Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hardin's Owls used to scare wits out of Nits

By Mike Gibson
Back in the day is a phrase kids like to use about crazy things they heard of way back when.
Here's something really crazy: Temple and Penn State used to play great, great football games back in the day.
It's true.
Back in the day, doesn't seem so long ago to those of us in our 40s and 50s.
I suspect even 60s.
Back in the day, Temple used to play Penn State tough more often than not.
Believe it or not.
Back in the day, Joe Paterno wasn't so gracious in his praise of foes.
The crusty old Penn State coach has been known to lay it the praise on thick recently for some pretty thin opponents, like Coastal Carolina.
There was a day, though, when JoePa occasionally let loose with what he really felt and the day Penn State announced it was resuming its series with Temple was one of those.
"The guy who scheduled Temple must've been drunk," Paterno blurted out.
He was talking about his own athletic director.
Paterno didn't want to play a game where he had everything to lose and little to win and that's what he thought of Temple in those days. The Owls were good and posed a threat and they were an in-state opponent.
So a rivalry was born.
A couple of weeks later, Paterno and Temple coach Wayne Hardin posed for a publicity photo, arm-wrestling.
Eventually, Hardin would provide some of Paterno's hardest-fought wins.
One of those games was the first one in the resumption of the series, on Sept. 6, 1975, at Franklin Field.
Temple sold roughly 30,000 tickets to the game and Penn State sold 30,000.
"I don't want to be out pom-pomed in my own stadium," Hardin told then athletic director Ernie Casale, talking Casale into buying 30,000 pom-poms.
Hours before the game, Hardin and Casale and a few other helpers put the pom-poms on the rows of seats behind the Temple bench, all 30,000 of them.
On the first play from scrimmage, an Owl speedster named Bob Harris took a simple handoff to the right, darted into the line, found a hole and went 76 yards for a touchdown.
Our 5 Keys to the Shock the World
1. Keep your QB off his ass _ If you see a lot of draws and screens to set up a long bomb or two, that's a good sign of a well-designed offensive scheme.
2. Play mistake-free _ Easier said than done. When you tell a guy don't fumble, it puts the word fumble in his head. Don't fumble. Don't throw an interception.
3. Put the other QB on his ass _ Basically, send more guys than they can block. Challenge your extremely talented linebackers to make plays and send safeties, LBs and DEs from spots Penn State won't expect them. Keep blitzing blind side. Tell the blitzers to try to strip the ball as they arrive at the QB. If you can't get to Clark with five, send six. If you can't get to him with six, send seven and eight.
4. Get the ball to the playmakers _ That means if you hit James Nixon for another 75-yard bomb and find Michael Campbell on a jump ball in the end zone, don't forget that they are still on the team.
5. Play Neapolitan, not Vanilla _ Aggressive schemes often result in a plus-turnover ratios. It's risky, sure, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. If the Owls come out and play vanilla on both sides of the ball, they will be nothing but a snack to the Nits. If they bring pressure and force turnovers, they have a chance to cause major mid-day indigestion for 106,000 people.

Temple 7, Penn State 0.
The first play of Penn State-Temple since the 1952 game and it was a Temple touchdown.
To this day, it was the loudest roar I've ever heard from Temple fans.
Half the stadium on their feet, cheering and waving Cherry and White pom-poms and generally acting like crazed, happy, lunatics.
Half the stadium in Blue sitting in stunned silence.
It was a beautiful thing and, for a moment, you thought it would last all night and maybe years into the future.
Temple lost that game, 26-25, on a Rich Mauti 64-yard punt return with 27 seconds left. Temple gained 378 total yards to Penn State's 127 but still lost.
"That offensive line is the best we've ever faced," Paterno said of Temple that night.
Afterward, Hardin admittedly cried like a baby.
...a silent press box was interrupted by Penn State beat writer John Kunda of the Allentown Morning Call.
"Hardin's outcoaching Joe again," Kunda said. The press box erupted in laughter because they knew he was right ...
The next year, at Veterans Stadium, Temple trailed, 31-17, entering the fourth quarter, but behind a quarterback named Terry Gregory, the Owls scored twice on TD passes to close the gap to 31-30. Hardin eschewed the tie and went for the win. Gregory's two-point conversion pass was dropped.
"I don't go for ties," Hardin said.
"I have to give coach Hardin a lot of credit," Paterno said. "A tie would have been big for their program."
At the time the series was resumed, in 1974, Temple was in the middle of a 14-game winning streak, the longest in nation, longer than Nebraska or Oklahoma or Texas.
Only when Don Bitterlich, usually the most reliable of kickers, missed a chip-shot field goal on Nov. 2, 1974, did the Owls miss their chance for win No. 15. They lost that game at Cincinnati, 22-20, and then went on the road and lost to a very good Pitt team, 35-24.
The Owls finished up 1974 with a 35-21 win at West Virginia and a 17-7 win at Villanova before that Penn State opener in 1975. If you are counting, that's 16 Temple wins in 18 games.
On Sept. 1, 1978, Temple extended one of the best Penn State teams. Utitlizing his great punter, Casey Murphy, Hardin quick-kicked on half the third downs, pinning Penn State deep in its own territory for much of the game. Murphy would not only kick it long, but he was a master in the art of the coffin corner kick and would nail it inside the 5 most times.
Temple would send its punt team on the field, pull it off, then send it back again just in time to get the kick off.
On offense, Temple showed reverses, halfback passes, throwback passes to the quarterback and shovel passes to the fullback, plays rarely seen in those days but ones that kept Penn State's defense honest.
In the middle of all this, a silent press box was interrupted by Penn State beat writer John Kunda of the Allentown Morning Call.
"Hardin's outcoaching Joe again," Kunda said.
The press box erupted in laughter because they knew he was right.
The strategy worked until Penn State kicked a field goal with a minute left to win, 10-7.
In 1979, Hardin took his best team up to State College, led, 7-6, at halftime but lost, 22-7. A win and Temple would accept an invitation to the Liberty Bowl. A loss meant the Garden State Bowl.
That was the last of the good Hardin-Paterno matchups.
Bruce Arians would later lose to Paterno, 23-18, on Sept. 21, 1983 and, 27-25, on Sept. 14, 1985 but he never outsmarted Paterno.
Temple hasn't had a good game with Penn State since, at least in terms of the final score.
There are a lot of reasons for that, mostly laid at the feet of the Temple administration for some bad football hirings.
They once made a great hire in Hardin and he gave Temple fans a lot of thrills, especially on days when the Penn State game came around.
It's a shame a whole generation of Temple fans missed out on that party. Maybe Al Golden will hold an impromptu one Saturday afternoon.

If Temple beats PSU, season tickets will be sold out by Tuesday so buy yours now as a hedge fund: