Game Day Minus-1: A Special Tribute

Some nice 1979 highlights on this reel from ten years ago.

If you blink your eye or are just a little tardy getting to your seat tomorrow, you will miss a special Temple football moment.

Maybe the most special.

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Fortunately for Lazygote, no gloves needed but the tailgate should be a little nippy starting at 7 a.m., so a light jacket might be in order.

Sure, the game is as important and as high-profile as they come in this Group of Five league but what will happen during the first timeout is also a huge moment. It is the 40th-anniversary tribute to the 1979 team, a tribute we first suggested here back in the summer.

It will be a too-short tribute to a team that deserves much more, in my mind the greatest Temple team in the 100-plus year history of football at the school. Only the 1934 squad could put up an argument that it was better than the 1979 team but I will take the 1979 team all day long. First, the 1934 Sugar Bowl team lost. The 1979 bowl team won. Back then, everybody was Power 5 and Temple was in the elite of that group.


The 1979 Owls will be honored during that first timeout–probably the first five minutes of halftime would have been a better stage–and deserve a prolonged standing ovation. Consider this: Only two Temple teams since have won the same number of games (10) as that one but neither have those two teams won every game they were supposed to win.

The 1979 Owls captained by Mark Bright and Steve Conjar not only beat every team they were favored to beat but pulled a couple of upsets in a big way. They were not favored to beat Syracuse–with future NFLers’ Art Monk, Joe Morris, and Bill Hurley–but they destroyed the Orange, 49-17. They were not favored to win the Garden State Bowl but beat California, 28-17.

In between, they lost only two a pair of teams ranked at the time of those games: Pitt (10-9) and Penn State (22-7). The Owls led Penn State, 7-6, at halftime before what until that time was the largest crowd in the history of Beaver Stadium. For some reason, head coach Wayne Hardin abandoned a running game that was working to chew up clock and extend drives and went largely to a passing attack in the second half.

That was one of the few mistakes Hardin ever made as a head coach anywhere but 1979 was pretty darn close to a perfect season. With just 17 more points, that team goes 12-0 and wins the national championship because there was no G5 and P5 schism back then and it was a strong enough schedule to hand the Owls what would have been a mythical title.

Consider that: TEMPLE winning a National Championship in football. It was thisclose …

Those were the days in college football when there were no participation trophies. You had to be really good and not just one of the best 80 teams to earn a bowl bid. Only 30 teams were extended bowl invitations.

There are now 40 bowl games. In 1979, there were only 15. Temple won one of them. The Owls finished ranked No. 17 in both polls (then, UPI and AP).

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That’s it. The entire list of bowl games in 1979

While watching my Owls lose to Buffalo this year, I had one recurring thought: Another year of Temple not beating everyone it was supposed to beat.

It won’t happen this year and we are running out of time for it to happen in the coming years.

Fortunately, I lived to see one of those years. Unfortunately, I might not live to see another. (Hell, let’s hope so, though.)

It was 1979 and Temple owes these guys a debt of gratitude that definitely deserves more than a wave and a cheer during the first timeout of the first quarter. That’s what we have, though, so let’s make the most out of it.

Predictions: Was 4-2 last week against the spread (winning with Cincy beating UCF on Friday night and going 3-2 in the Saturday games). For the season, we are now 21-7 straight-up and 17-11 against the spread. This week: Taking Virginia getting 1 at Miami (cannot believe that a ranked team is a dog to a dysfunctional Manny Diaz squad tonight) and, on Saturday, I like the following (home team in CAPS): INDIANA laying the 28 against Rutgers; Maryland laying the 4 against PURDUE; Hawaii getting the 12.5 points against BOISE STATE (Temple and the AAC needs Hawaii to win that game outright); Ball State laying the 2.5 at EASTERN MICHIGAN and Cincinnati laying the 7 at HOUSTON.

Sunday: Game Analysis


12 thoughts on “Game Day Minus-1: A Special Tribute

  1. Well said Mike, one of my biggest complaints of my time on North Broad was that there was no sense of history. Let’s face it….there was some bad history but when you have a team like the ’79 team you better hold on to it and celebrate whenever possible. Those players should have been embraced and been invited to any and all team functions over the years for all to see, to get to know, to hear their story. TU always failed in that regard…..connecting the past to the present and future….that’s what serious programs do!

  2. On the board early! 3 TE’s on the scoring play; that’s temple tough.

  3. biggest turnout of the season.
    Now if we Can only get the tailgaters out of the parking and into the seats .

  4. Still in third qtr.., Memphis is a legit Top 25 team. Temple offense could not convert turnovers into TDs in the first last, game over. Holding call negated a Davis TD on first 2nd half possession was huge!

    4-2 going to Dallas

  5. OK I have seen enough to decide on nbr 15 . Any one else think Russo may have to go – go ? He has AGAIN been nearly dangerous just enough to keep TU Offense from executing well. Memphis does not respect his game now and so they can key on stop the run.
    Can he improve for the last 25 mins, we will see.
    Todd Centeio Is back in now ?

  6. B. White – 4 turnovers
    Russo – 0 turnovers

    Temple will beat SMU with those same outcomes

  7. Really interesting Homecoming day for me. Was at my local weekly farmers market in Wrightstow early this morning decked out in my Temple gear for the game and ran into Matt McCardles wife, daughter and grandson and talked about the ‘79 team and today’s tribute.

  8. Once again , to quote the Fonz, I was wwwwrrrroooonnnnggg ‘. Nbr 15 Russo is being used as the game Manager type just as Mike G states.
    A Russo doesn’t do the ‘Miracle-Whip’ thing but he does the Steady-Freddy role as QB. I know that an ‘almost INT’ is not the ‘ actual INT’, so even if it was Nervous Nelly time Yesterday, still Nbr 15 got it done. Maybe I am not used to a clever think HC such as Carey ? Maybe he is smart and knows what he wants in a QB. I am wrong again to slam Russo, sorry about that.

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