Kyle Friend remembers his first college football game quite well.
“I was out there, kind of looked like a deer in the headlights,” the senior offensive lineman said of the 41-10 victory against Villanova in the 2012 Mayor’s Cup. “That kind of just happens.”
Friend expects a similar fate for his freshmen teammates when the Owls open their season against Penn State Saturday.
“Every freshman, all those young guys, they’re going to have that moment when they kind of zone out,” Friend said. “It’s just going to happen, but they’ve got to be mature enough to snap back in and focus on doing their job.”
During training camp this summer, the Owls zoned in on themselves . The coaching staff put an emphasis on personal improvement and execution.
Rather than focusing on how good its opponents might or might not be for the upcoming season, the team tried to put itself in the best position to win the American Athletic Conference and play in a bowl game—Temple’s two main goals this year.
The Owls are preparing for their game against the Nittany Lions the same way.
“It’s just another game,” senior defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis said. “Every game is just another game. … We always say, ‘What’s next?’ It doesn’t matter who we’re playing because it’s not about them. It’s about us.
“I don’t care who we’re playing every week,” he added. “I care that I’m doing my job. I’m doing my one-eleventh. I care the guy next to me is doing his one-eleventh and so on for the whole defense. I don’t really care who we’re playing.”
The Owls had 27 turnovers in 2014, which tied for 109th worst of the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. The team also averaged 54.42 penalty yards per game last season, which ranked 72nd in the FBS.
Avoiding costly mistakes is more important than the team’s opponent to offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield.
“Even if we’re playing the [Dallas] Cowboys, we can’t worry about the Cowboys,” Satterfield said. “All we can do is take care of ourselves. Our No. 1 goal as a team is don’t beat yourself. And that’s turnovers, that’s penalties, that’s pre-snap penalties, that’s not taking care of your body.”
In last season’s contest against Penn State, a 30-13 loss, the Owls were plagued by mistakes. A P.J. Walker interception returned for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter helped seal the Owls’ fate in the game.
In total, Temple turned the ball over five times in the game and accumulated 10 penalties for 69 yards.
Friend said he and his teammates let the stage of the game get the better of them.
“We were playing in Beaver Stadium,” Friend said. “We were kind of looking around, all that stuff. … We were just a little bit giddy out there.”
While he maintains focus on the contest, senior wide receiver Brandon Shippen said a win for the Owls against Penn State, who Temple hasn’t beaten since 1941, would have a sizable impact for the program.
“It definitely would be a good thing for the program, the university, Temple fans and just everybody surrounding the event,” Shippen said. “More fans would want to come watch us play. Everybody can see how the program has risen through the years.”
Owen McCue can be reached at email@example.com, 215.204.9537 or on Twitter @Owen_McCue.