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Nebraska HC Matt Rhule Still Loves Penn State

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JULY 27: Nebraska Cornhuskers head coach Matt Rhule during the Big Ten Conference Media Days on July 27, 2023 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN (Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire)

Penn State alum Matt Rhule will have to wait a while to coach against his alma mater again.

Rhule coached against Penn State three times in his four-year tenure at Temple, all against Penn State’s current boss, James Franklin.

Temple went 1-2 in those games, with both losses coming in Happy Valley.

Franklin beat Rhule in his first season (2014) 30-13, although Temple hung tough, trailing by just a touchdown at the end of the third quarter. In 2016, Penn State won, 34-27, in a contest that featured a “terrible call” against the Owls that Rhule still remembers almost seven years later. The middle contest of those three is the most memorable for born fanbases.

Sept. 5, 2015 was one of the most glorious days in the history of Temple football. In Philadelphia, Temple beat Penn State convincingly, 27-10, for its first win in the “rivalry” since before the United States entered World War II.

A lot has changed since Rhule last coached against Penn State.

After the 2016 season, Rhule left Temple for Baylor and had a successful three-year run that ended with a trip to the Big 12 Championship Game.

Rhule helping Baylor turn from weak to winner got him an NFL head coaching job with the Carolina Panthers.

Things didn’t go as well for him there. Unlike his previous two stops which ended due to a bigger job offer, this one ended with a pink slip.

After the Panthers fired him, many speculated that Rhule’s next job would be at a major college program.

They were right.

The weekend after Thanksgiving, Nebraska hired Rhule, putting him in the same conference as his alma mater, a school he still loves.

Rhule won’t have to wait terribly wrong to coach against Penn State again. In 2024, Penn State will play Nebraska for the first time since 2013, the season before the Big Ten realigned its divisions.

The game will take place in what used to be Rhule’s home stadium.

“It’s a loud, raucous environment,” Rhule told reporters Thursday on Day 2 of Big Ten Media Days in Indianapolis.

Rhule would know.

He played at Penn State from 1994-97, playing linebacker for Joe Paterno, and said he still loves the Paterno family.

After his playing days, Rhule was a volunteer assistant for Paterno during the 1998 season, and began his full-time coaching career soon after.

His time at Temple started from 2006-10, where he worked under another Penn State letterman, Al Golden, and coached at Beaver Stadium three times.

Through all his coaching stops, Rhule hasn’t forgotten Penn State, and has great respect for the person running the show in Happy Valley today.

”I love James Franklin,” Rhule said. “Grateful for what he’s done for my university, my Alma Mater. He came in at a hard time and has brought them to excellence.”

Penn State’s AD, Pat Kraft, was Rhule’s boss at Temple through his head coaching tenure, and Rhule said Kraft is “one of his best friends.”

“Pat’s going to fight, scratch and claw to help his coaches be successful,” Rhule said. “He cares about the student athletes. He’s not afraid of anything. He’s going to go fight for what he wants, and he’s a really good person.”

 

Rhule’s aunt still lives at Penn State, and he has other family still in that area. Rhule returned to Happy Valley last year when Penn State’s College of Liberal Arts honored him as a distinguished alumnus.

Rhule’s wife, Julie, wasn’t thrilled.

”My wife was so mad because she had better grades than me,” he said.

Time will tell what Rhule does at Nebraska, but assuming he’s still there next season, his trip to Penn State will mean more than most.

“I love the Paterno family,” he said. “I’m happy for Pat, happy for James. So, when I can, I try to get back.”

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