Owls out to avoid third straight loss

Posted: November 01, 2012

THE LAST TIME Temple's football team lost three straight games was also the last time the Owls finished with a losing record.

That was 2008, their second season in the Mid-American Conference, when they dropped four in a row after taking the opener. They eventually closed with two wins to get to 5-7, which was still their best season in nearly 2 decades.

Since then they've won 29 times, been to two bowls (winning one) and made it back into a BCS league. But they've lost their last two, for the second time this season, to fall to 3-4, 2-2 in the Big East. Now they head to No. 12 Louisville (8-0, 3-0), on Saturday, the lowest-ranked (by six spots) of the six unbeatens.

The Owls haven't beaten a Top 25 opponent since that 28-24 head-scratcher at Virginia Tech in 1998 as 35-point underdogs that gave Bobby Wallace his first victory.

In the interim, they've gone 0-for-27.

This time, the spread is just under two touchdowns. But upsets happen every week. It's why there's a Fraud Five. And the Cardinals - who, in Charlie Strong, also are coached by a former Florida assistant with national-title rings - have never been 4-0 in the Big East since moving over from Conference USA in 2005.

The only time Temple played the Cards when they were ranked was 2006, here. The final was 62-0, in Al Golden's second game. The last time the Owls faced the No. 12 team was 5 weeks later, against Clemson in Charlotte, N.C. That ended 63-9. But that was a long time ago. The last time they met a No. 12 in a conference game was 2003, when they lost to Virginia Tech at Lincoln Financial Field in overtime on a missed extra point.

Anyway . . .

Two weeks ago, the Owls led then-unbeaten Rutgers, 10-0, after 30 minutes in South Philly. They were outscored the rest of the way, 35-0. Then last week at Pitt, which was winless in the Big East, they lost the first half 31-7. And eventually the full 60 by 30.

"You have to find positives, whatever the situation is," said Temple coach Steve Addazio, who used 16 freshmen, including 10 true first-year guys, at Heinz Field. "There's no pressure on us. Sometimes the best thing you can have is a great challenge, because it gives you an opportunity for a big result. It's all about taking these situations and growing from them. Not one of these challenges is something we didn't expect. We're in that deal right now where we've got to respond."

Only three Big East teams have winning records. Temple's already lost to one. It plays the other two in each of the next 2 weeks, including 5-2 Cincinnati at home. Its two conference wins have been against the other Big East teams with losing records.

At some point, that'll matter more. For now, maybe not so much, in what's obviously a transitionary period. This isn't last year's team. Nor last year's league, even though the top of the MAC can hold its own. Just ask Cincy and Rutgers. This team, which had to replace 13 starters, is mostly trying to become bowl eligible. Which is why the school is trying to add a late game against 1-6 Hawaii to make up for the conference game it lost when it switched affiliations.

Nobody said this was supposed to be easy.

"You wouldn't want it any other way," Addazio insisted. "Go play against the odds and just lay it on the line. I think we're in that grind where . . . you say, 'That's enough. We're bleeding right now. Let's get going here.' We've got to go on the road and do that. It's a really tall order.

"That's no great shocker. It's all part of the process. We've got to overcome that . . . Even though it looks like the rock slips back, it's really not. It's just making you a better program as you move forward."

The reality is what you make it. At the moment the growing pains are, well, being felt.

But all it takes is 1 week to change the perspective. In either direction.

Contact Mike Kern at kernm@phillynews.com.

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