When Bruce Arians was at Temple and not Tempe like he is now, he used to tell a story about how Mississippi State and Mississippi—even though they were the two large in-state schools–were never rivals. Mississippi State got close a lot of times, but never could get quite over that elusive hump.
“Then one year when I was there (at Mississippi State) we beat them and it became a rivalry,” Arians said.
Arians’ point was made. To forge a rivalry, you’ve got to win once in awhile.
Penn State vs. Temple is not a rivalry anymore, but it once was as shown in this headline (inset) after the win in 1941. Both schools are large state-related schools, one in the middle of the state, one in the state’s largest city. The only reason why the rivalry did not continue is that Temple went on the cheap in trying to hire head coaches after Pop Warner. Only when it hired a big-name coach (Wayne Hardin) did the Owls have a sustained 13-year period of success.
Arians was on his way at Temple until the school fired him and he got close to beating Penn State but, like Mississippi State before Arians became an assistant there, could never quite get over the hump.
In his first press conference, some wiseguy reporter asked him, “Why does Temple even play football?” Arians shot back, “to beat Penn State.” It was a great answer and Mitten Hall, the site of that first presser, erupted into loud applause.
“Why does Temple
even play football?
To beat Penn State.”
_ Bruce Arians
That was one of the goals Bruce set forth when he took the job at Temple. He felt the fastest way to put Temple on the map was to beat Penn State, become rivals, then have a sales pitch for recruits. With under-recruited players, Arians almost did that a couple of times. His first game against Penn State was a 23-18 loss. In another, Paul Palmer rushed for 206 yards in a 25-22 loss.
He never quite got there, but no doubt Arians—still a Temple fan to this day and friends with many of his ex-Temple players, like Palmer, Kevin Jones and Sheldon Morris—will be sending congratulatory texts their way if Temple is able to pull off the upset on Saturday.
Last year, in a press conference after the win over the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, a reporter asked Arians if that was his biggest win ever as a head coach. Arians paused and said, “No when I was at Temple, the win over Pitt, which was the first time the school had beaten Pitt in 39 years, that was the my biggest one.”
There is only one bigger one to get at the school and Arians left that for Matt Rhule to grab in a few hours and restart a rivalry that should have never ended.