The game against their former coach was supposed to be the story line that took center stage and it will still be a big part of it. Yet when Temple hosts Georgia Tech in Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. game at Lincoln Financial Field, the main theme will be two teams looking to regain their footing, not to mention some much needed respect.
Yes, Georgia Tech’s Geoff Collins coaching against the team he guided the previous two seasons will be a big deal, but reversing recent embarrassment might be the bigger story for both teams.
Temple (2-1) is coming off Saturday’s 38-22 loss at Buffalo in a game that the Owls trailed 38-10 before scoring the final two touchdowns.
The Owls were beaten soundly up front on both sides of the ball, committed four turnovers and that doesn’t count the 40-yard loss on a botched punt snap that set up a Buffalo touchdown.
How badly does Temple want to prove that last Saturday the real Owls weren’t on the field?
After the game quarterback Anthony Russo, who completed 25 of 51 passes for 258 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions, apologized to his teammates for his performance.
He didn’t address the entire team, but went to various teammates.
“I told them it won’t happen again, and I told them I won’t let them down like I did on Saturday and want to do everything in my power to make sure I won’t let them down like I did,” Russo said after Tuesday’s practice.
To be fair it wasn’t Russo’s best game, but like all good leaders, he took all the blame, when there was plenty to go elsewhere.
The point is, Russo isn’t worried about facing his ex-coach, only about earning a W. He dismissed any thought of feeling any sentimentality when taking the field not only against Collins, but against five of his assistants who coached at Temple last year.
“No," he said about being sentimental. “It will be cool to be on the same field as them. We have our coaching staff here. We love them and wouldn’t want to play for anybody else and we are happy with what we have.”
Key players such as receiver Branden Mack and linebacker Sam Franklin said facing their old coach is not their driving force.
“No, it’s just going up against my old coach,” said Mack, who had the two fourth-quarter touchdown receptions on Saturday.
“We just want to go 1-0,” Mack said.
That’s funny, but that was a term Collins used every week during his two-year Temple tenure.
“Our focus every week is us and not to be worried about the opponent each week,” Franklin said when asked about facing Collins.
Temple linebacker Shaun Bradley said that Owls were uncharacteristically flat last week and the main priority is making sure it doesn’t happen again.
“I thought we didn’t have the same energy as the week before; we were a little down,” Bradley said. “We were almost a little too slow.”
The week before, Temple had beaten then-No. 21 Maryland, 20-17, and maybe entered the Buffalo game feeling too good about themselves.
Unlike his teammates, Bradley said that facing Collins will be special.
“I am extremely excited, this is one of the games I marked on my calendar for a long time,” Bradley said. “Coach Collins will be out there with our old coaching staff, it should be a good time, a good game.”
Bradley, one of the team’s leading trash talkers, said he won’t spare his former coach.
“Of course, I definitely will talk some trash a little bit, but it is all love,” he said laughing.
Georgia Tech (1-2) had off last week, a cruel bye after a 27-24 overtime home loss to The Citadel, a Football Championship Subdivision team, on Sept. 14.
In a phone interview while he was on the road recruiting last week, Collins said it would be special to play Temple, and expects to encounter nothing but the best from his former team.
“What is unique about the relationship is whether it is ping pong, at the pool table, or playing football, the players at Temple have such a competitive nature,” Collins said. “I know what type of strong competitive team we will be facing.”