In a far-off, long-ago era of football, Vince Lombardi probably had the best quote in the history of the sport:
“Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.”
The great ex-Green Bay Packers’ head coach, if he were still alive, probably would have repeated his second most famous quote during Temple’s meltdown in a 56-27 loss to Duke yesterday:
“What the hell is going on out there?”
Good words, Vince, that perfectly described an Independence Bowl where the wheels came off for a 3.5-point favorite.
The quotes are reminders to me of a conversation the other day I had with an otherwise sane and rational Temple fan on my decision not to attend this bowl.
“C’mon, down, Mike,” he said, “bowls are about the pageantry and the band, not really about the game itself.”
“Huh? If I’m going down, I’m going down to win. I don’t give a whit (minus the W) about the pageantry. The only reason I go down is to see Temple win and there’s too much uncertainty and I would be way too pissed off if I spent that much money to see a loss.”
All that said, the night before the game I wrote this nugget:
“If Temple controls the clock behind Ryquell Armstead and Russo is effective in the short passing game, (Duke quarterback) Jones won’t be able to do too much damage.”
To me, there was no doubt Armstead would play. He was quoted as saying on Dec. 17 that he was excited to play “one last time with my brothers” and participated in every practice, several of them full contact. He was listed as “probable.” What did he do in the minutes before the game, trip over the Elvis Pressley statue? This news completely came out of the blue.
Both cornerback Rock Ya-Sin and Armstead did not play and interim head coach Ed Foley said those were for “medical reasons.” Photos, though, of the two showed them smiling (not grimacing) before the game, so who the hell knows? All I know is that Armstead was a warrior who wanted to come back into the ECU game (and did) despite a sprained ankle and he looked a helluva lot better walking around the sidelines yesterday than he did that day in October.
Jones, the Duke quarterback who is a far better prospect than Armstead or Ya-Sin, did play “one last game” with his brothers and that set the tone for the entire day.
Do I think Temple would have benefited from having Armstead in there to run the ball with a 27-14 lead in the second quarter? Hell yes. Do I think he would have scored the six touchdowns that he did against Houston? Hell no, but three would have done the job and 30 carries would have kept the ball away from Jones for 30 plays. Play-action would have aided quarterback Anthony Russo if he had Armstead to put the ball in the belly of and pull it out.
Do I think Ya-Sin would have batted down a couple of those Jones’ touchdown passes?
Football is a team game and the next man should step up but Temple had no “next man” nearly as capable as those two. Maybe part of their decision had to do with coaches coming and going at Temple, but it still sucks. Ed Foley is now 0-2. He talks a good game but I’d rather see actions than words. I always have.
This is what bowl season at Temple has come to, though. Maybe forever. Maybe just for the foreseeable future: Decide to go down to see the band, go to pre-game events and walk around a small town in the middle of nowheresville but don’t be upset if Temple losses the game.
I feel most sorry for all of those Temple fans who paid their hard-earned money thinking they would see the full Temple team for one more time.
Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing. My good Temple friend can go down for the pageantry and the sightseeing next year, but it will be a hard pass for me unless it’s an NY6 game and everyone from Temple from the head coach to the waterboy is 100 percent committed to winning.
Sunday: Fizzy on The Green Flu
Wednesday: Some New Year’s Resolutions for Manny Diaz
Friday: Infante Impact
Sunday: Comparing First Years
Tuesday: (1/9): Pressing Needs
Thursday (1/11): Impact of Bowl Loss on Future