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Temple vows to learn from last year's bowl loss

WASHINGTON - Last season, the Temple players enjoyed everything about competing in the Boca Raton Bowl with the exception of the game.

WASHINGTON - Last season, the Temple players enjoyed everything about competing in the Boca Raton Bowl with the exception of the game.

The Owls, appearing in their first bowl game since the 2011 New Mexico Bowl, lost to Toledo, 32-17.

This year, Temple appears to have a different mind-set.

The Owls had their first practice in Washington on Friday in preparation for Tuesday's 3:30 p.m. Military Bowl against Wake Forest (6-6) at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Md., and the mood appeared much more business-like than a year ago.

A year ago, Temple was coming off a 24-13 loss to Houston in the American Athletic Conference championship game. Including the bowl loss to Toledo, the Owls finished 3-4 in their final seven games. They had started the season 7-0 but dipped considerably in the second half of the season.

This season, Temple (10-3) has won seven in a row after its decisive 34-10 win at Navy in the AAC championship.

Even though coach Matt Rhule departed shortly after the title win to take the Baylor job as head coach, the Owls, while originally shaken, appear to be in game mode.

Last year, the weather in Boca Raton was exceptional all week until game time when heavy rains poured down.

On Friday, the temperature was in the upper 40s when Temple began its morning practice at St. John's College High School in Washington.

Maybe it was fitting for the weather to be chilly, making the Owls a little less comfortable than a year ago.

"Last year, we had a lot of fun during the bowl, and I don't think we took the bowl game as serious," said running back Jahad Thomas, who has a team-high 19 touchdowns this season. "The seniors and older guys have done a great job of making guys believing this is the most important game of the season."

A win over Wake Forest would also set a single-season school record for wins, which is another motivation. Then again, that motivation also existed last year.

"Last year, we were focused on the bowl game because it was our first one, and we really didn't understand what the bowl game meant," said linebacker Avery Williams. "We didn't understand you've got to go there and win, and this year we want to win."

That's not to suggest that the Owls didn't want to win last year, but there was almost a feeling that simply showing up against Toledo was all Temple had to do to ensure victory.

Toledo, obviously, had other plans.

"We have to compete at a high level, and I don't think we did that last year," said Phillip Walker, who owns a school record 28 wins as a starting quarterback. "We just expected to expected to go out and win the game, and this year we have all our guys locked in and ready to go."

Beating Navy by such a decisive fashion has set the tone for this bowl game, according to interim head coach Ed Foley. New coach Geoff Collins won't coach the Owls in the bowl game.

"We had a different urgency about us going into the Navy game, and I think we have a different urgency now," Foley said.

There is no doubt in Foley's mind that last year proved to be a motivating factor for this season.

"I think the loss to Houston in the championship game and the loss to Toledo in the Boca Raton Bowl has put our kids in a different mind-frame right now," Foley said. "I like where we are now."