Temple football coach Matt Rhule doesn’t want to make too much out of Saturday’s game at Penn State.
Both the Owls and Nittany Lions can become bowl eligible with a win on Saturday at Beaver Stadium as each team comes into the contest at 5-4, which makes it a huge game in its own right.
But Rhule is a Penn State native and graduate who will be returning to State College as a head coach for the first time. And the Owls will be trying to end 73 years of frustration against the Nittany Lions, who they haven’t beaten since 1941. Overall, the Nittany Lions are 38-3-1 against the Owls.
To focus on anything but the game – which will kick off at noon on ESPN2 – would be a mistake, according to the second-year head coach.
“I don’t want to demean (what it would mean to beat Penn State),” said Rhule. “But the way you do it is by playing. You start talking about everything else but playing and you’re taking yourself away from how to beat them.
“If you’re saying it’s Penn State week, it’s the wrong mindset. It’s Temple week. We have to focus on us.”
Despite his attachment to the town, Rhule said he is looking at this game like any other. Former Temple coach Al Golden, also a Penn State graduate, often said the same before the Owls’ trips to Happy Valley.
“It feels the same,” said Rhule. “I don’t know how I’ll feel when I get there, but right now it feels the same as any other game."
The Owls are coming into the game beat up as they are piecing together a patchwork line and leading receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick spent much of the week on crutches. Finding a way to generate offense will be a challenge.
“We just have to find a thing or two that works and keep plugging,” said Rhule.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Owls will be tasked with slowing down Christian Hackenburg and running back Bill Belton.
“Hackenburg is one of the best quarterbacks in the country,” said Rhule. “He’s in control, he’s smart, he makes every throw.”
The Nittany Lions do look somewhat vulnerable as they have lost four of their last five, snapping a four-game skid with a less-than-impressive 13-7 victory over Indiana.
Ending almost three-quarters of a century of frustration and becoming bowl eligible at the same time would have to go down as one of the biggest wins in program history.
But the Owls aren’t focused on history, bowls or the 100,000+ plus fans that should be in attendance. It will be on simply winning a football game.
“It would be exciting to do it, I’m sure,” acknowledged Rhule. “But we’ll have to play really good football to do it.”
Rhule: Penn State "just another game"
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