Despite an opening 33-point loss to Notre Dame, despite a 36-point setback last week at South Florida, despite skepticism swirling around them — they have slipped to 10th out of 12 teams in the writers’ weekly American Athletic Conference power ratings, for example — the Temple Owls remain highly confident.
There is a feeling within this 2-2 team that it can return to the success of the previous two years, when the Owls went 10-4 each season, won two AAC East Division titles and were the overall conference champion last year.
“You either bounce back or submit to being 2-2,” senior defensive end Jacob Martin said. “It is uncomfortable, an uncomfortable situation, but we have to make the best of it.”
Martin, for one, hasn’t abandoned his ambitious goals.
“We can still accomplish what we want to accomplish, come out with an East championship and a conference championship.”
That seems like a long shot even though Temple is 0-1 in the AAC with seven conference games left. USF would have to lose twice in the conference and Temple would have to win its remaining seven games for the Owls to take the title.
Despite the long odds, don’t tell Martin it isn’t possible.
“We are a top-25 program and we believe we are a top-25 program and top-25 programs win championships, and that is our goal,” he said.
While there likely aren’t many outside the Temple locker room who agree with that assessment, Martin has earned the right to express his confidence. Last week, he scored Temple’s lone touchdown on a 44-yard return of a fumble that he caused after sacking USF’s Quinton Flowers.
The Owls still believe they can rebound the way they did last year when they started out 3-3, but there has been little evidence on the field that a similar turnaround will occur.
And the road doesn’t get much easier: Temple will host Houston (2-1, 0-0 AAC) at noon Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field. The Cougars, considered among the contenders in the AAC West, are coming off a 27-24 loss to visiting Texas Tech that snapped a 16-game home winning streak. It had been the longest active home winning streak in the nation.
The Owls know what they’re up against, but players share Martin’s confidence.
“I feel the mood is still great,” senior free safety Sean Chandler said. “We were in this position last year and we feel we will be able to bounce back, so we come out every day with the same attitude of trying to win it up.”
What Temple needs is a quick start. The Owls have been outscored in the first quarter this season, 24-9. Against Notre Dame and USF, they were outscored, 24-3, in the opening period.
“Our confidence is still there,” said sophomore linebacker Chapelle Russell, who had a career-high 13 tackles against USF. “We know what we can do, know the type of plays we can make when we are all locked in, when we are all doing what we have to do in handling our assignments.”
The Owls might know what they have to do, but they haven’t done it in their two biggest games this season, leading to the skepticism.