Tuesday, September 29, 2009

For the Owls, every game should be a Crusade

Terrific photo of Steve Manieri and Temple's great fans.

Photos by Ryan Porter

By Mike Gibson
Message boards are a beautiful thing sometimes.
You can catch the pulse of a sports fan, or a sports community, by sitting down with a cup of coffee and paging down a list of threads.
Occasionally, something will catch your eye so you will click on it.
So it was with me on the day after Temple's biggest football victory in years, a 37-13 win over defending MAC champion Buffalo.
The thread said something about Temple's game at Eastern Michigan this Saturday being a "trap game."
The coffee spit out of my lips and all over the screen.
After I got the Windex out to clean everything off, I had to laugh.
"Trap game?" I thought, with all of the incredulity Jim Mora Sr. once said when someone asked him about playoffs.
It's still a classic response that lives on in a Coors Light commercial.
"Playoffs? Playoffs? Playoffs?" Mora said in three different tones of voice. "We'd be lucky to win a game."
"Trap game?" I thought.
Trap game? This is Temple a team dying for every shred of respect it can get. Every time Temple steps onto the field, it should treat it like a crusade, not a game.
I still think that.
I always thought the great thing about college football, at least on the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level was that there were only 12 games, 13 if you are lucky.
Call it the lucky 13th in this case.
Trap games and letdowns should be for some other sport.
Here we are in college football where you work 365 days a year, lift weights, run, practice, to play in 12 regular-season games a year.
Letdowns and trap games should not be part of the lexicon. Playing like a mad dog frothing at the mouth should be the norm not the exception, no matter who is lining up on the other side of the ball

You practice and game plan for six days a week just to play that game the seventh.
Letdowns and trap games should not be part of the lexicon. Playing like a mad dog frothing at the mouth should be the norm not the exception, no matter who is lining up on the other side of the ball.
Especially if you are Temple, a school that the day before it faced Buffalo was ranked in ESPN's Bottom 10. That's what the world thinks of you as a Temple football player. It's definitely not reality, but it is the perception.
It took awhile to acquire that perception so it won't change after one game, but it will after a body of work called a season and the reality of this season is that the Owls are running out of games to make the statement they need to make.
The players should be fed up and play the rest of the season with a huge chip on their shoulder.
I know the fans have had enough of that "Temple sucks" mantra.
Those Bottom 10 days were supposed to be over.
Eastern Michigan is the next game and that's why it is the most important one the Owls will ever play.
That's why it bodes the Owls well if they pretend they are not headed to the Little House to play Eastern Michigan but instead headed to the Big House down the road to play the real Michigan.
It's that important to Temple and its fan base to keep that momentum going this week and beat an opponent it is favored to beat. There's a great photo accompanying this story of Temple's fans watching Steve Manieri catch a pass in traffic against Buffalo, courtesy of Ryan Porter.
It reminds folks how hard it is to make plays to win in big-time college football and how hard it is to sustain the winning. That's why the focus should be on Eastern Michigan now.
The Buffalo win was just one game, one of many the Owls have to win from here on out to accomplish their goals.
If they have to pretend they are playing the Wolverines, so be it. A long winning streak starts by focusing on each task at hand, not looking ahead to the next one after that.
Eastern Michigan is the task at hand. THEN comes Ball State.
That's how this thing works.
Trap game?
Don't make me laugh.