The euphoria over the win over Penn State took place in the stands and parking lots of Lincoln Financial Field last Saturday as tortured fans who had been part of over seven decades of disappointment exulted.
The 27-10 win over Penn State was a dominating performance that stamped Temple as a rising program. Head coach Matt Rhule, speaking around 7 p.m. after the wins, noted he would be calling recruits that night.
But for Rhule and the players on the team, the win over Penn State was only part of the journey – a significant part, perhaps, but a part nonetheless. The mood was business-like from Rhule down to his players, and that is the way the coach wanted it.
“They didn’t walk off like they didn’t expect to win,” said Rhule. “I’m happy they had a win of this magnitude, but you’ll hear me say it. We have to get ready for the next one. We have to move forward.”
One of Rhule’s mantras has been consistency. Temple put together a similarly complete performance at Vanderbilt, 37-7, last year with a showing that signaled a drastic defensive change from the 2-10 season of 2013.
And while the game was a sign of things to come as the defense showed continued improvement, Week 2 was a letdown with a 31-24 loss to Navy. The Owls recovered to start 4-1 but eventually hit another bump in the road and finished 6-6.
The loss continued a recent history of not being able to back up strong performances.
For Rhule, a State College native and Penn State graduate, a win in this Saturday’s 8 p.m. contest at Cincinnati would mean even more than a win against Penn State.
"It feels good, but this is only one of many wins this year," said junior quarterback P.J. Walker minutes after the game. "I'm looking past it already, on to Cincinnati."
First of all, Saturday's is a conference game between two East Division teams that figure to be in the mix for the American Athletic Conference title. Secondly, it would show a maturity in the players to handle success and move on, a difference for programs which are simply good and those that are great.
Temple’s motto is “What’s next?” That applies to the next play on the field as much as the next game on the schedule.
“We take it one game at a time," said linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who had three sacks. "Beating Penn State is going to get people talking. You just have to block it out. We beat them, so what's next? We have Cincinnati. That's our mindset."
The Owls have talked since the summer about not over-emphasizing a single game and here will be the chance to back up their words. Even a step back wouldn’t take away all the gains made against Penn State – going into the season a split in the first two games, among the toughest on the schedule would have seemed reasonable – but a victory would continue moving the program forward.
“Hopefully this won’t be the highlight of the season,” said Rhule. “That’s my goal.”
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