Penn State loses to Temple for first time in 74 years
PHILADELPHIA — Penn State had a 39-game unbeaten streak against Temple go down one sack at a time.
The Nittany Lions never really stood a chance because Christian Hackenberg never had time to stand in the pocket.
P.J. Walker scored the go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter to rally Temple to a 27-10 win over Penn State on Saturday. It was Temple's first win over the Nittany Lions in 74 years.
Temple hadn't won in the series since Oct. 18, 1941. That was so long ago that the late Penn State coach Joe Paterno was only 14 years old.
Penn State was 38-0-1 since '41 with a 7-7 tie in 1950, the only time the Owls played without a loss.
Hackenberg was sacked a whopping 10 times and failed to have the type of protection needed to help Penn State sustain any serious drives.
"It comes down to protection and being able to run the ball," coach James Franklin said.
Franklin, surely under fire now after a 7-6 season last year, had little explanation for Penn State's offensive meltdown.
"I'm not going to come in here and be defensive and make excuses. We've got to get it done," he said.
Penn State's former stars complained on Twitter about a loss that would have seemed unfathomable under Paterno.
Former running back Bill Belton posted a photo of an exasperated Kanye West with a hand on his head. Former offensive lineman Adam Gress wrote, "So I wasn't gonna be "that guy".... But now I will be.... Offensive coordinator sucks," and ex-defensive back Stephon Morris tweeted "Joe Pa beat the teams he was so suppose to beat. #facts."
The Owls were at their best in front of a record crowd of 69,176 at Lincoln Financial Field and gave the fans who colored the stands in cherry and white what is perhaps the biggest win in program history.
Walker made it 17-10 with a 1-yard run late in the third and the Owls cruised from there, no longer serving as Penn State's intrastate pushover.
"This is huge for recruiting," third-year coach Matt Rhule said. "I'm getting on the phone tonight and saying, 'Look at what our kids are doing.'"
Jahad Thomas, who rushed for 135 yards, had a 24-yard TD run in the fourth and Austin Jones added a 30-yard field goal to send what was left of the Penn State faithful fleeing toward the exits.
The Owls sold out a game at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the NFL's Eagles, for only the second time since the stadium opened in 2003. The other game? Penn State in 2007.
Penn State usually seems to bring a nice chunk of Happy Valley with them to Philadelphia — and the "We Are" and "409" flags waving from the tailgating cars in the parking lots were spotted blocks away.
But this was no hostile takeover.
Temple fans gave the Owls a true homefield advantage in a stadium used to mostly empty stands. Unaccustomed to such crowds, fans had trouble finding open parking lots hours before the game and waited in lengthy lines to get into the Linc.
The Owls were long one of the worst teams in college football, winning two or fewer games in a season 13 times since 1991. The Owls were kicked out of the Big East, took up temporary residence in the Mid-American Conference, and now have their sights set on an American Athletic Conference championship.
Penn State seemed poised for another rout when it took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. Joey Julius, Penn State's 5-foot-10, 259-pound kicker, connected from 34 yards and Akeel Lynch scored on a 42-yard run. Penn State had 126 total yards in the first; 43 total over the second and third.
Penn State punted on six straight possessions once it took a 10-0 lead.
Thomas scored his first TD on a 1-yard run in the second and Jones tied it 10-all on a 40-yarder in the third.
On the seventh possession since its last score, Hackenberg's pass was intercepted by Sharif Finch and seemingly returned to the end zone for the go-ahead score. After a quick replay review, Finch was ruled down on the 2 and Walker followed with the TD for the 17-10 lead.
All that was left there was a milestone win under Rhule.
"That's one of many victories that's coming this year," Walker said.
That it came against Penn State, though no longer a Big Ten and national power, was still a stunner.