A long strange trip it was

Hooter is one of the few Owls to get better looking with age.

Sitting at my desk at the Doylestown Intelligencer three days before this game at BYU in 1986, the phone rings and I get a call from the great Al Shrier: “Mike, we have a seat on the team plane. We’d love you to join us.”

I walk into Editor-in-Chief Jim McFadden’s office and ask if I can go, he said, “Only if you tell Al the paper will reimburse all expenses.” Both Al and Jim kept their word.

Great game and I was reminded of this when Joe Tolstoy finally posted a film of the game last week. I haven’t seen this film in 37 years.

Current Owls working on future memories at 10th and Diamond.

Two things I remember about this trip. Meeting the great Neil Diamond on the street in Provo and not being able to drink a brewski due to the draconian local laws. Diamond couldn’t have been more gracious and down to earth meeting this stranger from Philadelphia by pure chance. He and I talked about Philadelphia, the Spectrum and our other musical tastes.


The game itself? Still convinced to this day Temple stopped BYU at the goal on a 4th and 1. Mike Palys (the only player with a Penn State offer who turned down the Nittany Lions for Temple) with two great punt returns. Palys picked Temple because Paterno would not allow him to play baseball at PSU. He was an All-American baseball player at Temple. (Ironically, Al didn’t make the trip because he hated flying.)

That wasn’t the only strange thing about the trip.

While in Philadelphia, we waited on the tarmac for the plane sweating in 86-degree weather for a couple of hours to board.

Landing in Utah, we waited for our luggage outside in 32-degree weather.

Not surprisingly, a week or so later I ended up in the hospital with a bad case of pneumonia and the virus that accompanied it attacked my heart. I had to have heart surgery to remove the pericardium.

The first call I received in the hospital was from Shrier, followed closely by other calls from Wayne Hardin and Bruce Arians wishing me luck. (No doubt the first guy had plenty to do with the next two guys placing the calls.)

It worked.

I was in my early 30s at the time so everything else since then has been a bonus.

Even the down times because they led to better ones.

After 19 straight losing seasons, I got to see Temple return to a bowl for the first time in 30 years and finally beat Penn State.

With the advent of the NLI and the transfer portal, you’ve got to wonder if the future is going to get better than the recent past. I have my doubts but I also have my hopes.

Whatever happens, seeing it unfold in the flesh sure beats the alternative.

Friday: Too Close for Comfort


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