We Are… Not Good: Penn State gets its bell rung by Temple

In week one of a season, it’s never a good idea to lose.

It’s especially not a good idea to lose when you’re Penn State and the other team is Temple.

The Nittany Lions hadn’t lost to Temple in 39 games. The Blue and White had not suffered a defeat against the Philadelphia foe since 1941. The teams had played 30 times over the past 39 years, so it’s not as though most results in the series belong to the distant past. From 1986 through 2014, Temple came within one score of beating Penn State on exactly one occasion, in 2011.

If you’re James Franklin, seen as an uber-recruiter and a coach of the future, you can’t lose this game. Yet, if you’re going to lose it, you should lose because you played well and Temple played better.

That was not the case for the Nittany Lions on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Temple played quite well, all right, but Penn State became an absolute disaster after a crisp start which produced a 10-0 lead.

You’ve already been given some numbers above, numbers which point to the utter dominance Penn State had established against Temple over an extended period of time. Now, settle in for some other numbers that tell the fuller story of the Owls’ ambush of Penn State:

Temple sacked PSU quarterback Christian Hackenberg 10 times, once with a two-man pass rush — you couldn’t make this up if you tried. Penn State collected 128 yards on its first two drives, building that 10-point lead. For the rest of the game — spanning roughly three full quarters — the Nittany Lions accumulated a total of 63 yards. That’s an average of 21 yards per quarter over the final three quarters.

Not only was Penn State feeble and impotent; the Nittany Lions were sloppy. A Hackenberg interception enabled Temple to start a possession on the doorstep of the PSU goal line, leading to a touchdown which broke a 10-10 deadlock late in the third quarter and gave Temple the final push it needed in this 27-10 smackdown.

The most central point to make about this game for Penn State does not concern Hackenberg. When Bill O’Brien coached this team under more adverse (and limited) circumstances than James Franklin is now, Penn State somehow managed to protect Hackenberg. The coaching staff managed to get the quarterback to play well. Franklin recruited so well at Vanderbilt in relation to previous staffs that the talent upgrade was enough to make the Commodores a bowl team. Vanderbilt could play and win three to four cupcakes per season and make a bowl as long as it got two or three wins in the SEC.

At Penn State, the expectations and standards for performance are much higher than at Vanderbilt. Franklin has to show that he can coach ’em up on Saturdays. More precisely, he needs to address his offensive line, which was supposed to be priority number one (and two, and three, and eight, and 47) in the offseason. Getting beaten in any manner by Temple represents a humiliation. Getting beaten because the foremost offseason priority was simply not shored up? That’s what has to make a Penn State fan particularly concerned.

Yet, as much as we want to continue to talk about only one team here, we have to address the other side of the divide in the Keystone State of Pennsylvania.

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Most observers will discuss Penn State’s moment of crisis in the aftermath of this game, but keep in mind that the opponent had something to say about the matter and made a very loud statement of its own. Most of our roundtable panel at TSS felt Temple could surprise in the American Athletic Conference this season, and Saturday’s performance strongly validates that belief.

The American Athletic Conference season did not start off too well in the East Division. UCF was stunned at home by Florida International on Thursday. East Carolina lost its starting quarterback before the season began. It was easy to think that Cincinnati had a free ride to the AAC’s first conference championship game this December. Notions of quality depth and substantial balance in the AAC were already taking a hit before the first Saturday of the season.

Temple coach Matt Rhule played at Penn State. Winning this game means a lot to him on a personal level. It means so much more to the Owls and to the AAC, which both needed a lift at the start of this 2015 season.

About Matt Zemek

Editor, @TrojansWire | CFB writer since 2001 |

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