PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The lean seasons are back at Temple.
After a three-year run of success — spurred by former coaches Al Golden and Steve Addazio — that ended decades of futility, the Owls have returned to the bottom, without a win and without much hope of pulling off an upset Saturday against No. 7 Louisville.
Once one of the worst programs in the nation, the Owls (0-4) found their footing in the Mid-American Conference, but struggled last season in a return to the Big East. In his first season, coach Matt Rhule has the Owls' rebuilding process looking for better days ahead in the American Athletic Conference.
He might want to try again after Saturday.
A five-touchdown favorite, the seventh-ranked Cardinals (4-0) are in great shape to keep their perfect season alive against the Owls at the home of the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles.
"The first segment is done, then we get to step into our conference and every game counts," Cardinals coach Charlie Strong said. "We are going to have to do better and we are going to have to improve the running game on offense."
Who needs a running game? Not with Teddy Bridgewater and his 14 touchdown passes turning the Cardinals into one of the more potent offenses in the nation. He's likely the last quarterback Temple wants to face. Bridgewater tied a career-high with five scoring passes last season in a 45-17 win over the Owls.
"He's NFL ready," Rhule said. "He's going to be a great quarterback at the next level. I think the biggest thing is eliminate the deep ball and the big plays."
And try to stay close. After all, the last time Louisville played Temple (2006) at Lincoln Financial Field, the Cardinals won 62-0. That was the first of two straight — yes, two straight — 62-0 losses for the Owls.
But Golden steered the ship toward .500 and whipped the program into bowl contention. The Owls went 9-4 and 8-4 in his final two seasons and Addazio inherited a solid roster that went 9-4 with a bowl victory in 2011.
But Addazio bolted after a 4-7 record last year and the Owls facing an upgrade in competition. It's up to Rhule to keep the Owls from falling back into the abyss of also-rans that regularly churn out one- and two-win seasons. Losses already this year to Fordham and Idaho haven't helped optimism.