Temple lost last weekend, 35-13. It seems like a huge loss until you consider who handed it to them –Virginia Tech.
The Hokies, ranked third in the nation by the Associated Press and second by ESPN/USA Today, exploited Temple’s lack of offense and claimed the win.
Considering Virginia Tech has outscored its opponents 132-47 on the season, Temple’s 22-point loss wasn’t very convincing.
At the same time, the loss wasn’t that heartbreaking for the Owls. Temple has suffered a slow start to its Big East schedule, dropping to 0-2 in the conference.
“Obviously we have (a) few spots where we have to challenge them a little bit to play better,” coach Bobby Wallace said. “Overall, I think the kids felt good about their effort last Saturday and that’s what’s important.”
The Owls are 3-3 overall and looking to get back above .500 this Saturday when they travel to New Brunswick, N.J., to play Rutgers. Temple blew the Scarlet Knights out of Veterans Stadium last year, and should be favored to win again on Saturday.
But after that, things just get harder.
The Big East has been a tough conference this year. In addition to the Hokies, Miami is ranked fourth by the AP and sixth by USA Today after the Hurricanes’ upset of defending national champion Florida State. Also, both Pittsburgh and West Virginia have begun to garner votes for the Top 25 lists.
This is the first time since the Big East was formed in 1991 that two teams from the league have been ranked together in the top five in the AP poll.
The conference has the fewest non-conference losses of any automatic qualifying BCS conference. The Big East’s 19-4 record beats all others in the nation.
Temple has played two of the tough conference teams and have two more remaining in Miami and Pittsburgh. Even after the loss at Virginia Tech, the Owls still have the same amount of confidence they went in with.
“We can beat Miami,” Wallace said. “I’m not saying we will, but anything can happen in college football. I see no signs of letdown.”
Temple has lost two consecutive games, both in the Big East. That could take some of the wind out of a team’s sails, but Wallace doesn’t see that happening at Temple.
“I see no signs of it,” Wallace said of the team getting down. “It’s very important that they sit down after going through this for two months and really dig deep down deep inside and keep pushing. It’s so much easier when you have something to play for.”
This is the first time in a long time that Temple has a chance for a bowl appearance. The Owls haven’t been to a bowl since 1979 but have a chance this season. If they can win three of their remaining five games, a post-season bowl bid is not out of the question.
A relatively easy contest comes this Saturday against Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are winless in the conference and may pose an easy match for Temple’s improved team. Then again, Temple is 2-7 since 1991 against Rutgers.
“I think they just need to sit down and really think,” Wallace said. “You talk about goals in the (beginning) of the year and then the football season is a long period of time. It’s the same routine every day; got to get up to go to breakfast, go to class, go to study hall, go to practice, go to bed and they have to do the same thing the next day.
“They keep traveling, they keep playing on Saturday, they have the same routine.
“We (the coaches) have to talk to them about it (and) be sure they understand what’s ahead of them, what opportunity they have.”
Temple only has three seniors in LeVar Talley, Raheem Brock and Mathias Nkwenti. The three, along with the rest of the team, have never been in this situation.
“They’ve never been in this position before where we have something to play for in the second half of the season,” Wallace said. “That is what I’m really impressing to them.”
Temple travels to New Brunswick to play Rutgers on Saturday at 6 p.m. The game will be televised locally on CN8.