The Temple Owls, not the Eagles, are the one hot football team at the Linc | Mike Jensen
After stumbling out of the gate, Temple has won five of six games.
You showed up at Temple because the Owls were 0-2 — unexpectedly 0-2, after games against the two opponents scheduled to provide W's — and a Temple administrator mentioned how this 2018 team reminds him of the Owls team of a couple of years back that started slow and went on to win the American Athletic Conference title, that all AAC goals were still attainable.
You were like … whaaat?
Then Temple coach Geoff Collins walked in the room and talked about how proud he was of his guys, how they fought and competed for 60 minutes against Buffalo, they didn't get down, how he's excited about his football team, that it continued to get better.
"I'm sure the outside world wants me to be doom and gloom,'' Collins said that day.
If it seemed like some kind of alternate reality at 10th and Diamond, it turned out to be October's reality. That Buffalo team that beat Temple with a last-minute TD at the Linc is now 7-1, undefeated in the Mid-American Conference. The Owls showed up next at Maryland, which had already beaten Texas, and the final score was Temple 35, Terps 14. Temple's only loss since Sept. 8 was at Boston College, and that was a three-point game in the last four minutes.
Owls fans can't help but wince and say the current 5-3 mark could have been 7-1 or even 8-0. But on Sept. 9, you looked at the schedule and couldn't see more than a win or two on the whole thing. The Collins era seemed to be teetering, despite his claims of belief in his "organization,'' as he likes to call it.
A QB change was one key. Frank Nutile was key to last season's turnaround, but going to Anthony Russo has done the trick this time. He's made enough plays and Temple has had a strong enough run game that a dominant defense has been able to shine.
The only big mistake by Collins was allowing a hobbled Ryquell Armstead back into a game late, and the star tailback got hobbled more and has missed the last two games. Collins later explained his thinking — how games are never over; he's seen big leads erased quickly — but the East Carolina game was over, the score 42-3 in the fourth quarter. He messed up.
So what happens? Temple wins the last two games anyway, at Navy and against 20th-ranked Cincinnati. Owls players have continually shown their own belief in their head coach. Whatever happens next Thursday night at undefeated Central Florida, the team has proved its legitimacy.
There are two teams that play football regularly at the Linc. If on Sept. 10, you'd have been told one of those teams would win five of its next six and the other would lose four of its next six, you'd have probably chanted E-A-G-L-E-S and mumbled something about that's too bad about Temple.
Instead, Temple has the top scoring defense in the AAC, the most sacks, the most interceptions. The Owls are the team you expected to see before the losses to Villanova and Buffalo. The idea that better athletes have come to this program in the last few years has proved true. Since that Buffalo game, Temple has not been outscored in the second half. The cumulative second-half scores have been Temple 83, Opponents 49.
So next week, you can expect Collins to walk in a room and talk about how proud he is of guys, how they fight and compete for 60 minutes, they don't get down, that he's excited about this team that continues to get better.
An administrator might look at you and say all the season goals are attainable.
You'll just nod, since he's stating the obvious.