Senior day should be emotional for Temple football team
This Owls' senior class is tied for the most wins in program history, 33, with last year's seniors.
Michael Dogbe is one of the leaders of the Temple football team and a player not prone to swirling emotions. Each week, regardless of the opponent, the redshirt senior defensive tackle never suggests that any game is bigger than another.
But Dogbe, who has team highs of 11.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks, showed emotion when asked about Saturday's American Athletic Conference game against South Florida (7-3, 3-3 AAC), at noon at Lincoln Financial Field. This will be senior day at Temple, the seniors' last game at the Linc.
"It is one of those things when the day comes, it will really hit me," Dogbe said this week. "I obviously love Temple. I have been through a lot here. It's one of those things I will experience it and my emotions will probably be running, but I will be all right."
This senior class needs one more victory to become the school's winningest class. Temple (6-4, 5-1) has won 33 games over the last four years. That is tied with last year's seniors, who also won 33.
This, though, will be the first Temple class to go to a bowl game four consecutive years.
Probably the most emotional person will be Temple coach Geoff Collins. The second-year coach often gets choked up talking about his players, and he got emotional Tuesday when discussing the issue at his news conference.
"I wasn't really ready for it last year my first time as head coach going through senior day, having 11 months of building relationship with that senior class, and it was pretty emotional," Collins said. "I think this one will be even more so, because you spend day in and day out the last two years investing so much in these young men's lives, them fighting and giving so much to this university, this football program."
It wouldn't be surprising if Collins sheds a tear or two while the 19 seniors are introduced one final time during pregame ceremonies.
"It is two years' worth of stories and things that you go through in an intense, pressure-packed environment that forges life-long relationships, and I know it will be emotional Saturday for me and for them," Collins said.
Wide receiver Ventell Bryant, Temple's all-time leader in receiving yards (2,319), said his mother is coming up for the game from Tampa, Fla. It will be the first time she sees him play in Philadelphia.
"I am excited for that," Bryant said.
One thing Temple has done well is brush aside emotions and get to the task at hand. This week, the Owls will be trying to stay mathematically alive in the AAC East Division race. To do that, Temple needs to beat USF and UConn (1-9, 0-6), and Central Florida (9-0, 6-0) has to lose to Cincinnati (9-1, 5-1) and USF.
One person who won't allow emotions to get in the way is senior safety Delvon Randall, who has played in the three previous bowl games.
"It won't be emotional. It is my last home game at Lincoln Financial Field," Randall said. "I will really miss the team, but the big thing is to go 1-0 this week, Senior Day or not."
Collins pointed out an interesting statistic: This senior class will have played in half the bowl games in Temple history. Temple has been to seven bowls and became eligible for an eighth with last week's 59-49 win at Houston.
There might be some pregame reminiscing, but players such as Randall insist it will be all business when the game starts.
South Florida at Temple
When/where: Saturday, noon, Lincoln Financial Field.
Records: USF, 7-3, 3-3 American Athletic Conference; Temple, 6-4, 5-1
TV/Radio: ESPNews/WPHT 1210 AM.
Coaches: USF, Charlie Strong (2nd season, 17-5; overall, 70-42); Temple, Geoff Collins (2nd season, 13-10).
Series history: 2-2. USF won the most recent meeting, 43-7, at home on Sept. 21, 2017.
Three things to watch
1. Temple has had to prepare to face three quarterbacks. USF starter Blake Barnett didn't play in last week's 35-23 loss at Cincinnati because of a shoulder injury. Barnett, who previously played for Arizona State and Alabama, is listed as day to day. Chris Oladokun and Brett Kean both played against Cincinnati. Oladokun completed 10 of 22 passes for 165 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, and Kean was 4-for-10 for 67 yards, one TD and no interceptions.
2. Temple is keeping teams off guard with a balanced offensive attack. Two weeks ago, Temple quarterback Anthony Russo passed for 444 yards and four touchdowns in a 52-40 loss at UCF. Last week, the Owls rushed for 312 yards and eight touchdowns, including 210 yards and six TDs by Ryquell Armstead, in a 59-49 win over Houston. USF won't be able to cheat on so-called passing downs, because Temple can run the ball effectively.
3. Emphasis on stopping the Bulls ground game will be key for Temple. Collins knows junior Jordan Cronkrite well since they were both together when Collins was an assistant at the University of Florida. Cronkrite, a 5-foot-11, 207-pound junior, transferred after his sophomore season and, after sitting out last year, has hit his stride. He has rushed for 982 yards (6.7 average) and seven touchdowns. Johnny Ford, a 5-5, 168-pound freshman, is another breakaway threat. He has rushed for 559 yards (7.6 average) and eight TDs.