Reflections on the football team’s season so far

The Owls finished the regular season 8-4, but failed to make the Mid-American Conference championship game.

THINGS THAT WENT RIGHT

1. The UConn Game

Everything clicked for Temple in this game. Sophomore running back Bernard Pierce played his best game of the year as he rushed for 169 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries in the Owls’ 30-16 win. Senior linebacker Elijah Joseph recorded nine tackles, including one for a loss. Linebacker Tahir Whitehead recorded three and a half tackles for a loss for the Owls.

The win marked the first time that coach Al Golden had defeated a Bowl Championship Series team while at Temple. The game became more impressive as the year went on. If the Huskies win against South Florida on Saturday, they’ll represent the Big East in the BCS Fiesta Bowl.

2. Michael Campbell

The senior wideout flourished in his second full year as a starter. The 6-foot-2-inch New Jersey native recorded 45 catches for 724 receiving yards and six touchdowns, all career highs. Campbell recorded over 100 receiving yards in four games and posted 96 yards in another.

Campbell’s receiving yard total is the seventh-most ever by a Temple wideout. With a potential bowl game remaining, Campbell has a slim shot at surpassing Gerard Lucear’s 964 yards in 1979.

3. Muhammad Wilkerson

The junior defensive tackle leads the team with 13 tackles for a loss, including nine sacks. The Outland Trophy Watch List candidate even caught a pass, a four-yard reception in the opening win against Villanova.

THINGS THAT WENT WRONG

1. The last two games

Heading into the Ohio game, the Cherry and White controlled their destiny as far as the Mid-American Conference championship went. The Owls lost, however, to the Bobcats, 31-23, to eliminate themselves from contention.

Next up was a game against Miami-Ohio. A win would essentially guarantee a bowl bid for the Owls while a loss would put a 13th game in jeopardy. The Owls responded with arguably their worst performance of the season as they lost, 23-3, to the RedHawks.

2. The superstars

Coming into the season, Temple had bonafide stars on both sides of the ball. Pierce was fresh off a season in which he rushed for 1,361 yards and 16 touchdowns and was named the MAC Freshman of the Year. On the other side of the ball, junior defensive end Adrian Robinson was named the MAC Defensive Player of the Year last season after recording 13 sacks.

Neither player lived up to expectations this year.

After being marketed as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate, Pierce was in-and-out of the lineup while dealing with a hamstring injury. The Ardmore native rushed for just 728 yards in 10 games this season. Pierce also recorded just three carries against Northern Illinois and zero against Ohio. Pierce left both games early with an injury.

Robinson has managed to record just three and a half sacks this season.

3. Attendance

Temple had its most successful season in over 30 years in 2009 but still struggled to fill seats this year. The Owls did increase their attendance marginally as they averaged 20,515 fans this season after averaging 17,379 last season. Percentage-wise, the increase was impressive, but total wise the program likely expected more.

Weather played a part in the lackluster attendance, especially in the home finale against Ohio. Only 16,433 fans showed up in the torrent rain to watch the Owls play in what Golden referred to as “the most important Temple game in 30 years.” If the program expects to receive an invitation to a BCS conference, attendance will likely need to increase, starting with any potential bowl game.

WHAT’S NEXT?

By losing their last two games, the Owls are in a murky situation as far as bowl games go. The MAC has three primary bowl tie-ins. Bowl selection committees are not required to choose the Top 3 teams record wise. Currently, at 8-4, the Owls are tied with three other teams for the second best overall record in the conference. If the Owls don’t secure one of the three primary MAC bowls, they could still secure a spot in another bowl because a conference might not produce enough bowl-eligible teams to fill their tie-ins.

The three bowls that have a MAC tie-in are the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho, the Little Caesar’s Pizza bowl in Detroit and the GoDaddy.com bowl in Mobile, Ala. Potential outside bowls include the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, the New Mexico Bowl or the MAACO Bowl in Las Vegas.

Kyle Gauss can be reached at kyle.gauss@temple.edu.

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