Winless Temple ready for a vengeful Army team
Philadelphia Daily News
PHILADELPHIA — Temple has lost 10 of its last 11 games, including all six this season. That lone win was at Army, 63-32, last November. The Cadets (3-4), who already have one one more win than they did in 2012, are the opponent Saturday afternoon at the Linc, where the Owls have dropped six straight. The last time Army played them in South Philly, 2 years ago, the Owls won, 42-14. Counting Navy, the Cadets have lost their last 10 in South Philly.
The Owls, who lost by 18 last week at Cincinnati, are slight favorites. The best way to beat an option team, of course, is to keep its offense off the field. And scoring 63 doesn't hurt, either. The Owls have been vulnerable to the pass. The Cadets are averaging a national-best 352 yards per on the ground, including 518 in last week's 50-25 win over Eastern Michigan. Last year, the Owls set a program record at Michie Stadium with 534. Montel Harris accounted for 351 of them. But his eligibility expired.
First-year coach Matt Rhule is using a whole bunch of first- and second-year guys, including true freshman quarterback P.J. Clark, who'll be making his second start. It doesn't make things easier. At least not in the short run. Mostly what they could use right now is a hug. But nobody's feeling sorry for them. You are what you are. In their case, that means being one of eight FBS teams that is still looking to celebrate something. Only two Temple coaches — Al Golden (0-8) and Jerry Berndt (0-10) — have taken longer to get their first win. It's not the kind of list you want to be on.
It didn't seem to stop Golden from getting it done. Rhule was part of that transformation as an assistant. Halfway through his debut he remains as confident as possible, especially for a guy who says he's not real patient by nature. What coach is?
"You'd rather be playing with 22-year-olds than 18-year-olds," he said. "But as disappointed as I am, I'm having a lot of fun coaching these guys. Every week we keep getting better and better. It just hasn't been good enough yet. There's no consolation prize.
"I think once they get a win, they'll get wins. I don't think it'll be just one. It's not like [Golden's] first year [in 2006]. They've shown at times that they can compete, and for long stretches. I think a lot of people recognize what these guys are going to be. It wasn't pretty against Cincinnati, but our team fought. We're working so much harder than they did at the start of the year. You'd like them to get a win so you can say, this is why you work hard. They're going to have to earn it. Before you can win, you have to eliminate the things that cause you to lose."
Like the ill-timed penalties. Or the fact that their two freshman kickers have made one of six field goals, 15 fewer than the opposition. Or all the overthrown long passes that could have been big plays. When you're not a good team, that stuff happens.
"We feel like we're just one game away," said senior safety Abdul Smith. "Coach says that losing and winning are both contagious. A couple of those games we coulda, shoulda. At the end of the day we didn't win.
"I don't know if Lincoln Financial Field is cursed. The Eagles haven't won [there] in awhile [either, not since last September]."
After this, they're at SMU (1-4) and Rutgers (4-2). The next home game is with Central Florida (4-1).
SMU, which can chuck it, has lost to unbeaten Texas Tech and once-beaten Texas A&M. It also took Rutgers to overtime. There's also games at the end against winless Connecticut and Memphis (1-4). So they'll have more opportunities. But they've already missed out on what looked like good chances against Houston, Fordham and Idaho. And some teams only get so many.
"I can tell you this team's real hungry," said fifth-year senior Chris Coyer, a former starting QB who's caught 13 passes as the starting tight end. "We haven't put together a complete game. We've seen glimpses at times, if you want to put it that way. We know we will. It's just a matter of when. We're trying to make that week this week.
"We know we have to play hard, above all else, against a team like Army. They're coming to smack you in the mouth, every play. These guys are about to fight wars for us . . . Whenever you lose a game like [they did last year] it sticks in the back of your mind."
Added Rhule: "I'm sure Army's thought about that all year. A lot of guys we have playing this week didn't play last year."
The most encouraging thing? One day they'll be 22.