Despite a six-win season, the Owls were left out of college football’s postseason last year.
As Kyle Friend watched the bowl season continue without him and his teammates last December, the-then junior offensive lineman sent a group message to the rest of the offensive line.
“I hope this hurts,” the message said.
On Sunday, the team received an invitation to the 2015 Marmot Boca Raton Bowl where the Owls (10-3, 7-1 American Athletic Conference) will play the University of Toledo (9-2, 6-2 Mid-American Conference) Dec. 22 at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Florida.
“Someone took a screenshot of it, and he sent it the other day,” Friend, a senior offensive lineman, said of the message. “It’s just kind of like wow. It’s good to see that because I think watching all the bowl games and stuff like that, I think it paid off for us to want to get to one.”
The Owls lost to Houston 24-13 Saturday at TDECU Stadium in The American’s conference championship game. The loss kept the Owls out of a “New Year’s Six” bowl, one of the six featured bowl games on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
“Last year people were asking me, ‘Are we disappointed that we’re not going to a bowl game?’” coach Matt Rhule said. “This year people are asking me ‘Are we disappointed that we’re not going to some other bowl game?’ I’m excited to go to a bowl game. I’m excited to have five days in Florida and play against a great opponent.”
This is the first time Rhule has led the Owls to a bowl game. The last time Temple played in a bowl game was under coach Steve Addazio in 2011, when the Owls defeated the University of Wyoming 37-15 in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
It is the fifth time the team has gone to a bowl game in program history. Three of those appearances have come in the past seven years. The Owls have also been bowl eligible five of the past seven years.
“The days of ‘I can’t believe this just happened to us’ are over with,” Rhule said. “This is what we’re playing for every single year is to go to a bowl game and compete for the conference championship.”
Redshirt-senior defensive back Will Hayes is one of seven players who were with the program when the Owls went to the New Mexico Bowl under Addazio.
For Hayes, the bowl game presents an opportunity to accomplish something no other Temple team has ever done.
“Ultimately, we would like to get to a New Year’s Six bowl,” Hayes said. “That would have been a great accomplishment, but again we got to a bowl. … We got 10 wins this season, and we have a chance to do something even more special and get 11 wins for the first time in program history.”
The Boca Raton Bowl also provides the Owls with a chance to end the season on a high-note heading into the offseason.
After starting the season 7-0, Temple is 3-3 in its last six games.
“You look forward to just getting another opportunity to get out there and play with your teammates and you know just to finish the way we started,” junior quarterback P.J. Walker said. “That’s just trying to get a victory.”
Owen McCue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @Owen_McCue.