For Penn State, losing to Temple would be unforgivable

Penn State's Bill O'Brien plays down the long win streak against Temple.
Penn State's Bill O'Brien plays down the long win streak against Temple. (GENE J. PUSKAR / Associated Press)
Posted: September 22, 2012

Penn State's defeating Temple is like a rite of fall, similar to the leaves changing colors, or the World Series, or Andy Reid mumbling, "Time's yours."

The Nittany Lions and Owls have played 28 times since 1975, and the team from Happy Valley has won each game. If you go back to Temple's last win in 1941, Penn State is 36-0-1, the tie coming in 1950, after which a victory in 1952 began the current 29-game, on-field winning streak.

However, the Owls have been making progress. They matched Penn State hit for hit in a physical 2010 encounter at Beaver Stadium but lost, 22-13. They led by 10-7 deep into the fourth quarter last year at Lincoln Financial Field, but the Lions scored with 2 minutes, 42 seconds to play and won by four.

Temple will try once again on the road Saturday to break its 70-year drought. Despite the two most recent close calls, those wearing blue in the crowd of about 100,000 - the Beaver Stadium "Blue Out" will support victims of child sexual abuse - will expect another Penn State victory.

Nittany Nation wouldn't have it any other way. Its members probably could tolerate a home loss to Ohio because they were just happy to have football back after a tumultuous summer of reports and sanctions. They could forgive Sam Ficken for missing four field-goal attempts against Virginia when one make could have turned an L into a W.

But losing to Temple? No tolerance, no forgiveness.

Think of it this way: In 2005, well before NCAA sanctions related to the Sandusky scandal vacated every Penn State win from 1998 through 2011 (seven against Temple), the Nittany Lions finished third in the nation. The Owls finished 0-11.

People in Philadelphia like to call the series a rivalry, a word with a definition that suggests the two involved teams have to exchange wins once in a while. Some Penn State-centric blogs have chastised the Philadelphia-area media for insisting on calling it a rivalry.

Thankfully for the local media, the Penn State players have played along.

"They're not really too far from here," quarterback Matt McGloin said. "They played us hard each and every year, and it's a very, very tough game. I think that they're probably going to feel pretty good after what happened last year. We were able to get out of Philly with a win there, and I think they're going to come in here and think they can beat us."

Michael Zordich, a fullback who recently has played more at tailback, has some positive memories of the series, having scored the clinching touchdown in 2010 and the winning TD last season. He's not taking anything for granted.

"Temple has grown into a very solid football team," he said. "They've competed each and every year with some great records. We don't overlook them in any sort of way. We have to get ready to play them because they certainly get ready to play us."

Despite the sanctions that prompted the departure of three starters, the Nittany Lions have a talented senior class along with some skilled underclassmen such as wide receiver Allen Robinson, defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, and defensive end (and Northeast High graduate) Deion Barnes.

But you have to think that fans are bracing for the worst after a chaotic summer. A degree of embarrassment would accompany a loss to Temple. Some would take a dim look at the Lions' prospects in the Big Ten, which starts its schedule next week.

Penn State coach Bill O'Brien wasn't around for last year's Temple game, or any of the 28 dating back to 1975. He sees an Owls team that could give the Nittany Lions problems if they aren't ready.

"Winning streaks obviously are for fans and reporters, but winning streaks don't mean anything when it comes time to kicking it off on Saturday," he said.

If Penn State isn't ready, its fans will be returning to their RVs with heads hanging, while Temple takes off on a 31/2-hour celebratory ride down Route 322.

Contact Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or Follow on Twitter @joejulesinq.


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