Temple's resume takes serious hit in loss to Duquesne

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Temple's resume takes serious hit in loss to Duquesne

BOX SCORE

As a general rule, it's not often you see the home team whistled for borderline contact in a one-point game with 2.9 seconds to play.

But that's really no excuse. Temple should have never found itself in that position -- save for the fact that it always does. For the first time in their program's history, the Owls have had each of their last four games decided by just one point. And this is the one loss that's going to really hurt.

Despite a career-high 35 points from senior Khalif Wyatt, Temple, a 17-point favorite, lost to Duquesne, 84-83, at the Liacouras Center on Thursday night (see Instant Replay).

Duquesne, which had not won a game in conference this year (0-9).

Duquesne, which had lost its last 11 games in a row.

Duquesne, which had an RPI of 217 entering Thursday night.

With all that in mind, Wyatt was asked if this was the toughest loss of his four-year Temple career.

"All of them are tough," he said, looking straight down, head hung. "All of them are tough."

This one is going to prove a little tougher when it comes to Temple's NCAA tournament hopes, however. The Owls have made the dance the last five years but now find themselves 16-8 overall and 5-5 in the Atlantic 10. They won't know how sharply their RPI of 42 will fall until Friday, but they do know they sit behind eight other teams in a conference that might  receive half that number of bids. Never mind that they still have to play UMass, La Salle and VCU.

"We're a good team," coach Fran Dunphy said, "but we're not nearly good enough at this point.

"When I was asked [earlier this year] what kind of team we had, I said, 'I think we can be good, but I don't know that we can be great,' and it's proving to be a little bit prophetic. Although, at this point, we're too inconsistent to even be called good."

Dunphy's said something to that effect multiple times this year. He's made that comment about as often as he's said that his team needs to improve defensively. Temple allowed Duquesne to shoot 49 percent from the floor and make 10 of 23 looks from three Thursday night. The Dukes shot an even more impressive 67 percent on 17 of 27 attempts in the first half to take a six-point lead, 43-37, into the break.

"They shot it so well in the first half," Dunphy said. "Our defense improved in the second half, but not good enough."

Temple stormed out of the locker room on a 17-3 run to go ahead eight but immediately ceded its advantage when it allowed the Dukes to score the next nine. From there, Duquesne rebuilt its lead to find itself up 79-71 with 1:25 to play. Wyatt and junior transfer Dalton Pepper cut that margin to just two with four foul shots and a Pepper three from the left wing with 33 seconds remaining.

After the Dukes' Jeremiah Jones missed two free throws with less than 20 ticks to play, Wyatt went down the other end, made a layup, converted his ensuing foul shot and actually put Temple ahead 83-82 with just 7.2 seconds remaining. The Owls looked like they were going to escape with their third straight one-point victory.

That was until Pepper, who finished with a season-high 13 points and was instrumental in keeping Temple in the game, was whistled for a questionable foul on guard Derrick Colter with 2.9 seconds remaining.

"I have no idea. I haven't seen the tape and I was too far away to get a sense of it," Dunphy said. "There's not much we can do about it at this point. They're three really good officials. So if they blew a foul on that, that's what it was."

Wyatt wasn't as diplomatic.

"I thought Dalton was playing pretty good defense," Wyatt said. "I don't think a call should be made at that point in the game, but that's what the refs saw. They made a good call -- I guess."

The game was in Pepper's hands one last time when he caught a full-court heave from T.J. DiLeo and a launched a clean, albeit high-arcing look at a three as time expired. The ball landed softly on the rim, ricocheted off the backboard and ultimately fell to the floor.

Temple has found a way to win so many tight games this year, including a magic show against Dayton last Saturday that featured two phantom calls and five missed foul shots in the final minute. On Thursday, the Owls' penchant for playing unnecessarily close games against lesser opponents finally caught up to them.

"It would have been a great win in so many ways, but we didn't play well enough to feel great about ourselves at this point," Dunphy said.

Two earlier home losses to Canisius and St. Bonaventure this season haven't looked particularly good on the Owls' resume, but those two teams boast RPI figures of 105 and 122 -- not 217. Temple still has enough games and wins available against quality opponents to salvage its at-large credentials, but it's left itself so little margin for error. Dunphy was asked if his team was starting to feel the pressure of missing the tournament for the first time in six years.

"I hope so," he answered. "I hope so. It's a good thing when your back is against the wall, and you respond.

"We'll find out [how we bounce back]. We'll find out on Saturday (at UMass). We have a tough game. We have really seven tough games coming up, six of them in the league and Detroit is really a good team, too. So we have presented ourselves with a very, very difficult challenge as we move forward in the last seven games."

No. 5 Penn State 'honored' to battle No. 9 USC in Rose Bowl

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No. 5 Penn State 'honored' to battle No. 9 USC in Rose Bowl

PASADENA, Calif. -- Southern California and Penn State followed two difficult paths to reach a remarkable reunion eight years later in the Rose Bowl.

The Trojans will face the Big Ten champions on Jan. 2 in the 103rd edition of the Granddaddy of Them All. The rematch of the 2009 game showcases two venerable football programs that have emerged from bad times since their last trip to this traditional postseason destination for their conferences.

"I can't think of a better reward for our football team after this season," USC coach Clay Helton said. "These are the things you dream about as a little kid."

USC (9-3) will meet Penn State (11-2) in a rematch of the Trojans' 38-24 victory eight years ago -- the last trip to the Rose Bowl for either team. Since then, both programs were rocked to their foundations by scandals and NCAA sanctions.

But both capped years of progress with breakthroughs this fall, recovering from similarly slow starts to become two of the nation's top teams.

Coach James Franklin's Nittany Lions have won nine straight games, culminating in a 38-31 victory over Wisconsin on Saturday night in the Big Ten championship game. Penn State finished fifth in the final College Football Playoff rankings, just ahead of Michigan.

"How humbled and honored we are to have this opportunity," Franklin said. "I think this is a game and a bowl that players and coaches grow up dreaming about having an opportunity to play in and be a part of one day."

Helton's Trojans have won eight games in a row, capped by back-to-back victories over top rivals UCLA and Notre Dame. The Trojans barely missed out on the Pac-12 title game between Washington and Colorado -- who were both beaten convincingly by USC -- but overtook the Buffaloes in the final playoff rankings to snag their record 34th Rose Bowl berth.

Penn State will make its fourth appearance in the Rose Bowl, including three against USC. The Rose Bowl berth is another milestone in the program's revival after the scandal surrounding former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who was indicted on 40 counts of sex crimes in 2011.

USC has played in far more Rose Bowls than any other team. The Trojans' downtown campus is 15 miles from the stadium, which became the program's second home during the dominant years of coach Pete Carroll.

Here are some more things to know about the big game:

Trojans return
USC made the Rose Bowl five times in a six-season stretch under Carroll, including four straight trips from 2006-09, culminating in that victory over Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions. The Trojans have been through tumult since then, with a two-year bowl ban and other heavy NCAA sanctions leveled on the program in 2010. Coaches Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian were hired and fired amid regular turmoil in the athletic department over the past half-decade, but the capable Helton stepped in twice to run the team before finally getting the full-time job late last season.

Slow starts
Helton's first full season in charge got off to a 1-3 start this September with three losses to ranked teams away from home, but the Trojans haven't lost since. Penn State was 2-2 after a 49-10 loss to Michigan on Sept. 24, but the Nittany Lions are perfect ever since.

Young QBs
The game matches two gifted young quarterbacks who became stars this season. Sam Darnold took over the Trojans nine games ago, and the Pac-12's offensive freshman of the year has steered their winning streak with 2,633 yards passing and 26 touchdowns. Penn State sophomore Trace McSorley has been outstanding during the Nittany Lions' unbeaten run, culminating against Wisconsin with a brilliant 384-yard, four-touchdown performance, his most prolific of the season.

Matchups
USC's solid defense must face a Penn State offense that has scored at least 38 points in six consecutive games. Penn State's defense will have its own hands full against USC's offense, which is dotted with NFL-caliber talent at nearly every position -- including top receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, 1,000-yard tailback Ronald Jones II and a powerful offensive line.

Familiar problem
USC is 24-9 in the Rose Bowl game since making its first appearance in 1923, earning a 14-3 win over Penn State in the ninth Rose Bowl game ever played. According to the Rose Bowl, that 1923 game started 50 minutes late because of a classic LA problem: Penn State's team got stuck in traffic.

No, 24 Temple ready to make more history in Military Bowl vs. Wake Forest

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No, 24 Temple ready to make more history in Military Bowl vs. Wake Forest

Less than 24 hours after senior offensive lineman Dion Dawkins put Temple’s American Athletic Conference trophy in its case at Edberg-Olson Hall, it had to be taken out again.

There were too many fingerprints on the championship hardware from all the people holding it after Temple’s 34-10  win against Navy on Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland. Now clean, the trophy is back in its secure spot as a reminder of one of the program's biggest accomplishments.

“When we go back to 10th and Diamond and see that trophy case, ‘We can say, Dang. Like that’s us,’” Dawkins said. “We did this. We built this. We started this legacy at Temple with Coach Rhule.”

Dawkins and the Owls will have another opportunity to build on their "legacy" when they travel back to Annapolis for the Military Bowl on Dec. 27 against Wake Forest.

The Demon Deacons, who play in the Atlantic Coast Conference, finished the year 6-6 after losing their last three games.

“I think for us there’s two reasons,” Rhule said of the Owls’ decision to return to Annapolis for a bowl game. “We wanted to play a Power 5 team. We wanted to play an ACC or SEC team. And I think once we won there, and we saw what our crowd was there. I think this will just be a tremendous opportunity for all of Temple people to come down and see us play an ACC team.”

Last year’s Temple seniors went down as one of the best senior classes in program history. They went to the program's first bowl game in four years, they were ranked in the Top 25 for the first time in 36 years, and they won 10 games for just the second time in program history.

This season, Temple has matched those marks with one game still left to go. When the Owls play in the Military Bowl, they’ll make program history by appearing in bowl games in consecutive years. On Sunday, the Owls appeared in the College Football Playoff (No. 24), Associated Press (No. 23) and USA Today Coaches poll (No. 24) rankings for the first time this season. A Temple team ranked in consecutive seasons is another first.

Even after clinching the AAC title on Saturday, there’s still more this team can do. The Owls haven’t won a bowl game since 2011. Temple ended 2015 with a loss to Toledo in the Boca Raton Bowl, which dropped the Owls from the final rankings. Rhule hopes the Owls can end this season in the Top 25. They’ve done it only once before — in 1979, when Wayne Hardin’s group finished No. 17 after a 10-2 year.

“I’m a big believer in legacy," Rhule said. "And I try to talk to our players about, ‘When you come back, the memories you’ll have, but also the things that will remind you of the things that you did, your accomplishments. And when they look up this team, we’d like to have a number next to it. It tells you that we’re one of the top teams in the country.”

The Owls also have a shot at the 11th win that eluded the 2015 team. Including this year’s team, Temple has had three 10-win seasons in its history. No Temple team has ever won more.

“Right now, we’re going to celebrate,” redshirt-senior defensive lineman Haason Reddick said after Saturday’s game. “This was a big accomplishment. Once we figure out which bowl game we’re going to and it’s time to start preparing for the bowl game, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go in with a championship-caliber mind again, that way we can get an 11th win and hopefully end this thing 11-3.”