Even though Temple lost to visiting Notre Dame, 24-20, on Halloween night in 2015, many of the Owls players say it was a memorable event. Both teams were ranked, the game was played before a sellout crowd at Lincoln Financial Field, and the electricity felt real.
Leon Johnson, a redshirt senior offensive tackle, doesn't share those memories.
Johnson started that game at right tackle for the Owls, and he plans to use the less-than-favorable memories from that matchup when Temple opens its season Saturday at Notre Dame.
"Quite honestly, and I am not shy to say it, Notre Dame was by far my worst performance at Temple, and that is why this game has been circled on my schedule," Johnson said.
The 6-foot-5, 320-pounder has made 22 career starts, including all 14 last season at right tackle. He is likely to open at left tackle this season.
If he's half as hard on Notre Dame as he is on himself, Johnson will be fine.
He said the hype of the game, which included ESPN's GameDay crew coming to televise from Philadelphia, might have gotten to him.
"It was almost embarrassing the way I played," he said. "I may have been a little rattled, whatever; I didn't play well."
The memories linger.
"Today, I even think about it," he said. "I think of that game every day and I think if I had played better, we would have had a better chance to win."
Johnson's level of accountability is one reason he has become one of the Owls' leaders.
"We all hold ourselves to a high standard," Johnson said. "We are so competitive that we have high personal standards and I think that is important because this is how you get to be a quality team."
Johnson opened that 2015 season by starting in the opener at Penn State, but suffered a high ankle sprain and missed the next two games. He then started the next five at right tackle and, the week after Notre Dame, was the starting left tackle against SMU.
After that, he lost his starting spot and was a reserve the rest of the season.
"The injury got into my head and I was favoring the ankle and it became a mental thing," Johnson said.
He came back to have a strong season last year and then had to pace himself through preseason camp after off-season surgeries to repair injuries to his shoulder, hip and groin that kept him out of spring practice.
He said he's ready to go.
"If there are 80 plays, I will be there for 90," he said.
Despite his past struggles against the Fighting Irish, Johnson said he has to take a level-headed approach into this matchup.
"From a game perspective, this is one of 12 games we play this year," he said.
But at the same time …
"For me personally, this is a big game for me," he said. "… I owe myself, this team, and the coaches a way better performance."
Temple-Georgia Tech series is official
The Temple-Georgia Tech football series that we reported about two weeks ago, has become official. Temple will host Georgia Tech on Sept. 28, 2019 and will play the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta, on Sept. 20, 2025.
Temple has an option for 2019 to play at Lincoln Financial Field, but it hasn't been exercised yet. According to a person familiar with the situation, Temple is expected to exercise the option before the deadline this Nov. 1.
In order to fit Georgia Tech on the schedule, Temple had to drop a game with Army. The Owls were supposed to play Army on Oct. 26, 2019.
That would have given Temple five nonleague games, one above the limit. According to a person familiar with the proceedings, Temple won't owe Army an additional game.
"We talk about dominating our recruiting footprint, which is obviously Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., said Temple head coach Geoff Collins, who is from the Atlanta area, in a press release. "My experience in the SEC and the ACC makes Georgia and Florida very important areas for recruiting as well. That's why the Georgia Tech and Miami games are integral parts of establishing our national presence of Temple football."
Here is a list of Temple's non-conference games through 2028
2017 – at Notre Dame (Sept. 2), Villanova (Sept. 9), UMass (Sept. 16), at Army (Oct. 21)
2018 – Villanova (Sept. 1), Buffalo (Sept. 8), at Maryland (Sept. 15), at Boston College (Sept. 29)
2019 – Bucknell (Aug. 31), Maryland (Sept. 14) at Buffalo (Sept. 21), Georgia Tech (Sept 28)
2020 – at Miami (Sept. 5), Idaho (Sept. 12), Rutgers (Sept. 19)
2021 – at Rutgers (Sept. 4), Boston College (Sept. 18)
2022 – at Duke (Sept. 3), Rutgers (Sept. 17)
2023 – at Rutgers (Sept. 9), Miami (Sept. 23)
2024 – at Oklahoma (Aug. 31)
2025 – Oklahoma (Sept. 13), at Georgia Tech (Sept. 20)