John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports)
The Cincinnati Bearcats finally have themselves in the AAC win column, and the next challenge on the list is the Temple Owls. Temple enters Saturday’s contest on a two-game winning streak after impressive victories over UCF (in a squeaker) and over USF (in runaway fashion). In what I anticipated to be a down year for the Owls, head coach Matt Rhule has steadied the ship after a disappointing season-opening loss to Army and has his team thinking about nine or more wins. If they want another 10-win season, they’ll need to take care of the Bearcats at home, a task which suddenly seems a bit more difficult after Gunner Kiel’s solid outing against ECU.
Read what I had to say earlier this week for a Gunner-centric preview of this year’s matchup. Here’s a series breakdown and a look at some notable games between the two schools:
All-time series record: Temple leads, 10–7–1
First meeting: 1973
Last meeting: 2015
Current streak: Temple won the last meeting
Record in Philadelphia: Temple leads, 7–3
Streak in Philadelphia: Cincinnati has won the last three
November 2, 1974 — Cincinnati 22, #19 Temple 20
The Owls entered the 1974 meeting at 6–0 on the year, sitting at #19 in the AP Poll. It was their first time ranked in just over 33 years, and they were riding high. They had won 14 consecutive games dating back to the 1973 season. They were good.
On November 2, they entered Nippert Stadium looking to squash a team that went 4–7 the previous year and entered this game at 3–3. The Owls thought they had a sure victory.
October 29, 1977 — Cincinnati 17, Temple 17
Entering the ’77 matchup, the series had been remarkably evenly-matched. Temple won the first meeting by a single point, the Bearcats beat the #19 Owls the following year, and then Temple won a four-point game in 1975.
In 1977, Temple returned to Nippert for the first time since UC’s monumental upset in ’74, and the two teams did the only thing possible: They played to a 17–17 tie.
The Owls finished the season 5–5–1 and UC wound up at 5–4–2, having tied with Louisville by an identical 17–17 score that September.
October 5, 1985 — Temple 28, Bearcats 16
Through the late ’70s and early ’80s, the Owls had a stranglehold on the series, and entered 1985 having won six of the previous seven matchups.
UC started strong and came from behind in the first half to mount a 10–7 lead at the break. However, with the help of a pick six, the Owls outscored UC 21–6 in the second half to steal a win, sending the Bearcats to their third straight loss after a 3–0 start. Temple had started the ’85 season 0–3, and the Bearcats were there second consecutive victory en route to a 4–7 season.
The Owls would have to wait a while for their next meeting with the Bearcats, and even longer for their next win at Nippert.
(Howard Smith / US Presswire)
November 10, 2012 — Bearcats 34, Temple 10
The Bearcats and Owls played in 2002 and 2003 when Temple was a member of the Big East. The Conference USA Bearcats won both meetings in a short home-and-home series. In 2012, Temple re-joined the Big East (having previously been kicked out) and faced the Bearcats, still searching for their first series victory since 1985.
A woeful Owl offense, led by quarterbacks Chris Coyer and Clinton Granger, was no match for a Bearcats team that entered at 6–2.
Brendon Kay tossed a pair of touchdowns, George Winn chipped in two more on the ground, and the Bearcats rolled to a 34–10 victory in Philly, their largest margin of victory in series history. Temple finished 4–7 that season, and the Bearcats landed at 10–3 with a share of the Big East title.
September 12, 2015 — Temple 34, Cincinnati 26
After a 2014 meeting that saw the Bearcats put together a dazzling defensive effort in a 14–6 win, 2015 couldn’t have gone more poorly.
Temple had sprung a 27–10 upset on Penn State the previous week, and headed to Nippert hoping to legitimize what many saw as the best Owls team in years. Instead, they sat back and let the Bearcats beat themselves, mounting a 34–12 lead on the back of three interceptions by Gunner Kiel and a special teams breakdown to start the second half that allowed a 100-yard kick return for a touchdown.
The Bearcats didn’t go quietly, and mounted a furious comeback late, only to have a fourth Kiel interception end the game on a 1st-and-goal with a shot for Cincinnati to tie.
For a team that was projected to compete in the conference, it was an ominous start that proved to be indicative of what was to come. The Bearcats finished 7–6, 4–4 in the conference. Temple rumbled to a 10–4 season after an AAC Championship loss to Houston.
As I wrote in my Gunner Kiel preview, the Temple game will be of paramount importance for Kiel (and for the team) for a third straight season. It won’t be a cakewalk in Philadelphia, but the challenge should be an exciting one. Cincinnati hasn’t lost at Temple since 1984, and they don’t want to start again on Saturday.