When it comes to great football moments about the only thing Temple has had in common with Alabama through the years is the color of its uniforms. While the Crimson Tide has rolled to countless national championships and annual bowl games, the Owls have had slightly less success.
Perhaps that’s what’s making what’s happening now so special. Starting with their opening game win over Penn State, ending a 39-game string of futility stretching back to 1941, these Owls have been a team on a mission. Not to win the new AAC championship, or to get themselves ranked and get to a bowl game.
Just to go 1-0 every week.
“It’s great for the program and I’m sure the fans are fired up,” said senior defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis, who led a relentless pass rush in Saturday’s 49-10 romp over Tulane, which boosted Temple to 5-0 for the first time since 1974. “But it’s not about being 1-0, 2-0, 3-0, 4-0, 5-0. It’s about being 1-0 every week. Just play one snap at a time.. One game at a time.”
Still, this is unchartered territory for a program that’s was once so far down it was kicked to the curb by the Big East and was 2-10 just two years ago in Matt Rhule’s first season. But these Owls seem wiser than their predecessors.
They intend to stick strictly to business and tune out the “noise.”
"If you start buying into the hype… if people start telling you how great you are and you start listening to the noise, you might be overconfident,” said the 6-foot-4, 292 pound Ioannidis, who had 1.5 sacks for a defense that held the Green Wave to just 110 net yards. “I don’t listen. I’m sure it’s out there, but I don’t keep an ear to the ground for it.”
Nor does Rhule, whose club took command after a pair of fumbles put them in a 10-7 hole, scoring 42 unanswered points.
“We are one game better than we were last year,” said Rhule, whose club proceeded to drop five of its next six, before salvaging a .500 season with a win at Tulane. “ We were 4-1 last year and we’re 5-0 this year. Make no mistake, I want to finish the year in the top 25. But right now I don’t care.”
With 0-6 Central Florida here Saturday night followed by a trip to East Carolina, before their Halloween date with Notre Dame at the Linc, the fervor around the Owls only figures to grow. Of course, none of them were around back in ’74 when Steve Joachim and Joe Klecko’s led Wayne Hardin’s Owls to a 6-0 start, before winding up 8-2. Or, going way back in history to when Glenn “Pop” Warner’s 1935 team lost in the very first Sugar Bowl to, ironically, Tulane.
While they appreciate all the commotion — even if it lands them a spot in the polls —it won’t go to their heads.
“If that comes, it comes,” said Ioannidis, whose constant pressure on Tulane quarterback Tanner Lee led to a pair of interceptions, Sean Chandler returning one 22 yards to the house. “but a lot times that can be distracting. It can’t make you play better, but it can make you play worse.”
For evidence they need only look back to when UMass had them on the ropes a few weeks back, before Temple miraculously pulled out a 25-23 last second win.
“That game made us realize every team is tough,” said redshirt freshman tight end Kip Patton, whose 43-yard reception set up Jahad Thomas for the touchdown that put Temple ahead to stay. “Because UMass, that was us last year. Any team is capable of winning. So we have to have the same mentality what’s next,? We just have to play that day.”
It’s working well so far, even though their work isn’t even half done. In fact, for 5-0 Temple, though, after being down for so, so long, the fun may just be starting