ANNAPOLIS —- The question was coming for Temple coach Al Golden. It was inevitable after the Owls rallied past Navy 27-24 for their sixth straight victory and the assurance of a .500 record at the end of the regular season.
The two words no one associated with Temple football —- “bowl eligibility” —- surfaced. Golden was having none of it.
“No. No. Next,” Golden said. “No. No.”
OK, so the man behind Temple’s football turnaround wanted nothing to do with a discussion of his team’s December prospects. There’s still a month to play, still four conference games plus a possible league championship game to contend with before bowl invitations come out.
That’s perfectly understandable. Still, to sit at 6-2 when October ends is a pretty substantial feat.
“Every game it’s nice, but again I’m going to say it’s not our goal,” Golden said. “It’s not our goal. That’s not why we came to Temple and it’s not why the staff has stayed and it’s not why these kids have been working so hard. Our goal is bigger than that.”
Very well. But from an outsider’s vantage point, this is already pretty big.
In the final season before Golden’s arrival, the Owls played as a team freshly booted from the Big East. They lost all 11 games, were outscored 498-107 and played only one opponent to a spread of less than two touchdowns.
In short, they were horrific, to the point it’s difficult to describe the wretchedness of the program.
The midpoint of the season featured a date with a pedestrian Maryland team on an incredibly gloomy, rainy day at Lincoln Financial Field. The Terps played without their top defensive player (D’Qwell Jackson), but it didn’t matter. Maryland left with a 38-7 victory, and it didn’t even feel like the Terps played that well before the 1,000 or so people who bothered to brave the elements.
A couple days later, Temple coach Bobby Wallace announced his resignation, effective the end of the season.
Golden was hired, and managed a 1-11 mark in his first season. I’ve seen the Owls play Navy the last three years, improving from somewhat competitive to fairly competent to an outfit capable of some fairly significant things.
Clearly, the move to the MAC has helped Temple immensely. Rather than acting as a Big East doormat or hapless independent, the Owls are in a conference with schools of similar (or less) resources). Better still, their recruiting territory doesn’t significantly overlap the geographic areas of their conference rivals.
And as it so often happens, Temple has improved because of significant offensive line upgrades. Bernard Pierce produced a monster day (267 yards and two touchdowns rushing), but he had some giant holes to run through thanks to an impressive offensive line.
All those guys are 300+ pounds. Only one ACC school (Miami) can say the same about its five o-line starters.
So, yes, things are substantially different than this time four years ago.
But that’s in the past, and Golden is far more interested in the future.
“We have a long way to go,” he said. “These things are won in November. You want me to answer the question a certain way. I’m not. We have a long way to go. Our goal wasn’t to win four, it wasn’t to win three, it wasn’t to win five, it wasn’t to win six. Our goals are either going to come or go in November.”
—- Patrick Stevens