The safety from Hollidaysburg has found himself immersed in the most prosperous stretch in Temple football history.
Twenty-seven wins. Two bowl appearances. A return to the Big East Conference. Nice stuff, indeed.
But Justin Gildea wants to add one more respect-building accomplishment before he graduates. He wants to help the Owls end a 71-year hex against Penn State.
We have been real close, Gildea said in a telephone interview after Wednesdays practice. We have to take that extra step and beat them. We could have beat them we should have beat them last year. Going into it, we all have to have that mindset that we can beat them.
The Owls (1-1) and Nittany Lions (1-2) meet at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Beaver Stadium. The game has personal undertones for Gildea. His father, Stephen, and sister, Sarah, are Penn State graduates. He has a cousin in the Blue Band. A slew of his high school friends attend the University Park campus.
Centre County fans remember Gildea for his menacing play against State College and Bellefonte. In the Golden Tigers 53-7 victory over Bellefonte in 2008, Gildea had two interceptions one returned for a touchdown and snagged two touchdown passes.
None of the big games mattered to Penn State. The program didnt seriously pursue him.
Penn State never recruited me, he said. Its one of those things where you want to go up there and show them that you can play.
Considering Penn States current plight, Gildea would have fit nicely into a thin secondary. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior has started 23 games and teammates elected him a captain before this season.
Gildeas last start wasnt his most memorable one as Temples defense surrendered 26 first-half points and 334 total yards in a 36-27 to loss to Maryland on Sept. 8. Second-year coach Steve Addazio said Gildea hasnt let the setback linger.
Hes played a bunch, Addazio said. Hes a tough, smart guy and he really has a great work ethic. He certainly has a lot of pride. I know he was disappointed two weeks ago and I see in practice a guy that has a great demeanor about him right now and preparing hard for this football game.
Gildea is responsible for guiding a young team. The Owls returned just nine starters from a 2011 team that went 9-4, produced three NFL draft picks and pushed Penn State before falling 14-10. The Nittany Lions scored the winning touchdown on Michael Zordichs 1-yard run with less than 2:42 remaining.
The captain in Gildea said winning a Big East title is the Owls ultimate goal. But notching the schools first victory at Beaver Stadium Temple is 0-22-1 when visiting Penn State would fall into a separate category in Gildeas scrapbook.
Penn State is a separate game in its own right, he said. Its what you would like to call an in-state rivalry. Everybody in Pennsylvania talks about Penn State. Its Penn State this and Penn State that. Theres so much attention around them, going in and proving you are a good Pennsylvania too means a lot to us. Everybody on the team feels the same way about it. We want to go up there and get a win.
Guy Cipriano can be reached at 231-4643. Follow him on Twitter @cdtguy