As a senior captain at Penn State in 1991, Al Golden led the Nittany Lions into Philadelphia for a 24-7 win over Temple.
His old coach wasn’t so kind in 2006, when Golden returned to Happy Valley as coach of the Owls and got handed a 47-0 loss by Joe Paterno.
But as Golden strives to gain any shred of respectability for Temple football, he calls the current seven-game series between Penn State and Temple “a win-win situation” for both programs.
“Al didn’t check with me,” Paterno laughed. “If we lose, it won’t be a win-win.”
The chance of a Penn State loss in today’s noon matchup at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia is something just above impossible. But that doesn’t mean the Owls aren’t any better of a team. Before a road loss to Ohio last week, Temple (3-6, 3-3 MAC) was on its first three-game winning streak in a season since 1990.
Since being banished from a Big East Conference that was still desperate for football members at the time, Temple has managed to pull itself out of the mud and gain entry to the Mid-American Conference, where the Owls look to be a much better fit.
And Golden, a two-year starter at tight end and former linebackers coach for the Lions, is in charge of the new era. He’s even got his former teammate and fellow Penn State captain Mark D’Onofrio on board as his defensive coordinator.
Still, Paterno has seen what a coaching graveyard Temple football has been over the years, in large part because of a miserable lack of support from the university. In 1992, Paterno told one of his former assistant coaches, Ron Dickerson, that he shouldn’t accept a head coaching offer from Temple because of the situation there.
Dickerson took the job and lasted five seasons with an unremarkable record of 8-47.
It’s the same reason that Paterno didn’t think Golden should take the job either.
“Al Golden has a great future as a football coach,” Paterno said. “I mean, he’s bright, he’s got all the things you want in place to be a heck of a football coach. I just – you hate to have anybody move into a dead-end, because if you don’t succeed, you get labeled.
“But Al felt he could get it done there, and obviously he is getting it done there. I think the fact that Temple went into the MAC has been a big credit to them, a big asset to them. He got Mark D’Onofrio to come with him … who is another guy who will be a heck of a football coach because he’s got a lot of fire, and he’s bright. You’re talking about a couple of bright, young men who have a passion. And I think if anybody can do it they ought to be able to do it.”
For this current season at least, the Owls look to be hard-pressed to add a fourth win.
Since midway through last year, Temple had been led on offense by former Penn State recruit Adam DiMichele. But a broken left leg two weeks ago ended his season.
At Sto-Rox High School, a small school in Western Pennsylvania, DiMichele set the WPIAL record for passing yards and was also a standout baseball and basketball player. He took a scholarship from the Lions but decided to try his hand at baseball and left the program before ever contributing.
Eventually he looked to get back into football and ended up at Temple, where he got be a quarterback once again, leading the Owls to consecutive MAC wins. His replacement, sophomore Vaughn Charlton, finished off a win against Miami University when DiMichele went down, but isn’t quite the same threat.
Even if Temple doesn’t win again this year, Golden has brought in two decent recruiting classes thus far and could have the start of something better going in Philadelphia, regardless of the help he’s getting from the school.
“Whether Al is getting that kind of support, (I don’t know), but they’re playing hard, playing with enthusiasm and I think you have to give the coaching staff credit for that.
“Al was captain of our team. He’s always been a strong leader and a bright kid and he was on my staff for a couple of years. So I hope it goes well for him. Not particularly well this Saturday, but most of the time.”
Penn State at Temple
Lincoln Financial Field
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For more coverage of Penn State football, read Derek Levarse’s blog at www.timesleader.com
“Al Golden has a great future as a football coach. I mean, he’s bright, he’s got all the things you want in place to be a heck of a football coach.”