Monday, November 03, 2014

Game Changers in the Temple

Going to go out on a limb here and predict the impossible: that Temple will beat Penn State this season. Sometimes, a team just gets that look of destiny - and by "destiny" I mean "the laws of probability take a double hit from the bong whenever this team is around" - and
In their opener, Temple - still theoretically reeling from losing coach Al Golden to Miami a while back - beat Vanderbilt. This was the first time they'd beaten an SEC team since the late Triassic, and cause for minor celebration on North Broad Street. 

This weekend, they took advantage of a ridiculously unlikely set of circumstances - cold rain that shut down the ECU passing attack and sent its players into hibernation - to knock off a ranked opponent for the first time since Ace of Base was still a thing. ECU outgained Temple by roughly 300 yards. It beat them in time of possession, passing yards, rushing yards, and pretty much every other measure except the score, except the Pirates also somehow managed to put the ball on the ground five times and let a team whose leading rusher for the day gained roughly the distance from where I'm sitting to my kitchen dictate tempo. 

In any just or sane universe, ECU flattens Temple here, rain or no rain. Instead, Temple somehow converts just enough of those turnovers into points and pulls  out a 20-10 victory. Destiny. Edge cases. The weird sense of humor of the football gods. Call it whatever you will - the end result is the same. Temple gets win number 5 and ECU, their win over a staggering Virginia Tech team looking less shiny by the day - drops out of the conversation for the "Group of Five" consolation bowl slot.

But with those two stretches of historical futility out of the way, can Temple fans dare to dream of knocking off the biggest prey of all? Temple hasn't beaten Penn State since 1941. They've played 40+ times; Temple has won 3. To beat Penn State and declare football supremacy in football-mad Pennsylvania - yes, states that aren't in the South can love football, too - then it will be couch-burning time in North Philly.

Because for them, this is the big one, and this year, Penn State is vulnerable. Their offensive line is in tatters. Their offense is sputtering, Their defense is worn out. They just lost to Maryland, for God's sake. And on the other side of the ball, Temple's been getting miracles all year long. If there were ever going to be a year, this would be it.

And, like I said, I'll go out on a limb and say this will be it.

Because eventually, the guys who keep winning games when they're outgained by 300 yards can make believers of us all.

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