after he caught two last week at Navy, is one of four regular senior starters on offense.
“Lots of guys want to point fingers at the young guys, but we’ve got to be positive in that situation and make it more of a learning environment,” Francis said. “It’s a learning experience. That’s the only thing you can say about it. We’ve got to learn from our mistakes and move forward, get our minds focused on the rest of the games and the fundamentals. We’ve lost a couple close games this year, as everyone knows.”
After Kent State tomorrow night, Temple will face Eastern Michigan and Akron at Lincoln Financial Field. Eastern Michigan is currently in last place in the Mid-American West Division, while Akron holds the spot Temple is fighting for, first place in the MAC East.
Over the next three games, the Owls will be playing for six wins and that MAC East title, Golden said.
And to do that, they’ll need to start out by following the Navy loss with a victory over the last place Golden Flashes, a task that’s not as easy as it may sound.
Kent State features the No. 13-ranked running game in the nation with a one-two punch of junior running back Eugene Jarvis and senior quarterback Julian Edelman. Jarvis, who’s coming off an ankle injury, is the nation’s leading returning rusher, while Edelman currently ranks third in the MAC in rushing yards per game at 105.7.
“I don’t disagree with Doug Martin [Kent State’s coach]. Doug Martin was saying [Edelman] is probably the best all-around athlete and football player in the MAC, and I think there’s a lot of credence to that,” Golden said. “They have an excellent running attack. But Edelman can pass and beat you with his feet. It’s going to be a challenge for us to shut down both.”
It’s a challenge the team will need to meet if it wants to post a win after another close loss.
“They don’t want it to be too late,” Golden said. “Sometimes you’ve got to get backed in a corner to do that. Why it wasn’t last Tuesday, why it wasn’t six weeks ago, I don’t know. But it’s time.”
Jennifer Reardon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.