Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Temple turned into winner under Al Golden

By Anthony Fenech, Senior Reporter || September 08, 2010

The improvement is there.

That much is evident by looking only at Temple’s win totals during the past four years under the watchful eye of head coach Al Golden.

In his first season, the Owls won only a game.

Competing as an independent, Temple lost its first eight games of the Golden regime in 2006 and just missed setting a school-low mark for futility by beating Bowling Green to snap a 20-game losing streak, one shy of a school-record for consecutive losses.

The next season, the Owls won four games. Then five. And last year, after winning nine regular season games, Temple earned its first postseason appearance in 30 years, losing to UCLA, 30-21, in the EagleBank Bowl in Washington, D.C.

But mention the Central Michigan Chippewas to the fifth-year Temple coach and he will tell you just how much improvement remains to be made in Philadelphia.

“We’re a long way away,” Golden said Monday during the Mid-American Conference coaches teleconference. “They are far and away better than anyone else in the (MAC) now and really, the one established program in the conference.

“When you win 27 out of 31 MAC games and you’re champions three of the past four years,” he added, “The resume speaks for itself.”

And a Thursday night victory over the Chippewas and in front of its home fans would certainly help bolster the national profile of a program once expelled from the Big East.

“I’m just glad we’re relevant in terms of getting picked and with the media,” Golden said. “For us, we have to learn to do it day in and day out.”

On Sept. 3, Temple learned how to do it in an unfamiliar role, narrowly missing an upset at the hands of defending NCAA Division 1 FCS champion and neighboring Villanova.

And after its nine-win performance last year, which included a second-place finish in the MAC East, the Owls needed a field goal from sophomore Brandon McManus with three seconds remaining to top the Wildcats, 31-24.

“We won the first one and we were lucky to do that,” Golden said. “We have a long way to go, but we hung together and finished the game strong.”

The crowd of 32,193 at Lincoln Financial Field was the second-largest to watch a Temple game at the venue.

“As you go on the road the first time, there’s always new things for the new guys,” said CMU head coach Dan Enos. “The good news is that we have a lot of veteran players that have played in a lot of venues and played on the road a lot, and we’re going to need that type of leadership of focus from our older guys that will filter down to our younger guys.”

Thursday’s game will be the first road trip for the Chippewas on the season, against a team many picked to win the conference, and senior linebacker Nick Bellore is relishing the early-season opportunity.

“It’s right here for us in the second game,” Bellore said. “We don’t have to look ahead to playing them.”

But the Owls, who have lost to CMU twice under Golden, have been looking forward to the game, one that will test just how far their once-shunned program has come.

“They’ve been the best team, and that’s what we’re trying to be,” Golden said. “We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go to reach that level.”

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