Wise words from Temple radio analyst Joachim

Steve Joachim (left) and Harry Donahue will call Saturday's Temple-Penn State game.
Steve Joachim (left) and Harry Donahue will call Saturday's Temple-Penn State game. (PHOTO: TEMPLE UNIVERSITY)
Posted: September 21, 2012

STEVE JOACHIM is one of those guys who has experienced both sides of the Penn State-Temple dynamic. The pride of Haverford High chose Joe Paterno over Bear Bryant and Alabama in 1970 but wound up transferring to North Broad Street, where he went 17-3 as Wayne Hardin's quarterback in 1973-74, throwing for 3,262 yards and 31 touchdowns.

The Maxwell Award winner is now in his 13th season as the Owls' radio analyst. So he'll be in State College on Saturday, alongside play-by-play voice Harry Donahue, as Temple tries to break a 71-year winless streak (spanning 37 games that include a 1950 tie) against the Nittany Lions.

In 1975, the teams met for the first time in 23 years. PSU won, 26-25, at Franklin Field. The next year, it was 31-30 at the Vet, when the Owls missed a two-point conversion at the end.

"I would've given anything to play against them," Joachim admits. "To this day, there are people who believe [my] recruiting class was the best [PSU] ever had. I think out of 25 scholarship players, like 18 ended up in pro football.

"Things happen for a reason. You can't look back. I would've sat for another year [at Penn State, behind John Hufnagel], then I would've been handing the ball off to John Cappelletti 40 times a game . . .

"Depth was the biggest [difference]. Across the board. Temple had a handful of great athletes, but not 22 of them. On paper, at certain positions they were really outmanned. They overcame that with coaching more than anything else. Penn State had a great tradition. They had people who could make big plays at the right time. And that was the way Temple wanted to be."

In 1978 in South Philly, it was 10-7. And 23-18 in 1983. Two years later, at Beaver Stadium, 27-25. The last two seasons it's been 22-13 up there and 14-10 at the Linc. Maybe if Temple had just managed to win a few over the last 7 decades, the disparity between the programs wouldn't seem so obvious. Yet, as Joachim pointed out, what good does it do to focus on the past? It won't alter anything.

Temple is in its first season back in the Big East, although the conference will soon bear little resemblance to the one it was asked to leave after the 2004 season. Still, it's a long way from the MAC. At the same time, Penn State is just starting to deal with those harsh NCAA sanctions handed down following the Jerry Sandusky scandal. It doesn't neccessarily mean that Temple will have passed PSU on the food chain in 5 years. But it does suggest that at least in terms of competitiveness, the two might be closer than most would have thought possible not too long ago.

"They match up pretty well with Penn State right now," Joachim said. "They may even be better in a few positions. Last year, Temple outplayed them. But again, Penn State did what it had to do at the end . . .

"So [the recent closeness] doesn't surprise me. The biggest thing now is, Temple isn't intimidated at all. I think it's been that way since [Al] Golden got there [in 2005]. In the past, I think there were certain times when that wasn't the case."

PSU is a nine-point favorite, a little more than it was last season. The teams are scheduled to play three more times (once here) through 2016. When Penn State joined the Big Ten in the early 1990s, it stopped playing most of its traditional Eastern rivals, many of which weren't beating the Nits very often either.

"I think Joe [Paterno] really did Temple a favor," Joachim said. "He didn't have to keep playing the game. I think it was great for Temple to be able to have the chance to beat Penn State. From Temple's standpoint, it's a good thing to keep playing them. We'll have to wait and see. [Paterno] never saw it as a rivalry. He just thought it was good for Eastern football.

"Obviously, over the years, Temple's going to win one. Who knows when it'll be, or how much it'll change anything. To me, it'll always be the big game for Temple, even if they win a couple. That's my opinion. I don't know if the long-suffering Temple fans may see it any differently. It's a traditional powerhouse playing a team that's trying to get better. You have to keep it in perspective. It can get too big."

Perceptionwise, a Temple win, this week or whenever, would be national stuff. Based solely on the history. But the Owls could lose to Penn State and do well in the conference, and overall that might actually be more significant.

Then again, with such a prolonged wait, what does reason have to do with the thought process?

"I hope that if they're having a really good season, at some point it's just another win," Joachim said. "But an important win, since it's against a quality Big Ten opponent. I would hope that when it happens, it's in that type of framework. If it's this year, it'll be their biggest win for sure. Right up there with some of the great ones, because it's been so long. And how they handle that will be another piece to all this.

"It should be validation in the belief and commitment, that it's moving in the right direction. Anyone who thinks it's more than that, there's something wrong with them. This is a crazy thing to say, but even if all this other stuff hadn't happened to Penn State, it's still a [relatively even] game. Because Temple's gotten that much better.

"I don't think Penn State's going to drop as much as some people do. Right now, they're a good team. They're still going to get guys, just not as many. They're Penn State . . . If I'm them, I'm looking at this as, 'Hey, it's a good test.' "

And who would've projected that in 2005, when the Nits finished No. 3 while independent Temple was 0-11? Much has obviously changed in the interim. One reality endures: It's been 71 years.

Contact Mike Kern at kernm@phillynews.com


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