Flash back to September, 1941. Franklin D Roosevelt was president of the United States. World War II was in full swing. Pearl Harbor had not yet been attacked. Dumbo first hit theatres. It was also the last time that Temple football beat Penn State.
September 5th will mark the 44th meeting between the two premiere teams in Pennsylvania. While every clash between them is highly anticipated, the outcome is typically never in doubt. Penn State owns a 39-3-1 record versus Temple, and is currently riding a 39 game winning streak.
While the Nittany Lions cruised to a 30-13 win last year at Beaver Stadium, this year’s opener in Philadelphia could write an entirely different storyline. Although underdogs according to Vegas, the Owls trot out a strong returning squad. Temple returns 10 of 11 starters on defense, which allowed only 17 points per game, the best in the AAC. They will be led by All-Conference linebacker Tyler Metakevich. Although he might sit out due to injury, defensive lineman Praise Martin Oguike will bolster an already strong front seven. With two new transfers solidifying the secondary, Temple’s defense has depth and should pose problems on Saturday. They have the task of slowing down quarterback Christian Hakenberg, who is poised to break many school records this season. Hakenberg has many weapons at his disposal in wide receivers DaeSean Hamilton and Geno Lewis, and running back Akeel Lynch.
There are still many question marks on the offensive side of the ball. At the helm is Junior PJ Walker. After a promising freshman year, Walker finished with 13 TDs opposed to 15 INTs in the 2014 campaign. Turnovers killed him in last years meeting with PSU, as he threw four picks. Walker’s need for a supporting cast is enormous, as the loss of wide receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick and running back Kenny Harper will force other players to step up. Aside from Fitzpatrick, no Temple receiver gained more than 200 yards last year. That will have to change if the Owls hope to be victorious on Saturday. Expect a steady dose of the run game early with experienced Junior Jahad Thomas in the backfield.
Temple’s offense boasts an exciting young look, but they will be faced with the tough task of scoring on Penn State. Last year, PSU’s defensive unit ranked in the FBS top 10 in almost every major category, and were second in total defense. They will aim to exploit Temple’s inexperience.
Saturday’s bout should result in a much closer finish than last season’s blowout. Temple’s defense forces turnovers and capitalizes on mistakes. PJ Walker, when on his game, is a dangerous duel threat. Many new players are looking to make an impact, which is always a good thing. They key to Temple’s victory will be forcing turnovers and limiting their own. And if it comes down to the wire late, they can’t let the ball be in Hakenburg’s hands. Among active players, he ranks 3rd in game winning drives in the 4th quarter and overtime. With a raucous crowd sure to be on hand, Temple’s task is monumental, but if completed, could rewrite the history books.