Wednesday, January 27, 2010

EagleBank Bowl was 30 Years in the Making for the Temple Football Program

For those of us who are fans of the Temple University football program our lives for the past 20 years have been mired in a web of frustration, doom, despair, hopelessness, shock, heartbreak and depression.

We know the agony of defeat better than anyone. The regular beatings and lopsided loses the football team took were one thing. But over the years Temple has lost games in spectacular fashion in ways no one could anticipate—from opponents completing last-second “Hail Mary” passes for touchdowns, to Temple turnovers with seconds left in the game that either killed final drives near the end zone or became winning scores for the opponent. Missed extra points, field goals, you name it it’s been done.

Not this year. Five years after head coach Al Golden (left) took over the struggling program things changed. After losing the first two games of the season (the first loss, again, in spectacular fashion), Temple won the next nine games before losing their finale. The 9-3 record earned them a bid to the Dec. 29 EagleBank Bowl in Washington, D.C., against a big-conference marquee opponent, UCLA.

It certainly wasn’t the most prestigious bowl game. First, the game was held in aging, even decrepit RFK stadium, which used to serve as the home of the Washington Redskins. Second, it was in D.C. as opposed to some sunny location in the west or south. But it was close enough to Philly to allow an estimated 20,000 Temple fans to attend the game, understandably far outnumbering the team from the West Coast. Philly and the World were among those fans using the game as an excuse to stay through the New Year in our favorite local city.

To top it off Washington was hit by serious cold spell. At the 4:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon kickoff it was about 30 degrees. By the end of the game it was below 20 degrees and it felt colder.

Despite these inconveniences, the atmosphere at the game was electric. By opening kickoff the place the Temple side of the stands was wild and by the end of the second half when Temple took a 21-7 lead, the building was shaking. But the joy ended there. UCLA was able to kick a field goal on the last play of the second quarter and in the second half its defense totally shut down the Temple offense. UCLA came back to win the game 30-21.

Lead photo: Temple players celebrate after a completion to tight end Steve Maneri for the first touchdown of the game. Below, is a video of Matt Brown scoring a touchdown in the second quarter. The muffled noises you hear are the sounds of people clapping with their gloves on.

There was disappointment but there was joy. Temple’s first bowl game in 30 years was a success. The fans came and they participated with their energy and their cash, which made EagleBank Bowl officials happy. The total turnout wasn’t as strong as hoped, again because of it being held on a week night and the difficulty of many UCLA fans making the trip from the West Coast, but Temple and its fans held up its end.

Washington, a very tourist-friendly city, and the bowl game sponsors were excellent hosts, which have us looking forward to next year.

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