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Last year's thrashing by Owls still fresh wound for PSU

JOE JULIANO
The Philadelphia Inquirer (TNS)
  • Penn State lost to Temple last season, 27-10.
  • It was Temple's first victory in the season since 1941.
  • Penn State is coming off a 42-39 loss to Pitt on Saturday.

Regardless of what happened last year, the Penn State party line for the game Saturday against Temple doesn't vary from what James Franklin and his players usually say about any opponent — basically, it's our most important game because it's our next game.

But the Owls' 27-10 thrashing of the Nittany Lions last year at Lincoln Financial Field, their first victory in the series since 1941, has not been completely forgotten by Penn State's players.

Penn State offensive tackle Andrew Nelson, left, suffered a season-ending injury against Maryland in 2016. He returned to the Nittany Lions on Saturday, Sept. 9, against Pitt.

"It's going to be the type of game where, methodically through the week, we're going to practice with a chip on our shoulder so that what happened last year will not happen again this year," offensive tackle Andrew Nelson said Wednesday. "That's the kind of emotion that goes into it, that we're going to prepare throughout the week to play the absolute best we can on Saturday.

"You try to do that, obviously, for every game you play in," the redshirt junior added. "But I'm sure there are guys on this team that, in the back of their minds, while they're playing and while they're practicing, they're thinking about what happened last year."

If anyone wanted to put last year's result to rest, it would be Nelson and his teammates on the offensive line. The Temple defense sacked quarterback Christian Hackenberg 10 times and shut out the Nittany Lions after the visitors ran out to a quick 10-0 lead.

Even with the loss last year, Penn State's advantage in the series is 39-4-1. The Owls are 0-24-1 in Happy Valley with the tie, 7-7, coming in 1950.

Coming off tough loss: But there is no question that Franklin and the Lions need to come up with a win this season, especially at home. Penn State's 42-39 loss last week at Pittsburgh made Franklin 0-2 against teams from the commonwealth.

Although the Nittany Lions rallied from 21 points down to Pitt and had a chance to win late in the game, they played poorly early. Quarterback Trace McSorley lost two fumbles leading to 14 points by the Panthers, and Pitt established a rushing game that eventually wore down Penn State's young defensive line for 341 yards.

Defensive end Garrett Sickels said that the line did not do a good job on fundamentals, that he and his teammates were trying to make plays and not take care of their own responsibilities, something his team will try to fix Saturday.

"If we don't take care of the things we need to correct from last weekend, we won't be successful," he said. "So we've got to take care of ourselves before we really do look at this game from an emotional or last-year aspect."

Bragging rights: There is also the issue of bragging rights for Penn State's Philadelphia contingent. But cornerback John Reid, who starred at St. Joseph's Prep and received one of his first scholarship offers from Temple, said the game is not about that.

"We want to play a good football game, play better than we did last year, and eliminate the mistakes," he said. "I know a lot of those guys. Most of the time when we talk, I wouldn't say we're talking about us playing each other. A lot of us are actually good friends off the field, so we usually talk about our own experiences that we're going through in college and things like that."

So while Pitt and Temple "mean a lot more because they're in-state opponents," Nelson said, the Lions will try to come out and stick to business as in any other week.

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"We're going to give maximum effort all game long," he said, "but we just need to clean up the little things so that, when the game is over, we can be on top."

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