By Mike Gibson
Got a note the other day from Kevin Duckett, the former Temple halfback for the 10-2 Garden State Bowl team.
He was responding to the adjective I used that best described his running style.
"Nobody's ever called me a slippery halfback before," Duckett wrote. "Thanks for remembering my playing days."
I thought about Kevin Duckett and that 1979 team a lot in the last couple of days. There's a whole generation of Temple fans who don't understand just how good that team was or how close it was to finishing 12-0 against the 18th toughest schedule in the country.
- Here are just a couple of the many highlights:
- A systematic dissection of West Virginia in the opener at Mountaineer Field, 38-16, turning what had been a howling sellout mob of 52,956 in the first quarter into complete silence resembling a library for the final three quarters;
- Kicking the living crap out of a bowl-bound Syracuse team, 49-17, that had future NFLers in wide receiver Art Monk, running back Joe Morris and quarterback Bill Hurley.
- A 10-9 loss to a top 10 Pitt team.
- Leading, 7-6, at halftime on the road against a top 20 Penn State team before falling, 22-7.
Just two losses, one by a single point.
So close to perfection at football's highest level.
So much so that I went into the library and found the AP story on the Garden State Bowl win over a good California team.
It follows here:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)- Perhaps they should change the terminology to the "Wild, Wild East" and the "Mild, Mild West." The Owls of Temple University struck another blow for much-maligned Eastern football Saturday with a decisive 28-17 victory over the University of California in the second annual Garden State Bowl.
It was Cal's worst setback of the season- the Golden Bears lost to third-ranked Southern California by only 24-14- and gave the East four triumphs in six games against the Pacific-10 Conference this season.
"The East-West thing added fuel to the fire," Temple running back Mark Bright conceded. "On the way to the game, I. was reading a West Coast paper in which their coach compared us to Washington State. I left the paper on the bus."
The Owls didn't leave much else on the bus en route to their first postseason appearance in 45 years. They scored on their first three possessions, including two touchdown runs by Kevin Duckett, and then rammed the ball down Cal's throat with an impressive six-minute clinching touchdown drive in the final period after blowing most of an early 21-0 advantage.
Cal Coach Roger Theder had made some remarks about Temple in recent weeks that were interpreted as less than complimentary. But, Theder said Saturday, "I never said anything about Temple except that they were a good football team. We knew we had our work cut out for us. If this is Eastern football, then it's pretty good."
Temple's Wayne Hardin agreed with that assessment.
"Our kids carried a banner they've never carried before," he said. "People have looked down on us in the past, but I felt today we could represent Eastern football. We couldn't prove Eastern football was great, but we proved it's not bad, either. There are four Eastern teams in bowl games and I hope we started them outright.”
Duckett capped drives of 67 and 50 yards with scoring runs of 8 and 4 yards and Bryan Broomell flipped a 7-yard touchdown pass to Wiley Pitts as the 20th-ranked Owls stormed to a 21-0 first-period lead over the penalty-plagued Golden Bears.
After California climbed to within 21-17, Broomell clinched the victory with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Gerald Lucear, capping a 78-yard march with 6:47 remaining.
California's 11 regular-season opponents had managed only a total of 20 first-period points, but Temple even had a chance to score again when Guy Peters recovered a fumble by Paul Jones at the Cal 27-yard-line with 25 seconds left in the opening quarter.
The Owls reached the 9-yard-line before they were thrown back and Ron Fioravanti's 32-yard field-goal attempt sailed wide. That gave the Bears some momentum and they dominated the second period after Ron Hill blocked Casey Murphy's punt at the 11 less than five minutes into the period.
Two plays later, Rich Campbell lobbed a 12-yard touchdown pass to Matt Bouza, and five minutes later he fired a 14-yard TD pass to Gerald Rose. But Cal's other scoring after that came on Mick Luckhurst's 34-yard field goal at 2:10 of the final period.
The victory enabled Temple to finish its season with, a 10-2 mark, the most triumphs in the school's history. Cal wound up 6-6 and took its worst setback after suffering its five regular season defeats by a total of 24 points.
The sunny, 40-degree weather helped attract 55,493 fans to 76,000-seat Giants Stadium. That satisfied bowl officials who were disappointed in last year's turnout of 30,332 who saw Arizona State defeat Rutgers 34-18 in the 1978 inaugural. Each team will receive at least $225,000 compared to last year's $166,000 payoff.
With Campbell hitting his first three passes for 44 yards, Cal marched from its 20 to the Temple 32 before Luckhurst missed a 49-yard field goal try. It was all Temple for the rest of the period as Cal turned into the Bad News Bears.
The Owls went 67 yards in 10 plays for their first touchdown, including a 17-yard pass from Broomell to Lucear and a 14-yard inside reverse by Duckett, who scored on the same play with 5:43 gone.
It was 14-0 less than 4 minutes later after a 50-yard drive that included a 23-yard scramble by Broomell and a 15-yard run by Mark Bright, who carried 19 times for 112 yards despite being shaken up twice. Bright was named the game's outstanding player.
The key play on Temple's third touchdown drive, which covered 53 yards in eight plays, was a 19-yard pass from Broomell to Lucear.
After Luckhurst's field goal sliced the Temple lead to four points, the Owls ground out 78 yards in 14 plays and ate up almost six minutes before Broomell’s second touchdown pass.
Campbell, who finished with 25 completions in 38 attempts for 241 yards, rallied Cal in the second period but threw incomplete passes from the Temple 8- and 29-yard lines in the final three minutes of the game.
Duckett was the slippery halfback, a guy who you'd get a hand on for one second and then you'd find yourself with two empty hands the next.
The little bit I've seen of current Owl Joe Jones reminds me a lot of Kevin Duckett.
As Bill Parcells might say, that's a good thing, not a bad thing.
Duckett had a role to play, but so did everybody else. Brian Broomell was a quarterback who led the nation in passing efficiency. Mark Bright was a hard-charging, old-style, between-the-tackles, fullback.
All were from the Philadelphia area. Duckett, Northeast High. Bright, William Tennent. Broomell, Sterling.
Joe Paterno called the Temple offensive line the best he faced as a coach.
The defense was intimidating.
I responded to Kevin Duckett thusly:
"You were pretty slippery on that 76-yard touchdown run at Penn State," I said.
As he was throughout that magical season.
On the eve of a current Temple football team that promises to give this generation of fans a whole set of new memories, Duckett and that team deserves to be remembered.