PHILADELPHIA (AP) Temple can boast a sold out stadium for its opener, a rare feat in the 12 years the Owls have called Lincoln Financial Field home.
The Owls could only wish the crowd would give them a home-field advantage.
The fans will more likely be clad in Penn State blue and white than Temple cherry and white. The Nittany Lions are storming into Philadelphia and they’re bringing a slice of Happy Valley along for the ride.
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Penn State is responsible for Temple’s only other sellout at the Linc in 2007. In that one, a crowd of 69,029, cheered on a 31-0 Penn State win, just another rout in what has become one of the more lopsided series in college football.
The Nittany Lions, in their first game since winning the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium, have a 39-game winning streak in a series that dates to 1943. Penn State defeated Temple 30-13 last season at Beaver Stadium and won 14-10 in 2011 at Philadelphia.
Temple hasn’t won in the series since Oct. 18, 1941.
Temple officials insist more tickets have been bought by the home fans this season in years past, which could give the game a bit more of a North Philly flavor.
For a program that has only occasionally moved the needle toward mediocrity over the last 40 years, a win against the Nittany Lions could get momentum rolling toward something bigger than just a 1-0 start.
The Owls are still fighting for respect and attention in a crowded sports market – and there are hopeful plans of building an on-campus stadium. Beat Penn State, even if it’s not the powerhouse it was under Joe Paterno, and Philly have to take notice.
”This should be a great thing, not just for Philadelphia and Temple fans, but everyone in the area,” third-year coach Matt Rhule said. ”It should be a great game day atmosphere. I’m excited to have so many more people see that.”
Penn State went 7-6 last year in its first season under coach James Franklin; Temple, out of the American Athletic Conference, missed a bowl game with a 6-6 mark under Rhule.
Rhule, a former Penn State linebacker, has tried to downplay the effect of what a potential showcase win would mean to the program. Sure, beating the Nittany Lions would be great, but it won’t mean as much if the Owls can’t follow up with wins in conference play.
”You can’t put too much on one,” Rhule said. ”It’s not the name, it’s how good of a team they are.”
But for the short term, ending Penn State’s dominance would be a start toward helping the program creep out of Penn State’s massive shadow.
And if this doesn’t work? Well, there’s always Notre Dame on Oct. 31.
Some other things to watch when Penn State opens the season against Temple:
Christian Hackenberg has 5,932 yards passing yards with 32 touchdown passes in 25 career starts, the kind of arm and numbers that have made put him on the board as a potential first-round NFL pick.
He threw for 2,977 yards last season – though with 15 interceptions and six lost fumbles is still a work in progress.
The 6-foot-4, 228-pound junior ended the season with a flourish in the Pinstripe Bowl and hoped a second season under Franklin would lead the Nittany Lions into Big Ten contention.
Franklin said he needed to mesh better with Hackenberg and believed the duo have may have hit the mark during training camp.
”Christian so much more relaxed and so much more confident right now as a player and as a leader because of that. He’s really taken control of the offense and that side of the ball,” Franklin said. ”We’ve also spent a lot of time talking about our captains being the captains of our whole
team and not just on offense and defensive special teams, but be willing to lead across this side of the ball as well.”
Temple wide receiver Robby Anderson plays his first game since 2013 after he was ruled academically ineligible last season.
Anderson had 44 receptions for 791 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. Against SMU, he set a Temple and AAC record with 239 receiving yards. His three TD catches at Memphis that year also tied for conference record.
Penn State’s Akeel Lynch ran for 130 yards and a touchdown in last season’s win over Temple. With Mark Allen, Saquon Barkley and Nick Scott all fighting for carries, it could be interesting to see just how much the Nittany Lions lean on Lynch.
AP college football site: www.collegefootball.ap.org