This is not the same Temple that I watched lose 65-0 in Madison ten years ago. This program has progressed from whispers surrounding the termination of the football program to last week’s first defeat of rival Penn State since 1941. Suddenly, Cincinnati had to be on high alert.
A few sprinkles kept tailgating lots from filling as quickly as usual, but a palpable excitement kept the air saturated long after the rain cleared. This season marks the return of Bearcat football to Nippert Stadium after a year of astounding renovations. Last season, Cincinnati moved their home games to Paul Brown Stadium, home of the Bengals. Shifting the action away from campus was a necessary move, but it left gameday bereft of the resplendent atmosphere that gives college football it’s unique flair. Bearcat fans were ready to return and bring Nippert back to life. A white out made the stadium pop against the blackness of night, and the team blasted out of the tunnel like the opening fireworks that reflected against the freshly constructed luxury suites. The arena filled with the cacophonous sound of thundersticks coupled with awestruck crowd roars as parachuters descended onto the turf. The scene was set.
A flurry of offensive ineptitude kept the score low by halftime. A 10-6 Temple lead at the break left mixed feelings amongst the Bearcat faithful. They were right to feel concern. The Owls came out blazing in the second half with a 100-yard kickoff return that silenced the hopeful. The lead swelled as the game progressed. A 34-12 Temple advantage early in the fourth quarter had Cincinnati fans searching for the exits.
Those that stayed witnessed a near comeback. The Bearcats clawed back to within 8 and drove near the end zone with a chance to tie. But, an interception laden evening for QB Gunner Kiel would end in just that – an completion to the wrong jersey in the endzone. The outcome didn’t take away from what always is a classic college football experience in Nippert Stadium. The third oldest active stadium in college football lived up to its tradition and history as it once again filled with passionate fans. Temple’s victory may have drained Nippert of some of its energy on this night, but fans can walk away feeling that their team’s season won’t be under construction for long.