I feel like that pimply faced, consistently overwhelmed, yet always employed teenager on The Simpsons—"Mr. Bradshaw…it happened again."
For the third year in a row, the Ohio Bobcats have (more than likely) eliminated the Temple Owls from MAC Championship contention. Temple will need to go 3-0 down the stretch and have Ohio drop at least two of their next three for the team to reach its season-long goal of a trip to Ford Field in Detroit.
For all intents and purposes—it's over. Again. The problem is that this one seems to sting just a little more. And, with a little help from my friends, I think I figured out why.
After the game, I ran over idea after idea and angle after angle as to how to condense what I had just watched over the last three hours. From the "just write a straight recap be done" approach, to the "silver lining that Temple is actually leading SportsCenter" approach, to the "solitary tweet that I'm gonna go jump off a bridge" approach, they all seemed equally plausible. Though, none of them quite fit.
And then, the Examiner.com's Kevin McGuire summed up my apparently-not-so-complicated emotions in a less than 140 character response to a colleague:
Many of you will be familiar with Kevin as our guest contributor who stops by to fill us in on a program that leaves me annually envious.
For as spot-on as Kevin was in his response, that first statement is nonetheless accurate; last night' was the least "Temple-like" game the Owls have played all season. The quarterback was electric. The defense couldn't get a stop. The team drove the field in the second half like a Temple squad many of us had never before seen. Even Steve Addazio remarked after the loss that there was just "something different" about his team on Wednesday night.
And there is something different about Temple each season. Hell, there's something different about them every week. That goes for most teams. Most teams don't stay static. Whether its a new coach, an injury to a valuable runner or offensive lineman, a new quarterback, or a pick me up or let down on defense, every week, every season is always different. Except, of course, for when they're all the same.
Every one of Temple past three losses to Ohio was in some way different—different coaches, different quarterbacks, different injuries, different natural elements. But, every one of those games has ended the same, with Temple failing to pull through on the one night they need it most. Every loss to Ohio—save for in '09 when the team was graced with its first bowl appearance in thirty years—comes with a "let's pick ourselves off the ground and be glad basketball season is right around the corner" attitude for those fans who have once more had the energy zapped from their veins.
For all the benefit the Owls' supporters have enjoyed in watching their team once again become "a good program," they're on the receiving end of a disproportionate share of heartbreak. E
ach time this team seems poised to take that next step in their perpetual "rise," they suffer an all-too-disappointing letdown.
I have continuously written about how much I despise the phrase "same ol' Temple," because, quite frankly, its asinine phrase built for people who either know nothing about the program or continue to hold on to a status quo that they're unwilling to relent. A team who goes 9-4, 8-4 and (probably once more this year) 8-4 is in no way that "same ol' Temple."
They're just a "same new Temple." They're a team "on the rise" that gets all the way to the altar, and for whatever reason cannot say the words, "I do." Sure, years ago we would have been grateful to have a metaphorical member of the opposite gender even metaphorically wink at us, but now we metaphorically want more. We metaphorically want marriage. We want literally to win.
And, yes, I watched the game and, yes, I know they got jobbed on two separate plays that should have never resulted in touchdowns. I also know one fewer penalty and some passing attempts on first down would have probably made the difference against Bowling Green. And I'll never stop believing that if Bernard Pierce had only been healthy for the second half of the 2010 game against Penn State in Happy Valley that…that it really doesn't matter. Because it's always something.
And that's the problem—it's always something. It's something different every week. Temple may have been as un-Temple-like as I've seen them in the past two seasons on Wednesday night, but that doesn't make Kevin any less right. Temple fans have seen that game before, and the differences really don't matter.
Most teams don't stay static. But this team seems statically "on the rise," unable to take the next step from "we're coming" to "we've arrived." And it wouldn't hurt so damn much if it actually seemed like the they lost to a better team. Look at that list I indented above. How many of those games were ripe for the taking? Now add all the other games not in that list that should have never been in doubt, yet still cost them their ultimate goal.
More than anything, I'm discouraged. But, I'm not giving up either.
I'll be right back at it this weekend outlining scenarios that could see Temple still on its way to Detroit. I'll keep writing articles evidencing how far they've come, and defending their status as a team to be taken seriously. I can't stop and I won't stop. As I have every reason to believe in the Temple Owls and to root for their success, I will continue to do so.
But now, like you, I'm faced with another ten to twelve months of general harassment from those who wish to constantly remind me why my program "sucks." I know in my heart those people are wrong. I just don't have the energy to explain why right now.
Last night zapped that energy from me. Last night in Ohio, the Temple Owls didn't give their defense attorney a whole lot to work with.
I'm filing for a continuance.