Ray Lamb was tough for Maryland to miss on Saturday, but he and the football team remained invisible in the win column.
A three-year letterwinner who recorded 11 tackles and an interception at cornerback against the Terrapins, Lamb has never played for a winning team at Temple. He’s never chased first place. An appearance in a bowl game? Nope. How about a conference championship game? Forget it.
But Lamb said he is satisfied with that.
“For me it’s never been about winning,” he said. “I could care less about the W. It’s about going out there, playing together as a family. If it’s about us winning or losing, then we’re probably not playing like a family should.
“We all need to have the same idea when we go out there, and that’s always been to do the best we can.”
In Lamb’s time here, the Owls have won three games. Lamb and most of his teammates were in their first years of elementary school the last time the Owls strung together a winning season – a 7-4 campaign in 1990.
But the Owls’ futile play hasn’t transpired in the past three seasons alone. Coach Bobby Wallace has watched the Owls get shut out eight times during his eight-year tenure. The Owls have only one win in their last 23 tries against Division I-A teams, dating back to 2003.
Additionally, the Owls have allowed 49.5 points per game this season, and are on pace to break the D-I record for points allowed in a season.
In his postgame press conference Saturday, Wallace said being overmatched is not new to the Owls, but losing six straight games to start the season is frustrating.
“You don’t throw your hands up in the air, but that usually happens with a team that’s overmatched with talent,” Wallace said. “That’s a pretty average thing that’s going to happen to a team that goes up against a team like Maryland. … We would like to get to that point [of having that level of talent], but we’re not. We’re playing with very limited people, and they’re giving their hearts, and that’s about all I can ask for.”
But after the loss to the Terps, senior defensive tackle Antwon Burton admitted that, at this point in the season, winning is essentially all there is to play for.
“You’ve got to play the game with the objective of winning,” said Burton, who recovered a fumble on Saturday. “We’ve got five games to go, and [the season] won’t matter to me unless we get some wins.”
Senior wide receiver Brian Allbrooks couldn’t have disagreed more with Burton. In terms of a game’s outcome, Allbrooks said respect weighs greater than winning in his mind. A junior college transfer in his second year at Temple, Allbrooks said he has been pleased with the opportunities that have come his way.
“This place [Temple] teaches you how to be humble and to appreciate everything you get. This place is about respect and pride more than anything else,” Allbrooks said. “These games we’re playing, they’re about letting people know that we belong on the same field as them.”
To Allbrooks and Lamb, winning has almost become secondary in their careers. Though both seniors stressed different reasons for their thoughts on wins and losses, they said they have realized how inconsequential trash talking and excessive celebrating are to the big picture.
“I take it personally when a team looks at you like you’re a cakewalk,” said Allbrooks, the Owls’ leading receiver on Saturday. “The other team has to understand that we’re on this field together.”
Lamb reiterated Allbrooks’ sentiment: “People do it verbally, and with their actions. I say let them do it and we’ll hit them in the mouth,” Lamb said. “Who are they to try and intimidate us? We put our pants on just like they do. They say things, but we keep on going.”
Not all has been sour for the Owls this season. In some instances, the players said the opposition actually has congratulated the Owls for their unrivaled spirit, despite their large margins of defeat.
Senior defensive end Mike Mendenhall, among the team leaders in tackles, credited Maryland for displaying such good sportsmanship on Saturday. While some Owls admitted that teams have talked down to them or shown them up with on-field celebrations, Mendenhall said the Terps were unlike any other team the Owls have faced this season.
“They didn’t do any of that,” he said. “They were positive after the game. They were encouraging. They said things like, ‘Keep your head up,’ and ‘Keep on fighting.'”
Above all, the Owls have the respect of their coach.
“They go out there and fight and give you everything they’ve got, and I can hold my head up today,” Wallace said. “I feel real good about this football team. Are we good? No. Are we playing hard and trying? Yes.”
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at email@example.com.