Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It's going to be a long two weeks

Wayne Hardin was, without a doubt, the best coach Temple and Navy ever had.

Hardin's Bounce Back Wins:
(all occurred the next game after a tough loss)
1974: Lost at Pitt, 35-24; Won at West Virginia, 35-21
1977: Lost to Pitt, 76-0; Won at Delaware (1AA National Champ), 6-3
1979: Lost to No. 1 Pitt, 10-9; Won at 8-3 Rutgers, 41-20
1982: Lost to Boston College, 17-7; Won at Louisville, 55-14
 A couple of years ago, at one of Steve Conjar and Mark Bresani's ex-player tailgates, former Temple head coach Wayne Hardin asked me a question.
 "Mike, do you golf?" coach said.
 "No, coach, one of these days I'm sure I'll take it up, but I'm playing tennis in the summers now." I did tell him I like a lot of things about golf, all that began with a C: competitiveness, challenge, camaraderie.
What most intrigues me about golf is the concept of a Mulligan, a do-over, if you foul up.
Now I know a Mulligan isn't in the "official" rules of golf but, in a friendly game, you get a chance to do over a shot if you mess up.
I thought a lot about Mulligans and Temple's football game with Maryland the last couple of days. The only Mulligan I've ever known in football is Kevin Mulligan and he was a fine Eagles' beat writer for The Philadelphia Daily News. He later became golf coach at the now defunct Kennedy-Kenrick High School. (Mulligan, what a great name for a golf coach, huh?)
 Since there are no other Mulligans I know in football, this is going to be a long two weeks for me, personally. I don't rebound from losses as well as I used to and I hope the kids are as resilient as I was at their age. (I know it's not two FULL weeks until Temple's Sept. 22 game at Penn State. It's just going to seem like two years.)
 That got me to thinking about Hardin's years at Temple. He was the greatest head coach Temple ever had, and that includes Pop Warner. Heck, he was the greatest coach Navy ever had.
Think about it.
This is what "Beat Army" looks like in Chinese.
 In the post-war period, Navy rose to No. 2 in the country only once and that's when Wayne Hardin was the coach.
Temple rose to No. 17 in the country only once and that was when Wayne Hardin was the coach. It's a disgrace that he's not in the College Football Hall of Fame.
Both schools were blessed to have him as their head coach.
One year Army led the nation in interceptions. The Army defensive secondary was called the "Chinese Bandits" for their ballhawking ability. Prior to Navy's game against Army that year, Hardin had "Beat Army" written on the side of the Navy helmets.
In Chinese.
Navy won, 35-7.
I don't remember any bad quarterback/center exchanges, any snaps over the center's head in the shotgun or bad penalties (other than bad calls by the refs) during any of his 13 years as head coach at Temple. Heck, I don't even remember him ever getting a field goal or a punt blocked. Hardin always beat teams he was supposed to beat and lose to the teams that overwhelmed him with talent, like Penn State and Pitt. (Despite losing to No. 1 Pitt, 10-9, and No. 1 Penn State, 10-7, among many close games against those teams.)
Temple's teams played smart and sharp under Hardin. I'll have to ask him what his secret was next time. Other than fumbled kickoffs or punts, they never beat themselves.
There were mistakes, sure, like the five fumbled kickoffs (all lost) inside the 3-yard line that led to a 76-0 loss to Pitt but Hardin's teams always bounced back.
There's a lot of Wayne Hardin in Steve Addazio and that's the best compliment I can ever pay Steve. He'll fix whatever procedural problems ailed Temple against Maryland.
As a motivator, he is every bit Hardin's equal.
Heck, he might even have "Beat Penn State" written on the helmets in Chinese. (Although, I'd prefer TEMPLE on one side and the T on the other.)
After all, you've got to admit beating Penn State would mean more to Temple fans than a Mulligan against Maryland.