The football team has undergone a makeover.
Cosmetically, the jerseys have changed, but that’s not the makeover that really has made the difference this season.
The difference has been a makeover in the team’s attitude.
After dropping the first five games of the season, something happened.
“We had a team meeting,” said redshirt junior Leyon Azubuike. “We all came together like ‘Look, we’ve got to do something to turn around this season.'”
After that meeting, the Owls rolled off three straight victories and are now riding that win streak into Friday’s game at Ohio. This is the first time since 1990, the Owls have won three straight games in the same season. The Owls strung together three wins from 2002-2003, but one of those wins came in the first game of the 2003 season after closing the previous season with two consecutive wins.
The streak this season has been unique, with the first two triumphs coming with impressive fourth quarters. The third win didn’t come cheap, as the Owls lost team captain and quarterback Adam DiMichele for the season with a broken left tibia.
DiMichele didn’t let his injury hold him back from viewing his teammates practice. Four days after his successful surgeryhe was out in the rain, supporting his team from the sidelines.
During the winning streak, the team has been gaining confidence along the way.
“The team is happier,” said sophomore Vaughn Charlton, who is now the starting signal-caller. “It feels like all of this hard work is starting to pay off.”
The team’s leading receiver, junior Bruce Francis, said the practice sessions have taken on a new meaning.
“We’re really practicing at a championship-level,” Francis said. “At the beginning of the season, we were just practicing without faith. But now that we’re winning, we’re seeing what it takes to win and we’re getting a lot accomplished.”
After winning only three games in the previous three seasons, winning has not been an attitude and Francis can attest to that. He specifically pointed to last season, when the Owls won on homecoming.
“We were so used to losing,” he said. “So when we won one game it was like we accomplished something. And then we settled down and lost the rest of our games that season.”
And the woes didn’t stop then. The Owls proceeded to lose the first five games of this season, stretching their futility to 27 losses in their last 28 games.
“But after our fifth loss,” Francis said, “we said we were in a seven-game series and we’ll take games one game at a time. And that might sound like a cliché, but it really is what we had to do and it’s showing on game day.”
Junior defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, who leads the Mid-American Conference with three fumble recoveries, including one he returned 66 yards for a touchdown against Northern Illinois, said the players made a crucial decision as a team.
“We said we we’re going to make a commitment to just buy in and finally do it the coaches’ way,” Knighton said. “We all made a commitment to do the right things. We’re all about winning.”
The Temple football team is “all about winning.” That may seem like a joke to many who remember the team as the doormats in the Big East Conference, and pushovers as independents.
But now the team is independently thinking of one thing – picking up wins.
Azubuike, who is now a team captain after switching positions three times in three years, said the success is gratifying, but not the end of the road.
“It feels really good,” Azubuike said. “And the good thing with this is that with every game we win, the challenge grows. We didn’t want to be a one-hit wonder. We had a bigger vision than one game.”
The vision may grow with a victory against the Bobcats.
The Owls have a clock hanging over their weight room showing the exact amount of time until kickoff Friday.
The clock is flanked with a sign that reads “Beat Ohio.”
The team’s attitude has changed.
And the clock is ticking.
Terrance McNeil can be reached at email@example.com.