Temple moves on in conference play out of national spotlight
PHILADELPHIA (AP) The caption on Temple's football website pops in bold, black letters: GAMEDAY.
No, it's not a pitch for the ESPN college football pregame show that shut down city streets, herded students on to shuttle buses not long after last call, and united the Phillie Phanatic and Hooter the Owl on the same stage.
This was a reminder a far more understated game was ahead for No. 23 Temple.
Up next, a date at lowly SMU.
The bright lights, the media horde and those Notre Dame Fighting Irish that made Temple the talk of college football for the first time in its mostly humdrum history have fled Philly and moved on to the next big thing.
The Owls are still here, not unlike reality stars who leave cushy made-for-TV apartments, are voted off the island or told to pack their bags because they can't carry a tune. Those stars often look teary-eyed into the camera and vow the public hasn't heard the last of them. Then they fall back into obscurity.
Temple vowed it's here to stay, in the national rankings and as an American Athletic Conference championship contender.
The Owls (7-1, 4-0 AAC) showed they were no fluke in a 24-20 loss to Notre Dame in front of 69,280 fans at Lincoln Financial Field. But as much as coach Matt Rhule and the Owls would have loved to win, the big win for the program was really the week leading up to last Saturday night.
Temple was splashed on the front and back pages of the Philly papers, Rhule was a media darling, and stories on the Owls were one of the top links on every major college football website. The Owls were a one-team marketing campaign for a public university hoping to raise funds for an on-campus stadium.
''I don't know if our team has let it go yet. It's a scary thought,'' Rhule said this week. ''You have to let it go. Life moves on. No one cares about what happened.''
They better let it go, because a stumble at SMU (1-7, 0-4) could obliterate all the Owls have worked toward this season.
Rhule said he was a ''raving maniac'' at Tuesday's practice to light the proverbial fire under a team still reeling from the stinging defeat.
''I'm glad it hurts,'' Rhule said. ''The worst thing in the world is when guys are too cool and they're like, it wasn't my fault.''
The Owls are still in position to play in the conference championship game on Dec. 5. Temple's 4-0 mark in the East is good enough for a two-game lead in the division while Memphis, Houston and Navy are all 4-0 in the West.
Temple plays Friday night at SMU followed by another road game at South Florida.
Sorry, Notre Dame, the Owls' biggest game of the season may actually come Nov. 21 against No. 15 Memphis. The Owls came in 22nd in the College Football Playoff selection committee rankings and the unbeaten Cougars were 25th.
If the Owls keep winning, a major bowl game could be on the schedule, and then they'll return to the national spotlight.
They'll be ready - the Owls have lived through all the hype before.
''I believe in this team and I believe in these guys,'' Rhule said. ''Our guys will rally, they just aren't there yet.''