You read it here first: The football team will win Saturday.
True, the Owls are 0-9 on Saturdays this season and 0 for 1 in a season-opening Thursday night game, but they should head into Annapolis, Md., for a matchup with Navy knowing this game is theirs to win.
A loss means the 2005 Owls finish the season winless. Suffice it to say the victory-hungry seniors will not allow their final season in Temple uniforms to go down like that.
Mike Mendenhall won’t let that happen. Umar Ferguson won’t let that happen. Christian Dunbar, Ray Lamb and Antwon Burton won’t let that happen. Mike McGann – well, he’ll do what he can, if he plays.
Short of coach Bobby Wallace, the veteran players know better than anyone how tough these past few years have been. Ferguson, in particular, probably vented a good deal of frustration when he laid the hammer on Miami (Ohio) cornerback Darrell Hunter after a McGann interception in the home finale. Ferguson didn’t get credit for a tackle, but if exasperation could be transferred into kinetic energy, Umar expended three years’ worth on Hunter’s torso.
That’s what 15 consecutive losing seasons and getting kicked out of a major conference will spur people to do.
A victory over the Midshipmen (5-4) won’t wipe out a season’s worth – make that two decades’ worth – of futility. But nowadays gridiron success on North Broad Street is awfully relative, and the Owls are relatively awful.
The funny thing is these teams aren’t too far apart on paper. Before the season, Wallace joked he envied Navy’s soft schedule, and the Owls likely envy their opponent’s winning record, as well. The question therefore remains whether fans would rather root for an above-.500 team with wins over Duke (1-9), Air Force (3-7), Kent State (1-9), Rice (1-8) and Tulane (2-7), or a winless crew that did not face a team that currently has a losing record.
Coaches preach to their players to never take an opponent lightly, to play ’em one game at a time. Wallace and Co. can probably table that speech this week, since the Owls haven’t faced an opponent they could take lightly since … hmm, 2004?
Taking ’em one game at a time won’t be too tough, either, since one game is all that’s left. As the football program has spiraled downward, at least class after class of players could take solace in avoiding the fate of Peter Stevens’ 1959 Owls, who were winless in nine games.
So if you’re a sadist in search of a game that will end in a team’s embarrassment, try Buffalo’s matchup with Eastern Michigan this weekend or potentially winless New Mexico State’s last gasp against Utah State next week.
There won’t be a Day Which Will Live In (Temple) Infamy at the U.S. Naval Academy on Saturday.
“I think we have a good chance of getting a win this year,” Mendenhall assured reporters in October. At the time, the Owls had two games remaining and Mendenhall, like the rest of the team’s 28 seniors, had played his final home game.
“Not winning a game this season never entered my mind,” he said then.
It shouldn’t enter his mind Saturday. Amazing how 1-10 can look so good when the alternative is 0-11.
Ben Watanabe can be reached at email@example.com.