They'll kick off Tuesday afternoon in Annapolis without their old head coach, with an interim man in charge, the next man ready to take over. So you expect this to faze Temple Owls football players? Let's not.
From the start, this group has beaten the odds. After an opening upset loss to Army, the 2016 Owls beat Vegas odds the rest of the way. In their careers, they beat all the odds to put up consecutive 10-win seasons, to have a chance Tuesday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium to beat Wake Forest in the Military Bowl and set a Temple record for most victories in a season.
At a press conference last week, interim head coach Ed Foley was asked whether senior defensive star Haason Reddick epitomized this group of seniors, that began their run with a 2-10 season. Reddick is now a dominant defensive end with an NFL future. He showed up as a true walk-on who had played running back and defensive back in high school. After his redshirt year, he was asked not to come back, except there was a coaching change, and one of the assistants asked the new head coach to keep this guy Reddick. There was something there.
That something turned out to be spectacular as Reddick moved from the secondary to linebacker and then to end, putting on weight, keeping his quickness. Maybe he'll be a linebacker again at the next level,
Foley's answer when asked about Reddick kind of told the story of this group of Owls.
"I don't want to take anything away from Haason, but there's a lot of guys who epitomize what we're all about," said Foley, who has been here the whole time and was assistant head coach and special teams coach under Matt Rhule.
Foley began talking about all the guys he's personally going to miss, Reddick certainly, but also Avery Ellis - "a guy nobody thought was going to play here." Foley pointed out the couple of blocked punts Ellis had this season in addition to his play on the defensive line, how he showed up from Montclair High with another guy, Steph Marshall, who ended up as an all-AAC honorable mention pick this season at linebacker.
"A little bit under the radar," Foley said. "But I'll miss those two guys more than anybody who has ever walked out of this building. They fought tooth and nail for everything. . . . Nobody thought they were going to play at the Division I level. They fought and clawed their way through and ended up being really, really good football players."
Then Foley thought of senior Avery Williams, all-AAC second team at linebacker, switched over from running back only because there was a question of his future on the offensive side. "He's been nothing but an unbelievable effort guy over there," Foley said.
All these guys, he said, "They all had maybe a little wart on them in recruiting or when they got in here. They were a little too small or a little too slow or they didn't get recruited at this place for one reason or another and they meshed and jelled together to hopefully be the greatest Temple team ever."
There's a bunch more guys, Foley added.
"You're going to get me going here. You guys are going to be here all day," Foley said.
He talked about senior tight end Colin Thompson being medically disqualified from Florida, got cleared, got to Temple, kept grinding, gradually turned into something special.
"From a different kind of path," Foley said. "Watch where they came from and all their backgrounds and everything that they've done and all that they've worked through and the fact that they're all together, in the same room, with their arms around each other, based on where they came from . . . It's unbelievable."
This group is favored by double digits Tuesday for a reason. They've earned the right to be the favorite over a 6-6 Power 5 team, to be expected to keep their place in the top 25 rankings. Even in the three games Temple lost this season, these Owls were within a touchdown in the final 10 minutes against Army and at Penn State and Memphis. They were never out of it, all season. What are the odds of that?
These guys will tell you, odds are just another thing meant to be beaten.