A year ago, Temple was the most improved team in Division I-A football, having posted a 7-4 record after a 1-10 season the year before. At the same time, Navy was finishing the year 5-6, which was the team's best victory total since 1982.
However, this year they have but one win between them -- a total that will double this afternoon when Temple (1-5) plays host to Navy (0-5) at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. Before the season, the game seemed to pit two teams that were about to turn the corner. As it stands now, the only attraction to fans is that it's homecoming day for Temple.
"We're 1-5, and we did not expect to be 1-5," said coach Jerry Berndt, in his third year at Temple. "We feel we're a better team than that."
In Temple's case, don't blame the team -- blame the person who made the schedule. Temple's first three games were on the road against Alabama, Pittsburgh and Clemson. The Owls got a break against Howard (whom they beat for their only win, 40-0). In the last two weeks, the Owls played Penn State and West Virginia, and to their credit they were in both games in the fourth quarter (Penn State won, 24-7, and West Virginia won, 10-9, on a field goal with 37 seconds left).
"I feel we have improved," said Berndt. "We made more mistakes early in the season. We feel if we can eliminate a couple of mistakes, we can win."
At least Temple's losses have been to some of the so-called national powers. Navy, in the second year of its "revised" schedule, has dropped games to the likes of Ball State, William & Mary and Bowling Green. Coach George Chaump has never lost more than six games in nine years of coaching. His team approaches that mark today, with five games left on the schedule.
"You just have to be tough and go forward," said Chaump, when asked whether the losing was becoming frustrating. "I think I was born a competitor. And I can't wait until the next game. A loss always motivates me more. I'm as motivated now as I've ever been."
If only Chaump can get his players to show those same traits. With the exception of the 17-10 loss at Virginia, Navy has yet to put together anything resembling 60 minutes of well-played football.
Lately Chaump has been juggling his lineup in an attempt to try to find the right combination. His biggest move was starting plebe Jim Kubiak at quarterback last week over Jason Van Matre. Chaump and his staff won't decide on a quarterback until just before today's game.
Kubiak has been with the varsity for only three weeks, but already he's getting a sense of the disappointment of a team whose season has turned to ruins.
"There's a great deal of frustration and pressure that we're putting on ourselves," Kubiak said. "Sometimes we force things, and we try so hard that we self-destruct. Everyone is upset, but we're not quitting by any means. I think good things will happen when you have an attitude like that."