Seventy-One Year Unbeaten Streak On the Line
The arrival of late September has once again brought about the yearly question: Is this the year Temple beats Penn State?
If things go right for the Nittany Lions, the question will have to wait until 2014 as the teams are not scheduled to play next season. This is a question that could have been asked for a long time. After all, the Owls have not defeated the Nittany Lions since October 18, 1941. The two squads played to a tie in 1950. Twenty nine straight wins have followed for the Nittany Lions, but the last few have been of a much tepid variety.
This question was first thrown around two years ago. Temple entered Beaver Stadium as a dangerous team that was coming off its first bowl appearance in thirty years. Former Penn State tight end and then head coach Al Golden turned the program around following the miserable tenure of Bobby Wallace. Temple was competitive for the first time in a long time and had a lead at halftime but failed to hold off the Nittany Lions in the second half.
Last season at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia was scarier. There were four combined turnovers and eleven penalties between the two teams. The broadcast constantly focused a camera on a press box with dark, closed windows that was said to feature Joe Paterno, Jay Paterno, and Galen Hall. After trailing for much of the day, the Nittany Lions took a 14-10 lead with three minutes remaining courtesy of a Michael Zordich touchdown. Somehow, they escaped.
The question first came about as a result of two vulnerable Penn State teams, but that is only a small part of it. The bigger reason for the closer contests is the improved Temple teams. As recently as 2006, the Owls went 1-11 and lost 47-0 to their in-state rival. Five years later, they won a bowl game and came within mere minutes of defeating the Nittany Lions.
Second year head coach Steve Addazio is now trying to finish what Al Golden started as Bill O’Brien tries to keep the unbeaten streak going that, including himself, has spanned five head coaches in Happy Valley.
A look at a few Owls players to watch out for tomorrow:
Chris Coyer #10 – Coyer makes this list more because of his position and less due to his statistics. The junior quarterback is in his first year as a full time starter. While he has three touchdown passes compared with one interception through two games, he has struggled to find receivers, completing only twelve total passes and registering a 414% completion percentage. While Coyer make not strike fear into opposing secondaries, he is a threat to take off and run with 13 and 17 carries respectively against Villanova and Maryland.
Matt Brown #2 – Stud running back Bernard Pierce may be gone, but the Owls still have a pretty good one. If the defense loses focus just for a second, the speedy 5-5 165 lb. running back will make them pay with a big play. Brown struggled to find consistency against Maryland two weeks ago. The matchup between him and Penn State’s front seven will be a good one.
Montel Harris #8 -- Five inches taller and 40 lb. heavier than Brown, the senior transfer from Boston College should be back after sitting out the Owls’ loss to Maryland with a hamstring injury. He will be a nice compliment to Brown out of the backfield. If Temple pulls off the upset, they will need to wear down the Nittany Lions defense. Harris is the guy to help out with that.
Nate D. Smith #35 – The linebacker has been incredibly active through two games, forcing three fumbles and leading the Owls defense with eighteen tackles. Ever since Bill Belton’s fumble against Ohio, the Nittany Lions have done a good job when it comes to ball security. Smith will try to change that tomorrow.
Kevin Newsome #7 -- The former Penn State quarterback gets thrown in here as a wildcard. He has not played yet this season and will not play quarterback tomorrow but may see some snaps at wide receiver.
A few things to look for from Penn State:
Running Back by Committee -- With the status of Derek Day and Bill Belton still unknown, expect a lot of Zordich and Dukes once again. Day did practice on Wednesday, but either way, running back has become a rotation for the time being in this offense.
More Paul Jones – Bill O’Brien and Matt McGloin both want to get Jones more involved as an F tight end in the offense. Look for him to receive more snaps with the opportunity to build upon his one catch last week.
Defense Puts Eight in the Box -- Look for Ted Roof to make every attempt to take away the Owls passing game and make Coyer beat the secondary. The defensive backs will have every opportunity to record an interception for the first time this season.
A Receiver Besides Allen Robinson Steps Up – Temple throws some double coverage his way after the huge game against Navy. Someone will benefit from it.
Current Penn State players know that this is not their father’s Temple Owls, but they’re arguably not as good as the 2011 Owls either after losing Pierce and a few other key players to the NFL. A strong, disciplined effort tomorrow should keep the unbeaten streak alive until at least 2014.
By The Numbers: The Nittany Lions do not have a rushing touchdown in three games. They have a good chance to get their first tomorrow as the Owls have allowed three in two games.
Blast from the Past: While Temple has not emerged victorious from this matchup since 1941, they did win the first ever meeting between the schools. The game took place on October 10, 1931– A 12-0 victory for the Owls.