When Temple kicks off its football season Friday at Lincoln Financial Field against Army, the opponent will provide a nostalgic moment for fourth-year head coach Matt Rhule and fourth-year starting quarterback Phillip Walker.
It was Army that provided the first win for both coach and quarterback.
The Owls were 0-6 entering a home game on Oct. 19, 2013. Like any first-year coach, Rhule was frustrated by the losing. He made several changes to his lineup.
"We started putting in the young players, pulling out their redshirts and said, 'If we are going to lose, let's lose with kids who are going to listen to us,' " Rhule recalled this week. "It was an evolution for those kids. They played that year, and while we didn't win a lot of games we got better and better."
That first win was a 33-14 victory over Army.
Walker was inserted into the starting lineup the previous week in a 38-20 loss at Cincinnati.
"It was a relief," Walker said of the win. "It gave us confidence, and we believed we could win more games."
In that game, Walker completed 10 of 16 passes for 206 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.
"At that point [after the game], I realized what this team would be in the future and what it would take for us to become a great team, which we did," Walker said. "We took it step by step."
The win meant so much to Rhule, he placed a picture in his office of himself after the victory.
"When we finally got the chance to win, it was such a relief," Rhule said.
For Rhule, he felt best for his family.
"I am a process-oriented guy [and after each loss the mind-set was], 'OK, get back to work,' " Rhule said. "They are the ones who were bearing the brunt of it."
The Owls won only one more game during that 2-10 season, a 41-21 triumph at Memphis in the finale. But they were competitive in every game following that Army win. Three of the four subsequent losses were by a touchdown or less, and the biggest deficit came in a 59-49 setback at SMU the week after they beat the Black Knights.
By the end of that season, Rhule had the players who he believed he could win with, and many, like Walker and senior Jahad Thomas, who averaged 19.8 yards on 24 kickoffs that year, received valuable experience.
Temple went 6-6 and was bowl- eligible the next season but didn't earn a bid. Last year, the Owls tied a single-season school record during a 10-4 season. Temple won the East Division title of the American Athletic Conference before losing to Houston, 24-13, in the inaugural AAC title game. The Owls then fell to Toledo, 32-17, in the Boca Raton Bowl.
Conversely, while that initial win began a new era at Temple, it helped end another at Army. The Black Knights went 3-9 that season, and coach Rich Ellerson was fired after five seasons and a 20-41 record.
Coach Jeff Monken is now guiding the Black Knights, who are coming off a 2-10 record in his second season. But they had traits similar to Temple's in Rhule's first year.
Rhule's first team lost four games by three or fewer points. Last season, Army lost five games by five or fewer points.
That win over Army could be looked at as a turning point in Rhule's head coaching career and for the Temple football program as a whole.
An upset victory over Temple by Army on Friday could do the same for Monken, who is 6-18 in his first two seasons.