No bowl bid for Temple

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"This is a team truly worthy of a bowl," Temple coach Al Golden said. (Michael S. Wirtz/Staff file photo)

There were 72 bowl-eligible teams, for 70 available berths. The two that didn't make the cut were both from the Mid-American Conference. Temple was one of them.

This isn't how it was supposed to unfold for a squad that was picked to win the Mid-American Conference but instead finished third in the East Division.

So the Owls, who lost their last two games to end up 8-4 (5-3 in the league), will not make consecutive bowl trips for the first time in program history. Nor will they have the chance to win a bowl for the first time since 1979 (and second ever).

It also means fifth-year coach Al Golden won't get the advantage of the added practice time that comes with a postseason appearance.

In 2009 the Owls went 9-3, their best season in 3 decades, before losing to 6-6 UCLA in the EagleBank Bowl in Washington, D.C.

This September, they beat Connecticut by two touchdowns in South Philly. The Huskies are headed to the Fiesta Bowl as Big East champions.

The Owls lost at home to Ohio (8-4) on Nov. 16, 31-23. That took them out of contention for a spot in the MAC title game. They lost at Miami of Ohio (9-4) a week later, 23-3. Had they won either of those games, maybe they wouldn't have been left out.

Miami beat Northern Illinois (10-3), which also beat Temple, in Friday's conference championship.

In a statement, Golden said, "I'm disappointed for our student-athletes, especially for a remarkable group of seniors who are the first group since 1982 to graduate Temple with a winning record. It's unfortunate for everyone in the Temple community, because this is a team truly worthy of a bowl. We played seven postseason teams, including all four nonconference opponents. We finished 8-4, 3-1 out of conference and beat three postseason teams, including a BCS win over Big East champion UConn."

One of those seven postseason opponents was a victory over FCS defending champion Villanova.

Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw, speaking at the BB&T Classic in Washington, where the Owls' basketball team was playing Maryland, expressed his disappointment.

"It wasn't shocking, not really,'' he said. "As things were unfolding [Saturday] and how things were aligning, the stars were not necessarily aligning in our favor. I thought our team deserved a bowl.

"I thought in '04 and '05 when we had one win in two seasons, that hurt our reputation. But 17 wins in two years, I don't think I have to appologize for how our football program has performed.''

A source familiar with the situation said that it appeared Temple was headed to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit on Dec. 26, to play fellow MAC member Toledo (the two had not met this season). But Middle Tennessee State won by a point at Florida International to get to 6-6. That gave the Sun Belt three eligible teams, allowing the conference to fulfill its backup commitment to the Little Caesars. So FIU wound up in Motown against Toledo (8-4) instead.

That's how precarious all this stuff can be. And Toledo is only an hour away from Ford Field.

Three other MAC teams are headed somewhere.

Northern Illinois will play Fresno State (8-4) in the Humanitarian Bowl (Dec. 18 in Boise, Idaho). Miami gets Middle Tennessee in the GoDaddy.com Bowl (Jan. 6 in Mobile, Ala.). And Ohio drew Troy (7-5) in the R&L Carriers Bowl (Dec. 18, New Orleans).

That's three MAC-Sun Belt matchups, if you're keeping track.

For the record, Western Michigan (6-6) was the other eligible MAC team that didn't get an invitation.

Daily News sports writer John Smallwood contributed to this story.