Penn State Temple 2011 Recap – Owls Nearly Upset Lions,14-10

Although a full game story appears below, it doesn't contain much description of the crackling atmosphere at the Linc. So after you read the article below, please check back for more on that!

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Penn State @ Temple - September 17, 2011

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The Temple football community – players, staff, students, alumni, and fans – suffered a heartbreaking loss to Penn State, 14-10, after leading for nearly the entire game. Temple was seeking its first win over the Nittany Lions, since 1941.

A victory at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday, September 17, 2011, would have been arguably the greatest win in Temple football history – and the greatest upset. Here’s why:

The series dates back to 1931. Temple won the inaugural contest, 12-0, and three of the first four meetings. Temple’s last victory – a 14-0 shutout - had taken place during the 1941 season – i.e., before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

After that victory, Temple dropped seven in a row, during the 1940s. In 1950, the Owls managed a 7-7 tie against Rip Engle, Joe Paterno’s mentor, with Paterno at his side as an assistant in his first year at Happy Valley. In 1952, Engle led the Nittany Lions to a 20-13 victory. The series then lay dormant for 23 years.

In the meantime, Joe Paterno had taken over the reins in 1966. He brought a 27-0 record against Temple into yesterday’s game, with many of the victories by lopsided margins. From 1986 through 2009, Temple was not competitive in any of the 16 losses.

But last season, the Owls pulled a shocker in Happy Valley. Despite not having played a competitive game against the Lions since 1985, Temple led for 37 minutes before succumbing, 23-12.

Entering yesterday’s contest, Joe Paterno had won 27 straight against Temple, since he first became head coach in 1966. (He had beaten six Temple coaches – and now seven.) But the series – and Penn State’s winning streak precedes even Paterno. It’s not just that Temple hadn’t beaten Penn State, since before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

So the burning question entering yesterday was:

Was the 2010 contest a fluke? Would the historic pattern of the last quarter-century – a lopsided Penn State victory – reappear? Or was Temple for real? Could they once more give Penn State all it could handle, and more? Or even win?


We received a conclusive resolution to that question yesterday. Temple was quite real enough, from Penn State’s viewpoint. In short, Temple suffered what could only be accurately described as a soul-crushing loss. The Temple Owls led, or were tied, for nearly the entire game. Temple never trailed at any point, until only 2:46 remained.

But unfortunately for the gallant underdogs, the three minutes during which Penn State led, were the final three of the contest. Penn State scored the game-winning TD and took its first lead at 14-10, which would prove to be the final score.


Sights and Sounds

The sudden appearance of big-time college football in Philadelphia was a stunning experience. I had speculated, prior to the contest, that the throngs crammed into the Linc would be rooting 3-1 for Penn State; in actuality, I estimate it was about 3-2 Penn State. This meant that Temple had quite a number of partisans.

There were 57,323 spectators – the second-highest attendance for Temple since it began play at the Linc, during the 2003 season – and its third-highest all-time (including the late Veterans Stadium, where it played home games through 2002). The only one above yesterday’s contest was against – you guessed it, Penn State – when the #25 Nittany Lions arrived on November 10, 2007. (However, this game was far more exciting; four years ago, in front of 69,029 fans, the Nittany Lions shut out the Owls, 31-0).

The major reason for the improved Temple crowd support, was its students; over 10,000 students attended the contest, a school record.

Statistically

Penn State had substantial advantages in yardage, plays from scrimmage, and committed only one turnover. However, Penn State had just a slight edge in time of possession (just over 30 minutes), and suffered from dreadful special-teams play. Penn State missed three field goals with two kickers; Evan Lewis missed wide left on a 45 yarder late in the first quarter.

The Narrative - the first quarter

Penn State narrowly escaped disaster on its opening drive. In eight plays, the Nittany Lions gained just 15 yards, had QB Bolden sacked, and had to recover a fumble. After the punt, Temple marched down the field steadily, culminating in a Bernard Pierce two-yard TD run. The 82-yard drive was enhanced by two Penn State penalties, but the Owls had two big plays on it and took an early 7-0 lead.

The ensuing Penn State possession was critical to the game’s development. The Penn State fans were not terribly bothered about falling behind 7-0. The Nittany Lions’ Silas Redd gained 21 yards on the opening play, with Bolden hitting Derek Moye for 16 on the next one. Suddenly, Penn State was on the 32.

But the Temple defense stiffened, permitting just two yards in three plays. And when Lewis missed the field goal, there was a definite momentum shift. Every Temple fan now had the idea that an upset was a very real possibility.

The teams then traded punts, neither obtaining a first down, and the first quarter ended with Temple’s 7-0 lead. The teams continued the punt exchanges; with about 9:50 to play, Temple took poss. While the Imperial March was played, it’s worth noting that at this point, Penn State’s first four series had ended in three punts and a missed field goal.

Then Penn State partially blocked a punt, thanks to Lion Mike Hull. This gave Penn State good field position at the 50, with 8:10 left in the half. At this point, given the Nittany Lions sluggishness on offense, Joe Paterno decided to switch QBs, with McGloin replacing Bolden.

McGloin didn’t disappoint. He guided the Nittany Lions on a 7-play, 50-yard drive, that tied the game at 7-7. After a Temple face mask penalty, Redd – with a huge hole to run through - ripped off a 17 yard run through the Temple D, with 4:57 to play in the half.

With the score knotted at 7, coach Steve Addazio had a trick up his sleeve. He replaced the QB with Chester Stewart, a running quarterback. Temple, taking possession with 4:49 to play at its own 38, needed a spark. On this series, Stewart carried the ball four times for 11 yards, but most critically, completed a third and 7 to Jones for a 16-yard gain. Now at the Penn State 28, the Nittany Lions stuffed Stewart three times, but he had gotten the Owls into FG range. Brian McManus booted a 40-yard attempt through the uprights for a 10-7 Temple lead with 37 seconds left in the half.

Penn State made a genuine attempt to score before the whistle, and nearly did. McGloin led the Nittany Lions to the Temple 32, giving another kicker, Sam Ficken, a shot at a 49-yarder to tie it. But it was blocked by Temple, ending the half as the clock ran out. For the second straight year, Temple now led Penn State at halftime. When play resumed, McGloin and Stewart remained at the helm, for their respective teams. They exchanged punts, with neither gaining field-position advantage. But a highly unexpected sequence took place, that would continue to embolden the Cherry and White’s hope for a historic upset.

The Owls took possession at their 34 with 8:50 to play in the third quarter, still with the 10-7 advantage. On the fourth consecutive running play of the series, Pierce fumbled, and it was recovered by Penn State’s Sukay at the Penn State 48. The blue-and-white partisans in the stands went crazy. Finally, the Nittany Lions had forced a Temple turnover, and with another short field, McGloin would have no trouble driving the Nittany Lions into the red-and-white end zone.

But there would be two key surprises at this point. The first was that when the Penn State offense emerged to take possession with 6:42 to play in the 3rd quarter, McGloin was no longer at QB. Bolden was.

The second surprise – intimately related to the first one – was that Bolden, on the first play, threw an interception to Temple’s K. Griffin at the 50. Within a minute, momentum and passion had shockingly shifted to the red-and-white fans… Penn State, rather than capitalizing on the turnover, had simply returned the football right back to its host.

Unfortunately, for Temple, Stewart couldn’t capitalize on the short field, either. The Owls went 3-and-out, and punted. Penn State now had the ball back at its 21, having lost just 29 yards of field position due to the Bolden interception.

Unsurprisingly, McGloin returned to the game. In four plays, the Nittany Lions advanced 27 yards to their 48, when another event happened to deflate the Penn State fans.

On 1st-and-10, McGloin completed a 52-yard TD pass to Moye – apparently, that was. While the blue and white sections was in jubilation on having taken the lead, the yellow flag was noticed, and Temple began to cheer. It was coming back, due to a holding penalty.

Now facing 1st-and-20, the Nittany Lions gained 11 yards on three plays, and sent out the punt team at their 49. But Anthony Fera’s punt was blocked, recovered by Temple’s Rod Streater at the PSU 39. Moments earlier, Penn State had been apparently up 14-10; now, Temple had the ball in Penn State territory - and still had its tenuous 10-7 lead. Naturally, Temple fans were in an uproar.

But Stewart once more faced a three-and-out, and the Owls’ punt was returned to the Penn State 13, with 35 seconds left in the quarter. It would end with Penn State facing 3rd-and-4 at its own 16.

Here, the football gods intervened. With the quarter ending, it gave Penn State a de facto timeout to think about what to call on this play. If the Nittany Lions didn’t get a first down, Temple was going to once more have excellent field position.

And Penn State used the break wisely. McGloin got the first down, and it permitted them to punt from its 34. When Temple took over at its 23, with 13:18 remaining – the genuine drama moved to its fourth - and final – act. And the play would have a bitter ending for Temple.

Mike Gerardi returned at QB. After one first down, he faced 3rd-and-14 at his own 36. Temple used a timeout to discuss what to do – a timeout which would have been crucial to have had at crunch time. And Gerardi promptly threw an interception to Penn State’s Chaz Powell, who returned it 26 yards to the Temple 26. PS had the break they needed, with 11:42 to play.

Temple’s defense stepped up, holding the Nittany Lions to a three-and-out. Lewis (who had missed in the 1st Quarter) attempted a 36-yard FG which would have tied it at 10 – and hit the right upright!

Temple still had its 10-7 lead, the ball at its 20, and just 10:43 separating it from a victory over Penn State. And then the football gods turned on Temple. On 3rd-and-4, Gerardi promptly threw another interception, to Michael Mauti, at the Temple 44. Penn State had been given yet another short field, with 8:46 to play.

There seemed to be a general feeling on both sides, that this would be Penn State’s make-or-break possession. Score, and preserve JoePa’s unbeaten streak against Temple; fail to score, and have it be national news for the rest of the day. This drive would determine what outcome fate held in store, for each team.

Bolden replaced McGloin at QB, and it was an incredibly dramatic drive for the 44 yards, needed for Penn State to achieve victory. Bolden converted 3rd-and-7 at the Temple 41. On the next series, on 3rd-and-6 at the Temple 27, he completed a four-yard pass – setting up 4th-and-2 at the Temple 23.

This was decision time. Having already missed three FGs, it seemed unlikely that Paterno would turn to either kicker for a 40-yarder. Instead, the Nittany Lions went for it – and made it, and then some. Bolden completed an 11-yard pass to Moye, for a first down at the Temple 12. The Nittany Lions were now in solid FG range, but they wanted the TD.

Two plays later, on 3rd-and-2 at the 4, Bolden fumbled the snap – but Mike Zordich recovered it at the 3, actually gaining a yard. This meant 4th-and-1 at the 3, with 3:06 to play.

Penn State took a timeout to discuss strategy. It would be a chip-shot FG, just 20 yards. But then the game would only be tied – and Temple would have three minutes left to untie it with another FG. And the Penn State kickers weren’t having a good day. Penn State didn’t have an advantage when it came to kickers – like a shootout in soccer – but the Nittany Lions certainly had an advantage in size and speed. Better to just lower their shoulders and get the ball in, especially with the opportunity to gain another first down. (And if it failed – Temple would be pinned inside its 5.)

Brandon Beachum got the first down. And on the next play, Zordich scored what would be the final points of the game. Penn State now led, 14-10, with 2:43 to play. It was the Nittany Lions’ first lead of the contest.

The Owls added to the excitement on the ensuing kickoff, when they fumbled, but managed to recover it at their 36. Temple had 2:33 to go 64 yards. Gerardi performed well, guiding the Owls all the way to the Penn State 34, aided by a Penn State personal foul penalty. He had made it almost halfway there.

But three consecutive incompletions left Temple facing a 4th-and-10 at the 34. When Penn State’s Sean Stanley sacked Gerardi, he fumbled, and although Temple recovered it, it no longer mattered. With less than a minute left, Temple had just one timeout – and so Penn State just ran out the clock to preserve its come-from-behind victory.


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