It may have been the usual Joe Paterno pregame bluster. But the frightening thing was that it at least deserved consideration.
“(Temple) will be the best team we’ve played so far this year,” asserted the Penn State coach at his weekly press conference on Tuesday. “They’re experienced and extremely well-coached by Al Golden and a couple other Penn Staters on that staff. They’re disciplined and they do a lot of really good things. Nothing fancy.”
Enough to maybe raise some eyebrows in Syracuse and across the country in Corvallis.
Not that Syracuse or Oregon State did much to state their cases in blowout losses to the No. 16 Nittany Lions in the past two weeks.
On further examination, the Owls – who come into Beaver Stadium for Penn State’s final non-conference tune-up at noon on Saturday – most likely aren’t better than the Beavers.
Better than Syracuse? That’s possible, given that the Orange surrendered 42 points in a home loss to Akron, a comparable team from the Mid-American Conference.
One wouldn’t be shocked, though, to see Saturday’s game end up closer than Penn State’s previous contests, in which the Lions have outscored opponents 166-37.
Under Golden, a former Lions tight end and captain, Temple (1-2) is beginning to crawl its way out of a pit of mediocrity. The Owls lost their last two games on the final play of each and was very close to coming into this game with a matching 3-0 record.
Golden’s top two assistants are fellow PSU grads, as Mark D’Onofrio runs the defense and Matt Rhule is in charge of the offense
“Al was captain of our team in (1991),” Paterno said. “And do I have recollection of D’Onofrio? Do you have two hours, and can we get the ladies out of here so I can use some language? Fiery guy. Fiery guy, Mark. Good kid.
“You hope things go well for them. Not this Saturday, but they’ve had tough losses. … They’re doing a good job. I’m pleased.”
Paterno did not comment on the ongoing suspensions of starting defensive linemen Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma on Tuesday.
“I don’t want to talk about (it) because it’s not going to be helpful any way I answer it,” Paterno said.
Both have missed the last two games and have not practiced with the team since Penn State police seized marijuana from their apartment on Sept. 2.
No charges have been filed yet, but Centre County District Attorney Michael Madeira told WJAC in State College on Tuesday that he expected the investigation to conclude by the end of the week.
At the start of the semester, Madeira was invited by Penn State President Graham Spanier to speak to incoming freshman athletes about personal responsibility.
“I don’t know what was said or done and why. I don’t even know if there were any football players in there,” Paterno said. “They probably were invited, but I’m not sure they were there because we were practicing.
“(Spanier) has got a responsibility to the community and a responsibility to the university. He’s got a responsibility to the townspeople. If he felt that would be a good move to get Madeira to talk with them, I think that’s his call.”
Senior Mike Lucian, who was moved from the offensive line to defensive tackle last week to provide depth in light of the suspensions and various injuries, sprained an ankle himself against Syracuse.
Lucian is listed as “probable” by the team for this week’s game.
“I think Lucian has got a chance (to play),” Paterno said. “He didn’t practice (Monday), but he’s going to try to do a couple things today.
“I thought he did very well for a guy that had only been there a little bit. … He likes defense.”