It has been just over seven decades since the Temple Owls last defeated keystone state rival Penn State. Rivalry might be a stretch to judge this one-sided clash, but for a team striving to get back to a bowl game, Temple's season opener is crucial for Matt Rhule and his Owls.
Rhule's alma mater got the best of his unit last season at Beaver Stadium, 30-13, but his mindset resides in the team he's trying to bolster into a contender. The former PSU linebacker runs the show for Temple, but preaches avoiding detractors and focusing on controllable aspects of the game:
"I can certainly understand people, especially someone so close, wanting to get a win but none of that really matters when the game is kicked off. That’s what we’ve tried to sell our guys on for every game. Once the ball is kicked off it matters how well you prepared and how well you play. Were just trying to make sure we play as well as we can play."
If the Owls, at Lincoln Financial Field, play to their peak potential, Penn State will have a difficult time handling crowd noise while matching their counterparts on both sides of the ball. The Nittany Lions were an even 2-2 on the road last season, but have weapons on offense to match Temple's. Matt Rhule might be signaling to focus on what you can control to his team, but handling a first-round NFL candidate is a tough task for any defense.
Both Coach Rhule and Coach Snow talked about PSU QB Christian Hackenberg as a big talent with a gunslinger type arm. The Owls will look to pressure the junior without their leading sack artist last season in senior Praise Martin-Oguike. Rhule labeled him out for Saturday which presents a deficiency on the edge for the defense:
"I don’t know if he’ll be able to go this week honestly. Hopefully he can give us a couple of snaps. If not, hopefully he’ll be ready against Cincinnati."
Losing Martin-Oguike puts the Owls in a precarious situation lacking pass rushers. The unfortunate event shouldn't deter Temple from putting out ideal effort Saturday and maintaining focus. By now, focusing on individual play and blacking out everything else is etched in these tested warriors.