Cincy Throwbacks: Game With a Kick


Ironically, No. 17 gave Temple a 17-17 tie with Cincy.

If Friday’s game with Cincinnati comes down to a kick, no one will be surprised.

The Owls are 2.5-favorites and many of their past games against the Bearcats have involved a kick.


Last year’s 34-13 win gave the Owls a 12-7-1 lead in the series.

The Owls have a great kicker in Aaron Boumerhi, who already has the pressure of a game-winning OT kick under his belt this year against Villanova.

If past games with Cincinnati are a yardstick, it just might come down to the length of a leg.

Field goals have played a big role in the series, which Temple leads, 12-7-1.

Probably the most famous kick came in the series only tie, 17-17, on Oct. 29, 1977.
A year earlier, Temple coach Wayne Hardin eschewed an extra-point attempt by kicker Wes Sornisky in an attempt to beat Penn State on the final play of the game. The two-point conversion pass went off the hands of the Temple receiver and the Owls lost, 31-30.

“A tie is like kissing your sister,” Hardin said afterward. “I felt the kids came too far and deserved the chance to win.”

Facing a similar situation the next season at Nippert Stadium, Hardin went for the tie, a 33-yard field goal by Sornisky.

It was good and the teams walked off the field with a 17-17 tie. It was Cincinnati’s second 17-17 tie that year. The Bearcats tied Louisville in an earlier game.

Afterward, a famous photo of Sornisky, who ironically wore No. 17, was published with him whispering something in Hardin’s ear.

“I asked him if this was like kissing your sister,” Wes said.

Those were pretty strange days. Now nobody gets to play for three hours and come away with a result that is pretty much like not even having played the game at all.

It was probably like kissing your half-sister from Temple’s point of view because the Owls came from down 11 points in the fourth quarter to get in a position for a tie. That year, Cincinnati lost by two points to a Maryland team that finished No. 13 in the nation.

Sornisky was a great kicker for Hardin, who helped the Owls set what was then an NCAA record for consecutive extra points (106) that was snapped earlier that season.

Another kick that factored into a memorable Temple vs. Cincy game came in 1974.

The Owls had a nation’s best 14-game winning streak and Don Bitterlich, who still holds the school record for longest field goal (56). A Cincy field goal ended that long winning streak, 16-15.

Temple also won the 1978 game on a field goal, 16-13.

Missed field goals also factored into the 2003 game. That game, on a Saturday night at unbeaten 13-point favorite Cincinnati, featured missed field goals from 37 and 24 yards by the Owls’ kicker. Temple, with a 24-10 fourth quarter lead, threw a bomb on 2nd and 2. Incomplete, of course. The Owls also threw three passes when they had a first-and-goal on the Cincinnati 2.

INCOMPLETE, of course, and the missed kicks had everything to do with a 30-24 double-overtime loss.

Now if the Owls can just put Boumerhi in a position to win, they’ve got to feel good about their chances.

The last time they were 2.5-point favorites, though, they won, 34-10.

To me, that would be the result I would most get a kick out of now.
Tomorrow: Cincinnati Preview


Requiem For a Heavyweight: Wes Sornisky

Wes Sornisky says something to Wayne Hardin after a 17-17 tie at  Cincinnati.

Wes Sornisky says something to Wayne Hardin after a 17-17 tie at Cincinnati.

Every once in a while, somebody sees something that needs to be done and makes a difference.

Meet the undisputed heavyweight champion of the Temple spirit, which Wes Sornisky was and someone who I had the honor to know well for at least a few years of his all-too-short life.


Wes died tragically in a fire in Delaware a few days ago and I cannot help but think much of the football tailgating scene at Temple now, a scene that went from dreadful to really good, was due to him making a difference.

During the darkest of Bobby Wallace days, Wes organized a group of ex-football players into something called the “Fourth and Goal Club” and they picked the Jetro Lot at 11th and Damien as their headquarters. It started out with a few and ended with many and eventually made the move over to Lot K, where the ex-player group thrives under all-time tackle leader Steve Conjar.

Wes finally made Sports Illustrated for this fact in the weekly college roundup.

Wes finally made Sports Illustrated for this fact in the weekly college roundup.

Wes would bring one of those food trucks you’d see at Temple and make it tailgate headquarters. Eventually, word spread and other tailgaters would join the group.

There’s something extra special about the kickers and their connection to Temple. Almost all of the ex-kickers make it regularly to the games and I’m sure Brandon McManus would, too, if he didn’t have a job kicking in the NFL.

Wes and Cap Poklemba, another kicker, separated by 30 years or so but united by a common spirit, even held a tailgate at a Temple basketball game. That idea never caught on, but that was more due to the weather than the idea itself.

Wes could have been a big part of history in the 1976 Penn State game when Temple went for a two-point conversion to win at the end instead of allowing him to tie it with an extra point. Wayne Hardin told me last year it was a mistake because a tie would have been viewed as a win for Temple. (I disagreed and told him he absolutely did the right thing.)  After that game, though, Hardin said a tie “was like kissing your sister.”

The next year, at Cincinnati, Hardin allowed Sornisky to kick a field goal to tie, 17-17. After the game, Sornisky is seen in a photo saying something to Hardin. I asked Wes what he said. “How’s kissing your sister feel?” is what Wes told me he said.

Wes knew of my affinity for the old “TEMPLE” helmet and wanted me to have his a few years ago and we decided to meet a couple of miles from his home at the Montgomeryville LA Fitness Center. Something came up and Wes had to cancel but said we would meet again somewhere along the line.

And that was the last I’ve heard from Wes, who moved to Delaware, which was like moving to Kansas. He never came to a game again, but he made a big difference in his life at a time when a difference needed to be made.

RIP, Wes.