By Bill Campbell
It was almost a make-believe weekend, probably because it was mixed up with so many winners and losers. We’ll take the winners first.
Like Temple football and St. Joe’s basketball. It’s been so long since Temple won a bowl game, I’m surprised the Owls remembered how. They kicked off the first of 35 bowl games in Albuquerque in the New Mexico Bowl, which they won easily 37-15 over Wyoming. The Owls not only established themselves as a respectable football program; they triggered a “Beware” notice for future opponents. Against Wyoming, Temple scored on 7 of its first 8 possessions, compiling 424 total yards, 252 on the ground – where most observers gave them a big advantage. Ant the Owls’ quarterback had a big day. His name is Chris Coyer. He completed 8 passes out of 12, including 1 for 61 yards and a TD. He was named the offensive star player of the game. Bernard Pierce, the running back, gained 100 yards and Gordon McManus, a true freshman, kicked 3 field goals.
Also among the winners was St. Joe’s basketball coach, Phil Martelli. Of all the great St. Joe-Villanova basketball games that have been played over the years, it’s difficult to believe they have never played on Hawk Hill in a new building before a big crowd. But this one was – on the new court at the Hagan Arena at St. Joe’s where the Hawks passed, dribbled, dunked and outscored the Wildcats 74-58. The Hawks were led by Langston Galloway’s 20 points and Carl Jones’ 15. And Coach Martelli started smiling again after a frustrating season last year. It looks like the Hawks are really back. They led Villanova by only 3 at halftime but opened the second half with a 7-0 run that produced several memorable dunks and fancy passes that one had to see to believe. And the Hagan Arena crowd was loud as the “Holy War” figured it to be. Villanova coach Jay Wright summed up the game accurately. “St. Joe’s protected the lead well and their guards made some outstanding decisions,” was the comment from the Villanova coach.
While the Temple basketball squad lost to a potentially brilliant Texas team in Austin, and the Flyers after 7 straight wins were flattened by the Boston Bruins, the really big losers last weekend were the Nittany Lions of Penn State. Most facets of Penn State’s football program continue to come apart at the seams. But this time a couple of players, using more than poor judgment, picked last weekend to get into a fist-fight. In the final days of the Joe Paterno regime, the veteran coach couldn’t decide on his quarterback so he split time at the position between two players: Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden. Last week, McGloin decided to settle a quarrel with his wide receiver, a kid from Philadelphia named Curtis Drake. The details of the fight are sketchy and really haven’t been completely divulged. But this comes on the heels of Assistant Coach Mike McQueary testifying at a preliminary hearing for two Penn State administrators charged with perjury, among other things. And just a week after former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky had been charged with 52 counts of criminal acts involving child sexual abuse. Exactly what Penn State really needed – more negative publicity. Never a dull moment in Happy Valley.
The Flyers last weekend, a 6-0 whitewash by the Boston Bruins, had to be hard to take. They had been flying high, had won 7 in a row. But the streak ended the day after they learned that their captain, Chris Pronger, is out for the rest of the season. He’s still showing concussion symptoms. The amazing thing about the Flyers’ streak was that they kept winning games while losing a player each day of the streak. But the Bruins really hammered them before a crowd in a home-game matinee.
And oh yes, we didn’t name all the winners. The Eagles won, big, over the Jets. And the Birds, unbelievably, are still in the running for a play-off berth. And Andy Reid is still in town. Shady McCoy, Brent Celek, and a few others combined for big gains and the defense is playing better. The Eagles will not be a wild card but they could win their division. Honest.
It appears that Jimmy Rollins will remain among us for at least another term. If his reported vested fourth year emerges, he’ll be playing shortstop for the Phillies at age 36. He talked about a 5 year deal back in October when the baseball season was ending. Those conversations only prolonged things a bit for the Phillies and for Rollins, who has missed 94 games in the last 2 seasons with various lower body injuries. The Phillies have been Rollins’ only major league organization. Among modern day players, only Mike Schmidt will have worn a Phillies uniform for a longer time. There are at least two winners in the Rollins agreement: the shortstop himself and Ruben Amaro, who continues to exercise sound judgment in his role as general manager. If Albert Pujols couldn’t get the Cardinals to spring for another high-priced season after winning the World Series, it would have been surprising to see the Phillies grant Rollins a 5 year deal. The Phillies came up with 2 winners: themselves and their shortstop.