M U H L E N B E R G    M A G A Z I N E W I N T E R    2 0 0 1

Tales and tributes replace tackles and touchdowns
B Y    M I K E    F A L K ,    S P O R T S    I N F O R M A T I O N    D I R E C T O R

Anyone on campus Homecoming weekend may have run into a pack of wild asses.

It all goes back to the summer of 1980, when Muhlenberg head football coach Frank Marino was doing research on mules, looking for a special kind that would give his team its own unique identity. Across his desk came a copy of "Ripley's Believe It or Not" that referred to a "kulan," a wild ass of Mongolia that had never been broken.

Now...the Kulans reunite in 2000...
And so, the 1980 Mules became the Kulans. They lived up to their identity, too, winning eight of nine games to produce one of the best seasons in school history.

That team held its 20th reunion as part of this year's Homecoming festivities. Twenty-seven former players returned to enjoy a get-together at a downtown hotel Friday night, an on-campus brunch Saturday morning and seats to watch the 2000 edition of the Muhlenberg football team shut out Franklin & Marshall, 45-0.

"We had a nice time," said Steve DiGregorio '83, a starting defensive end on that team and, currently, a human resources manager at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter in New York. "Everyone kind of looked the same but kind of looked a little different. Even though we hadn't seen each other in such a long time, the conversation picked up where we left off. It was perfect."

The same could be said for the 1980 season. The Mules were not supposed to be very good that year, having lost 14 starters from the previous season to graduation. And maybe they weren't very good, but, as Brian Bodine '81 told his former teammates, they almost always got the right result.

The Kulans became the Kardiac Kulans in the season's first week, when they stopped a first-and-goal from the 5 in the final minute to preserve a 14-11 defeat of Franklin & Marshall - their first win against the Diplomats since 1970, Marino's first season.

The following week brought even more dramatics. Trailing Johns Hopkins 38-14 with 11 minutes to play, Muhlenberg rallied for a miraculous 41-38 win. Two penalties - a face mask and a pass interference - with no time remaining gave the Mules the ball on the 1-yard line, from where Mickey Mottola scored the winning touchdown.

"The kids never panicked," recalled Marino. "We had been moving down the field with an extra receiver on that last drive, and when we got to the 1-yard line I sent in a play for a tailback with the fullback blocking. I almost blew it, but the extra receiver (John Kreger) knew enough to line up in the tailback spot, and [quarterback] Gary Greb knew enough to check off to a run by the fullback."

Greb set a school record that stood until last year with 403 passing yards in that game.

"Those first two games set the tone," said DiGregorio, noting that the defense came up big at the end one week and the offense the next. "One side would always pick up the other. After you win the first two games the way we did, you feel you can do anything."

The Kulans split their next two games, losing at Western Maryland and defeating Lebanon Valley, before resuming their Kardiac ways. A last-minute goal-line stand preserved a 9-3 Homecoming win against Ursinus. In a torrential downpour the next week, Victor Lea kicked a field goal with nine seconds left in the third quarter and Muhlenberg held on for a 10-8 win.

and then...the memorable, heart-stopping team of 1980.
After a 42-19 breather against Swarthmore, the Mules nearly squandered a second-half lead at Susquehanna. But, once again, the defense came up big, as John Bucsek batted away a two-point conversion attempt to secure a 17-16 win.

Before the season finale against archrival Moravian, Marino, feeling an emotional drain to which the string of heart-stopping games no doubt contributed, announced his retirement.


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