The Temple football team was a play away from a significant upset against Rutgers two weeks ago. Now the Owls have another chance at a big win when they host nationally-ranked Central Florida at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday.
The No. 15 Knights at 7-1 overall and 4-0 in the league have an inside track on the American Athletic Conference title after a win over Louisville. Temple is 1-8 after failing to convert a fourth down or make a fourth-down stop at Rutgers two weeks ago and losing in the final minute.
Among the Knights' significant wins this season are at Penn State and Louisville and home against Houston. Running back Storm Johnson has 719 yards and nine touchdowns, while quarterback Blake Bortles has thrown for 2,080 yards and 15 scores.
The Owls used the bye week — their last before a three-game stretch to finish the season — to recover physically and recoup. They also received a motivational speech from former Eagle great Brian Dawkins.
"He was great," said Temple coach Matt Rhule. "He said some stuff I've been saying all year and he said it and they were like ‘That's a good point.' That's the kind of credibility he had."
The players know they won't be going to a bowl game this year, but they still want to earn their first win in the new league and finish strong to gain some momentum for next year, considering the Owls' youth.
"This is a fun team to coach, which might sound crazy because of the record," said Rhule. "But they're buying what we're saying. As we move forward, things look bright. It was definitely frustrating to not win that (Rutgers) game. I'm looking at the stability and strength of the program and seeing growth, trying to build this for the long haul. But it's extremely important (to get some wins), it's winning time now."
Senior wide receiver Ryan Alderman said the Owls are lamenting the last two losses to Rutgers and SMU in which they saw second-half leads slip away.
"I wouldn't say angry, more hungry, we're looking to make the most out of what we have left," he said. "It seems like we've had some bad luck. We have to keep pushing.
"UCF is a really good team. They have playmakers on offense, they fly around on defense, it's going to be tough. We've put in a lot of work whether it shows or not, but it would feel good to get a win."
Added sophomore linebacker Tyler Matakevich: "At the end of the tunnel there's always light. We're trying to gain momentum to look forward to next year. To be honest we're beating ourselves. We just have to keep playing and just finish."
Chance At Redemption
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