Former Minnesota football coach Cal Stoll once said, "Success is uncommon, therefore not to be enjoyed by the common man. I'm looking for uncommon people."
Temple coach Al Golden modified those words a bit on a sign that hangs throughout his team's on-campus practice facility.
"10 wins is uncommon," the signs read. "It requires uncommon choices."
Golden's intent was to use the sign as motivation for his players to stay out of trouble. But the one word that stands out in that message is "uncommon."
Not too long ago, it would have been uncommon to see the Owls have a chance to claim double-digit wins and play in any bowl game, let alone a bowl game against a Pac-10 opponent. But that's exactly the opportunity Temple (9-3) will have when it takes on UCLA (6-6) in the EagleBank Bowl on Dec. 29 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. The type of rare occurrence (the Owls haven't been to a bowl game or won 10 games since 1979) Golden wants to become the norm.
"You have to earn respect," Golden said yesterday at his team's prebowl press conference. "You can't have a season. You have to have a program."
Slowly, but surely, Golden has molded Temple into a program. In his first three seasons, the Owls won a combined 10 games. Now they have a chance to win 10 in just one season if they can upset the Bruins, who have won three of their last four.
"They're a very talented team, especially on defense," said Golden, referring to a UCLA defensive unit that starts two first-team All-Americans in junior defensive tackle Brian Price (also the PAC-10 Defensive Player of the Year) and sophomore safety Rahim Moore and ranked 31st in the nation in scoring defense, giving up 21.25 points per game.
"Don't let those six losses fool you," Golden added.
That's because all six losses came against teams that will be playing in bowl games; five losses were against teams ranked in the BCS Top 25.
"They pose a big challenge to us," Golden said.
Temple, which finally got some needed rest during finals, will resume practicing today starting with a film session. And according to Golden "everyone is healthy," including freshman sensation Bernard Pierce (1,308 rushing yards, 15 touchdowns), who missed the Ohio game after sustaining a shoulder injury against Kent State on his first carry.
Golden was noncommital on naming a starting quarterback. However, it does sound like he'll be back at Temple next season.
"I'm glad it's over," said Golden of all distractions and rumors that he was leaving the program for Cincinnati.
His players definitely are ready for the challenge ahead.
"I think the key for us is just to play our style of game," said senior linebacker John Haley. "We've got to play physical, play fast and show the type of team that we are and have been all season."
Added senior offensive lineman Devin Tyler: "We have to believe we can win."
The Owls leave for D.C. on Christmas Eve. Rather uncommon. Only fitting.