The day Temple almost beat a national champion

Imagine, if you will, Georgia coming into Philadelphia this year and Temple almost beating the defending national champion.

Never happen?

Never say never because it almost did.

In fact, it probably should have.

Except for three missed field goals by Jim Cooper Sr. (his son, Jim Cooper Jr. also kicked for Temple years later), the Owls would have most certainly beat the defending national champion BYU Cougars in the third game of the 1985 season. BYU was less than nine months removed of going 13-0, beating Michigan in the Holiday Bowl and finishing at the top of all three national polls (AP, UPI, USA Today).

Hell, had Cooper gone just 2 for 4 in field goals, the Owls probably would have won but it wasn’t all Jim’s fault. The Owls’ star running back, the durable Paul Palmer, missed most of the first half with an ankle injury. Despite sub Todd McNair having a good game, rust led to an early fumble that turned into a BYU touchdown. Cooper’s misses (45, 31, and 30 yards) were not chip shots but certainly makeable. Palmer rubbed some dirt on the ankle, came back, and had a 160-yard game.

Much has been made of the magic Bruce Arians was able to pull out of his hat in his five years at Temple, beating Pitt three of those years and having winning campaigns twice against top 10 schedules.

Playing as an independent with virtually no facilities, Arians overachieved and the 1985 Owls were a good example.

Still, the 1985 Temple Owls deserve a shoutout despite going 4-7.

That schedule was ranked No. 7 in the country and the Owls opened with closes losses against three top 20 teams, Penn State, Boston College, and BYU.

The Owls would bounce back to split the remaining eight games but those first three put them in a hole.

Still, a pretty good team and a good game that reflects how much college football has changed in the last 37 years.

Robbie Bosco returned as a national champion quarterback. Had Bosco won his championship in 2022 and not 1984, he probably would have gone to the NFL but his passing led to four touchdowns and more than offset the 257 yards the Owls had on the ground. While the Cougars had Bosco for four quarters, the Owls had Palmer for only three.

Those are the breaks.

BYU knew it was in a game as it had 22 first downs to 21 for Temple.

Now the college football landscape has changed so much that big-time Power 5 teams rarely even visit G5 teams, let alone nearly lose to them.

Temple wasn’t a G5 team but just one that had the respect of the top 10 teams in America on a regular basis.

Maybe the foundation Stan Drayton is laying down now returns the Owls to as he has told the 1985 team, “getting this thing to the way you guys are used to it.”

Never say never.

Friday: Best of TFF

Monday: Best of Camp So Far


3 thoughts on “The day Temple almost beat a national champion

  1. Mike the 1985 Owls won their next four games to pull themselves up to a 4-3 record, they dropped their last 4, including a 17-10 loss at Delaware. What happened the second half of the year there?

  2. Interesting day at the Vet. In the afternoon, the Phils played the Cubs (I think) and the stadium crew had to scramble and hustle to semi-convert the field to football. Kickoff was close to 9PM as a result. The left field stands stayed retracted, so there were no lower level seats along that sideline for the game. Nevertheless, 35,000 attended plus a national audience.

    I did the double header. Long day for sure. Not as long as the stadium crew who then had to reconvert the field back to baseball.

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