Though its opponent will not be known until this weekend, the full Temple football team began to prepare yesterday for the EagleBank Bowl, on Dec. 29 in Washington.
On Sunday, the Owls (9-3) learned that their first postseason opponent in 30 years would be either Army or UCLA.
The Black Knights need to defeat Navy tomorrow to claim the berth. If Army (5-6) loses at Lincoln Financial Field, that would open the way for UCLA (6-6).
Though nobody connected with the Owls wanted to name a preference, it was no secret that the most attractive opponent would be the Bruins. On Oct. 17, Temple defeated Army, 27-13, on homecoming day at the Linc.
A victory over UCLA would add to the Owls' resume.
"Either way, it's going to be a national team and a great institution," said coach Al Golden, who in his fourth year guided the Owls to their first winning season since 1990. With a victory, they would tie the school record for triumphs in a season.
"Here we are going to a bowl game, and it's great for our team," the coach said, adding that the next step was to "do this every year. That's our goal."
Golden, who gave his seniors last weekend off as he and his staff devoted attention to the younger players, said the practice sessions were all about Temple.
He said that even if the Owls knew their opponent, they wouldn't have worked on the game so soon because "you can't hold [the team's] attention for three weeks."
Teams with bowl invitations get 15 sessions after the regular season ends.
Last Saturday, Temple worked out at the Linc on a rainy and snowy day. This Sunday, the Owls will practice from noon to 1:45 p.m. in a session at Edberg-Olson Hall that's open to the public. Then they will head to over the Liacouras Center to meet and greet fans attending the 3 p.m. showdown between visiting Villanova and Temple on the basketball court.
Golden's squad finished in a first-place tie with Ohio University in the East Division of the Mid-American Conference at 7-1. "Our first five practices, we were just going to improve our team, anyway," he said. "We've had a chance to look at some guys, and it gives them a sense of urgency. It thrusts them into a different level of mind-set."
With 13 players from the Baltimore, Washington, and northern Virginia area, the Owls will be visiting one of Golden's most fertile recruiting areas when they play at RFK Stadium.
Quarterback Chester Stewart played at DeMatha Catholic High School in the Washington suburbs. Safety Dominique Harris is from H.D. Woodson High in Washington, though the redshirt senior arrived at Temple the year before Golden.
Linebacker Alex Joseph is not from the D.C. area, but was no less appreciative of the trip.
Joseph, a senior who was in Golden's first recruiting class, was on teams that were 10-26 in his first three years with the Owls.
"This is a great feeling," said Joseph, who is from Stamford, Conn. "We've been working so hard for a long time for this.
"For the seniors especially, we came from the bottom to be one of the best programs in our conference. We are very blessed to be in the position we are in right now."