The renaissance began under Al Golden.
The Temple football program had just five winning seasons and one bowl appearance in 30 years before the former Virginia defensive coordinator Golden stepped foot onto the North Philadelphia campus on Broad Street. The Owls were 3-31 over their last three years prior to Golden’s arrival and were kicked out of the Big East.
By the time Golden’s five-year stint with the school came to a conclusion, he had completed one of the greatest turnarounds in NCAA football history. Temple registered back-to-back winning seasons, 9-4 in 2009 and 8-4 in 2010, for the first time since the 1978-79 seasons. The 2009 campaign culminated with an appearance in the EagleBank Bowl, the Owls’ first bowl berth since beating California 28-17 in the 1979 Garden State Bowl. Temple fell to UCLA, 30-21, in that game.
Golden accepted Miami-Florida’s head coaching position 2011 and in stepped former Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, who lasted just two seasons but helped Temple take its next step in its fairy-tale story. Temple recorded its first bowl win in 32 years with a 37-15 victory over Wyoming in the 2011 New Mexico Bowl. After going 13-13 in two seasons at Temple, Addazio left to become the head coach of Boston College.
Then came Matt Rhule’s rule, which began in 2013 and last four seasons. He went just 2-10 and 6-6 over his first two years, but the last two have resulted consecutive 10-win seasons for the first time in school history. And like the previous two head coaches, Rhule headed off to greater pastures when he accepted the Baylor head coaching gig on Tuesday.
Let’s check out Temple’s five wins during his run with the Owls.
HONORABLE MENTION: Temple vs. Notre Dame (Oct. 31, 2015)
The 21st-ranked Owls lost to the No. 9-ranked Irish 24-20 when DeShone Kizer tossed a go-ahead 17-yard touchdown pass to Will Fuller with 2:09 left in the fourth quarter, but this game has to be mentioned. Who would’ve thought a decade ago that an undefeated 7-0 Temple team would not only play a primetime Saturday night game on national television, but also host College Gameday in Philadelphia. While the scoreboard read a Temple loss, the Owls registered a win in the recruiting landscape with that national exposure.
5. Temple vs. Army (Oct. 19, 2013)
After six unsuccessful tries, Rhule earned his first win with the Owls following a 33-14 triumph over the Black Nights. Freshman quarterback P.J. Walker made his second career start and completed 10-of-16 passes for 203 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
4. Temple vs. East Carolina (Nov. 2, 2015)
The Owls’ first win over a ranked opponent in 16 years came at a rain-soaked Lincoln Financial Field over the 23rd-ranked Pirates. Temple forced five East Carolina turnovers in the pouring rain en route to a 20-10 victory. It was just its third win over a ranked opponent at the time and the first since beating No. 14 Virginia Tech 28-24 in Blacksburg in 1998. The Owls had dropped 34 straight games against ranked opponents since that triumph over the Hokies.
3. Temple vs. Memphis (Nov. 21, 2015)
The stingy Temple defense held first-round draft pick Paxton Lynch to just 156 passing yards on 25-of-34 efficiency and the Owls registered a key 31-12 win over the No. 21 Tigers in a key AAC tussle. The Owls wound up winning the East Division by a game over South Florida before being defeated by Houston in the AAC title game. The Owls outscored Memphis 17-0 in the fourth quarter.
2. Temple at Navy (Dec. 3, 2016)
Temple’s move back to the Big East came in 2012 before the conference disbanded and a cluster of teams helped form the American Athletic Conference. The AAC was established in Rhule’s first season in 2013 and Saturday’s 34-10 win over the 19th-ranked Midshipmen was the Owls’ first conference championship game win in school history and first conference title victory since finishing atop the MAC in 1967. The vaunted Navy rushing attack, which had averaged 61 points the last three games, had to play from behind quickly after the Owls scored touchdowns on each of their first three possessions.
1. Temple vs. Penn State (Sep. 15, 2015)
The 74-year wait finally ended. After being the Nittany Lions’ whipping boy year after year after year, the Owls had the last laugh. Jahad Thomas ran for 134 yards and a touchdown and Temple defeated Penn State 27-10 in front of a sold-out crowd of 69,176 at the Linc. It was the Owls’ first victory over the Nittany Lions since Oct. 18, 1941, when Joe Paterno was only 14 years old. Penn State was 38-0-1 between those two Temple wins.