After watching his team blow four fourth quarter leads, six in the second half overall last year while going 2-10, head coach Matt Rhule knew something had to change if Temple was to ever be taken seriously.
So long before this current season got underway, which culminated in Saturday’s 20-10 stunning upset of No. 23 ranked East Carolina in the cold and rain at the Linc, he began to put his plan in motion.Never again.
"We just made a decision,’’Rhule said after the Owls (5-3) recovered five fumbles to earn their first win over a ranked opponent since beating No. 14 Virginia Tech in 1998. "We may win or lose, but never again would we not do our job or pay attention to detail down the stretch.That was our rallying cry."
Everywhere they turned, then, this off-season they saw those words.
"When I first got here I could see the defense had shirts. ‘Never again,’’ said safety Alex Wells. "They had posters on the walls, ‘Never again.'Everyone bought in."
Not only haven’t the Owls given any games away like in 2013, but they’ve consistently put teams away.
But knocking off Vanderbilt, Delaware State, Connecticut and Tulsa is one thing.
Beating a ranked opponent at home for the first time ever, despite being outgained 432-135, is a loud statement. One that’s sure to register with a bowl committee, with Temple now just a win away from being bowl eligible
"It was a remembrance not being able to finish last year," Tyler Matakevich said. "We said ‘Never again.'Last year we were praying for the clock to go down. This year we don’t even look at it.It’s just a different mentality. The fourth quarter is when we’re at our best."
They didn’t need to be in this one, having built a 20-3 lead heading into the fourth on Tavon Young’s 63-yard fumble return and two short Kenneth Harper touchdown runs. But Temple made sure ECU (6-2) never had a chance to come back to complete its biggest win in years.
Beat Memphis here Friday and a bowl game probably won’t be far behind.