Sunday, December 6, 2009

Take it to the (Eagle) Bank: Temple vs. UCLA

Eagle Bank Bowl pits Rick Neuheisel (left) against Owl Golden.
Usually, these bowl announcement shows are nothing more than a glorified version of College Gameday, ESPN's weekly pre-game show.
That's pretty much what I expected when I walked into the lobby of the Liacouras Center Sunday night.
That's what I got until there were about 15 minutes left in the show.
I certainly didn't expect to be pumping my fist and screaming, "Wow!" but that's what I found myself doing when Temple scrolled across the bottom of the screen.
... Eagle Bank Bowl ... Temple will be playing either UCLA or Army ....

Wow indeed.
The place erupted.
There were hugs, fist pumps and a very loud "Let's Go Temple" chant roared through the overpacked room. Suffice it to say there were more people in that lobby than attended Villanova's FCS quarterfinal football playoff game on the Main Line Saturday.(Good thing the Fire Marshal wasn't on Temple's campus Sunday night.)
A lot of people weren't expecting the message on that scroll.
"Remember, we have to root for Navy now," my friend, Fred, said.
I looked at him like he was just released from Byberry (that was a mental hospital from the old days for our younger readers).
"What does Navy have to do to beat Army?"
"Show up," I said.
Forget Army. I'm taking Navy and laying large coin on the Mids covering the 15 and I fully expect to collect in the RFK Stadium parking lot come Dec. 29.
I've seen both teams this year. Army's not getting closer than three touchdowns to Navy, so we're looking at playing UCLA.
It's not perfect, but it's the next-best thing and it beats the hell out of what could have happened.
Even though Temple didn't win the MAC East, it certainly got a more attractive bowl than MAC East champion Ohio. The Bobcats are playing Marshall.
That could have been a very dreary late Tuesday afternoon in Washington, D.C., Temple vs. Marshall. Owl fans would have had to hold their nose and down the Prune Juice with that matchup.
Temple-UCLA has a whole lot of juice to it and the good-tasting kind, especially with the news yesterday that The Franchise (Bernard Pierce) was healthy and back practicing with the team.
I'm liking the symmetry here:
  • Thirty years ago, the Owls had to beat a PAC-10 team (California) to get to 10 wins and they did.
  • Now the Owls can get to 10 wins by beating a PAC-10 team.
  • Thirty years ago there were all sorts of dire predictions that Temple wouldn't travel well to the Meadowlands, yet the Owls drew the largest crowd (55,245) in the four-year history of the Garden State Bowl. Trust me, there were no Cal fans there;
  • D.C. is, like the Meadowlands, an easy drive from Temple Town;
  • Temple had exploratory talks with UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel about its head coaching job in 2005. Neuheisel had all kinds of demands Temple was unwilling to meet, so the Owls looked elsewhere and found Al Golden.
  • Two years later, Golden interviewed for the UCLA job that Neuheisel got.

So there are all kinds of interesting subplots here. I will admit, the thought of putting it to the Big East and having that conference fester over a bowl loss to Temple appealed to me but that revenge motive can be taken care of next September when the Owls face UConn.
I think the possibility is there for a 10K to 20K Temple showing but it must be talked up in every workplace where there is a Temple alumnus and every corner of the Temple campus
It's not playing a former Big East foe in Toronto, but that wouldn't have worked for Temple because it would have given a lazy fan base an out for not attending.
Now there is no out.
Temple must get a good portion of its 260,000 alumni and 33,000 full-time students on board for this trip and show the nation the potential of Temple and its fans to respond.
I think the possibility is there for a 10K to 20K Temple showing but it must be talked up in every workplace where there is a Temple alumnus and every corner of the Temple campus.
It must be the main topic of conversation at 15th and Montgomery and at 13th and Norris as well as 11th and Diamond.
Three weeks to do it.
It can be done.
It must be done.