The billboards and advertisements at train stations and on SEPTA busses in Philadelphia tell you that sophomore running back Bernard Pierce is Temple football. Last season as a freshman Pierce rushed for 1,361 yards and 16 touchdowns to help lead Temple to their first winning season and post-season bowl game in a long time. After seeing limited action in the first two games of the season for the Owls due to injury concerns Pierce had a breakout game on Saturday against Connecticut, rushing for 169 yards and two touchdowns and adding a third touchdown through the air on a 27-yard screen pass. Pierce also came close to having a passing touchdown on his stat sheet but his intended receiver against Central Michigan did not haul his pass in.
With Pierce being limited in the first two games the Owls, coached by former Penn State player Al Golden, have had an opportunity to give some other players some playing time. There be no player who has taken as much of an advantage of the playing time than Matt Brown, a sophomore from Baltimore who played his high school football at Peddie School in New Jersey. Brown has rushed for just 110 yards through the first three weeks and scored just one rushing touchdown but whenever Temple has needed a spark it seems that Brown has been the player to deliver it in the first two games of the season.
What has been most impressive from Temple this season though has been their response to adversity. Against Villanova in the season opener the Owls battled back and forth in the fourth quarter and used a clutch offensive possession to boot the game winning field goal with three seconds remaining. In the MAC opener against defending MAC champions Central Michigan the Owls let a fourth quarter lead slip away to force overtime but came up with an interception in the end zone to set up another game winning field goal. And on Saturday against Connecticut the Owls trailed the Huskies by two entering the fourth quarter before scoring 16 points in the final frame to win 30-16 against their Big East rivals of sorts.
Golden has made a point in media conferences this season that Temple is continuing to grow as a division one football team and the only way to elevate their game is by stepping up in competition. Temple opened the season by knocking off the defending FCS champions (Villanova) and followed with a win against the defending MAC champions (Central Michigan). Golden said after the Central Michigan game that they would be taking the next step up by playing a team in Connecticut that has proven they cane win big games, noting UConn’s previous wins at Notre Dame and South Carolina on multiple occasions throughout the week and referencing their performance at Michigan. “We haven’t done that,” Golden would remind the media. After a victory against the Huskies though Golden has mentioned that his team will once again increase the difficulty this weekend. Each game of the season has been leading to this week’s game at Penn State.
With Penn State still searching for answers in the running game and going through the growing process of a freshman quarterback in Rob Bolden many feel that this may be Temple’s best chance in decades to topple the Nittany Lions. Recent history has not been kind to the Owls when playing Penn State though. Penn State has outscored their rivals from Philadelphia 154-9 since the series was resumed in 2006. Temple has yet to score a touchdown against Penn State under Golden. With Penn State still playing well on defense, could that streak be put to the test this weekend?
What you need to know about Temple
Having watched all three games of the season for Temple up close and personal I have realized that the Owls are a slow starting team. Watching the first halves of Temple’s games this season have been tiresome and boring for the most part. It is in the second half that Temple takes advantage. This is the deepest Temple team we have seen in years as Golden has gotten to a point where he can rotate players at multiple positions. Golden believes that his team is using 45-55 players on a weekly basis, which is something that Temple is not accustomed to. It has shown.
Temple seems fresher in the second half than ever before, which may be why they are finding ways to win late in games. The defense has been pretty solid, especially on crucial third downs. The offense, despite what appears to be a strong running game, still should be expected to struggle against a reliable Penn State defense, if they decide to tackle this week. If Penn State can limit the production from Pierce and force the game to be placed in the hands of quarterback Chester Stewart, then the Nittany Lions should have a decided advantage.