WEST POINT, NY — In a season of frustrating losses, this one stung Geoff Collins the most. The first-year Temple football coach, about 20 minutes after Saturday’s 31-28 loss at Army, was still attempting to sort out the disappointment and hurt.
This one felt like a dagger in his heart and for good reason. While last week’s 28-24 loss to visiting Connecticut stung, especially since the favored Owls were at home and hurt themselves with mistakes, this one was different.
Collins team was banged up, with a new starting quarterback Frank Nutile, a mostly new offensive line and a somewhat shorthanded defensive line that had use a fullback Nick Sharga there. (Sharga, a former linebacker actually played well and should see more action there).
And even with all that, his team was on the brink of victory until allowing a tying 16-yard touchdown pass with one second left in regulation and seeing his team’s hopes finally derailed when a 27-yard field goal went wide left in the first overtime.
So Collins, as tough as they come, was fighting tears and not always winning the battle.
— Marc Narducci (@sjnard) October 22, 2017
“They played their hearts out,” he said about his team that has four games left and will need a near-miracle to become bowl eligible.
The Owls are 3-5 and have to go 3-1 in their final four games, including one against a 6-0 Central Florida team that has New Year’s bowl aspirations.
It’s easy to say Temple is young and truly banged up, but that won’t take the sting out of this season.
Remember in July how happy Collins was to be picked to finish third in the American Athletic Conference East Division, hoping to use that as motivation to prove the prognosticators wrong.
So there is no doubt, he thought Temple would have a good team and many others did as well.
The fact is, this isn’t a good team, one that has lost in a variety of ways. Temple has lost either because of too many turnovers, too many penalties, or in some instances when facing heavyweights such as Notre Dame and South Florida, simply not enough talent.
There are many who will say had it not been for 117 yards in penalties and a pick-6 that the Owls could have beaten UConn instead of losing 28-24. Or that without some questionable calls, it might have been different in a 20-13 loss to Houston. (The AAC, according to a source, told Temple that five calls in that game that went against the Owls, were wrong).
And on Saturday had the Owls not allowed a running team like Army to move 79 yards in 1 minute and 31 seconds, mostly in the air on that final drive in regulation, things could have been different.
That is all well and good, but successful teams overcome these things, even if they have created them.
Temple simply hasn’t been able to rise above adversity.
There is an old saying that “you are what your record says you are.”
That doesn’t mean Temple doesn’t work hard, or doesn’t have the desire to win or lacks character. It’s just that this team hasn’t learned how to win.
There was a thought that the winning from the previous two years when the Owls were 20-8, won two division and a league title, would pass on to this group.
It doesn’t work that way.
Temple showed more fight on Saturday than any time this year, overcoming an early 14-0 deficit. And that is why the coach was so down, because his team left everything on the field and it wasn’t enough, a sobering reminder on how far the Owls have in getting back to their former selves.