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The History Of The Penn State-Temple Football “Rivalry”

Penn Staters typically take the signs displayed outside of Local Whiskey at face value. This one sat on Beaver Avenue during last year’s Penn State-Temple game, and it merely scratches the surface of Penn State’s dominance in this in-state “rivalry.”


Penn State football heads into this weekend with a 39-3-1 record against Temple — and no, that isn’t a typo. You read those figures correctly.

The scale of Penn State’s superiority against our neighbors in Philadelphia spans across decades. The Nittany Lions currently boast a 31-game winning streak over Temple, one they to extend to 32 by Saturday night. Penn State’s tallied a win in every meeting with Temple for a healthy 65 years, and it would have been 72 if Temple hadn’t managed to tie Penn State in 1950.

Through 83 years and 43 games, Temple has only defeated Penn State three times. In that same span of time, 12 different U.S. Presidents served in the Oval Office, and six major wars occurred. I mean, that’s not even one win per decade! To put it into perspective. the Owls haven’t defeated the Nittany Lions since 1941: the year the Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor and signaled the United States’ entry into World War Two. For you history buffs, that’s the same era as the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration.

To be fair, Temple did have a 3-1 series lead at one point. The Owls emerged victorious from the first meeting between the two Pennsylvania schools in 1931, going on to capture the second in 1932, and finally earned their third victory in the fourth matchup in 1941. But that remains the extent of their success against the Nittany Lions. Temple’s most recent victory remains fresh in the minds of fans from two generations ago, but is nothing more than a history lesson to present-day supporters.

Penn State’s largest margin of victory against Temple occurred in 1995, where the Nittany Lions thrashed the Owls in a merciless 66-14 beatdown. For the more defensive-minded fans keeping score at home, Temple owns two shutouts against Penn State, while the Nittany Lions own a whopping ten.

It’s a pretty unfair comparison to begin with, though. Penn State football has cracked the AP Poll 591 times to Temple’s measely 8. The Nittany Lions have molded 338 NFL draft picks, while the Owls boast 65. There isn’t one statistic in the history of the Penn State-Temple rivalry that falls in Temple’s favor.

Wins do not always tell the full story, but a 31-3 record certainly paints a crystal-clear picture. Even so, the average score of a Penn State-Temple game is 29.3-9.1 — in favor of Penn State, if you haven’t picked up on the overriding theme of this “rivalry.”  These aren’t exactly nail-biters, either. In fact, Penn State held Temple to fewer than 21 points in the team’s last 12 meetings. In 1994, Temple managed to only lose to the tune of 48-21, but that was 1994. “The Sign” by Ace of Base was probably playing at the game, and a good amount of current Penn State students weren’t even alive to see Temple score more than 21 points against their alma mater.

We are likely to see a stronger Temple team on display at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday, one far better than the team Penn State trampled 30-12 last season. A brand new football season always induces a bit of uncertainty and anxiety, and roster turnover leads to fresh new faces being added to the mix. 2015 is a new season, and anything can happen.

But if one thing’s for certain, it’s that the odds are seemingly in Penn State’s favor. History is cyclical, after all.

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About the Author

Sara Civian

Sara Civian is one of Onward State's three ridiculously good looking managing editors, a hockey writer at heart, and an Oxford comma Stan. She's a senior majoring in journalism, minoring in history, and living at Bill Pickle's Tap Room. Her favorite pastimes are telling people she's from Boston, watching the Bruins, and meticulously dissecting the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album. She's seen Third Eye Blind live 14 times. If you really hate yourself, you can follow her at @SaraCivian or email her at [email protected].

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