The Owls couldn’t escape it this week, no matter how much they wanted to.
They shut themselves away in the Edberg-Olson practice facility, trying to focus on this weekend’s homecoming game with Pittsburgh and push the pain of last Saturday’s 54-point drubbing by Bowling Green out of their minds.
As they discovered, a 70-16 loss simply isn’t that easy to forget about.
“It was embarrassing Saturday. I can’t sit here and say it wasn’t,” coach Bobby Wallace said. “I felt sorry for everybody associated with it, including the Temple administration, alumni, and fans. The bottom line is, you’ve just got to fight back.”
Fighting back will require confidence, which Wallace admitted may be a bit lacking after last week’s demoralizing experience.
To help motivate the disconsolate Owls, he pointed to the 1972 Missouri Tigers, who he claimed rebounded from an equally crushing loss to beat an even more formidable team in the next game.
“In the 70s, Missouri got beat by Nebraska, 66-0,” Wallace said. “The next week they came back to beat Notre Dame, who was ranked in the top 10. So it has been done. Hopefully, our kids will bounce back like that also.”
In reality, the Cornhuskers won, 62-0, and Notre Dame was No. 8 when the Tigers beat them the following weekend, but Wallace was clearly more concerned with the message than the specifics. The Tigers also beat No. 7 Colorado the next week en route to an unthinkable 6-6 season after the previous year’s 1-10 debacle.
The Owls need positives like those to overshadow the Bowling Green hangover. Wallace and others on the team insisted it is focus, not effort or talent, that has been lacking in the losses. They believe focus will be easy to find as the Owls prepare to make their final trek through the Big East before they are bounced from the conference at the end of the season.
“We’ve talked so much about focus, about this being the last year in the Big East, against our in-state rival, on homecoming,” Wallace said. “There are a lot of factors we can focus on the get ready. We’re 0-0 in the Big East. We don’t want to get carried away, because we realize where we are and what we’ve done so far. But it is a new start.”
Senior wide receiver Phil Goodman, who hurt his groin diving for what turned out to be a dead ball last Saturday, probably will not play against Pitt.
Wallace could only speculate as to the extent of the injury, and said he could not be sure if it was a pull, a strain, or just a deep bruise.
Senior wideout Buchie Ibeh ran decently in practice this week coming back from a high ankle sprain, but both players’ returns are uncertain barring a tremendous dual effort.
Defensive tackle Antwon Burton is still not ready to play. Juniors A.J. Lindsay and Randy Johnson will start on the defensive line alongside hobbled defensive end Rodney Wormley.
Combined, Wormley and cornerback Ray Lamb, who is coming off knee surgery, can boast two healthy legs between them.
PANTHERS TO WATCH
Pittsburgh is known for its long line of standout wide receivers, and sophomore Greg Lee appears to be the next to carry the torch.
Lee, who played sparingly behind Larry Fitzgerald and Kris Wilson last season, gained 129 receiving yards on just two catches in last Thursday’s loss to Connecticut and is averaging 22.9 yards per catch.
Wallace lauded Panthers’ quarterback Tyler Palko’s athleticism, but the sophomore does not possess eye-popping stats. Notably, Palko completed just six passes for 49 yards in a win over Ohio early this season.
Palko might still capitalize on the Owls’ shoddy pass defense and have a career game, as Bowling Green’s Omar Jacobs and Virginia’s Marques Hagans already have.
“Of the four [Division] I-A teams we’ve played, their offenses are all ranked higher than 17th in the country, although part of the reason is probably that they’ve played us,” Wallace said.
Ben Watanabe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.