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Published: Saturday, 9/17/2005

UT surely Temple s idol today

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

PHILADELPHIA The Temple University football team has been battered and bruised in the opening two games of the season and coach Bobby Wallace said he is concerned about the mentality of his team.

But he added that he doesn t have to look far for inspiration. In fact, this afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field, he need look no farther than the opposing sideline.

Toledo proved last year that it can be done, Wallace said. I looked it up. They lost their first two games last season 63-21 and 63-14, then won the [Mid-American Conference] championship and went to a bowl game.

Temple, which has played twice on the road, lost 63-16 to Arizona State and 65-0 against Wisconsin.

So that s our motivation, Wallace said. I wish I could call [Toledo coach] Tom Amstutz and ask him how he did it, but I don t think he d tell me.

When his comment was passed along to Amstutz, the UT coach smiled and said, No, I wouldn t, at least not this week. But their situation does remind me of our team a year ago. We got off to a rough start against two outstanding opponents, just like they [Temple] have this season.

But they can turn their season around on their home field. I expect to see an excited and intense team in Temple. Our players had better understand that they ll face a lot tougher team than we ve seen on the films.

While Temple has sputtered to an 0-2 start, the Rockets are 2-0 with a 62-14 win over Division I-AA Western Illinois and a 56-23 decision against Western Michigan.

It s going to be quite a challenge for us, Wallace said. You ve got an offense scoring 60 points a game against a defense giving up 60 points a game. I know Toledo is that good, but I hope we re not that bad.

The Owls have run the ball 61 times for 51 net yards, an average of just 0.8 yards per attempt, while first-year quarterback Mike McGann has completed only 38.6 percent of his passes.

UT counters with Bruce Gradkowski, who owns a 70.3 career completion percentage and should set school records today for passing yardage and completions.

He s just so accurate and so smart, Wallace said of Gradkowski. He always finds the right guy. They do a lot of short passes, but it doesn t matter if he throws it five yards or 30 yards. If the play ends up gaining 30, then it s 30.

Temple, recently given the boot after 14 seasons in the Big East Conference, is playing as an independent but will join the MAC in football in 2007. This is their first game against a MAC team since that announcement was made.

I hope there s some excitement, Wallace said of today s game. There should be. This is really the start of a new era in Temple football. We may not technically be a member yet or able to compete for the championship, but we know where our future is.

After the last two weeks, this gives us a chance at a new start. It s a good time to play a MAC team although, frankly, there may be no good time to play Toledo.

Contact Dave Hackenberg at:dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398



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