Players fired up for Temple's return to Big East play

Marcus Green (41) says the Owls are motivated to show they belongs in the Big East.
Marcus Green (41) says the Owls are motivated to show they belongs in the Big East. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: October 04, 2012

ON SATURDAY afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field, Temple will play its first Big East football game in nearly 8 years. The Owls have known for 7 months that this day was coming. But now that it's finally upon them, well . . .

"It's what you want to do," said senior defensive end Marcus Green, one of the captains. "You always want to get into conference play, so we're real excited it's here. We want to get started."

For the past four five seasons, Temple played in the Mid-American Conference, where it finished 5-3 in each of the last 2 years. Now they're back in a BCS conference for the first time since 2004. The Owls won 14 games in as many seasons the first time they called the Big East home. Obviously, the landscape has changed in the interim. Still, they were picked to finish last in their comeback season.

They're 1-2 this season, pounding Division I-AA Villanova (4-1) and losing to Maryland (2-2) and Penn State (3-2). After having 2 of the last 3 weeks off, this week they get South Florida (2-3), which was picked to finish second in the Big East, but has dropped three straight, including by 13 points last week to Florida State. The Bulls have also lost nine of their previous 10 in the conference.

"Obviously, this is a great challenge for us," said second-year Temple coach Steve Addazio, who's playing a bunch of underclassmen, including a good number of first-year guys. "We're developing, trying to grow. That's the focus. We've played two BCS teams. People forget that a little bit. And we weren't overmatched, per se. I'm hoping that helps us.

"For us to pound into the Big East right now is the more important thing for us. So whatever we have to deal with, we're going to deal with. In the big picture, this is exactly where we should be. I don't like the fact that we're 1-2, at all. But I do like the fact that we're in the Big East, in conference play, with a bright future."

Saturday is a start. Nothing more or less, simply another step along the way, albeit a historic one. And even though the Big East isn't what it used to be, this still beats a game against, say, Kent State.

"It's different," Green said. "It's motivation for us. Everyone wants to prove themselves. This is our chance."

They'll have many others, both this year and hopefully well beyond. But why wait?

"Here we go," Addazio said. "It's a chance to be 1-0 in the conference. For the university, in the big picture, I couldn't be happier.

"But you've got to bring your 'A' game. We've got to understand that every [Big East] game is going to be like the last two games we played. You've got to be prepared. It's a real mindset. That's a piece we're still trying to develop."

He's confident that will come. He's just not sure of the timetable. At this point, there's nothing wrong with that. It's not about where Temple is on Saturday, but in another year or 2. That's when the judgments will have more validity.

In the meantime, they'll try to make some statements anyway. Because it's what's in front of them.

"We're kind of approaching it as if it's another game we have to out there and fight, just like [against] any other team," senior defensive back Justin Gildea said. "We know it's a harder opponent, so it's a step up. But it wouldn't matter who we were playing. We've lost our last two. We haven't played in the conference yet. I'll elaborate more on that in about a week."

Senior running back Matt Brown, never one to shy away from going there, didn't need to wait.

"It's a rush, you know," he insisted. "Even when you're sleeping, or not on the field, you're talking about it. I got butterflies, just preparing. We don't want to let anything get away from us.

"We want to ratchet it up. It's definitely a different feeling. You always want to play the big schools. It was hard watching all those games this weekend [during Temple's bye]. I wanted to get out there.

"In every situation, it's personal. You always want to prove someone wrong. That's what we're pushing for. We want to push this in the best direction, before somebody else is pushing it."

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