By Kami Mattioli, Owlsports.com columnist
Inside the recently renovated Edberg-Olson practice facility, there stands a wall inscribed with the adage “Good things happen to good people who work hard.”
The wall is the last barrier separating the training room from the practice field, strategically placed in the narrow hallway that funnels the players out of the darkness and onto the 50-yard line.
It's both the last thing each man sees as he heads to battle it out on the field and the very first thing he sees upon his return to the locker room -- a constant reminder of the determination that the new-look Temple football team strives to establish and maintain.
Touting an overall 3-2 record and unbeaten in BIG EAST play after last week's improbable late-game comeback at Connecticut, Temple had no issues establishing that unrelenting attitude in today's matchup against nationally ranked and undefeated Rutgers.
The problem was maintaining it.
Perhaps emboldened by the sleek black-on-black uniforms the team discovered in their locker room just hours prior to kickoff, the Temple defense forced Rutgers to go fourth-and-out on the team's opening drive, seeding the momentum handily rooted in the Owls' favor.
It appeared Temple could do no wrong in the first half: blanking Rutgers despite the Scarlet Knights manufacturing 110 yards of total offense while recording 10 points on 142 yards of their own.
But for whatever reason, with the game clock reset to 15:00 following the halftime intermission, that determination -- the advertised benchmark of Temple football -- vanished.
“It was a tale of two halves here,” head coach Steve Addazio said in an emotionally-charged post-game press conference.
He referenced a punt attempt by Brandon McManus
that was blocked early in the fourth quarter, two late-game fumbles and an interception as stumbling blocks in a disastrous second half in which the Owls were outscored 35-0.
“It's a shame,” he said. “It was a third period where we were not very good. It's hard to watch the team you watched in the first two periods and watch the team in the third period and ask 'what happened there?'”
As he stood at the podium carefully navigating the crossfire of questioning, Addazio had no time for rumination. He continued on, answering his own rhetorical question.
“We didn't help each other as a team. It was a collective team thing. Special teams had a blocked punt. The offense didn't do anything in the third period, and defense didn't do anything in the third period. That's a pretty collective collapse,” he explained.
Naturally, many of the recaps surfacing over the course of the next few days will recount an epic implosion in which the Owls suffered the sting of 35 consecutive, unanswered points.
But in a tale of two halves, that's only half of the story.
What will inevitably be lost in translation were the prolonged glimpses of the team that Temple is -- a team that came out of the tunnel effectively silencing a dynamic and explosive nationally ranked opponent.
“We took the No. 15 team nose-to-nose and played with them in the first half,” Addazio said. “That's football. You get hit in the mouth, and you've got to come back and fight. That's what you do.”
There were also flashes of the team the Owls may soon become.
But in order to become that team, the Owls will have to take to heart the motto they pass by dozens of times each day -- the one prominently emblazoned before the exit of the facility they call home:
“Good things happen to good people who work hard.”