Written/Photo by: Adam Crognale
When there’s history in the making, it takes an entire group of journalists to capture the moment.
During the current conditions of COVID-19, the Temple University Athletics YouTube account has started a series called the “Cherry and White Classics,” where live streams of important games throughout Temple’s history are being shown.
To open up the series, Athletics went back to September 5, 2015, when Temple Football brought home arguably the biggest win in the program’s history knocking off the Penn State Nittany Lions by a final score of 27-10, in a game led by Head Coach Matt Rhule.
At that game, several young Temple journalists were just getting started on their paths to success:
Zach Gelb, now a CBS Sports Radio Host, was on the call with WHIP Radio. Nick Roche, now a photog for the Philadelphia Phillies, was a rookie when it came to shooting football games. Ben Otte, now a photojournalist/storyteller for Fox Baltimore, was a chief photog in charge of more cameras than just his own. Matt Bevenour, an Emmy recipient for Best College/University Talent, was reporting football for the first time for “Owlsports Update.” And Emily Milliron, now a CBS Sports HQ digital line producer and associate producer, was one of the many fans in the sellout crowd that hot September Saturday afternoon.
The Reporter: Matt Bevenour
In 2015, Matt Bevenour was just a sophomore at Temple University, new to the scene of reporting football.
“I was filled with anxiety. I was very nervous and I didn’t want to drop the ball to any extent heading into this game,” Bevenour said. “I just wanted to make sure I was doing my job to the best that I could.
“That was my first ever football game I covered with ‘OwlSports Update,’” Bevenour added. “I was one of the two reporters on “Inside the Nest,” which at the time was known as ‘Matt Rhule Weekly.’”
“Matt Rhule Weekly” was a live football show that aired weekly on Temple Television (TUTV). The show still airs at noon every Tuesday during football season under the new name Bevenour mentioned, “Inside the Nest.”
Leading up to the game, Bevenour’s original story idea had nothing to do with the specifics of the game. Perhaps part of that decision was due to the history of Temple vs. Penn State football: Temple hadn’t beaten Penn State in 74 years.
“My entire objective going into the game was to converse with fans,” Bevenour said. “I wanted to see where their heads were at for how this season would progress.
“I thought ‘It’s going to be a good game, but I really don’t see Temple pulling this out,’” Bevenour added. “I thought it was going to be an uphill battle, and maybe Temple would keep it close, but not ultimately win.”
By the third quarter, he could tell that there was history in the making. Changes needed to be made to his reporting objective – and fast!
“Once the third quarter came to an end it looked like Temple had a really good shot at winning the game,” Bevenour said. “My phone was blowing up.”
One of the people blowing up his phone was his professor, Matt Fine. Fine is responsible for all of the “OwlSports Update” productions, and he made sure that Bevenour was on the same page as he was.
“Matt Fine called me up and said, ‘Listen Bev, scrap that idea; we’re not doing that anymore. You now have to do a piece on what this game could mean for the long term. How does it affect how Temple is looked at moving forward?’”
At the end of the third quarter, Temple led the Nittany Lions 17-10. More impressively, the Owls hadn’t allowed PSU to score since the 1st Quarter thanks in large part to their pass rush on defense.
“I hate to speak for anyone else, but if anyone saw 10 sacks coming I think they’d be lying to you,” Bevenour said. “That’s something that doesn’t happen frequently.”
Though definitely hectic, Bevenour made the necessary reporting adjustments. Bevenour’s part in such a huge game early on in his career led to several other accomplishments that followed.
“The game really did kind of bestow this adoration I have for sports broadcasting,” Bevenour said. “I would not have continued it to the extent I did without this game. This is probably the best game I ever covered as a Temple reporter.”
After his graduation in 2018, Bevenour was awarded the 2018 Mid-Atlantic Student Production Award for Best College/University Talent.
Even with the success, post graduation resulted in some changes for Bevenour. Although some interests remained the same, his current path has led him towards becoming a teacher; he is currently studying at West Chester University.
“One of my other passions has always been working with children,” Bevenour said. “I wanted to find an avenue where I could incorporate both sports, whether that’s broadcasting or coaching, while also working with the next generation. … Later on, I’d like to get involved at a TV station that I’m hopefully employed at, and I’d like to help give an avenue for students that want to know more about that path.”
Bevenour says he enjoyed his time at Temple, and he’s grateful for the opportunities he had and the teachings he received.
The Penn State game itself helped Bevenour find that extra drive for sports broadcasting, but it’s also important to note the impact the game had on the entire Temple Football program.
“Fast forward five hours and you realize Temple was able to accomplish something they hadn’t done in three-quarters of a century,” Bevenour said.
As Matt Bevenour said, it took three-quarters of a century to accomplish the feat of beating Penn State.
The Play-By-Play Broadcaster: Zach Gelb
One of the most famous and memorable calls from that epic game came from WHIP Radio’s Zach Gelb, who was on the call with Michael Zahn. As the clock ticked to zero, Gelb’s “74 No More!” call became a staple to the iconic game for the cherry and white, but the call came with some preparation.
“It actually started the year before when we as a broadcast team went up to Happy Valley,” Gelb said. “The night before, … I remember thinking to myself, ‘What is the call going to be if they win?’ The first thing I thought of was that it’s been such a long time that you have to incorporate the entire history into the call if they win.”
In the call, Gelb made a point to not only mention the current members on the Temple roster, but also the previous players and coaches who had come before. So many times Temple had come close, and so many times they had fallen short of beating Penn State.
“I remember going into the game, I knew Temple was going to give [Penn State] a fight,” Gelb said. “But, even though my heart was telling me I obviously wanted Temple to win, my brain and my gut were telling me they were going to lose by a touchdown because of the disappointment from the years past where the team got close, but they weren’t able to cap it off.
“The coolest part for me personally is hearing my call on the radio,” Gelb added. “That’s the call they use when people talk about that game. … I was driving home from college and 94.1 WIP was doing a year-in-review on their show, and they used the ‘74 No More’ call when they talked about the game against Penn State.”
When Gelb looks back at the history of the game, he says it’s important to look at where Temple had come from, and where they were once headed as a football program.
“You have to remember, Temple was a program not that long ago that was being talked about dropping down a division,” Gelb said. “When Matt Rhule took over, you saw a transformation with the players. They started carrying around water jugs and you saw it physically too.
“The minute they brought in Matt, even though they didn’t have success in year one, you saw a different mentality for that team and a different perception,” Gelb added.
Not only was Temple on its way down prior to the hire of Matt Rhule, but Penn State was on its way up with Christian Hackenberg at quarterback.
“There was noise at the time that [Hackenberg] could be not only a first-round pick, but the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft,” Gelb said. “I really do believe that day changed his career significantly. He looked so dejected in that game. That entire Penn State team didn’t know what hit them. … [Temple] sacked Hackenberg on a two-man rush!
“I’ll never forget the sour grapes from James Franklin after the game,” Gelb added. “He thought there was a problem with the air pressure of the footballs. When I read that, I started hysterically laughing. That was one of the lamest things I’ve ever heard from a coach.”
Granted, deflated footballs were all the rage back in 2015, after the New England Patriots were caught in the act during the Deflategate earlier that year. But this game was won fair and square by the Temple Owls.
“In that game, when you look at that Temple roster, the amount of NFL players they produced is scary,” Gelb said. “That defense was absolutely loaded!
“I think not having the Eagles be good that year really helped Temple because Philadelphia was really just looking for a winner in football,” Gelb added. “If you would’ve told me my freshman year that Temple would’ve ever been more of an interest than the Eagles I would’ve called you crazy. But for those few-week stretches they really were.”
2015 was the year of the Sam Bradford era prior to the drafting of Carson Wentz in the 2016 NFL Draft. The Eagles finished the year with a record of (7-9). Temple’s record: (10-2) with an AAC Championship game, plus a bowl game in December.
“You saw the growth of the program with that game,” Gelb said.
Gelb has gone on to host his own radio show, “The Zach Gelb Show,” which airs Monday-Friday from 6:00-10:00 p.m. on CBS Sports Radio. Even though Gelb was already a senior at the time, calling the Penn State game brought exposure and experience to help him reach the heights he has today.
The Chief Photog: Ben Otte
When a game of that magnitude takes place, there’s an expectation to tell the story in the best way possible.
Heading into the game, Ben Otte, the chief photog for “Matt Rhule Weekly,” had a young crew without a lot of experience. Not only did Otte have to focus on his shots, but he also had to make sure his other photogs were doing what they needed to do in order to tell the full story later.
“I think I was probably the most nervous,” Otte said. “But I learned you just have to trust your team and roll with the punches and make the best out of everything. … We were doing our very best to stay organized.
“Walking through the tailgate we saw all the Penn State fans and it sank in that we were playing with the big boys,” Otte added. “I remember all of us thinking in that moment that we were probably going to lose.”
Once the game started, and especially by the third quarter, that mindset had changed. Otte had to make sure his crew was on top of things.
“We all were taken aback by how intense the game was,” Otte said. “But we also still knew we had to be aware of everything that was around us. Not just the game, but the fan aspect of the fans going crazy and getting the game atmosphere too.”
When so much is going on at once, it can be hard to focus on what’s important. Communication with Otte and his crew was key in making the final product possible.
“We had to be really smart about what stood out from the game and what we had to include in our show,” Otte said. “That’s what made the show so special was being able to relive those moments and be proud of our show.
“We knew we had to do a great job covering the game after too,” Otte added. “Getting shots of Matt Rhule and Franklin shaking hands, and getting Rhule leaving the field was really important.”
Otte was filming on the field, which can be a rush in itself when there are nearly 70,000 people surrounding you. One of his main concerns was sophomore Nick Roche, who was brand new to the football atmosphere.
“Nick was so excited for the game, and he definitely had a lot of pregame jitters,” Otte said. “He was a big Temple fan, and there were definitely a few times I had to be like, ‘Alright dude, calm down.’ We had a few times where I texted him and was like ‘Holy crap!’ or ‘Hey did you get that?’ … I remember I just kept reminding him, when he was excited I was like ‘Alright just get these damn shots’ and it was pretty funny.”
Every week, Otte’s “baby” was his “Sounds of the Game” piece, which aired on “Matt Rhule Weekly.”
“Zach said ‘74 no more’ and it was really just a great soundbite for the piece we put together,” Otte said. “This was going to be our time to shine – to elevate the ‘Matt Rhule Weekly’ from the year before.”
“When you watch ESPN or NFL Films, they always include radio calls,” Otte added. “We wanted to make it about the students, and we thought, what better way than to use WHIP? We wanted to look like SportsCenter.”
Once the moment is over, you can’t get it back. But there’s plenty of time to reflect when you’re editing.
“After the game we were all just looking at each other and all we could say was, ‘Damn that just happened. We beat Penn State,’” Otte said.
Otte has worked as a photojournalist in the Lancaster area with WGAL, and currently works for Fox Baltimore. Looking back, he credits games like Penn State with helping him prepare for the big moments to come.
“I think it helped all of us prepare for our future careers,” Otte said. “Games like that helped us to focus more on what we need to capture in the moment. Realize where you are, but don’t let that opportunity slip away from you.”
Although Otte has a love for sports, a lot of his work now is focused elsewhere. But from time-to-time, he still gets a chance to revisit the old days.
“I do more news now, but sometimes there’s some sports involved like college games like Towson and UMBC,” Otte said. “I’ve done Ravens press conferences too, and I’m supposed to do some Orioles coverage when, and if, the season starts.
“If you can shoot sports you can shoot anything,” Otte added. “Sports prepares you to film the unexpected. So many people that I’ve met in the business have told me that.”
The Rookie Photog: Nick Roche
One guy who still films sports today professionally is that sophomore photog Ben was so worried about that day, Nick Roche.
Not only was Nick new to football, he was new to the photog team.
Most of the members found out they would be in the position they were in months in advance. For Roche, he only found out a few days before.
“A week before the game, one of the two editors for the “Matt Rhule Weekly” dropped out and switched their majors and everything,” Roche said. “So I got asked if I was interested in the position at a volleyball game or something during the first week of the season.”
Roche accepted the position, but it didn’t hit him until later in the week that it was go time.
“My freshman year all I really shot was lacrosse and things like that, so this was such a transition,” Roche said. “I was a deer in headlights.”
To make matters worse, Roche’s pregame experience was unlike any other photog’s had ever been, thanks to the fan turnout.
“I went up to the second deck where we always shot and I was told that we couldn’t shoot there,” Roche said. “The security told us they had sold tickets to those sections, and that had never happened before. I ended up filming from the coaches box. … I didn’t get up there until they were just about to kick the ball off. I was worried I wasn’t even going to get set up in time.”
Nevertheless, Roche got set up in time and got the shots. When I asked him about his pregame jitters, he remembered his energy a bit differently than how Otte had recalled it.
“It’s so crazy that they only told me how to shoot that game a few days before,” Roche said. “I guess I really didn’t have time to freak out about it because they basically threw me in a pool and told me to swim. I knew because they trusted me that I must’ve been doing something right.”
Perhaps the rookie photog didn’t have time to freak out as much pregame, but during the game as the moments were happening, Roche had to calm himself down. Afterwards, Roche got the chance to let it all out:
“I remember editing after with Ben and saying, ‘Man, we’re going to tell our grandkids about this,’ Roche said.
“This was my first time in front of a big game atmosphere,” Roche added. “It definitely prepared me to shoot things later like the NFL Draft and Penn Relays.”
Post graduation, Roche landed a job as a gameday photog for the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Like football, baseball has several adrenaline rushing moments that test his abilities. Roche says the execution of those shots all goes back to that day at Lincoln Financial Field.
“This was definitely a launching pad for what I’m doing now,” Roche said. “I always tell people, I’m never going to complain about my job because it’s a heck of a lot better than what other people have to do for a living; and this game was really the start of it. … Now going into big game atmospheres, I know I can stay composed and do my job, but I can also be doing jumping jacks on the inside.”
After going to sporting events for so long as a fan, it can be hard to make that transition. One of the most important things Roche took away from September 5, 2015, was the difference between the two perspectives.
“I think everyone has to have that first big game experience,” Roche said. “Not just going as a fan, but being able to work that kind of thing. Going as a fan is a completely different ballgame as opposed to being able to work these kinds of things and having to compose yourself in order to get your job done.”
The Journalist Turned Fan: Emily Milliron
Just like Roche talked about, going to a Temple football game as a fan is a completely different experience. For Emily Milliron, that experience was still a memorable one that changed her life.
Milliron spent time during her college career working with “OwlSports Update,” and had opportunities to see the team in action over the years leading up to the game in 2015. Milliron had attended the Temple-Penn State game in 2014 as a fan, when the Owls lost 30-13 up in Happy Valley. Immersed in the stands, Milliron was keenly aware of how PSU students viewed Temple.
“Penn State fans don’t think we have a rivalry, but Temple fans definitely have a rivalry with Penn State,” Milliron said. “It’s not necessarily a two-way street.”
Even on the road, the Penn State faithful were present at Lincoln Financial Field for the 2015 game. Up in Happy Valley, the games are consistently sold out with more than 100,000 PSU fans in attendance. Not only that, but the fans are always typically loud and proud no matter what.
“My friends and I were walking into the stadium and there were so many Penn State fans talking smack,” Milliron said. “They were saying things like ‘We fill your stadium’ and this and that, and I was just hoping we kept it close.”
A few months before the game, Milliron had traveled to the American Athletic Conference Media Day with “OwlSports Update” to talk to some of the key players and Matt Rhule about the season ahead. Even though most thought the Penn State game would be a sure loss for Temple, Emily wasn’t so sure after that. Among the attendees at Media Day were Matt Rhule, Tyler Matakevich, Tavon Young, Matt Ioannidis, and Kyle Friend. Fast forward five years and each of those players and their coach is in, or has been in, the NFL.
“They had a confidence about them that they were not nervous about Penn State,” Milliron said. “I think they were excited. I think they knew they were close to breaking through into that next level.”
Once the Owls took the lead in the 3rd, the team’s positive thoughts were quickly turning into reality.
“When they went up 17-10 in the 3rd quarter it started to sink in,” Milliron said. “I remember saying to myself, ‘Holy crap – they’re going to do it!’ They were playing with such a swagger and I had so much confidence with how the defense was playing.”
Even though Milliron was attending the game as a fan, she still had the mind of a reporter, and was well aware of the significance of the win when the final seconds ticked off the clock.
“After the game I remember switching to reporter mode,” Milliron said. “I took a video to capture the moment.
“I remember wishing I could’ve covered that game for sure,” Milliron added. “But being there as a fan and being able to celebrate it as a fan was really special because as a reporter you can’t show that emotion. I got to talk smack to a bunch of my Penn State friends that had been saying we didn’t have a shot.”
The Impact. What Now?
After that game, Temple went on to have a pretty good year, to say the least.
“We got a chance to really get the first glimpse of what Temple was going to be that year with a powerhouse defense,” Otte said. “It was a really great season! We had College Gameday later that year against Notre Dame, and that Penn State game was the start of something really special.”
The Owls made it to the AAC Championship and the Boca Raton Bowl later that December, but came up short in both games. Regardless, there was a new look to the Temple Owls and a new expectation for the years to come under Head Coach Matt Rhule.
“That team was so special,” Gelb said. “You thought there was something more to come. When I first met Matt [Rhule], and because of the access I had, I thought if he ever left Temple and had success at a Power 5 job that he was going to get an NFL gig.”
The following year Temple made it back to the AAC Championship after finishing the year with a record of (9-3), and this time they came away with the conference title by beating #25 Navy 34-10.
After that game, prior to the Military Bowl, Matt Rhule suddenly announced he was moving on to a Big 5 school, like Gelb had talked about, at Baylor University.
“That Matt Rhule era really started the wave of consistent success for Temple,” Gelb said. “Now it’s expected that they get to a bowl game every year.”
Rhule spent three years at Baylor, including this past season. During his time, he led his team to two bowl games and finished with a record of (1-1) in those contests.
Baylor was a team that took many by storm this past year. The team was ranked and finished the year with just one loss to another nationally ranked school: Oklahoma. The Baylor Bears found themselves in the Big 12 Conference Championship facing off against the Sooners again.
In a thrilling overtime finish, #7 Baylor lost to #6 Oklahoma 30-23, but Rhule had made a name for himself that had opened the door to the NFL.
On January 7, 2020, Matt Rhule agreed to a 7-year, $60 million contract to become the Head Coach of the Carolina Panthers.
But Rhule isn’t going to Carolina alone. Also in January, the Panthers hired former Temple Defensive Coordinator Phil Snow, who was the defensive coordinator back in 2015 when the Owls had those 10 sacks against Penn State. Snow has been DC at Baylor for the past three seasons alongside Rhule.
“I’ll never forget,” Gelb said. “After the game Tyler Matakevich goes, ‘Phil Snow told us we were going to go down by two scores at first, and then we were going to settle down and start playing our brand of football.’ And I thought that was such a fascinating quote because what coach tells their team that before the game?”
Rhule and Snow aren’t the only taste of Temple down in Carolina. Former Tight Ends/Special Teams Coach Ed Foley was hired as an assistant special teams coach for the Panthers in late January too, and the train doesn’t stop there.
Temple alums P.J. Walker, Robby Anderson, Keith Kirkwood, and Tahir Whitehead have all agreed to contracts with the Panthers this offseason. Many people are calling the new Panthers team “Temple South.”
“It’s really cool especially knowing the background of some of those guys like Robby Anderson,” Milliron said. “Coach Rhule kicked him off the team because he was failing all of his classes, and told him he had to go back to Florida, because that’s where Robby’s from. Rhule told him he had to go to community college and get his grades up before they could talk about potentially getting him back on the team; and that’s exactly what Robby did.”
“Matt Rhule understands people and he knows how to communicate with his players,” Gelb said. “This is an authentic genuine dude that obviously cares about football, but also cares about your family.”
It will be interesting to see how the rookie NFL Head Coach does in a stacked NFC South division. The Panthers will have to face Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Matt Ryan twice a year. That’s seven Super Bowl rings and 11 appearances combined.
“There’s a reason that he got a 7-year contract,” Gelb said. “People believe in him, his message, and what he’s going to build. It wouldn’t surprise me if they struggle in that first year, but long term I really do believe he’ll be successful in the NFL.”
The track record shows that by the third year, Carolina could be poised for a great season, but the important thing to note is how we got here.
Matt Rhule has turned heads for years as a college coach, and now he has the opportunity to do it in the NFL with the Panthers.
It’s been a process that dates back to September 5, 2015, when Rhule showed he could turn dreams into reality. He did what no other Temple coach was able to do for 74 years, and there’s more history to be made in Carolina.
The Panthers have never won a Super Bowl.
Let the Matt Rhule era begin.