Best of TFF: Tortured History

EDITOR’S NOTE: Going to be away from WIFI this weekend, so are republishing a post that has never been republished before in TFF: Our story that appeared on Sept. 5, 2015, the morning of the 27-10 win over Penn State. Except for a paragraph insert that appears at the bottom from an Associated Press story that gave Temple fans credit for the win, everything below appeared prior to the game itself. We get back on the grid Sunday night for our usual Monday post. To read the comments below that original preview story, click here:

One of those shows on the Comedy Channel that serves as filler programming between the few good offerings on that network is something called “Drunk History” and, from watching about a minute of an episode here and there, the gist of the thing is that a perfectly sober narrator tells a story from history acting like a drunk.

No thanks.

A better program for that Channel would be something called “Tortured History” and they can narrow that down to the last 40 years of the Temple vs. Penn State football series. The word “drunk” would also apply to this one because that’s how the renewal of the series began in 1975 with then Penn State head coach Joe Paterno saying “the guy who scheduled Temple must have been drunk.”

In effect, he was saying his athletic director was a drunk.

By the time the teams actually played the game, though, Temple could have said the same thing about Penn State. The Owls doubled up Penn State in yards from scrimmage, 402-201, and were clearly the better team but lost on two long kick returns, one a punt, one a kickoff.

Before the game, head coach Wayne Hardin and then athletic director Ernie Casale placed 30,000 Cherry and White pom-poms on the Franklin Field bleachers.

“I told Ernie we might lose the game, but we were not going to be out-pom-pomed,” Hardin said. The game’s first play was a simple handoff to a world-class sprinter named Bob Harris. He put his hand on the back of fullback Tom Duff, who pancaked a PSU linebacker and that left a gaping hole. Seventy-six yards later, Temple led, 7-0. Thirty thousand Cherry and White pom-poms were waving proudly and, to this day, that was the loudest I have ever heard a Temple crowd.

Losing that game 26-25 was sheer torture.

The next year, the Owls went for two and the the pass slipped off the receiver’s hands. More torture, a 31-30 loss.

In 1979, the Owls were 10-2 and went up to State College, led, 7-6, at halftime and lost, 22-7. More torture.

When Bruce Arians took the job at Temple, one of the first questions he was asked in his initial press conference was “Why does Temple even play football?” He repeated the question and gave a great off-the-cuff answer that drew loud applause: “To beat Penn State.”

Arians gave the school its first win over Pitt in 39 years and he probably would have added a Penn State scalp had the school not be so quick to fire him. In his first year, with coach Hardin’s players, he lost, 23-18.

Another year under Arians, Paul Palmer rushed for 226 yards, and scored a pair of touchdowns, but the Owls lost, 27-22. More torture.

In 2010, the Nittany Lions could not stop Bernard Pierce who had 115 yards and two touchdowns at halftime and the Owls led, 15-13. A broken ankle stopped Pierce and the Owls lost, 23-15. More torture.

The next year, quarterback Mike Gerardi was managing the game nicely with a 10-7 lead when he was pulled for Chester Stewart, who did nothing. When Gerardi was reinserted, he was either cold or trying to force a play to keep his job. Whatever, he threw an interception that led to a 14-10 loss.

Those were not the only times Penn State teased the Owls before taking victory from the jaws of defeat, but those were the ones I remember most.

Unless, of course, something gloriously different happens today.

Monday: Regular Programming

This from the AP story that night that ran in every newspaper in the country:

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

First day of practice: Perception vs. Reality

There are usually about five big days surrounding the Temple football season every year.

In no particular order, they are recruiting day, the first day of spring practice, Cherry and White Day, the first day of summer practice, and bowl selection day.

Notice we didn’t mention any actual games because, to me, those are the most important dozen days of the season.

Yet there are opponents on every one of the above days.

Recruiting day?

Pretty much you want to beat your entire league in garnering three- and four stars.

First day of spring practice?

Cobwebs.

Cherry and White Day?

Good guys vs. other good guys.

Bowl selection day?

Warm weather vs. cold weather.

Yesterday, on the first day of summer practice, the two competing opponents were perception vs. reality.

This opponent this particular year, perception, is probably the most hated one of all.

To have to sit and watch videos like the one above is particularly maddening. Just about everyone on the outside is saying Temple sucks.

The above video is typical because both of those guys made assumptions based on a set of “facts” that were largely false.

There were about eight false things those guys on “Winning Cures Everything” said about Temple but we’ll just concentrate on a couple in this space.

One, the roster strength numbers Gary cited here were the ones based on the end of last year, not including any of the Power 5 transfers new head coach Stan Drayton was able to bring in this offseason.

Two, he said Quincy Patterson “didn’t play last year” but, according to ESPN, he started seven games for North Dakota State, threw for 816 years and six touchdowns and, most importantly, was 7-0 at QB in the 2021 season before going down with an injury before the eighth game.

Gary: “He didn’t play last year. I don’t know what that means.”

Yeah, Gary, I’ll tell you what that means (nothing) because he did play last year.

Twenty-twenty-one was last season.

I mean, how do you make a mistake like that, and then we’re supposed to give credence to your assessment of the 2022 record?

Then, at the 2:25 time stamp, he adds: “The wide receiver corps is not great even with several seniors, none of them really played.”

Huh?

One of the wide receivers, Adonicas Sanders, not only played last year but caught the game-winning touchdown at Power 5 Duke.

Another, Jose Barbon, has played a lot not only last year but over the last three years and has been a dependable possession receiver. There’s a transfer in from Michigan State, Ian Stewart, who was not mentioned.

No mentions of significant upgrades at the running back position from portal transfers Jakari Norwood (Illinois) or Darvon Hubbard (Texas A&M).

Just sloppy reporting. Very sloppy.

For giggles, went back and looked at this assessment for the 2021 Owls. In that video, he said Rod Carey was a “great coach.”

Anyone who says Rod Carey was a great coach one year and then follows that up the next saying the Owls will be 2-10 should be taken with a grain of salt.

Make that a boulder of salt.

This is just the type of perception vs. reality battle that started yesterday and will last throughout the season. The most important dozen days of the season start in less than a month and there are a lot of notions out there that need to be disabused.

Judging from a significantly upgraded roster, coaching staff, and a new attitude around here, it won’t take long to do the disabusing.

Monday: The Day Temple Almost Beat a National Champion

Something no one has seen in 38 years

Everybody’s always asked this question at one point in their lives:

“If there’s anything you would do over, what would it be?”

Tough question from a macro level but, in my mind, easy from a Temple football fan micro perspective.

I would not have been so shortsighted taping Temple football games in the 1980s. I taped every single one on old VHS and Beta formats with one caveat: I would tape over the older game for the newer one. My goal then was just to come home and review what I’ve seen live and move on to the next game.

I didn’t think about posterity. I should have.

All but for the 1979 Garden State Bowl game, which I lost moving from one Doylestown apartment to another. It’s probably in a dumpster somewhere. Damn because I’ve never met anyone with a full tape of that game.

West Virginia fans celebrated this win over Penn State a few weeks before Temple fans celebrated a win over this same West Virginia team.

What I should have done is make a VHS library of old Temple games because there’s not enough visual Temple football history out there.

That’s why something Sam Nover said in the final minute of the above taped game struck me as true on a couple of levels:

“I could be doing football games for the next 30 years and never see anything like this.”

Looking back, he was right both coming and going.

At least from the Temple football perspective, no one since this 1984 win over West Virginia has ever seen the Owls make a field goal to win a game off a penalty on the bad guys.

That’s the coming part.

The going part is that, thanks to a guy named Joe Tolstoy (who I may have met but don’t know), current Temple fans haven’t seen this game–at least on the internet–not only in 30 years but tack on another eight years for a grand total of 38. Note the Youtube date on the video (July, 2022) so this is relatively new.

I’ve been looking for film from this game for 38 years and, thanks to official Temple football photographer Zamani Feelings (who sent it to me), I found it. Or more accurately he found it. It was like seeing an old friend you haven’t seen in 38 years.

There is a nice interception from Temple All-American free safety Anthony Young in the pre-game show but what stood out was the two color guys assigned to the game.

First, they no longer do that except for prime-time network games.

Second, they never have one graduate from one university and another representing the other team in the game.

This one did as the late great NFL Hall of Famer Sam Huff represented the West Virginia side and Randy Grossman, who had has four Super Bowl rings, represented Temple.

I don’t think that’s ever happened in an NCAA regional broadcast.

This game only existed in my memory for the last 38 years until just the other day. It was a good win for head coach Bruce Arians because that West Virginia team (coached by Don Nehlen) started out the season 7-1. It beat No. 4 Boston College and No. 19 Penn State a few weeks before losing to Temple.

Now it’s on Memorex and available to a whole other generation of Temple fans. I wish there were more.

Friday: First Day of Practice

Monday: The Day Temple Almost Beat a National Champion

Friday 9/12: Best of TFF (three-day vacation)

Monday 9/15: Back from Vacation

AAC Media Day: Temple Between the Lines

The question is always asked on these media days to coaches about expectations and the answer, at least for the last two Temple head football coaches has always been something like this:

“We won’t set a number on wins and losses we just want to play the best we can.”

Temple’s Stan Drayton broke from that mundane view on Thursday when he said “we have set expectations and we expect to meet them” in terms of wins and losses in separate interviews with members of the media (not shown in the above video).

Guess what?

Reading between the lines, just four wins is not acceptable to this coaching staff and that has been transmitted to the players.

What is?

Certainly a dozen would be but we get the distinct feeling from the way Drayton talks that a losing first season is not on his radar.

Nor should it be.

Those who don’t set goals never reach them and the last two coaches, Rod Carey and Geoff Collins, wanted just to “play well.”

That doesn’t cut it.

In Adam Klein, Victor Stoffel and Isaac Moore, the Owls have at least the foundation of a terrific offensive line and that was communicated to the media on Thursday.

What was surprising, though, was Drayton’s assertion that the DEFENSIVE LINE–considered coming into the season as the biggest question mark–was his biggest exclamation point:

That is surprising in the sense that the returning personnel didn’t get enough pressure on the quarterback last season (only 15 sacks for 104 yards of losses) but not so because new line coach Antoine Smith led Colorado State’s defensive line to a top 10 sackmeister rate last season AND Temple’s most talented defensive lineman, Xach Gill, did not play a year ago. Now he’s not only playing but becoming a leader of the returning guys.

The best way to win in football is protecting your quarterback and putting the bad guy’s quarterback on his ass. Games are won in the trenches and that’s exactly where the Owls plan to win at least six and maybe more this season.

Temple seems to have progressed a long way in both of those areas.

How far?

Nobody knows but Drayton already has set the bar and it ain’t low. That has to be good news for every Temple football fan.

Monday: Something no one has seen in 30 years

Two ways to look at the 2022 season

UCF was 0-12 just one year before losing this exciting game to Temple in 2016. The Youtube channel PCS Highlights called the final touchdown here “the most iconic play in Temple history.”

Reasonable people can take a look at a set of facts and come away with a different conclusion.

The college football world seems to have Temple football pegged to finish last in the 11-team American Athletic Conference standings.

It won’t be long now.

There are two ways to look at it.

One, the college football world is looking at the results of the last two seasons and plugging Temple in to finish about the same way and a lot of weight in that conclusion is based on the past. Plus, that world is centered in Las Vegas where the current over/under has the Owls at 2.5 wins.

Two, a new coach and new energy surrounding the program–plus an influx of pretty good talent from the transfer portal–probably means more than the three wins the team was able to accomplish in a toxic oxygen-deprived atmosphere a year ago.

We’re looking at it the second way and, if history is any indication, a new coach with new energy can bring positive results to difficult situations right away.

You need look no further than the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for a good example.

In 1997, Pitt had a new coach, Walt Harris, brought in because the Panthers won a total of 12 games the prior four years. All Pitt did in Harris’ first season with pretty much that same talent was win six games and earn a Liberty Bowl spot. (One of the five regular-season losses Pitt had that year was to Temple.)

Owls have been doing the right things in offseason workouts and in the community so far and there’s no reason to believe they won’t be making fans with their play on the field.

Temple, on the other hand, has won 20 games in the last four years, not 12. Plus, the transfer portal did not exist as a tool to upgrade the talent then and it does now.

You can offer your opinion that Temple can’t win at least six in Stan Drayton’s first year but you can’t argue with the fact that it has been done in the past on multiple occasions with programs that have performed worse than Temple in the immediate past, too many to mention here.

One example of this quick fix happened in the league Temple currently competes. UCF turned an 0-12 season in 2015 quickly under first-year head coach Scott Frost, winning six games in 2016–again without the benefit of a transfer portal.

Call it a new attitude, better coaches, whatever, but examples abound everywhere that things can transform pretty quickly in one year and, from what we’ve seen so far, Temple appears to be headed for a Pitt/UCF kind of transformation.

It’s just not logical that a lesser talented Rod Carey-coached Temple team can outperform a better-coached and more talented coached Temple team.

Two-point-five wins is really easy money but we’re looking at more than double that. The fact that it has been done before under more difficult circumstances means that it can be done again.

Friday: AAC Media day.

AAC Media Day: The Veneer is Off

Mike Aresco at least year’s AAC Media Day.

About five years ago, The Question was always answered one way:

What is the AAC all about?

Mike Aresco, the very well-paid commissioner of the league (exactly $2,246,027.00 cents per year), would always answer that the league felt it belonged as a Power conference and would accept no less than a Power 6 designation.

Now the veneer is off.

Arguably before now because the departure of cornerstone members Houston, UCF, and Cincy was known last year.

Now just about everyone knows that the AAC Media Day–which will be held on July 28–will take on another brave face: That Rice, UAB, FAU are all valuable additions and that the league will sustain one way or another.

No doubt, it will, but key members like Memphis and Temple want out and Aresco cannot claim otherwise in good faith.

The only way Memphis–which lost to quite possibly the worst Temple team in the last decade last year–and Temple (which most people would concede made a positive move jettisoning Rod Carey) stay is that they have no place to go.

That might be the truth but the larger truth is that this year the AAC is at its most vulnerable state since it was created in the ashes of the old Big East.

Memphis is renovating its stadium to the tune of $200 million (more than Temple said it would cost to build a new one) and that probably is not because it wants to remain in the AAC.

Temple’s media market (No. 4) is the only top five media market that does not have a Power 5 team within its footprint so, for that reason alone, a lot of eyes will be on the Owls and the way they bounce back from 1-6 and 3-9 seasons

Aresco can’t say that Temple or Memphis or really anyone else is committed to this league for a long time.

That said, it should be interesting how he walks on the eggshells that will no doubt be on the floor in less than a week. Repeating the same line he has in past media days threatens not only his credibility but the leagues.

Monday: There are two ways of looking at it

Temple fans to Mike Schmidt: Hold our beer

Mike Schmidt had a very good quote about the Philadelphia newspapers in his heyday:

“Philadelphia is the only city where you can experience the thrill of victory and the agony of reading about it the next day.”

I thought about that quote when I saw a headline in the Philadelphia Daily News the other day:

“NCAA’s chaos could benefit Temple.”

Finally, I thought, a positive piece about Temple football published on July 10.

(If that headline sounded familiar, we used those very words in this space on July 1.)

Temple Football Forever: July 1, 2022

Then I thumbed through the piece and came across this caption: “The sight of 40,000 empty seats in Lincoln Financial Field could be a deterrent when conferences like the SEC and ACC come calling for Temple’s participation.”

Taking a closer look at the photo it was clearly taken during the dark days of The Covid Rod Carey Era, surely an outlier period. Why not use a photo of Homecoming 2015 when over 35,000 Temple fans came out to see a Tulane team that could not have brought even 200 fans to Philly?

Forget the Penn State game (where at least 40,000 of the fans were cheering for Temple) or the Notre Dame game (at least an even split).

Or the 2016 Army game that drew over 35,000?

Or the 2018 Cincinnati game, which drew over 33,000? You know, the game where Cincy quarterback Desmond Ridder blamed “crowd noise” as the reason for the Bearcats’ fourth-straight defeat to Temple.

No, the Inky had to use an empty Linc to push a false narrative.

The fact that Notre Dame and Penn State played four prime-time games on television from the 1980s until the present day BUT ONLY the Temple vs. Notre Dame game HAD THE HIGHEST TV RATING FOR ANY COLLEGE FOOTBALL GAME IN PHILADELPHIA regular-season history should be enough to prove that this college football TV market belongs to Temple and not a school 250 miles away.

TV ratings on all the games aren’t available but the ones that are available show a winning Temple football team does very well in the nation’s fourth-largest market. The Temple-UCF 2018 game (a 52-40 Temple loss) had a 53 percent national increase over the prior ESPN Thursday night game. Temple’s 26-25 win at UCF in 2016 did an even better number in the Philly market.

Desmond Ridder blames “crowd noise” for 2018 loss at Temple (Cincinnati Enquirer)

Very good numbers that proved a competitive exciting Temple football team consistently provides eyeballs in the nation’s fourth-largest TV market. It should not be surprising given that over 200,000 of the school’s 300,000 alumni still live in that market.

That’s really the potential television market Temple offers provided the Owls get back to the winning ways that produced a 73-54 record in the years just before Carey got here. Picking up the hometown paper presented a whole other narrative.

The agony of reading about it the next day indeed. Temple fans had to be thinking, “Schmitty, hold our beer.”

Friday: AAC Media Day

5 Individual Owl achievements that can happen

In Darvon Hubbard, the Owls have a big-time SEC recruit from Texas A&M who should, combined with a veteran offensive line, significantly upgrade the running game.

Hard to believe, Harry (Donahue, in this case) but after three years of despair, it’s not hard to see some Temple football Owls making a mark this season.

After all, all the cheering in the practices in the snow and the weightlifting at the E-O have signaled an all-for-one, one-for-all atmosphere around the $17 million Edberg-Olson Complex we haven’t seen since the first year of the Geoff Collins Era.

That team, arguably a nine-win squad, still did the university proud by winning seven games and taking home a bowl title.

Former Virginia Tech starter Quincy Patterson probably beats out former Georgia starter D’wan Mathis to give Temple the deepest 1-2 quarterback punch in the AAC this season.

Underachieving is not an option this year.

Regular achieving?

In this space, we’ve set the bar at six wins.

Hard?

Sure.

Impossible?

Definitely not.

Since the team is the sum of the individual parts, we can see five things happening on that level that lead to a team success.

Now, mind you, we’re not predicting them, but can definitely envision them:

One, Quincy Patterson becomes a first-team all-league quarterback. Sean Hennigan of Memphis, really, is his top competition but a guy who heard pass-rushing footsteps against a 3-9 Temple team certainly is vulnerable against a guy who once led Virginia Tech to a double-overtime win against North Carolina. Patterson, in my mind, has the “it” factor that both P.J. Walker and Adam DiMichele had. I hope I’m right.

Two, Isaac Moore, Adam Klein and Victor Stoffel take things personally. All three of these players were outstanding for Chris Wiesehan under Collins and the return of their coach revitalizes the Temple offensive line. Moore in particular signaled the end of the Rod Carey Error a year ago today when he was quoted in OwlsDaily.com as saying: “It’s Temple. You cannot lose here. Everyone knows that.” (That was in response to a question about a rare 1-6 season at Temple.) Wiesehan, who did not experience a losing season in his prior years at Temple, was considered by many an outstanding candidate to get the job Stan Drayton did and that’s because many current Temple players went to bat for him. Reason? He had pretty much this same talent operating on a much higher level under Geoff Collins. That would lead to the next achievement.

Three, Darvon Hubbard gains 1,000 yards and scores at least 10 touchdowns. Hubbard was a three-star Texas A&M recruit for a reason and it was because it was a state champion 100-meter guy who also maximized his carries on the high school football field in Arizona. With less than 100 carries, Hubbard had over 1,000 yards in his senior year in high school football. That’s a lot of yards per carry. If he does the same against AAC competition, the Owls more than double their run production next year. Hubbard will probably be the best transfer running back Temple has had since Montel Harris scored seven touchdowns in a single game in 2012.

Amad Anderson is definitely the best Anderson at wide receiver since Robby (celebrating with the great Temple fans here the win over Penn State) caught clutch passes at Temple in 2015.

Four, Adonicis Sanders and Amad Anderson exceed the production of Jadan Blue and Randall Jones. Sanders, who caught the game-winning touchdown pass against Duke last year, could do the same this year. Anderson was a productive starter at Purdue before coming to Temple. Their collective target? The four touchdowns and 661 yards Blue (now at Virginia Tech) and Jones combined for last year. I will bet $20 against any Temple fan at the season-ticket-holder party who wants to take me up on that.

Five, the Owls as a team get more sacks (16+) this year than they did last year (15, 105 yards in losses). North Carolina transfer Xach Gill (who didn’t play last year) is a significant upgrade inside and Layton Jordan is an improvement outside. Kentucky transfer Jerquavion Mahone (who did play last year) needs to improve on the inside and surprisingly Dyshier Clary is listed as a DE starter on the other side ahead of Darian Varner and Evan Boozer, who both have good motors. That’s pretty good DE depth.

If a team is the sum of its parts (and it is), the parts point to better production. Does that equal 2x the wins?

That’s a math question even Albert Einstein would be hard-pressed to answer but the across-the-board improvement we see in mid-July seems to support the hypothesis.

Monday: What They Are Saying …

Breaking Good: Joe Klecko’s chances for HOF

Wayne Hardin has a great quote about Joe Klecko in the middle of this video.

Better Call Saul, probably the best TV series since Breaking Bad had its finale nine years ago, returns tonight for the final few episodes.

For fans like me, the Breaking Bad franchise will finally end as brilliant writer Vince Gilligan goes off to different projects and says no spinoffs are planned.

For the uninitiated, Breaking Bad was the way a good teacher (Walter White) went to become a meth kingpin and Saul Goodman was his lawyer.

Dan and Joe Klecko on Senior Day.

That’s the Breaking Bad story. Today we will talk about something Breaking Good.

Joe Klecko’s chances of making the Pro Football Hall of Fame broke very well last week when he was named a semifinalist for the 2023 Veterans Class.

In my mind (and the minds of Howie Long, Peter King, Mike Francesa and several other pro football experts), Klekco should have been in there 20 years ago. From a stat standpoint, he probably should have been in there before Long and Warren Sapp because the numbers said he was a more dominating defensive lineman.

Numbers don’t lie but maybe take it from the best offensive lineman of his era, Anthony Munoz (also in the Hall) who said, “Without a doubt, Joe Klecko was the hardest player I’ve ever had to block and it wasn’t even close.”

At Temple, while Tyler Matakevich and Dan Klecko were both good, there is no doubt in my mind that Joe Klecko was the most dominating defensive player in Temple history. I sat in the press box and watched Klecko make future Detroit Lions’ quarterback Brian Komlo’s day a living hell.

Before the largest Delaware Stadium crowd in history (23,619), to this day even, Klecko pushed the center aside and sacked Komlo 11 times in a 31-8 Temple win. That was a pretty good Delaware team that made the national quarterfinals at its level. While the NCAA didn’t keep sacks that year, the reporters in the press box did. Klecko was on Komlo almost at the snap count on five of those sacks. In a 27-10 Temple win over Penn State (2015), the Owls had an impressive 10 sacks as a team.

To think that one player could get 11 in a game is mind-boggling.

At St. James High, Klecko’s team won the City Championship by beating a pretty good Frankford team, 43-0. The Jimmies didn’t attempt a pass the whole game.

KIecko was the only Owl to go from pro football to Temple. (Well, semi-pro.) He kept his college eligibility playing under the assumed name “Jim Jones” for the Aston Knights while working as a truck driver. The Aston Knights equipment manager was also the Temple equipment manager who told head coach Wayne Hardin: “You’ve got to see this guy. He’s unblockable.” Hardin did and the rest was history. Klecko was a two-sport athlete at Temple and won consecutive NCAA boxing titles (when boxing was a college sport).

Klecko was a regular Temple tailgater during Dan’s years (where he was Big East Defensive Player of the Year). The last time I saw him tailgating in Lot K was Dan’s final game.

“Now, Joe, just because Dan’s leaving I hope that doesn’t mean you won’t be back,” I said.

“No, Mike, I’ll be here,” Joe said.

The last time I saw him at Al Golden’s introductory press conference. The two were Colts Neck, N.J. neighbors at the time.

I reminded him of the tailgating story and Joe laughed, saying life had gotten in the way.

Maybe Temple will have him back next season after he gives his Canton, Ohio induction speech. There is nobody in this class more deserving.

Friday: 5 Individual Achievements That Could Happen

July 18: What they’re saying