CINCINNATI – The Temple football team is 2-0, with victories over Penn State and Cincinnati. Sure, it’s only two games. Historically speaking, though, it just might be the program’s best start in 70 years.
Five years ago, the Owls started 3-0 – with a last-minute win over Villanova, an overtime win over Central Michigan, and a signature win over eventual 2010 Big East champ UConn.
Further back, Coach Wayne Hardin guided his team to a 3-0 start in the 1979 Garden State Bowl season – with wins over West Virginia, Drake, and Delaware.
And the Owls were in the midst of a headline-grabbing, 14-game win streak when quarterback Steve Joachim spearheaded a 6-0 start in 1974. But the program was still transitioning to a major college schedule at that time – wins over Rhode Island, Boston College, Marshall, Holy Cross, Southern Illinois, and Delaware pushed Hardin’s veer offense to 19th in the AP Poll. (Coincidentally, the 6-0 start and 14-game win streak were snapped the very next week by a 22-20 loss to Cincinnati.)
So we’re left to look way back in the Cherry and White history books – to 1945, in fact – to find something that compares favorably with this year’s 2-0 start.
The Owls were still playing major college football at that time (they dropped to a lower division in the early-50s.). Coach Ray Morrison piloted the team to a 6-0 start in 1945, which put Temple in the conversation for the Orange Bowl, before those hopes were dashed by a loss to ... you guessed it ... Penn State.
Coach Matt Rhule’s team entered the national conversation – or at least gained national attention – with 10 sacks in its season-opening win over the Nittany Lions. The exclamation point on Saturday night’s win over the Bearcats was four interceptions of UC quarterback Gunner Kiel – including Tyler Matakevich’s last-minute clincher in the endzone.
Overall, the Temple defense forced five turnovers, while Jahad Thomas was the offensive playmaker – with a 100-yard kickoff return and a 56-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. And quarterback P.J. Walker was the efficient orchestrator, completing 13 of 20 passes for 81 yards and two touchdowns – and no interceptions or fumbles.
Beating the Bearcats on the road will move the Owls close to, or possibly into, the Top 25. (UC Coach Tommy Tuberville has them ranked No. 23 in his entry to this week’s USA Today Coaches Poll.)
But closer to home, it just might rank as their best start since World War II.