No. 7 Louisville looks to keep rolling at Temple
The lean seasons are back at Temple.
After a three-year run of success - spurred by former coaches Al Golden and Steve Addazio - that ended decades of futility, the Owls have returned to the bottom, without a win and without much hope of pulling off an upset Saturday against No. 7 Louisville.
Once one of the worst programs in the nation, the Owls (0-4) found their footing in the Mid-American Conference, but struggled last season in a return to the Big East. In his first season, coach Matt Rhule has the Owls' rebuilding process looking for better days ahead in the American Athletic Conference.
He might want to try again after Saturday.
A five-touchdown favorite, the seventh-ranked Cardinals (4-0) are in great shape to keep their perfect season alive against the Owls at the home of the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles.
''The first segment is done, then we get to step into our conference and every game counts,'' Cardinals coach Charlie Strong said. ''We are going to have to do better and we are going to have to improve the running game on offense.''
Who needs a running game? Not with Teddy Bridgewater and his 14 touchdown passes turning the Cardinals into one of the more potent offenses in the nation. He's likely the last quarterback Temple wants to face. Bridgewater tied a career-high with five scoring passes last season in a 45-17 win over the Owls.
''He's NFL ready,'' Rhule said. ''He's going to be a great quarterback at the next level. I think the biggest thing is eliminate the deep ball and the big plays.''
And try to stay close. After all, the last time Louisville played Temple (2006) at Lincoln Financial Field, the Cardinals won 62-0. That was the first of two straight - yes, two straight - 62-0 losses for the Owls.
But Golden steered the ship toward .500 and whipped the program into bowl contention. The Owls went 9-4 and 8-4 in his final two seasons and Addazio inherited a solid roster that went 9-4 with a bowl victory in 2011.
But Addazio bolted after a 4-7 record last year and the Owls facing an upgrade in competition. It's up to Rhule to keep the Owls from falling back into the abyss of also-rans that regularly churn out one- and two-win seasons. Losses already this year to Fordham and Idaho haven't helped optimism.
''I think the mood of the team is really good,'' Rhule said. ''You have a bunch of seniors that are battling because they want to go out on the right note.''
History is not on Temple's side: The Owls have never defeated a Top 10 team and have only two wins total against 86 ranked opponents in program history.
Here are five things to look for as Temple tries to pull off the shock of the season:
TOUGH TEDDY: Bridgewater's four touchdown passes against FIU assured him of at least one scoring pass in 16-straight games. He has thrown two or more touchdown passes in a game in 10 of the last 11 games.
HIGH OCTANE: Led by Bridgewater, the Cardinals are ranked seventh in the country in scoring average (48) and notched 72 in the win over FIU. It was the most points scored by Louisville since they had 73 against Murray State in 2007. The Cardinals have scored 192 points in the first four games.
RUNNING STRONG: Not much has gone right for the Owls this season. But running back Kenneth Harper has been a lone bright spot inside the red zone. Harper has six touchdowns, scoring at least one in each game. He scored two against both Houston and Idaho, and ran for 105 yards against Fordham.
NET GAINES: Former receiver-turned-cornerback Charles Gaines is making his presence felt all over the field for Louisville. The sophomore has started consecutive games, and had a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and fumble recovery leading to another score vs. FIU. Gaines also recorded a red-zone interception against Kentucky.
LOUISVILLE'S OFF-WEEK HANGOVER: Temple might be catching Louisville at the right time if the Cardinals' off-week record means anything. They're just 2-2 following a bye under Strong and are 44-40-1 all time. Louisville has two more off weeks this season, on Nov. 2 and 30.