Penn State's O'Brien not interested in ancient history with Temple

Michael Mauti's fourth-quarter interception set up Penn State's game-winning touchdown against Temple last season at the Linc.
Michael Mauti's fourth-quarter interception set up Penn State's game-winning touchdown against Temple last season at the Linc. (FILE PHOTO)
Posted: September 21, 2012

STATE COLLEGE - This is what Temple always looks forward to. It's the Owls' annual shot at Penn State, one they've had every year since 2006 but one they haven't capitalized on since 1941.

Just don't mention it to Lions coach Bill O'Brien.

"At no point in time do I ever address winning streaks. That has nothing to do with this game," O'Brien said with emphasis earlier this week. "Every year is different. I don't know what they were like in [1941], but in 2012, this is an excellent Temple team with a bunch of good players."

That's the steadfast attitude O'Brien has taken toward the in-state rivalry, at least in front of the media. He's said matching the intensity that Temple (1-1) will surely bring to Beaver Stadium on Saturday will not be an issue, as every game the Lions (1-2) play is "very, very vital."

Still, Temple and Penn State have much more history together than Penn State and Virginia or Ohio. Excluding vacated wins, Penn State is 37-3-1 all-time against the Owls, the Lions dominating by a combined score of 154-9 from 2006-09. But in the past 2 years, Temple has forced the opposition to take it more seriously. Penn State bested Temple by only nine points in 2010 and only four last season, and now the Owls are a member of the Big East after calling the MAC home for 5 years.

As Temple coach Steve Addazio says, the Owls' rivalry with Penn State is based on the underdog mentality they've had when facing the Lions. Coming off a bye, his team has been practicing in full pads all week to prepare to match the Nittany Lions' toughness.

"Coming from Philly, it would be a big game for Temple to be able to beat Penn State," said Penn State defensive end Deion Barnes, a Philadelphia native. "So I would imagine that they would come here more intensified."

Addazio, a friend of O'Brien's, said he has been thoroughly impressed with how hard the first-year coach has his Lions playing. O'Brien said Addazio has been supportive of Penn State and he appreciates the encouragement from the man who last season led Temple to its first bowl win since 1979.

But at the end of the day, a rivalry is a rivalry.

"We definitely look at it as a great challenge, as we do every game, but we want to get this win a little bit more maybe than other games because it's a rivalry," said Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson. "I'm not going to say we don't want to win other games, but we just want to give a little bit more, maybe, because it's Temple. We know how hard they're going to try to beat us, so we gotta try to go out there and win."

The game will be the second "Blue Out" at Beaver Stadium, with all fans encouraged to wear blue to support the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and victims of child sexual abuse. Fans also wore blue to Beaver Stadium against Nebraska last season on the Saturday after late coach Joe Paterno was fired in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sexual-abuse scandal.

The importance of the "Blue Out'' is not lost on O'Brien.

"I believe it's going to be a great day for the Penn State community," O'Brien said. " . . . To have the crowd dressed in blue T-shirts for the 'Blue Out' game and to help add awareness to the child-abuse problem in this country and everywhere, I think it's going to be a great day."

At last year's "Blue Out,'' the players from both teams famously gathered at the middle of the field for a pregame prayer.

Prediction

Penn State, a seven-point favorite, takes it, 27-3. The Lions seem to be finding their groove, and outmatch Temple at just about every position. The Nittany Lions want to go into their first Big Ten road game, next week against Illinois, with all the momentum they can muster, and back-to-back blowouts should do just that.

AGENDA

Who: Temple (1-1) at Penn State (1-2)

When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.

Where: Beaver Stadium

TV: 6-ABC

Radio: WIP (610-AM), WNTP (990-AM)

Three things Penn State must do:

1. PSU sophomore receiver Allen Robinson already has caught 24 balls. That's half of the sophomore record of 48, set by Bobby Engram (1993) and Deon Butler (2006). After going off against Navy last week to the tune of five catches for 136 yards and three touchdowns, Robinson's name is quickly becoming household among the Penn State faithful.

2. Penn State has zero touchdowns rushing and eight passing, perhaps the most obvious sign of the different philosophies of Bill O'Brien and Joe Paterno. O'Brien says there is room for improvement in the rushing game, and some of that falls on him for not calling enough runs, as Penn State has thrown 112 times and rushed 92. But with running backs Bill Belton and Derek Day listed only as possible for Saturday, it remains to be seen how effective the running game can be against the Owls.

3. Will the offense turn the ball over? It hasn't since the season opener, and when O'Brien was asked about it this week, he knocked on wood, just like Matt McGloin did after the Navy win. Who knows? Perhaps being superstitious will work to the Lions' advantage.

Three things Temple must do:

1. The Owls obviously can't be falling behind by 23 in the first half like they did against Maryland. Despite their near comeback, like a lot of teams they're not built for playing from off the pace.

2. Establish its running game, which is the key to the Owls' offensive philosophy. It won't be easy against PSU's front seven, which is the strength of that unit. If the Owls can move it on the ground, it allows them to manage the game and opens up things for their play-action passing.

3. Get to the fourth quarter with a shot. That's all they can really ask for. They've done that in the last two meetings. And if it comes down to a kick, I'll take my chances with Brandon McManus over Sam Ficken.

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Daily News staff writer Mike Kern contributed to this report.

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