As Temple's football team celebrated the program's most successful season in 30 years at a banquet at the Sheraton Hotel in Center City last night, the Owls' opponent for the Dec. 29 EagleBank Bowl was being decided at Lincoln Financial Field.
About 90 minutes into Temple's banquet, it was announced that Navy had defeated Army, 17-3, dropping the Black Knights to 5-7 and making them ineligible to play Temple, or anybody else, in a postseason game.
A big roar and then applause filled the hotel dining hall, because the Army-Navy outcome meant that the Owls (9-3) would be taking on high-profile UCLA as a bowl opponent at RFK Stadium in Washington.
"It's East-West, and it's the second-largest media market [L.A] against the fourth-largest media market [Philadelphia]," Temple coach Al Golden said. "But after that, they have some dudes over there. I haven't watched them much, but I know they have some great players. It's going to be a great day."
The last time Temple played in the postseason, the Owls also took on a Pacific Ten opponent. The year was 1979, and Temple defeated Cal, 28-17, in the Garden State Bowl.
UCLA, which finished the regular season 6-6, went 4-8 last year in the Bruins' first season under coach Rick Neuheisel. Prior to Neuheisel's being hired in December 2007, Golden interviewed for the position before withdrawing his name from consideration.
This fall, UCLA won its first three games before losing five in a row. The Bruins won three straight again before falling to USC in their season finale.
"Everybody is going to have to play their best if we're going to win," said Temple quarterback Chester Stewart, who grew up in the D.C. area. "Everybody who makes a bowl game is a good team."
"We still have one more," all-MAC nose tackle Andre Neblett said after the Ohio game. "Now, we'll just go to a bowl and try to win that."
"We worked too hard this season, and we're going to get something out of it," said MAC defensive player of the year Adrian Robinson.
Notes. Redshirt senior safety Dominique Harris was awarded the most valuable player award last night. The offensive line got the nod as the most valuable on offense, and Neblett was named the Owls most valuable defensive player. Kick returner James Nixon was recognized as the special teams most valuable player. Freshman running back Bernard Pierce was honored as the newcomer of the year. Alex Joseph received the leadership award.