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.
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.
“Why does Temple
even play football?
To beat Penn State.”
_ Bruce Arians
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 first play of the game 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.