They know it will be loud. They know the natives in Happy Valley have been restless and would love to keep them that way.
But when Temple takes on Penn State at high noon Saturday it will likely seem a bit weird for all concerned. After all, for the first time in 75 years this time it will be the Nittany Lions seeking revenge, not the Owls.
Automatically that figures to add something to the occasion.
“Yeah, I think they’ll play with a little more emphasis,” said senior linebacker Stephaun Marshall, thinking back to Temple’s 27-10 win last year at the Linc which ended a 39-game string of futility stretching back to 1941. “I expect them to come after us.”
But Owls say they won’t be fazed by the noise or by the size of the cavernous Beaver Stadium crowd which figures to top 100,000. As long as they put the emphasis on themselves rather than getting caught up in all the hoopla they’ll take their chances.
“It’s just another football game,” said linebacker Avery Williams, whom coach Matt Rhule credited with pulling the team together following the opening game loss to Army, with the Owls responding by thrashing Stony Brook, 38-0.
“No game’s ever too big.You can’t make any game too big or too small. Just channel your inner self.”
Sometimes that’s easier said than done, of course. Especially for a younger player who’s never experienced anything quite like what he’ll see on Saturday. Marshall remembers what it was like when the Owls opened the 2013 season and the Rhule era with a 28-6 loss at Notre Dame.
“That was actually my first start at safety,” recalled Marshall about the Owls trip to the Golden Dome. “I’ll never forget that moment.If this (going to Penn State) is anything like that it’ll be more exciting.
“There’s nothing like actually being on the field with so many people in the stands, especially for a freshman or someone who doesn’t play a lot.It was a big moment for me.”
Going to Penn State is also meaningful to Rhule, who played for Joe Paterno as a walk-on and whose parents lived there until recently.
“It’s a great place to play,” said Rhule, who knows he’ll have his hands full trying to contain Saquon Barkley, who scored five touchdowns in Penn State’s 42-39 loss at Pitt. “It’s always a significant challenge to deal with the noise there. We can’t allow the crowd to affect us the best we can, so we’re trying to work on crowd noise in practice.”
Because it can be deafening.
“As much of anything, it’s about going in there and taking in the atmosphere and the sound,” said Rhule, whose 2014 squad lost up there 30-13, a game that was tied until late in the third quarter. “It’s two different things.
“Playing them here is one thing. Playing them there, it is so loud. Last time, we couldn’t even hear on the headset on the play call down. So having the poise, to handle all of that is important.”
It would also be important if they can build off Stony Brook, where Philip Walker threw for three touchdowns, two to Keith Kirkwood,while the defense held the Sea Wolves to just 133 yards in pitching a shutout.
But Temple may have to go again without running back Jahad Thomas, who couldn’t finish practice Tuesday due to a sore hand he injured originally during training camp. Regardless, the Owls go in confident without being cocky.
“You always remember it when a team beats you,” said Williams, who leads the Owls with 14 tackles, seven of them solo. “Since I’ve played them we’re 1-1.Now we have to see who’s gonna finish off their senior year on top?”
And see how the younger Owls response to experiencing something unique.
“I think it’s going to be a great game,” predicted Marshall, who trails Williams by just one tackle for the team lead, with 13. “The atmosphere I’m expecting is going to be what college football is all about.
“It’s something I can tell the guys about, but I don’t think they’ll really understand it until they get there. They have to experience it for themselves, take a deep breath, then come back and play.”
And if everything goes right for the Owls in Happy Valley, sour those Nittany Lion hopes for revenge.