All-American LB candidate Tyler Matakevich and the rest of Owls Nation have reason to rejoice.
BY THE NUMBERS
7 Final ranking of best team on Temple’s 1979 slate, Pittsburgh. The Panthers, with future NFL Hall of Fame QB Dan Marino and legendary college LB Hugh Green, did beat the Owls, 10-9. Temple was 3-1 at that point and then rattled off five wins in a row.
17 Final ranking for Temple, following its 10-2 campaign in 1979 that still holds as the school standard for victory total in a season. That ranking also marks the only ranking for the Owls following the completion of a season.
13 Highest ranking a Temple team ever recorded, achieved by Ray Morrison’s second team during the 1941 season – which, incidentally, happened to be the last time the Owls had beaten Penn State before this season. The 1979 Owls’ No. 17 final ranking is next highest in school lore.
33.2 Points per game average for the 1979 Owls, a number that placed them fourth among all offenses in the country.
21.4 Yards per reception average for Owls WR Gerald “Sweet Feet” Lucear, who hauled in 45 aerials from Brian Broomell for 964 yards and 13 TDs in 1979.
24 Amount of years the Green Bay Packers took between making QB a first-round choice after snagging Cal’s Rich Campbell, who lost to Temple in the 1979 Garden State Bowl, No. 6 in 1981 and then, ironically, fellow Cal product Aaron Rodgers No. 24 in 2005.
2 Amount of All-American LBs who performed for those 1979 Owls: Mike Curcio, who later played for the Eagles, and Steve Conjar, who remains the school’s all-time leading tackler with 492 career stops.
The classic, old-school Philly sports fan.
That was dad. Actually, still is. Graduate of a city high school and city college, he rooted for the city teams, all of them, even those who could, and often did, provide direct competition to his alma mater, La Salle. Put it this way, if Villanova or Saint Joe’s or Penn happened to be playing any team other than La Salle, it had his support.
Pros? Hey, he had the inferiority complex so indigenous to this area, the typical “healthy” unhealthy dislike, if not outright disdain, for other city’s teams, especially those in New York, who seemed to get more recognition across the country than those from his hometown, regardless of merit.
Oh, he could spin some serious yarn about it all, about the legendary figures and squads in Philly sports, those that had captured a special place in his soul, in a way that only others brought up in the same city, at the same time, could relate. Still can spin it, in fact.
What struck me most, though, was an appreciation, a special affinity, for a school in addition to his alma mater, that, really, truly, so meshed with the fabric of the city, if not himself. With Temple, that university along North Broad built on the hopes and dreams of overachievers trying to overcome obstacles through night-school classes, he could relate (and throw his full college football support into it since La Salle didn't field a grid program).
Nothing had been given. Everything had to be earned, and even then …
In that world, there was no guaranteed payoff. But you plugged away regardless, relentlessly, often toiling in virtual anonymity with the never-ending hope that there could be. No exceptions. No excuses.
The above rings true with my father, my hometown and most of my fellow Owls.
Indeed, if you’ve earned a degree from Temple, you likely don’t have an intimate relationship with “easy.” You likely don’t come from money. You likely don’t have a history of things being handed to you. You likely don’t have a litany of acceptance letters from other colleges lying around your home.
What you do have, or should have, is a some grasp of reality, how hard life can be – before, during and after you paid your way through Temple – and how “good times” are to be cherished and enjoyed, even if that innate sense of doom is shouting at you to calm down and not jinx anything.
So, today, and for as long as this thing called “success” lasts for your Owls football program, with an unbeaten record and a national ranking for the first time since the final AP poll for the 1979 season, put the fear aside and jump on board the bandwagon.
Hey, why not? You deserve the positive experience.
As a season ticket-holder of one seat for a while, your truly can vouch that the ride has been far more about bumpy back roads, missed turns and bad directions than smooth sailing on a super highway.
Still, my gratitude goes to my father for first inviting me to experience Temple football 37 years ago. In-state Big Brother Penn State was coming to town, ranked third in the nation and certain to create a sellout at the Vet. The Owls would show up, play tough … and lose, 10-7.
For many of us, that “tough loss” has been a familiar refrain, although probably not as common as the 2-9, 1-10 and 0-11 seasons that dotted the Owls’ ledger the next three decades and change.
So … not sure exactly when the “hooked” happened. Not even sure if it was in seeing in person the Owls pick apart Villanova in November of 1979 the week after dropping another winnable game to Penn State. Or if it was when those same Owls finished ahead of Penn State in that season’s final poll.
But somewhere along the line it took hold, and that’s good, because it makes today all the more sweeter.
The 2015 Owls are 6-0 and ranked 22nd. None of that has come easy. All of it has been earned.
Much to my dad’s delight and, now, thanks largely to him, my own.
- Jack Kerwin | email@example.com
NOT PERFECT Temple started the season 3-0, making quick work of West Virginia, Drake and Delaware, only to have Pittsburgh blemish the record with a 10-9 victory at the Vet. The Panthers had several former NFL stars on their roster, headed by future Hall of Famer Dan Marino.
After that, the Owls ripped off five straight wins, manhandling Rutgers and Syracuse in the process – not exactly easy feats considering the Scarlet Knights were sparked by arguably the best NFL free safety of the 1980s that season in Deron Cherry, and the Orange had future Super Bowl running back for the New York Giants in Joe Morris back then, too.
But the run ended at Penn State as the Owls somehow managed to let a 7-6 halftime lead turn into a 22-7 loss to a Lions squad led by the hardly immortal Dayle Tate (who?!!) at QB. Take note, as Temple rebounded to blow out Villanova, 42-10, the following week (with yours truly in attendance), the Lions got pounded by Pitt, 29-14.
That, combined with their overall efforts during the season, which included the Owls handling California in the Garden State Bowl and Penn State struggling with No. 15 in the Liberty Bowl, played a major part in Temple being ranked higher than PSU (17 to 20) in the final AP poll for the season.
The 10-2 record posted by the Owls remains the standard to which all other Temple teams have been compared – and come up short – ever since.
Of course, 2015 is shaping up a bit different thus far.
THE STARS Frankly, the Owls had it pretty much all covered. They averaged 33 points per game while allowing just 16, they had a great coach in Wayne Hardin and talent was hardly lacking. QB Brian Broomell (2,103 yards, 22 TDs, 11 INTs) was solid most times and outstanding at others. RB Mark Bright ran for 1,038 yards and Kevin Duckett another 608. The two combined for 14 TDs on the ground. WR Gerald Lucear (45 catches, 964 yards, 13 TDs) was All-America caliber and both he and fellow WR Wiley Pitts were future NFL draft picks.
LBs Mike Curcio earned honorable-mention All-American acclaim for 1979 and his running mate Steve Conjar would be an All-American the next two seasons en route to posting a Temple-best 492 career tackles, a mark that still stands. DB Mark McCants was a future NFL draft pick, too.
THE AFTERMATH Following the Garden State Bowl victory, it would be another 30 years before the Owls were invited to another postseason game, the EagleBank Bowl in 2009. The Owls lost that one, 30-21, to complete a 9-4 season that marked only the fourth winning season for Temple since 1979, an amazing underachievement considering 1986 Heisman runner-up Paul Palmer played four seasons himself for the Owls and a total of 57 Temple players during those three decades went on to play in the NFL. The 2015 Owls, though, are 6-0 and ranked 22nd in the AP poll, and bowl eligible for the fifth time in the last seven years. So, perhaps, times are a-changin’ … back to 1979-like success. If not better.