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Matt Rhule keeps focus on this Penn State game, not last year's

Matt Rhule can do without the nostalgia. The fourth-year Temple football coach is doing his best this week not to look back, although at times it can be a futile exercise.

Matt Rhule can do without the nostalgia. The fourth-year Temple football coach is doing his best this week not to look back, although at times it can be a futile exercise.

Rhule's mantra - and that of his fellow coaches - is to look only ahead, to the next opponent. It just so happens that the opponent was part of arguably the most significant win in school history to begin last season.

When Rhule's Owls visit Penn State on Saturday at Beaver Stadium, Temple will have its hands full combating an explosive no-huddle Penn State offense that played well in a 42-39 loss at Pitt last week.

Rhule has done his best all week to focus on this year's Nittany Lions team, not last year's Penn State game.

It's a difficult task since Temple opened last year with a 27-10 win over the Lions before 69,176 at Lincoln Financial Field.

Temple overcame a 10-0 deficit to win a game that set the tone for an amazing next few months. The Owls won their first seven games, joined the national rankings, and captured the East Division of the American Athletic Conference in a 10-4 campaign that tied the school record for wins.

Sure, it was just another win over Penn State, as coaches like to say, but nobody was buying it. That victory last Sept. 5 stopped a winless streak of 39 games (0-38-1) against the Nittany Lions. The last win Temple had in the series occurred in 1941.

"That win meant a lot to our program," said senior quarterback Phillip Walker. "It showed we were capable of doing a lot of big things on the football field and that we could play with anybody in the country."

Rhule, a Penn State graduate, understands the importance of the win. It's just that in his mind, thinking about last year doesn't help very much this season.

"For me, last year's game doesn't have any effect on this year's game at all," Rhule said. "The only thing about last year was it was a teaching [moment], having them learn you can only control what you can control."

The Owls sacked beleaguered quarterback Christian Hackenberg 10 times in that game.

"The 10 sacks is kind of a misnomer because four of those sacks came in the last two series," Rhule said.

Actually the final four sacks came over the last three series, but either way, 10 sacks is an impressive total.

"It was one of the best moments here at Temple because we hadn't beaten Penn State in so long," said senior defensive end Haason Reddick, who had 11/2 sacks in the game.

Since the last win over Penn State came 74 years earlier, plenty of emotions spilled out that day at the Linc.

"I can still see people crying in the stands, they were so emotional," Temple athletic director Patrick Kraft said.

The Temple players insist they have moved on from that game. The only reason they are discussing it this week is because the media are seeking remembrances.

"Every win is special, but because it happened to be against Penn State, it was extra special," said Temple's top offensive lineman, senior left tackle Dion Dawkins. "We hadn't beaten them in so long and so many people were emotional."

The impact of the win was considerable for the entire Temple football community. For one afternoon, the Owls didn't play like underdogs.

"I get goose bumps just talking about it," Kraft said. "It is one of the greatest events I have ever been part of."