"Five bucks to get in."
"I'm just getting some food, not going to the bar."
"Still a cover."
This was the exchange I had with a bouncer when I arrived at a sports bar near Lincoln Financial Field three hours before Temple would kick off against Notre Dame in the biggest college football game in the history of Philadelphia.
It would behoove no one to write about my experiences going to Temple games in the mid-2000's, but I will say this, there would have been no cover charge to get into a bar, if you could find an open one, on a Temple football Saturday.
Temple led Notre Dame 20-17 with three minutes left in a heavyweight bout of a college football game. Temple's defense did not execute in the end and Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer did, as he hit Will Fuller for the go-ahead touchdown with 2:06 left in the ball game. On Temple's ensuing drive, quarterback P.J. Walker was picked off on a poorly thrown ball with 1:08 left to go. The 69,000+ fans headed toward the exits with a final score of Notre Dame 24 Temple 20.
At least half of those fans had last names that begin with O or Mc, but the Owl faithful held their own throughout the game and turned Philadelphia into a College football town for the first time ever.
Kizer and the monsters on Notre Dame's offensive line certainly looked to be too much to handle for the 7-0 Owls on the game's first drive. Moving down the field easily, with the help of a questionable pass interference call, Kizer rushed for a 4-yard touchdown to open the scoring. Temple answered with a field goal and the first quarter ended with an uneventful 7-3 score.
The Notre Dame fans in attendance, many of whom couldn't point out South Bend on a map, did not seem concerned that Temple was hanging tough, but that would all change.
In the middle of the second half, when Walker hit receiver Brandon Shippen for a 12-yard strike to give Temple a shocking 10-7 lead, the Temple fan base erupted, and began jawing back at the Irish faithful.
There are more Notre Dame fans in the Delaware Valley than there are Temple fans. Notre Dame seemingly has a fan base wherever there are Irish-Catholics, and Philly has plenty of them. Generations ago, the Irish became the team for, well, the Irish of Philadelphia. The gold helmets were then passed down from fathers to sons. That is called tradition.
Many of those fathers and sons, dressed in green and gold, embraced in bear hugs when on Notre Dames next possession everyone at The Linc bit on a fake hand-off that Kizer kept and took 79-yards to the house, giving Notre Dame a 14-10 lead going into halftime.
During the boring halftime, my father, who I attended the game with, told me a Notre Dame story of his about a time he and two of his buddies snuck into the storied Palestra to see a Notre Dame vs. Penn basketball game in the early 80's. I had heard the story before, but I love the way he tells it, so I didn't stop him.
Temple was lucky to escape the third quarter down only 17-10, having only surrendered a field goal. In the first half, it was two massive Temple interceptions in the red zone that kept them in the game, but by the start of the fourth, the Temple toughness really showed.
Matt Rhule, who many will argue out-coached Brian Kelly despite losing, wore no sleeves on this chilly night. When it came time to show that wasn't just a power move and he really has some brass ones, he didn't waver, going for it on 4th and goal from the one. It paid off as Jahad Thomas juked his way in for the score. With 4:45 to go in the game, Temple kicker Austin Jones booted a 36-yard field goal, putting the Owls up 20-17. The impossible was going to happen.
And then Notre Dame did what Notre Dame does. Fathers and sons embraced once again.
Rhule will tell you that there are no moral victories, and that is true. But much like the Notre Dame tradition is passed down from generation to generation, and much like my father tells me stories of his sports past, Temple fans who were there will no doubt be sharing the story with their children about the time Temple became Philadelphia's college football team on a cold Halloween night. That is how you start a tradition, tradition with a Temple ']['.