- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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As if just one game over three weeks wasn't enough of a reason to get up for Saturday.
Temple returns to the field this weekend after a month that featured two byes. And, in facing South Florida, the Owls will officially return to the Big East as well.
Allow Steve Addazio to take the first step away from coach-speak.
"It’s not like any other game and there is excitement for sure," the second-year Temple coach said Monday during the Big East coaches' teleconference. "We’re starting conference play and we have a chance to open conference play up. We haven’t played any conference games yet so there’s great anticipation. We’re excited about that. We want to play well.
"We know darn well what we’re facing and the quality of the opponent we’re facing. We respect that. We’re focused on playing as well as we can."
It's been a long time coming for Temple, whose 14-75 record in Big East play from 1991-2004 led to its unceremonious exit from the league and pushed its football program to the brink of extinction. Two years of independence gave way to a football-only arrangement for five years with the Mid-American Conference, where the Owls became a league contender under the reign of Al Golden and, last season, Addazio.
But Temple will enter Saturday with just one win in this new era, an opening-night victory over an FCS opponent. Self-inflicted wounds led to an insurmountable early deficit in a loss to Maryland; another loss to in-state rival Penn State followed.
"We have to take care of those deficiencies, but we’re in every one of those games," Addazio said. "We know we’re going to be in dogfights each week. We don’t go into games where we outmatch anybody. That’s not the case at all. But what it is, we feel we have an opportunity to win in every contest. We have to play more clean, more exact.
"If you take a look at the last couple of weeks, it was a couple plays on either side of the ball that would bring it down to the wire. That’s our focus. How does that match up for the rest of the year? I haven’t seen everybody. What I’ve seen? If Temple plays a little better, Temple will be in the middle of every game."
If it's any consolation, the Owls' opponent doesn't exactly know what's in store, either.
USF coach Skip Holtz, whose team has dropped three straight and is 0-1 in conference play, cannot dig through the recent archives to see how the Bulls matched up physically with Temple the way he can with the rest of their conference brethren.
"There’s a lot of unknowns in a game like this," Holtz said. "But that’s part of the advantage of playing in a conference. You just know so much more about your opponent because you play them every year, and you have the opportunity to see what their defensive coordinator has done to try and stop you and vice versa, and how they’ve tried to attack you offensively. This is just a first game so you don’t have a lot of that information to draw on."