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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Role players lead Owls past Chippewas

In the absence of two of Temple’s best players, two role players stepped up for the Owls in their home opener.

Without injured starters, redshirt-senior Micheal Eric and senior forward Scootie Randall, junior guard Khalif Wyatt scored a game-high 23 points and sophomore guard Aaron Brown scored a career-high 21 points to lead Temple to an 86-74 win against Central Michigan.

“Everybody has a role and they have to perform that role,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “We can’t ever feel sorry for ourselves. We have good players, let’s get out there and play. But we have to play harder and smarter and tougher.”

After scoring 11 points in eight minutes in the first half, Brown played nearly the entire second half. He finished with 21 points in 22 minutes.

“[Our other guards], they draw a lot of attention,” Brown said. “[Dunphy] has been emphasizing that I have to be ready to shoot because some people don’t know that I’m a shooter.”

Wyatt started at guard and scored a game-high 23 points while dishing out seven assists in 31 minutes.

“We’re playing faster now,” Wyatt said. “Our guards are making good decisions and we’re getting open shots.”

Eric’s absence in the frontcourt hurt the Owls on defense. Redshirt-freshman Anthony Lee struggled defensively in the second start of his collegiate career. Central Michigan senior forward Andre Coimbra scored 22 points and had little trouble establishing himself in the paint.

“[Lee] was just okay today, not as good as he had been in previous games,” Dunphy said. “He’s a freshman, he’s six games into his career. When I yell at him, I’ll be yelling because I think he can do better, but at the same time I’m taking a step back and saying he’s going to make those kinds of mistakes.”

Wyatt and Brown emphasized that the rest of the team has to help out when Lee is struggling in the paint
“We’re smaller, so we have to be a little bit more scrappier,” Wyatt said. “When they’re trying to bully [Lee] inside, we have to help out.”

“With [Eric] and [Randall] out, whatever the rotation is, whoever’s playing has to step up,” Brown added.

The Owls shot a lights out 67.9 percent from the floor in the first half, including a three-point percentage of better than 50 percent. An early 18-2 run helped build a large Temple lead midway through the first half.

Senior guard Juan Fernandez hit two threes in the Owls’ first three possessions, and had 10 of Temple’s first 18 points. Brown was Temple’s leading scorer in the first half, netting 11 points while coming off the bench.

Coimbra led the Chippewas on an 18-2 run of their own towards the end of the first half to cut the Temple lead to fourteen at the break.

“We weren’t nearly good enough [on defense],” Dunphy said. “We have to cover for one another, I don’t think we did nearly good enough of a job.”

Brown continued with his hot hand in the second half, scoring 10 points to finish with a career-high 21 points.

Wyatt took over offensively in the second half and scored a team-high 13 second half points. Despite the best efforts from Coimbra and Chippewas’ sophomore guard Trey Zeigler, who each scored more than 20 points, the Owls stayed ahead for the entire second half and won the game 86-74.

“We have the makings of a good basketball team,” Dunphy said. “How good? We’re going to have to play with a couple of guys out, but it’s fun to be playing basketball and giving every guy an opportunity to play.”

Temple (4-2) will face Toledo (6-1) in Ohio on Wednesday before returning home to face inner-city rival Villanova (4-2) on Dec.10.

“Our next game is the biggest game,” Wyatt said. “So right now Toledo is the biggest game on our schedule.”



After being left out of the postseason picture last year, Temple will help kick off the bowl season this year in New Mexico.

The Owls (8-4) will make their fourth bowl appearance in program history on Dec. 17 against Wyoming (8-4) in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. Set in Albuquerque, N.M. and televised on ESPN, the New Mexico Bowl is the first scheduled game of the college football bowl season.

“I think it’s awfully cool to kick the bowl season off,” coach Steve Addazio said. “People are excited to see the first games. I’m thrilled to death.”

Temple’s decision was announced on Sunday night at the Liacouras Center during a Bowl Selection Party. Last season, the Owls were one of only two teams in the country to not be selected to a bowl game despite being bowl eligible.

“Last year was a really tough time,” John Palumbo, senior offensive lineman and team captain, said. “This year we were a little more skeptical. Now that we definitely have the bowl game we’re going to do the best we can to get our team prepared to go out there and do the best we can.”

The Owls will have an opportunity to do what only one other Temple team has accomplished. The Owls have appeared in bowl games in 1935, 1979 and 2009, with the 1979 team having the lone bowl win during the program’s history.

“It’s been pretty special,” Palumbo said. “Just thinking back on all the time we’ve had together, all the hard work we’ve put in, it’s really nice to see it pay off.”

Temple could hardly have asked for a better draw. The run-heavy Owls’ offense will be matched up against one of the worst statistical rushing defenses in the country with the Cowboys.

The Owls average more than 250 rushing yards per game, which is the seventh-best mark in the country. Junior running back Bernard Pierce has rushed for 1,381 yards and 25 touchdowns, a mark that is tied for third best in the nation.

The Cowboys have the sixth-worst rushing defense in the country, giving up more than 230 rushing yards per game.

Pierce was unavailable for comment Sunday night in response to rumors that he had filed paperwork for early entry into the NFL draft.

With Pierce, junior running back Matt Brown and redshirt-sophomore quarterback Chris Coyer, Wyoming may have their hands full with Temple’s spread offense.

“[Wyoming] has a good record, but I know that we’re going to beat them,” said Adrian Robinson, senior defensive end and team captain. “I hope they come with their best, because we’re going to come with our best, too.”

Overall, Wyoming statistically is middle of the pack. They have the 60th ranked scoring offense in the country and the 66th ranked scoring defense. Temple counters with the 45th scoring offense in the country, anchored by their Top 10 running game, and the third-best scoring defense in nation.

Like Temple, Wyoming benefited from playing in a mediocre conference, the Mountain West. While the Cowboys had one win versus an out-of conference team with a winning record, the Owls were unable to beat a bowl-eligible team outside of the Mid-American Conference.

The Owls said they expect the game to be a contest of two evenly matched teams.

“[Wyoming] is a wide open team,” Addazio said. “They’re a good football team, an exciting team. I think it’ll be a heck of a football game.”

“They have the same record as us. They’re a good team,” said Tahir Whitehead, senior linebacker and team captain. “I know they’re going to come out swinging. So are we.”

Addazio has a chance to be the first coach in Temple history to win a bowl game in his first season after already winning a record eight games in his first year.

“Honestly, it’s about what it means for this university,” Addazio said. “For the university, to be able, in the last three years, to get to two bowl appearances, it just continues the growth of this program.”

A Temple victory in the New Mexico Bowl would give the senior class 31 wins during their four-year tenure, setting a new mark for an all-time program best. A win would also make the senior class the second to win a bowl game, further cementing the notion that this is one of the best classes in Temple football history.

“[Addazio] and the team have put a good thing together and have given the seniors a chance to play one extra game and I’m very grateful for that,” said Morkeith Brown, senior defensive end and team captain.

“It’s my last year, and there’s nothing like going out with a bang,” Brown added.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Waiting game

For the third year in a row, Temple’s postseason fate lies in the hands of college football bowl officials.

With a win against Kent State this weekend, the Owls finished their regular season with an 8-4 overall record and are hoping to pick up an at-large bid in a non-Bowl Championship Series bowl game for the second time in three years.

“We’re an eight-win team, we’re playing great football in November, we have marquee players and we’re in a large media market,” coach Steve Addazio said. “There’s no question Temple will be in a bowl game. Anything less than that would be ridiculous.”

After making it to a bowl game in 2009, Temple was one of only two bowl-eligible teams in the country to not be selected to a bowl game last year. The Owls said  they’re confident this year’s result will be different.

“[After last year] I would never let us not get to a bowl game,” senior defensive end Adrian Robinson said. “Hopefully, I’ve fulfilled that promise.”

“We’ve improved from last year,” redshirt-senior quarterback Chester Stewart added. “Maybe they’ll go off that, maybe they won’t. We just want to be able to play one more game.”

There are no defined criteria by which a bowl selects a team to participate, but the one commonality throughout the process is that bowls tend to select teams that are going to make the most money.

For Temple, the Owls’ résumé includes an average attendance of more than 28,000, three games televised on ESPN, a win against a BCS opponent and one great big marquee player in junior running back Bernard Pierce, who currently is tied for second in the country in rushing touchdowns.

If chosen by a bowl, Temple would receive an invitation sometime this week on or before Bowl Selection Day this Sunday. The bowl selection process is so complex and variant that it’s nearly impossible to predict, but there are a number of bowls that Temple could be hearing from this week.

There are three bowl games with automatic tie-ins to the Mid-American Conference. The GoDaddy.com Bowl gets the first selection of a team from the MAC, the Little Caesars Bowl gets second pick and the Idaho Potato Bowl third.

Temple will likely be competing with Northern Illinois, Toledo or Ohio for these spots. Although the Owls have a higher attendance average than each of those three teams, both Toledo and Ohio beat Temple in the regular season and Northern Illinois is the MAC’s No.1 seed entering the MAC Championship game.

While the GoDaddy.com Bowl has the first pick of any MAC team, it is not required to choose the MAC champion.

Through a contingency agreement, the fourth team from the MAC could go as an alternate to the New Mexico Bowl, which matches up a Mountain West Conference team against a team from the Pacific-12 Conference. Through another agreement, the fifth team from the MAC could be an alternate for the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, which was scheduled to  pit a team from Pac-12 versus an Army before the Black Knights became bowl ineligible.

In order for a team from the MAC to become eligible to play in the New Mexico Bowl, the Pac-12 conference must not have enough bowl-eligible teams to fill their non-BCS requirements. As such, Temple is hoping that both Oregon and Stanford get bids in BCS bowls out of the Pac-12.

In addition, the Western Athletic Conference has a contingency agreement with the New Mexico Bowl that would put a WAC team in the Pac-12’s spot. Therefore, Temple fans should hope that Hawaii loses to Brigham Young on Saturday to ensure that that doesn’t happen so the Owls could potentially take that spot.

Probably Temple’s best chance of gaining an at-large bid separate from the MAC tie-ins, the Military Bowl will match up the eighth choice from the ACC against an at-large bid.

Temple has some history with the Military Bowl as the Owls competed against UCLA in its former title, the EagleBank Bowl, in 2009. The 2009 game drew more than 23,000 fans and due to its close proximity, Temple could be an attractive choice for an at-large bid.

Temple will face Air Force in the New Mexico bowl.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Owls run over Army

In Saturday’s matchup between Temple and Army that featured two dominant rushing offenses, the Owls came out on top.

The Black Knights’ defense certainly didn’t look “Army strong” as the Owls rushed for a combined 335 yards and five touchdowns en route to a 42-14 blowout on Saturday afternoon.

“We wanted to come out on offense and establish the run and keep the defense off the field,” coach Steve Addazio said. “That was our game plan.”

The Owls’ running game powered the offense. Junior running backs Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown ran for 157 and 133 yards, respectively.

“We compliment each other,” Pierce said about the Owls’ backfield. “It’s motivating.”

Army couldn’t have come into this game without remembering what Brown did to them last year, when he rushed for 226 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-35 shootout.

“It’s my [offensive line],” Brown said about his success against Army. “It’s not science. They were opening up the holes.”

The Owls jumped on the Black Knights early. Temple scored touchdowns on four of their five first-half drives. Brown scored on the Owls’ opening drive, and Pierce scored on the back-to-back drives that followed. Pierce’s second touchdown, the team’s 30th this year, broke the single season team rushing touchdown school record set in 2009.

“It was important,” Brown said about the running game. “When Army gets ahead of you, it’s hard to come back with their time of possession.”

Army entered the game as the nation’s number one-ranked rushing offense, but was held to 96 yards rushing in the first half. The Black Knights looked out of sync on offense early as they used two of their three timeouts on their first drive of the game.

“The coaches did an unbelievable job,” senior defensive back Kevin Kroboth said. “They had us prepared for how Army was going to attack.”

“We prepared like crazy all week,” senior linebacker Stephen Johnson said. “The coaches did a great job.”

Army scored early in the third quarter to cut into Temple’s lead. Black Knights’ senior quarterback Max Jenkins came off the bench and led his team on a 17-play, 80-yard drive. Jenkins ran it in from one yard out to cut Temple’s lead to 21.

“When they get ahead, they can grind the ball and take time off the clock,” Johnson said. “If we get ahead, it puts pressure on them.”

After Temple went scoreless in the third quarter, Brown got the Owls back on the board early in the fourth quarter with one big play.

On the Owls’ first play of the fourth quarter, Brown exploded up the middle untouched for a 52-yard touchdown run. It was Brown’s second of the game and sixth against Army in the past two years.

Pierce responded with a 49-yard run late in the fourth quarter that included six broken tackles. Pierce and Brown both said that there is a healthy competition for yards between the two of them.

“The competition is good,” Brown said. “It brings out the best in us.”

The 42-14 victory was the 29th win of the senior class’ four-year tenure, a new program record.

“It’s important,” Kroboth said about the new record. “As a freshman, you want to come on a team and win. Fortunately, our coaching staffs have allowed us to do that.”

The Owls have a chance to pick up their eighth win of the season next Friday against Kent State. Despite the fact that Temple was eliminated from contention in winning the Mid-American Eastern division this week, Addazio said he talked to his team about staying focused.

“We talked about respect and legacy,” Addazio said, who tied a school record for most wins in a season by a first-year head coach. “We got our seventh win. We have a chance to go and compete for our eighth win.”

Temple cannot win the MAC East, but they can still make it to a bowl game through an at-large bid, something the team said they remain hopeful for.

“All you can do is what you can do,” Addazio said. “I’m sure there will be a spot for us if we take care of business against [Kent State].”

“It hurts not knowing we’re going to get a MAC championship,” Kroboth added. “So our goal is to get to eight wins and get to a bowl game to make that our legacy.”

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Temple wins in first round of Puerto Rico Tip Off

In a game where the men’s basketball team wasn’t playing at its best, the Owls picked up their second win of the year in dominant fashion.

Temple defeated Western Michigan 69-55 in the opening round of the Puerto Rican Tip Off. All five Owls’ starters finished in double digits in scoring while holding the Broncos’ standout sophomore center Matt Stainbrook to 14 points.

Owls’ redshirt-senior guard Ramone Moore led all scorers with 15 points, while graduate center Micheal Eric collected a career-high 15 rebounds.

The Owls will play the winner of today’s Purdue vs. Iona game tomorrow at 1 p.m. in the Tip Off semifinals.

Temple eliminated from MAC East contention

On a night when Temple football didn’t even play, their chances of winning the Mid-American Conference Eastern division title ended.

Ohio defeated Bowling Green while Miami (Ohio) lost to Western Michigan, giving Ohio the MAC East title and leaving the Owls clinging to hopes of an at-large bowl bid.

The Bobcats won on a last-second field goal by junior placekicker Matt Weller. Bowling Green led by nine at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but Ohio scored 10 unanswered points to secure a 29-28 win.

Miami (Ohio) held a seven-point lead in the second quarter against Western Michigan before the Broncos scored 17 points in a row and held on to win 24-21.

The Ohio win combined with the Miami (Ohio) loss makes it a mathematical impossibility for Temple to win the MAC East.

The MAC carries three bowl games. The No. 1 team from the MAC plays the No. 2 team from the Sun-Belt Conference in the Go-Daddy.com Bowl on Jan. 8. The No. 2 team from the MAC plays the No. 8 team from the Big Ten Conference in the Little Caesars Bowl on Dec. 27. The No. 3 team from the MAC plays the winner of the Western Athletic Conference in the Idaho Potato Bowl on Dec. 17.

With a win against their final MAC opponent, Kent State, next week, the best that Temple could finish in the conference is fourth.

The Owls could still make it to a bowl game by an at-large bowl bid, potentially taking the conference spot of a team isn’t bowl eligible (hasn’t won at least six games). Temple could possibly take bowl spots from teams in the WAC, Big East Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference or Pacific 12 Conference.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Men's basketball wins despite identity crisis

With two starters out and a couple of its key players in foul trouble, the men’s basketball team was having an identity crisis in last night’s overtime win against Penn.

Junior guard Khalif Wyatt was suspended for the season opener while senior forward Scootie Randall was out due to injury. Senior guard Juan Fernandez and graduate center Micheal Eric both struggled to stay out of foul trouble in the second half, forcing every other player to step up.

With two players out and two starters sitting on the bench, Temple didn’t look like a team that was poised to win the Atlantic Ten Conference title, but rather a group of individuals who were trying to find their place on the team.

“I think Penn played better than we did, and we just scored more points,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “I thought we did some good things, some others, not.”

Coming into this season, rebounding was one of the Owls’ biggest questions. The Owls didn’t necessarily answer that question in their season opener. Eric was the only player on the team to have rebounds in the double digits, and when Eric wasn’t on the court, the Owls suffered.

Penn was able to assert itself in the paint in the second half as a result of Eric’s foul trouble. Eric had four fouls late in the game and was absent for the game’s final three-and-a-half minutes, which allowed Penn to go on a 5-0 run and send the game into overtime.

“[Eric] is still learning how to play,” Dunphy said. “We asked a lot of him. He’s going to get better each game.”

Junior guard T.J. DiLeo probably did more than Dunphy or anyone could have expected. In Randall and Fernandez’s absence in the frontcourt, DiLeo was the force off the bench that the Owls needed. He played 38 minutes and scored 10 points, both career highs.

“[DiLeo] got a chance to play and he did a great job,” Dunphy said. “He knows his role. If the next game he’s not playing as many minutes, he’s not going to be crying about it. I was proud of him tonight.”

Fernandez hit a game-changing three and iced the victory with two free throws in overtime.

“The last play of regulation, you’re hoping that [Fernandez] is going to have the ball in his hands,” Dunphy said. “He’s going to make something happen.”

Fernandez established himself as the team’s leading scorer in place of redshirt-senior guard Ramone Moore, who had an off-day shooting. Moore scored 15 points, but went only 6-20 from the field.

Junior forward Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson picked up some of Moore’s slack in his starting role at forward. He scored 10 points and collected five rebounds while logging 35 minutes. He also displayed his athleticism with a high-flying dunk midway through the second half and his ability to play perimeter defense.

While Moore was the Owls’ leading scorer last year and is expected to shine in his senior year, it must have been comforting to Dunphy and the coaching staff to see Fernandez, DiLeo and Hollis-Jefferson step up when Moore had an off game.

“We’re absolutely comfortable with that,” Dunphy said. “That size and athleticism is very helpful to us.”
While the Owls’ issues in the paint are still team concerns, Dunphy said he was happy to come out with a win in a tough Big-5 battle against Penn, a team he said has given them trouble during the past three years.

“This was the closest [game against Penn] that we’ve had,” Dunphy said. “We’re just happy to come out with a victory.”

Bowl game appearance still within reach

Last season, the football team went 8-4 overall and 5-3 in the Mid-American Conference and missed the postseason. This year, those two records are the best-case scenarios for the Owls, but a potential postseason bid is still within Temple’s reach.

The Owls’ current in-conference record of 4-3 is good for second place in the MAC East with two games left on Temple’s schedule. The Owls can make the postseason in two different scenarios:

-The Owls beat Kent State in their final regular season game AND Ohio loses the two remaining games on its schedule.
-The Owls beat Kent State, Miami (Ohio) wins out, AND Buffalo finishes higher than Bowling Green in the MAC East standings.

There are four games that will account for the most change in the outcome of the Owls’ season. If the following games go in Temple’s favor then the team can claim the MAC East bid to a bowl game.

Temple vs. Kent State (Nov. 25)
First and foremost, the Owls need to win their final MAC game of the year against the Golden Flashes. Temple needs to improve its final in-conference record to 5-3 and get help elsewhere to win the MAC East.

Miami (Ohio) at Ohio (Nov. 22)
Temple needs Miami (Ohio) to defeat the Bobcats in either scenario in order for the Owls to make the playoffs. If Ohio loses to the Redhawks and the Bobcats go 1-1 in their last two games, there will be a three-way tie atop the MAC East standings between Temple, Ohio, and Miami (Ohio).

The tiebreaker depends on the in-conference record for the other teams in first place, which is nullified since each team would have beaten another team in the three-way tie. The tiebreaker would then defer to the record against the fourth-place team in the MAC, which complicates things even further.

If Temple beats Kent State, then the Bobcats, Redhawks, and Owls will all have defeated the Golden Flashes, and the tiebreaker would then defer to the fifth-place team.

Buffalo and Bowling Green are the two teams who could decide the tiebreaker. Temple needs Buffalo to finish higher than Bowling Green, as the Owls beat the Bulls but lost to the Falcons. The Owls would win a tiebreaker if deferred to Buffalo, but would lose if deferred to Bowling Green.

Ohio at Bowling Green (Nov. 16)
Temple can make the playoffs with either outcome of this game, but Ohio losing would make things a lot simpler.

If the Bobcats lose, then Temple would win the MAC East with a win over Kent State and an Ohio loss the following week against Miami (Ohio).

If the Bobcats win, then Miami (Ohio) will have to win on the same night against Western Michigan and defeat Ohio the next week for the Owls to have a chance to make the postseason.

Bowling Green at Buffalo (Nov. 25)
In order for the Bulls to finish higher than the Falcons, Buffalo needs to win out, including a win over Bowling Green on the same day Temple plays Kent State.

If the Falcons defeat the Bulls, then the Owls could not win a tiebreaker for first place and would have to hope that Ohio loses its two remaining games while Temple beats Kent State.

The Owls will know where they stand going into their final game of the season versus Kent State. By then, Temple could be mathematically eliminated or control their own destiny.

No matter what happens, the Owls need a win against the Golden Flashes to have a chance to win the MAC East and make the postseason and possibly a bowl game.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Alleged child molester was offered Temple job

Former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who has been charged with the sexual assault of eight boys from 1994-2009, had an opportunity to work at Temple.

Sandusky was offered the job of head coach of the football team in December of 1988. Former Athletic Director Charlie Theokas extended the opportunity to Sandusky after the job was vacated by Bruce Arians on Nov. 27 of that year.

Sandusky is currently facing 40 charges of indecent conduct that span over 15 years. The charges include involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault of a person less than 13 years old, corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of children.

Sandusky allegedly used the Second Mile, a foundation he created to benefit needy children, to seek out his victims.

Sandusky coached under Joe Paterno for 20 years and won two national championships before being offered multiple head coaching positions across the country, including Temple.

In a 1999 article in Sports Illustrated, Sandusky is quoted as saying, “If I hadn’t had the other part of my life—my family and the Second Mile—I would’ve been a head coach.”

Owls pick up key MAC win

The Owls improved to second place in the MAC East with a win over Miami (Ohio).

The football team was able to fight through internal health issues and outstanding play from the opposing quarterback in an in-conference win over Miami (Ohio).

Despite a 300-yard performance by Redhawks’ junior quarterback Zac Dysert and playing without junior running back Bernard Pierce, the Owls forced three turnovers in route to a 24-21 win.

“At some point in every season, there’s times when you have to find a way to win games,” coach Steve Addazio said. “That’s what we did, found a way to win the football game.”

The win improved the Owls to 6-4 overall and 4-3 in the Mid-American Conference, good for second place in the MAC East. The Owls need to win their next two contests and hope Ohio loses two out of three of its remaining matchups in order for Temple to gain the MAC East bid for a bowl game.

“We know that we need to win out for the rest of the season to accomplish some of the goals that we have left,” redshirt-sophomore quarterback Chris Coyer said. “It was a huge win for us.”

Coyer made the first start of his career at the head of the offense. He finished the game 10 for 19 passing for 92 yards and a touchdown while adding 97 yards and a score rushing. Addazio said that while Coyer guided his team to a win, he would’ve liked to see him open up the passing game more.

“We were trying to throw the ball and we missed on some plays that would’ve popped the game open,” Addazio said.

On the contrary, the Miami (Ohio) offense centered on the outstanding play of Dysert and sophomore wide receiver Nick Harwell. Dysert passed for 364 yards and three touchdowns, while Harwell had 15 catches for 229 yards (both school records) and two touchdowns.

“We have the most respect for [Dysert],” senior defensive end Adrian Robinson said. “He’s a great quarterback and I know he’s going to have a great career.”

Owls’ junior running back Matt Brown started in place of Pierce, who was a late scratch with a concussion. Brown rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown, 22 of which came on the Owls final drive late in the fourth quarter that sealed the victory.

Brown, who has seen action in every game this year, said it felt like any other game.

“The whole week we prepared for [Pierce] not to be in the game,” Brown said. “It was just another game.”

In the face of Dysert and Brown, neither team was able to establish its defense in the first quarter.

A Redhawks turnover on their opening drive enabled the Owls’ offense to work on a short field on the ensuing drive that gave the Owls an early lead. Junior placekicker Brandon McManus hit a 32-yard field goal with a little more than nine minutes left in the first quarter for the game’s first score.

Miami (Ohio) came right back after the Owls took the early lead. Dysert went a perfect five-for-five passing for 65 yards on the ensuing drive, capped off by a 29-yard touchdown pass to Harwell.

“I’m proud of the way kids battled,” Addazio said. “We overcame a lot of adversity and foolishness to give us an opportunity to win the football game.”

Facing a deficit, the Owls responded with a scoring drive of their own. Coyer led the Owls on a 10-play, 66-yard drive capped off by a 10-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Deon Miller that retook the lead.

The Owls forced a key turnover that enabled them to add to their lead before halftime. After a Temple punt, Dysert was intercepted by Robinson on the Redhawks’ first play of their third drive of the second quarter.

Coyer rushed for a nine-yard touchdown on the very next snap. In two plays, the Owls forced a turnover and added to their lead. Temple led by 10 points going into halftime.

“That was a big moment for me,” Robinson said. “This is going to be a memorable game.”

“That was a huge momentum swing for us,” Coyer added. “We really needed that.”

The Owls’ defense stiffened in the second quarter The Owls sacked Dysert four times and added Robinson’s crucial interception.

“We knew the sacks were going to come,” Robinson said. “We just had to be patient.”

“We looked like Temple’s defense again,” Addazio added. “We’re a team that has to get after the quarterback. When we did, we threw off [Dysert’s] rhythm and we switched momentum.”

The Owls’ offense stalled in the third quarter, allowing Miami (Ohio) to mount a comeback. Two out of three third-quarter drives were three and outs and Coyer was unable to get anything going in the passing game.

“There were some plays that I left on the field,” Coyer said. “But that will all come. I’ve got to keep preparing more each week.”

Dysert went 11-14 with 123 yards and a touchdown in the third quarter, but committed a game-changing turnover just before the fourth quarter.

After driving the ball into Owls’ territory, Dysert was picked by sophomore defensive back Zamel Johnson, his first career interception. Johnson’s play stalled the Redhawks’ drive and shifted the game’s momentum.

“I was just trying to be as close to the receiver as possible,” Johnson said. “When I saw he tipped the ball, I was there and I grabbed it.”

“That pick was a big turning point in the game,” Addazio added. “It took them out of a momentum drive and flipped the field position.”

Facing a 10-point deficit late in the fourth quarter the Redhawks were given help from a costly penalty by Robinson.

After the Owls forced the Redhawks to punt, Robinson went offside on fourth down, giving Miami (Ohio) an automatic first down, which they wouldn’t let go to waste. Dysert drove the Redhawks down the field and hit Harwell for his second touchdown, a 19-yard score, to bring Miami (Ohio) to within three points with a little more than four minutes remaining.

It was the last time the Redhawks would touch the ball.

Coyer and Brown each rushed for first downs on the Owls’ final drive, which chewed up the remaining four minutes of the game and sealed the Owls’ 24-21 victory.

“That was probably the best we’ve run the four-minute offense all year,” Coyer said. “Between [Brown] and the [offensive line], it was outstanding.”

The Owls will have a bye week before taking on Army at home on Nov. 19. The Owls know that their next game is a must win if they want to have a shot at playing in the postseason.

“We’ve got our sixth win of the year and next week we have a chance to go for seven,” Addazio said. “That’s where our focus is.”

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Temple football faces a must win

While last week’s loss to Ohio has the Owls clinging to their hopes for postseason play, the football team remains focused on the task at hand in tomorrow’s game against Miami (Ohio).

The loss to Ohio dropped Temple to third place in the Mid-American Eastern Conference standings, with two out of three of their remaining games coming against other MAC East teams. Starting tomorrow, the Owls need to win out to have a chance to gain a bid to play in the postseason.

“There are three regular season games left, our mindset is one at a time, win three games,” coach Steve Addazio said. “What’s in our control is to have our football team as prepared as we can possibly be for the next game. And that has to be the mindset of our program right now.”

The successes and failures of last week’s game against the Bobcats were a departure from the Owls’ typical play this season. Temple entered the game ranked second nationally in scoring defense, but let up a season-high 35 points to Ohio. Similarly, the Owls had been struggling at the quarterback position all season long, yet redshirt-sophomore quarterback Chris Coyer passed for three touchdowns and added 188 yards rushing against the Bobcats.

 Addazio said the positives from the Ohio game outweigh the negatives.

“I thought our program took an important step in that loss, one that hadn’t happened here yet,” Addazio said. “The key question is whether or not that step continues. If it does, then something was gained in that loss.”

“[The Ohio game was] a frustration for us, but we can’t let that frustration get to our heads,” senior defensive back Kee-ayre Griffin added. “We have to bounce back and play collective football as a team.”

Coyer’s breakthrough performance made an impact on Addazio, who said that Coyer will start tomorrow’s game against Miami (Ohio).

“There’s no drama with Chris Coyer,” Addazio said. “I think that’s terrific. That’s the way it has to be.”

Miami (Ohio) have won four out of their last five games after beginning their season 0-4 and sit one game ahead of the Owls in the MAC East standings. The Redhawks feature a pass-heavy offense led by junior quarterback Zac Dysert. Dysert averages 263 yards passing per game and is a threat on the ground with three rushing touchdowns on the year.

“[Dysert] stays in the pocket, he’s a tough kid,” Griffin said. “If he has to make plays with his feet, he will. The defense will just have to step up to the occasion and contain the quarterback.”

“[Miami (Ohio)] has a heck of a quarterback,” Addazio added. “[Dysert] is a real competitor.”

After a rough start to the season, the Redhawks’ defense has settled down in the second half, holding opponents to under two touchdowns in three out of their last four games. Sophomore defensive back Dayonne Nunley is fifth on the team in tackles (42) and is tied for third in the MAC with three interceptions on the year.

“[Miami (Ohio)] has a good offense and a great defense,” Griffin said. “It comes down to will power and who wants it the most.”

“They seem to be growing each week and getting better as they go,” Addazio added about the Redhawks. “In the MAC, any team can be any other team in any proven week.”

Addazio also stated that he would like to see his team win the battle for field position against Miami (Ohio), something he said was a turning point in the game against Ohio.

“We pinned their return game inside the 20, but we didn’t capitalize on that field position cause we let up too many big plays on defense,” Addazio said.

“I have to stay home with my abilities and help the team on offense and defense,” junior punter Brandon McManus added. “Punting wise, I’d like to put more height on height on the ball to limit their return. [Miami (Ohio)’s] return is very good.”

The matchup against Miami (Ohio) tomorrow is the most crucial game of the year for the Owls, as are the rest of the remaining games on the schedule. Despite the pressure of having to win out, Addazio said his is satisfied with how his team has performed.

“I really like our football team right now,” Addazio said. “I really see a lot of positive things happening. I see an extremely competitive and talented football team, and I’m proud of that.”

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Basketball preview insert edition of The Temple News

This week's edition of The Temple News feature's the men's and women's basketball preview insert.

For complete basketball preview coverage, pick up a copy of The Temple News on campus, or go to http://temple-news.com/files/2011/11/November-8.pdf.

Men's basketball forced to replace legend

Averaging nearly one double-double per game throughout his entire career, Lavoy Allen was a stable force for men’s basketball, game in and game out for four years.

The Owls will attempt to maintain that level of consistency, as for the first time since 2006, the team will take the court this season without Allen leading them at forward.

“[Allen’s] greatest asset was that he was the same guy every day,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “He was very consistent as a player and very consistent as a person. I think the guys got used to that, they knew that they could count on him.”

A quiet but efficient leader, Allen became Temple’s all-time leading rebounder last year while leading the Owls to the NCAA tournament.

“[Allen] wasn’t one of the most talkative people, but on the court he was the most efficient player that I’ve ever been around,” redshirt-senior guard Ramone Moore said. “When you walk into a room you might not even notice [Allen], but once he’s on that floor, you know his presence is felt.”

Allen was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round of the National Basketball Association draft in June. This season, the Owls will be dealt the task of replacing Allen’s production, both on and off the court.

“There’s a chemistry piece that’s missing,” Dunphy said. “[Allen’s] reliability was very strong, and I think the guys took comfort in that. That consistency is what you really need.”

Graduate center Micheal Eric will start this year as the Owls’ top returning big man. But Eric will have to improve upon last season’s 5.9 rebound per game average in an effort to make up for losing Allen. Dunphy said that Eric can’t do it alone, everyone will have to step up and grab rebounds.

“On the defensive end in rebounding, everybody’s going to have to take a piece of the action without [Allen],” Dunphy said. “He was a great rebounder. He was the best defender we had. You could always count on him.”

Redshirt-freshman Anthony Lee will also have a chance to gain a significant amount of playing time in his first season. Dunphy and Lee’s teammates said that the 6-foot-9-inch forward, who redshirted last season with a back injury, could make an impact immediately in the paint.

“[Lee] is doing about as good as he can do,” Dunphy said. “I’m impressed with where he is, but he is going to have to continue to make progress. He’s probably going to have to give us 20-some minutes a game.”

The Owls also have a multiplicity of experienced guards returning. Senior Juan Fernandez is a team co-captain and third-year starter, and junior Khalif Wyatt and sophomore Aaron Brown averaged 20.7 and 9.9 minutes per game, respectively, last year.

“I think every year poses a different issue,” Dunphy said. “Some years you’re going to be a good team and you’re going to spread out the scoring across the whole five positions, and other years there’s going to be kids who are just really good scorers and other people will defer to them.”

A shift from a forward-based offensive setup to an offense that centers on the athleticism of the guards could be in place due to the emergence of Moore last year, who lead the team in scoring in his first full season as a starter.

“I think a lot of times we might have to go small, so that might put the load on myself,” Moore said. “I think it’s going to be a question for all of us. It’s nothing we can’t handle.”

Dunphy said that there will be a continuous cycle of guards each game, citing the benefits of multiple players coming off the bench.

“When you come off the bench you see the game a little bit better,” Dunphy said. “You’re expected to perform coming off the bench. You can’t make as many mistakes.”

“A lot of those guys, you can tell they’re trying to improve and make a difference on the team,” Randall added.

While Dunphy said it’s impossible to replace Allen as a player or a person, the Owls’ depth at guard combined with their size at forward makes it that much easier.

“I don’t think you ever replace guys like Allen,” Dunphy said. “I’m not sure who we are yet, we’re still developing towards who we are.”

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Temple left out of Big East invites

Big East commissioners travled to Philadelphia over the weekend and extended invites to six schools today.

Temple was not one of them.

The Big East offered invites for football only to Air Force, Navy, and Boise State and all-sports invites to Central Florida, Houston, and Southern Methodist University.

There was some speculation that Temple would receive an all-sports invitation as well. In addition to the meeting taking place in Temple's home city, Mayor Michael Nutter and former Governer Ed Rendell each sent letters to Big East Commissioner John Marinatto over the weekend pleading Temple's case.

The Big East conference is undergoing a dynamic transition after several of its premier programs have recently dropped out. Athletic powerhouses Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced their departure for the Atlantic Coast Conference in September, while West Virginia and prospective member TCU will be moving to the Big 12.

The Big East is aiming to reach at least 12 football-playing programs. If the six schools all accept their invites, the Big East will still be one team short of their goal of 12.

In addition to Temple, Memphis is reportedly on the Big East's radar for the final slot.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Rick Pitino lobbies for Temple to Big East

Despite reports that Villanova has been trying to block Temple from transferring to the Big East, it appears that Temple has a friend within the Big East in Louisville.

Rick Pitino, Louisville men’s basketball coach, is actively lobbying to add Temple for both basketball and football in the Big East. Pitino expressed his opinion to Big East commissioner John Marinatto on Wednesday that the conference needs to expand its basketball profile to make up for the losses of basketball powerhouses Pittsburgh and Syracuse, which announced their departure for the Atlantic Coast Conference in September.

Pitino said that a combination of Temple’s rich basketball history and the recent success of the football team make it an attractive candidate for addition to the conference.

Andy Katz and Rick Pitino on admitting Temple to the Big East.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ice hockey inherits leading scorer as coach

frain playerRyan Frain holds every major Temple ice hockey offensive record since official stats have been kept. Frain is the Owls’ all-time leader in points, goals, assists and games played, among other categories.

When Frain graduated this summer, coach Jerry Roberts and the team were faced with the question, “How do we move on without one of the greatest players in the program’s history?” For Roberts, the answer was easy: Make him a coach.

“It’s so hard to pour everything you have into [something], and to just walk away, it’s almost impossible,” said Roberts, who played for Temple from 2002-07. “When the opportunity came up, [Frain] jumped on it and I don’t see him letting go of it anytime soon.”

Frain played for Temple from 2006-10, leading the team in scoring in four out of five seasons. Last season as the assistant captain, Frain scored a team-high 37 points while leading the Owls to their first ever appearance in the American Collegiate Hockey Association Nationals. Frain contacted Roberts this summer and offered his assistance as coach for the 2011-12 season.

“I wanted to give back to these guys and make them better as individuals, not only in hockey but in life,” Frain said. “I want to help these guys have the same success I did.”

“I didn’t want to leave Temple hockey for good,” Frain added. “I wanted to help [the players] like the Temple coaches helped me.”

Frain has fit right in with the coaching staff. Along with Roberts, offensive coach Chris Mariello and defensive coach Konstantin Sakherzon are also former Temple players. The three young coaches each played from 2003-05, when the team won three consecutive Delaware Valley Collegiate Hockey Conference championships.

“It’s easy for the players to relate to the coaches, and vice versa, because in the past 10 years they’ve all been there,” senior forward Taylor Lockhart said. “They’ve all been in our shoes. It’s easier for the coaches to get across to the players what needs to be done, or what needs to happen.”

“It’s a whole different ballgame, going from player to coach,” Frain added. “As I was a big contributor to the team for the past five years, it’s hard for me to stand there on the bench and not want to jump out there with them and help them score or give them a lift in confidence.”

Frain has been working with Mariello and the offense on calling out matchups for line changes and identifying trends from the opposition.

“Anybody who played with [Frain] respects anything he says, you really take it to heart,” Lockhart said. “It’s almost as if he gets extra attention because some of the kids who played with him know what he used to do on the ice.”

Lockhart and his teammates have been dealt the task of trying to replace Frain’s offensive production this year. So far they haven’t been successful. The Owls have lost 10 games in a row after winning their season opener against Rider. The offense is averaging 2.00 goals per game as opposed to their 3.84 average last season with Frain.

“It’s definitely been a challenge,” Roberts said. “[Frain] wasn’t just the leading goal scorer for one year, he was the leading goal scorer for several years. You knew that every single night he was going to get on the board in some way shape or form.”

“It’s been different,” Lockhart added. “We know were not going to go out there and score four goals a game. I realize that some of the returning players and myself have a lot more weight on their shoulders to score those goals.”

Despite the Owls’ scoring woes, there have been some bright spots. Junior forwards Joe Pisko and Sean Nealis have each stepped up and played significant roles on offense. Nealis, who had to earn his spot on the team after being cut last year, leads the team in points.

“The biggest name among people who have stepped up is undoubtedly [Nealis],” Roberts said. “Every time he’s on the ice, stuff is happening around him.”

“I’m really glad that [Nealis] decided to come back out,” Frain added. “I know that when you get cut it’s a huge blow to your confidence. He’s a gritty player. He works really hard. Obviously, he’s the leading scorer so things are paying off for him.”

Senior forward George Rutter joins Lockhart, Nealis and Pisko to make up the new face of the Owls’ offense.

“We have Pisko, Lockhart and Rutter, those are the guys who I like to count on, night in and night out, to be contributors,” Frain said.

“With [Frain] leaving, we have a relatively younger offensive unit this year,” Roberts added. “We’re still looking to identify some of his replacements.”

While the offense has struggled to adjust without Frain, Roberts said that injuries and good competition have been the cause of the Owls’ early season woes. Senior defensemen Andrew Trainor and Jordan Lawrence, two of the Owls’ best players, have both missed significant time due to injury and six of the Owls’ 10 losses have come against teams who also went to the ACHA Nationals last year.

“Lines have been all over the place,” Roberts said. “We’re still experimenting to find out what works best. Not so much for establishing top lines, but establishing depth where we have at least three and hopefully four solid lines.”

“I’m trying to keep guys positive,” Frain added. “The wins are going to come their way. It’s hard to get into a groove when you’re losing.”

Whether or not the Owls can break out of their early-season slump remains to be seen, but no matter what happens, Frain will be behind the bench doing everything he can to help his team win, just like he’s been doing for the past five years.

“I love this team,” Frain said. “I always thought it was weird how much [Roberts] loved [the team] as much as he did when I was a player. Now, I feel the same way, or even more.”

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Run game powers Owls over Bulls

With a résumé already filled with numerous Temple football achievements, junior running back Bernard Pierce etched his name into the record books even further on Saturday against Buffalo.

Pierce ran for 152 yards and two touchdowns as the Owls shut out Buffalo, 34-0. Pierce now has 17 touchdowns on the season and 44 total touchdowns in his career, both of which are new Temple records.

“It means a lot,” Pierce said. “It means I’m in the mix with all the great backs that came to Temple.”

Pierce’s two touchdowns came at the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second quarter. Pierce’s first score, a two-yard run that capped off a 72-yard drive, tied his own single season touchdown record of 16 and Paul Palmer’s (1983-86) all-time total touchdown record of 43.

Pierce busted out for a 53-yard touchdown run on the second play of the Owls’ fourth drive of the game. His second score of the game broke his single-season touchdown record as well as Palmer’s all-time touchdown record. Pierce broke Palmer’s all-time rushing touchdown record last week against Ball State.

“It’s nice to know, but I’m not worried about it too much,” Pierce said. “At the end of the day, we have five regular season games left, so I have to keep looking toward the next game.”

Pierce’s two touchdowns, plus a 28-yard field goal by Owls’ junior placekicker Brandon McManus on the opening drive, gave the Owls an early 17-point lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.

The Owls piled it on in the second quarter with a trick play on special teams. After the Owls lined up to punt from the Buffalo 49-yard line, junior linebacker Ahkeem Smith took a direct snap around the edge for a 49-yard touchdown. Smith, a former running back who was converted to defense this year, gave the Owls a 24-point lead with a little more than five minutes left to play in the first half.

“I was ready to roll on that one,” coach Steve Addazio said. “We got the look we wanted…and BAM, we’re gone.”

“I’ve been telling him to call it almost every game now, and he finally called it today,” Smith said. “We saw that it was the perfect situation, so we called it before they snapped the ball.”

As has been customary in games when the Owls have a had a lead this year, Pierce had limited action in the second half. He carried the ball three times in the third quarter and didn’t have a carry in the fourth quarter.

However, junior running back Matt Brown filled in at running back in the second half and proved why the Owls have been able to rest Pierce and still be successful.

Brown rushed for 81 yards in the second half, 58 of which came on a long touchdown run that gave the Owls a 31-point lead. Brown finished the game with 120 yards rushing to go along with Pierce’s total of 152.

“[Pierce is] the big guy,” Brown said. “He’s going to set it off and I’ll just do whatever I can to put us in a better position to score.”

It was the second consecutive game in which Brown and Pierce have each rushed for over 100 yards. The pair now has a Temple-record three games in their career in which they have each rushed for 100 yards. The Owls finished the game with 400 yards rushing.

“That’s who we are,” Addazio said about the rushing game. “We need to be able to do that. That’s our identity. That’s important to be able to get [Pierce], [Brown], and everybody involved in the run game.”

Senior cornerback Kee-ayre Griffin had a standout game on defense. Griffin had four tackles to go along with a sack and a blocked field goal.

This marked the second consecutive week that the Owls shut out their opponent. The Owls beat Ball State 42-0 last week. The Cherry and White have outscored their opponents 76-0 in their last two games.

“I feel like we’re back on track,” Addazio said. “But being back on track only gives you an opportunity for this week. It’s a whole new week.”

Special teams prove explosive

On Saturday’s matchup against Buffalo, the Owls proved the age-old adage that special teams make up the third phase of football.

On special teams, the Owls had a blocked field goal, a fake-punt touchdown and outstanding play the whole game from junior placekicker Brandon McManus.

“Those are explosives,” coach Steve Addazio said. “In our plan to win, we measure special teams in how many explosives we have. Those are big plays, block a field goal, hit a fake punt like that. Those things get right on an opposing team, and when you’re on the other side of that, it’s hard.”

McManus handles both placekicking and punting responsibilities on special teams. McManus, who kicked and punted at North Penn High School, is 8-12 this year kicking field goals and has a 48.3-yard average on 20 punts. On a windy day at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday with gusts up to 30 mph, McManus was a perfect 2-2 in field goals and had a punt average of 59.3 yards.

“I’ve been here three year, this was the worst wind at Lincoln Financial Field,” McManus said. “It makes you stick to your fundamentals and your technique.”

McManus was quite the sight on kickoffs. Often kicking with the wind, he had a kickoff average of more than 60 yards. On one of the most memorable touchbacks you’ll ever see, McManus boomed a third-quarter kickoff well past 70 yards that was inches away from landing in the stands on the opposite end of the field.

“What we really embrace on special teams is our kickoff team,” McManus said. “It sets the tone for every game.”

When McManus wasn’t pinning the Bulls down into bad field position, other players stepped up to make key plays on special teams.

Junior linebacker Ahkeem Smith made the play of the game in the second quarter when, after the Owls lined up to punt on the Bulls’ 49-yard line, Smith took a direct snap around the edge and ran for a 49-yard fake-punt touchdown. Smith, a former running back who converted to defense in training camp, said special teams and the coaches had that play in their arsenal and were waiting to use it all season.

“I’ve been telling [Addazio] to call it almost every game now, and he finally called it today,” Smith said. “We saw that it was the perfect situation, so we called it before they snapped the ball.”

“I was ready to roll on that one,” Addazio added. “We got the look we wanted and BAM, we’re gone.”
In addition to having four tackles and a sack on defense, senior cornerback Kee-Ayre Griffin made a huge special teams play to preserve the shutout.

After Buffalo drove the ball into Owls’ territory late in the second quarter, the Bulls lined up to kick a 39-yard field goal to try to make it a three-touchdown game before halftime. Griffin rushed around the edge and blocked the kick, the Owls’ fourth blocked kick of the season.

“It’s a big momentum swing,” Griffin said. “We try to make sure special teams is the third phase of the football game. If we control special teams, it’s an extra boost for us.”

The Owls’ success on special teams directly translated to their success on offense and defense. The Owls dominated field position and time of possession. The Owls controlled the ball for 39 of the contest’s 60 minutes, and as a result, both the offensive and defensive units were able to stay fresh throughout the game.

“Special teams is one third of the game,” McManus said. “Special teams always give us a boost on offense and defense.”

“You need to play as a team-offense, defense and special teams,” Addazio added.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Loss not worthy of Big East

If the Owls want to sit at the cool-kid’s table that is the Big East Conference, they have to prove to themselves and the country that they can take care of business in the Mid-American Conference.

Recent reports from various news outlets speculate that, in light of the recent conference re-alignment going on throughout college sports, Temple may be changing homes. The Big East Conference, a perennial basketball powerhouse and former home of Owls’ football, lost Pittsburgh and founding member Syracuse to the Atlantic Coast Conference in September.

It is rumored that Temple is one of the teams on the Big East’s list to replace these two vacancies. Multiple media outlets have reported that Temple is on the verge of an all-sports invite.

In addition to the Owls’ outstanding history in both men and women’s basketball, the recent success of the football team is really what’s driving these rumors. The Owls played football in the Big East starting in 1991 for nearly 15 years, but were asked to leave in 2001 and left in 2004 due to poor attendance and a lack of competitiveness and university commitment to the football program.

But with the relative success of the football program through the first four weeks of the season, including the Owls’ 38-7 blowout win against Maryland last week, many people now believe that Temple football could compete in the Big East.

However, the Owls’ 36-13 loss to Toledo last Saturday told a different story. The team that showed up to play against Toledo didn’t look like the surging mid-major that could compete in the Big East, but rather the team that has never won a MAC championship during its five-year membership.

If the Temple football program really wants to take the next step, it needs to consistently play at a high level in its own conference. Granted, Toledo  is much better than their 2-3 record would indicate, but the majority of the country doesn’t know or care about that.

All that most people will see is some team they’ve never heard of just beat up on Temple in front of their home crowd. How will the loss look to the Big East?

Coach Steve Addazio said that the national attention Temple had been getting after its Maryland win affected preparation coming into Toledo.

“We were concerned this week about our preparation,” Addazio said. “There were some distractions here, but you have to learn how to handle that. That’s my job, to make sure that you overcome that and come out with a great level of execution.”

The home attendance on Saturday was almost as bad as the final score. If I had a vote on Temple’s Big East membership, the attendance of 21,705 on Saturday wouldn’t convince me that Temple can fill the seats for Big East play. Considering the fact that low attendance was one of the things that got Temple kicked out of the Big East in the first place, the two-thirds empty stadium on Saturday just doesn’t look good.

I’m not saying Temple doesn’t deserve to be in the Big East, because I think they are as good a choice for membership as any, but the Toledo game was the first hitch in what was a virtually flawless football résumé for this season.

“One game doesn’t define anything,” Addazio said. “We have to take care of our business one week at a time.”

Moving forward, the Owls have five straight contests to MAC teams. If Temple really wants a Big East invite for football, the Owls have to continue to do their part in their own conference.

Turnovers take Owls out versus Toledo

Coach Steve Addazio has stressed over and over again that you can’t turn the ball over and win.  In the game against Toledo on Saturday, the Owls turned the ball over four times in the Rockets’ 36-13 rout.

“The tale of the game is the turnovers,” Addazio said. “We lost momentum and never seemed to regain it.”

The Toledo offense cut up the Owls’ defense all game as Rockets’ running back senior Morgan Williams and sophomore David Fluellen combined for 255 yards rushing and receiving to go along with three touchdowns.

“It’s just fun to get out there with the other seniors and the other players and make plays,” Williams said. “It’s fun playing football.”

The Rockets’ offensive and defensive lines dominated in the trenches all game. Fluellen and Williams averaged 5.1 and 6.1 yards per carry, respectively, and Owls’ senior-redshirt quarterback Chester Stewart was hurried during the game and sacked twice by the Rockets’ defensive line.

Specifically, the Toledo defense shut down junior running back Bernard Pierce who entered the game with nearly 700 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.

“We knew we had to tackle and gang tackle,” Rockets’ junior defensive end T.J. Fatinikun said. “We heard about all the things [Pierce] had done.”

Despite their overall game woes, the Owls’ offense got off to a fast start. After forcing a Toledo three and out on the Rockets’ first possession, the Owls quickly drove down the field before a 30-yard field goal by Owls’ junior placekicker Brandon McManus gave the Cherry and White a quick lead. The Owls have scored first in four out of their five games so far this season.

“We came out of the blocks pretty quick, and that felt great,” Addazio said.

But two costly Temple turnovers allowed Toledo to erase the Owls’ lead as quickly as they gained it.

After Temple forced a second-straight Toledo three and out, junior punt returner Matt Brown fumbled the punt and the Rockets took over within striking distance. Three plays later Rockets’ junior quarterback Austin Dantin rushed up the middle for a touchdown and a Toledo lead. After the game, both Addazio and several Temple players pointed to Brown’s fumble as a crucial turning point.

“As leaders we try to keep our guys up, but it is definitely a momentum swing for them to get a short field and quick score,” Stewart said. “That hurts a team and is hard to come back from.”

“It’s one play,” Addazio added. “It seemed like momentum got away from us at that point, and that was awful early for that to happen.”

Stewart threw a pass, intercepted by Rockets’ sophomore safety Ross Madison and returned to the Temple 41-yard line, towards the end of the first quarter that lead to another quick Toledo score. The Cherry and White defense were unable to overcome the short field position as Williams burst through the Owls’ defense for a 32-yard touchdown on the ensuing drive.

“When you turn the ball over, you lose possessions,” Addazio said. “That momentum jerked on us right there, and we didn’t get that back.”

The Owls battled back in the second quarter facing a 12-point deficit. Stewart passed to senior tight end Evan Rodriguez on the first play of the quarter for a 55-yard touchdown. After forcing a Toledo punt, the Owls drove into the Rockets’ territory on their next possession. McManus’ second field goal of the day, a 37-yarder, brought the Owls to within three points.

But some Rockets’ trickery along with a costly Owls’ penalty gave Toledo a nine-point lead before halftime. A 15-yard penalty against Owls’ sophomore defensive tackle Levi Brown on the Rockets’ second drive of the second quarter preceded a reverse pass to Rockets’ redshirt-freshman backup quarterback Dwight Macon that went for 33 yards and a Toledo touchdown.

“We didn’t stop them,” senior defensive end Adrian Robinson said. “As a captain and as a leader, I will make sure everything is fixed.”

The Owls drove into Rockets’ territory as the first half ended, but McManus missed a 46-yard field goal in the last minute. Toledo entered halftime with a nine-point lead after scoring fifteen points off turnovers.

“You can’t turn the ball over,” Addazio said. “We turned it over four times.”

Toledo refused to let the Owls come back early in the third quarter. After forcing Temple to punt on their first third-quarter possession, the Rockets executed a methodic eight play, 58-yard drive that resulted in a 20-yard touchdown pass to Fluellen that gave Toledo a 16-point lead.

“They were a great team,” Owls’ senior safety Kevin Kroboth said. “Their record doesn’t show how good they are. They have some really good players that know how to make people miss.”

The Owls’ offense couldn’t get anything going in the second half. After back-to-back three and outs on their first two possessions, the Owls turned the ball over for the third time on their third drive. Pierce fumbled after gaining 33 yards on a screen and the ball was recovered by Toledo and ruined any chance of the Owls scoring in the third quarter.

“The turnover on the screen play that brought us back to the plus side of the field really hurt us,” Addazio said. “That was our opportunity to try to tilt back the momentum. It didn’t happen.”

Toledo sealed their win in the fourth quarter with Fluellen’s second touchdown of the game, a one-yard run after his 43-yard screen, that gave the Rockets a 23-point lead with a little more than ten minutes left to play that would stand as the game’s final score.

“They were more ready to play than we were,” Stewart said. “They wanted it more, they came ready to play and they took it.”

Stewart’s second interception of the game, picked off by Rockets’ sophomore defensive end Jayrone Elliott, was the Owls’ fourth turnover. Overall, the turnovers crippled any chance of a Cherry and White offensive rhythm and Toledo scored fifteen points off turnovers.

“We didn’t come out and play like we usually play,” Robinson said. “I keep hearing questions about them, but it’s us that messed up. We didn’t do what we needed to do and that’s why they beat us.”

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pierce named MAC Offensive Player of the Week

For the second time this year, junior running back Bernard Pierce stood atop the Mid-American Conference.

Pierce was named the MAC Offensive Player of the Week for the second time this season, it was announced today.

Pierce rushed for 149 yards and a school record five touchdowns on 32 carries in the Owls’ 38-7 blowout of Maryland on Saturday.

Pierce leads the MAC in rushing yards (496) and touchdowns (12) and his touchdown mark also leads the nation through the season’s first four games.

Owls rise in the face of adversity

When faced with adversity, Owls’ football shows its true Cherry and White colors.

After a disappointing loss to Penn State last week, Owls’ junior running back Bernard Pierce set a new school record with five touchdowns en route to the Owls’ 38-7 rout of Maryland last Saturday.

“Our guys were hungry from last week because we let that game slip away from us,” Pierce said. “That was a big game for us, and we just let it go.”

“We had a very tough game last week,” coach Steve Addazio added. “I’m awfully proud of how our kids responded. Their mentality, their attitude, the way they played the game.”

The Owls led the favored Nittany Lions for the first three quarters last week before a fourth-quarter collapse allowed Penn State to come back and win. But the Owls were not going to let that disappointing result affect what happened this weekend against the even more heavily favored Terrapins.

“Our kids felt like we could and should have won that football game,” Addazio said of the Penn State game. “That loss hurt deep to the core, but the ability for them to be steady in the boat and respond, that’s a critical step. That’s the chemistry of a football team.”

“We just wanted to bounce back and see what type of team we had,”  redshirt-senior quarterback Chester Stewart added. “It’s good if your team is able to respond after a loss like that. I think we handled it pretty well.”

To add insult to injury, the Owls were harassed the moment they stepped onto Capital One Field in Maryland. Maryland players allegedly verbally chastised the Owls and did not give them their entire half of the field to warm up. But like the Penn State loss, the Owls were able to take their adversity and channel it into something positive.

“They were booing us a lot, which really motivated us,” Stewart said. “We felt like they didn’t really respect us too much, so we came out with a chip on our shoulders.”

“They were disrespectful to us,” Pierce said. “You gotta come out and want to prove people wrong and that’s what we did as a team.”

Stewart had a virtually flawless performance in his first start of the season. He went a perfect nine for nine passing for 140 yards, added 57 rushing yards, and ran the offense well.

Stewart had his own adversity to overcome, as he was su spended for the first game of the season for violating team rules and watched Owls’ redshirt-junior quarterback Mike Gerardi get the majority of the playing time for the first three games.

“[Stewart] really led our football team today,” Addazio said. “I’m proud of him. He took his opportunity and he ran with it.”

There were also many people, myself included, who questioned Addazio’s decision to start Stewart over Gerardi against the Terps in the first place. But Stewart remained mentally tough.

“It felt good,” Stewart said about his performance. “That was something [Addazio] preached all week was mental toughness.”

“A lot of people had questions about why we were making the move we made,” Addazio said about the quarterback switch. “[Stewart] came out today and answered those.”

Now that the Owls have taken care of the most difficult part of their schedule, their mental toughness will play a huge role in determining how well they’ll fare against both the stronger and weaker opponents remaining in Mid-American Conference play.

“We’re a team that can respond and compete with anybody,” Addazio said.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"We are a team that can respond and compete with anybody."

With his performance today, junior running back Bernard Pierce etched his name deeper into Temple football’s record books.

Pierce scored five touchdowns, a career high and Temple single-game record, en route to the Owls’ 38-7 win over Maryland.

The defense dominated Maryland, which came into the game as the fifty-fifth highest scoring offense in the country. The Owls sacked Terrapins sophomore quarterback Danny O’Brien three times and forced one interception.

The Owls improved to 3-1 on the season while the Terps dropped to 2-2. Pierce’s 12 touchdowns on the season currently leads the nation.

Temple vs. Maryland

The Owls will look to improve their record to 3-1 today versus Maryland.

The Owls will take on the Terps on Capital One Field at Byd Stadium today at 12:30.

The Owls will try to capture their third win of the year after losing to Penn State last week. The Terps will try to improve to 2-1 after dropping last week’s game to West Virginia.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Record draw for Penn State game

If the Owls had been able to hold on and win their game against Penn State on Saturday, the victory would have been viewed by a record audience.

The game, which was televised nationally on ESPN, had a 1.6 national rating. That means the game was aired in approximately 1,610,910 households and was viewed by nearly 2 million people, both Temple football records.

The game was also a record draw at Lincoln Financial Field. The attendance of 57,323 was the second-largest in Temple football history and the student attendance of nearly 11,000 was a Temple record.

The Owls’ next game this Saturday against Maryland will air on ESPN3 in addition to being broadcast on 1210 WPHT-AM.

Switch of QBs dooms Owls

In one of the most important games of the season Saturday against Penn State, coach Steve Addazio made a questionable coaching decision that potentially cost the Owls the game.

Addazio benched redshirt-junior quarterback Mike Gerardi in the second quarter. Until that point, Gerardi had completed four passes for 51 yards and led the team to a touchdown on its first drive of the game. But the Nittany Lions’ defense tightened up after the Cherry and White offense’s fast start and the Owls were forced to punt on their next three possessions.

It was then that Addazio turned to redshirt-senior quarterback Chester Stewart on the Owls’ fifth drive of the game. The move was so confusing that there were questions about whether or not Gerardi had been injured.

Yes, the offense had been stopped on three straight possessions. Yes, Penn State had just tied the game with a touchdown of its own. But there was virtually nothing from Gerardi’s performance until that point that warranted his benching. Addazio pointed to a lack of success in the run game as the reason for the switch.

“We thought if we struggled in the run game against that defensive front, we would go to [Stewart] and start to exercise some spread option,” Addazio said. “I still feel good about that. I think that was the right time to do that.”

But the offense crippled under Stewart. Stewart led the Owls into Nittany Lions’ territory on his first drive, which resulted in a 40-yard field goal by Owls’ junior placekicker Brandon McManus. However, following the field goal, the Cherry and White offense suffered four straight three-and-outs.

Despite Addazio’s intention to run the spread, Stewart’s inability to complete passes downfield rendered the passing game totally fruitless. It destroyed the offense’s ability to be multiple, which allowed Penn State to stack the box and continue to dominate against the run.

“We needed to be able to throw the ball to win that game,” Addazio said. “We needed to be able to get the ball down the field. We did not execute that. It didn’t happen.”

“I thought we were running the ball all right at first,” Gerardi said. “They started stacking the box a little more. It affects the game plan a little bit without the ability to have an effective play action. Ultimately, I think you have to do a better job throwing the ball.”

Perhaps it was the fact that Addazio has such a rich history of success of running the spread at Florida that he thought it would translate at Temple. Perhaps it was the fact that this is Addazio’s first year and he hasn’t witnessed Stewart’s play over the past few years that wasn’t good enough to earn him a starting role in his fifth year with the team. But Addazio’s idea to spread the field with Stewart is puzzling in hindsight.

“We weren’t converting first downs,” Addazio said. “We tried to throw the ball a little bit, to loosen that up a little bit. The power run game was not there at that point.”

But the run game wasn’t even given a chance in the second half. Pierce, who rushed for six touchdowns and nearly 300 yards in his first two games of the season, had only four rushes in the entire second half.

“I don’t care who gets the ball,” said a visibly emotional Pierce after the game. “As long as we can keep scoring I’m fine with it.”

Pierce added that he was the most disappointed he’s felt after a loss in his career, and I can’t help but feel that he wished he could’ve done more, but wasn’t given a chance. Addazio chose to center the offense around Stewart rather than his superstar running back.

“Early, I felt like we had some seams and room to run the ball a little bit, but towards the end I didn’t feel that that much,” Addazio said.

Gerardi came back into the game in the fourth quarter and threw two costly interceptions that allowed the Nittany Lions to come back and win, but I don’t think Penn State should have even been in position to come back in the first place. The Owls had four chances to add to their three-point lead with Stewart at quarterback and failed all four times.

“We should’ve had it,” Pierce said. “We had it and we gave it up.”

Moving forward, Addazio said that whichever quarterback can run the most balanced offense will start in the future. Addazio added that while the loss to Penn State was disappointing, he won’t let it define the season.

“As upset as we are, and with what we know we have to get corrected, it’s my job as the leader of this football team to keep this going positively,” Addazio said. “And that’s we’re gonna do.”

Penn State game to air nationally on ESPN

The Owls’ upcoming football game against Penn State will be broadcast on national television.

The game is set to kick off Saturday at noon on the Owls’ home turf at Lincoln Financial Field. ESPN will broadcast the game live nationally, with Dave LaMont commenting and Ray Bentley providing color analysis.

Saturday’s matchup will represent the sixth meeting between these two teams in the past six years and the second one for the Owls at home.

The Nittany Lions have won all five games in the most recent series and haven’t lost to the Owls since 1941.

Pierce, Owls look to vindicate history with Penn State upset

The last time Owls’ football beat Penn State, current 84-year-old Nittany Lions’ coach Joe Paterno was only 14 years old.

Paterno, the Penn State legend, has ensured that the Owls would not beat the Nittany Lions for as long as he is their coach. Paterno has faced off against the Owls 27 times, going a perfect 27-0.

The Owls will counter with new coach Steve Addazio, who beat Paterno and the Nittany Lions, 37-24, in the Outback Bowl at the end of last season as offensive coordinator for Florida.

Last year, the Owls put up their best performance against the Nittany Lions in nearly three decades. In last season’s game at Beaver Stadium, the Owls lost, 22-13. The nine-point deficit was the closest the Owls have come to beating Penn State since their effort in 1985, when the Owls lost, 27-25.

The Owls lead for the majority of the game last year, including after each of the first two quarters. It was the first time the Owls had ever lead in any game against Penn State since 1993.

Junior running back Bernard Pierce was the highlight for the Owls’ offense in last year’s contest. Pierce scored the Owls’ two touchdowns, but had to leave the game in the third quarter due to injury.

Defensively, the Owls didn’t let Penn State score a touchdown for the first three quarters and forced Nittany Lions’ senior placekicker Collin Wagner to kick a career-high five field goals. It wasn’t until halfway through the fourth quarter that Penn State finally found the end zone and sealed its 36th consecutive victory against the Owls.

If Pierce had stayed healthy for all of last year’s game, who knows what the Owls could have been able to accomplish.

This year represents a much different looking matchup. The Owls’ record stands at 2-0 after two wins against Villanova and the Akron. The Owls sit atop the Mid-American Conference standings with a 1-0 in-conference record.

Penn State is 1-1 and tied for eighth in the Big Ten Conference. After a 41-7 opening week victory over Indiana State, the Nittany Lions lost to No. 3 Alabama, 27-11, on Saturday.

The Owls’ offense returns a host of starters to the Penn State game, including a healthy Pierce, who has rushed for 297 yards and six touchdowns through the first two games of the season.

The Nittany Lions’ defensive line, led by junior defensive tackle Jordan Hill, will have their hands full trying to stop a healthy Pierce. Hill was impressive against Indiana State with five tackles and a fumble recovery. Hill had two tackles, including one for a loss, in last year’s game against the Owls.

Since the Owls lost safety Jaiquawn Jarrett and defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson to the National Football League, returning players with increased roles have stepped up for the Cherry and White defense. Senior defensive back Kevin Kroboth leads the team with two interceptions and 10 tackles through the first two games. Senior defensive ends and team captains Adrian Robinson and Morkeith Brown have anchored a dominant defensive line that is tied for second in the nation with 10 sacks.
Robinson and Brown will try to slow down Nittany Lions’ sophomore running back Silas Redd, who has 169 yards rushing and three touchdowns in his first two games.

Much like the Owls, Penn State has been forced to play multiple quarterbacks so far this season. Nittany Lions’ sophomore quarterback Rob Bolden and senior quarterback Matt McGloin have both seen significant time at the head of the offense, but neither have been able to elevate themselves to the role of definite starter.

The Owls have started redshirt-junior quarterback Mike Gerardi in each of the first two games, but redshirt-sophomore Chris Coyer, sophomore Clinton Granger, and senior Chester Stewart have collected reps as well.

The matchup on Saturday is one of the most highly anticipated regular season home games for the Owls since the last time Penn State visited in 2007. The contest may come down to which of the two teams’ unproven quarterbacks can step up and win what promises to be one of the closest games in the series’ recent history.

Pierce named MAC Offensive Player of the Week

It didn’t take long for junior running back Bernard Pierce to make an impact on the Owls’ 2011 season.

Pierce was named the Mid-American Conference Offensive Player of the Week for his effort against Villanova in the Mayor’s Cup last week. Pierce rushed for 147 yards and tied a career high with three touchdowns in the Owls’ dominating 42-7 defeat of the Wildcats.

“The last two years, [my performance in the Mayor's Cup] didn’t really go over,” Pierce said in a teleconference on Friday. “I really think I set the tone for the rest of the season.”

This was the fifth MAC Offensive Player of the Week award of Pierce’s collegiate career.

Pierce and QB's shine in opening game

During the Owls’ preseason training camp, I asked head coach Steve Addazio about the possibility of running a three-headed quarterback system on offense this season.

Addazio’s response was short and dismissive.

“No, I don’t want to do that,” Addazio said.

The ironic thing is that, in the season-opening blowout against Villanova on Thursday, Addazio ended up using three quarterbacks, but not for the reason that I, nor anyone else, could have foreseen.

Redshirt-junior Mike Gerardi impressed as the Owls’ starter. Gerardi finished the game with 235 yards and two touchdowns, but even more notable was the confidence and poise he displayed in the pocket. He took multiple shots downfield (his two touchdown passes went for 35 yards or more) and spread the ball amongst his receivers (five different players had at least one reception). Above all, the offense did not turn the ball over when Gerardi was at the helm.

“I thought [Gerardi] did a great job,” Addazio said. “He managed the game. He was a leader in the huddle. He had confidence. He threw the ball really well. I was proud of him.”

Gerardi was so impressive that the Owls had built a 35-point lead going into the fourth quarter, and Addazio saw fit to bench Gerardi and give redshirt-sophomore Chris Coyer a chance to finish the game at quarterback. Needless to say, Coyer made the most of his opportunity.

In just his third play from scrimmage, Coyer ran a beautiful option fake and scampered straight through the heart of the Villanova defense for a 68-yard touchdown, the first of his collegiate career. With one swift play, Coyer put a nail in the Wildcat’s coffin while simultaneously unhinging the nail in his own coffin, as his chances of being the Owls’ starting quarterback this season seemed buried due to Gerardi’s outstanding play.

“[Coyer] knows everything about the offense, just like the starter would,” Gerardi said. “[Coyer] helps me, I help him. We both make each other better.”

Sophomore Clinton “Juice” Granger, who Addazio has deemed a guy who “you don’t want to be off the field,” took all the snaps at quarterback on the Owls’ final drive of the game. So despite the Owls’ impressive Mayor’s Cup victory, it appears that the quarterback controversy at the head of the Owls’ offense is far from being settled.

“It was a tough call,” Addazio said about the starting quarterback decision. “I thought [Coyer] had a heck of a camp, and you saw he had a heck of a play out there himself. We really think [Granger] has come quite a way as well.”

“What we were really waiting for was to see who could really grab the leadership of this team,” Addazio added. “I thought that they all really grew in that regard. [Gerardi] has had a little bit more experience, and it favored him a little bit.”

The good news is that no matter who starts at quarterback, the Owls offense will continue to be centered upon junior running back Bernard Pierce. Pierce had one of his best efforts of his career Thursday, rushing for 147 yards and tying a career-high with three touchdowns.

“[Pierce] played great,” Gerardi said. “When you’re able to run the ball like he did, it opens up the other things we can do on offense.”

“The last two years, [my performance in the Mayor’s Cup] didn’t really go over,” Pierce said in a teleconference on Friday. “Coming out this year, I really think I set the tone for the rest of the season.”

Pierce showed the burst of his outstanding freshman year, when he rushed for more than 1,400 yards and scored 16 touchdowns. He dominated short-yardage plays and used his speed to consistently get around the edge of the Villanova defensive line.

“He’s as talented as any of the backs that I’ve seen at any of the conferences I’ve been in,” Addazio said.

The quarterback that will continue to run the Owls’ offense remains to be seen, but a healthy Pierce makes that uncomfortable feeling associated with a quarterback controversy fade away.

Football and men's basketball to be broadcast on 1210 WHPT

1210 AM WPHT, the longtime radio home of Temple athletics, have expanded their athletic coverage to incude broadcasts of the entire football and men’s basketball seasons.

“We are excited to be able to not only continue, but strengthen our relationship with WPHT,” Director of Athletics Bill Bradshaw said. “This deal enables fans in the greater Delaware Valley and beyond the ability to follow Temple Athletics on one of the strongest commercial radio stations in the country.”

The multi-year agreement will go into effect this Thursday night when the Owls kick off their football season against the University of Villanova in the Mayor’s Cup at Lincoln Financial Field, and will extend throughout the 2011-12 athletic season.

KYW Newsradio announcer Harry Donahue will do play-by-play for both football and men’s basketball. Former Owls quarterback Steve Joachim will do color analysis for football, while Assistant Athletic Director John Baum will provide color analysis for men’s basketball.

Owls offense forced to adapt to new leadership

sports.FEATUREFirst-year head coach Steve Addazio knows a thing or two about offense.

Previously the offensive coordinator at Florida, Addazio brings to Temple not only a fresh batch of offensive enthusiasm, but also an impressive history of success. Addazio has 15 years of offensive coaching experience at the collegiate Division 1 level, including the last five years at Florida where he helped lead the Gators to national championships in 2007 and 2009. The veteran coach is hoping to harness the success of his past and channel it into another winning season for Owls’ football.

“I don’t know what the past means, all I know is what the present is,” Addazio said. “What I see right now is a group of guys that have responded well to change.”

“This program has been able to rise up from a program that had a hard time winning seasons, to two winning seasons,” Addazio added. “We’re looking for that growth. We’re looking to sustain that kind of movement.”

Per Addazio’s system, each position on offense has undergone a competitive position battle throughout training camp. The most heated battle during the preseason camp was at the head of the offense at quarterback, where five different players had fought for the starter spot.

Redshirt-senior Chester Stewart and redshirt-junior Mike Gerardi both saw significant time as starters last year, but both struggled to protect the ball and neither did enough to secure the starting job. Stewart compiled a 5-2 record as a starter, but threw five interceptions and fumbled seven times. When Gerardi started midway through the season he displayed evidence that he can be a pure passer, as he threw for 1,290 yards and 10 touchdowns in five games. But, Gerardi’s tenure as a starter was tainted by eight interceptions in the team’s final five games as the Owls’ finished the season with a 3-2 record.

“All I have over the other quarterbacks is more experience, but that doesn’t necessarily make me the best quarterback,” Stewart said. “It’s about the team. I’m not really worried about myself. [Addazio] will put the best quarterback out there.”

“You’re never entitled to anything,” Gerardi said. “You always gotta prove yourself, especially at the quarterback position.”

Also, in competition for the starting job is sophomore Clinton Granger, who has been one of the more pleasant surprises throughout training camp. A transfer from Pierce College in Los Angeles, Granger has built a reputation among coaches as a quick learner and has impressed them with his natural ability.

“He’s got a maturity about him,” Addazio said of Granger. “He’s wired right. Where he is now and where he’ll be three days from now will still change because he’s growing at that level.”

Sophomore Chris Coyer and redshirt freshman Connor Reilly have also been competing for reps. The multiplicity of quarterbacks that have impressed at camp combined with the fact that Addazio is yet to name a starter naturally creates the question of the possibility of a multiple-quarterback system. While Addazio has vehemently spoken out against giving more than one quarterback significant time in a given game, he has not ruled out the possibility of bringing a quarterback in off the bench in a wildcat formation or in spread offense situations.

“I don’t want to play two quarterbacks,” Addazio said. “We might have a package for a wildcat. But to play two guys because they’re both kinda doing well? I don’t want to do that.”

Addazio has stated that an official starter won’t be named until the season’s first game against Villanova. However, at training camp Gerardi has taken a majority of the snaps for the first-team offense and Addazio has hinted that Granger would be the most likely candidate to come off the bench and run the wildcat.

“What we’re looking for right now is that ‘it’ factor, more so than that extra completed pass,” Addazio said. “Quite frankly, I’d be okay with either of them right now.”

Running Backs
In contrast to the mercurial atmosphere surrounding the quarterback position, the Owls have a clear-cut view of the 2011 season at running back. It comes in the form of 6-foot, 218-pound junior Bernard Pierce.  Injuries and inconsistency marred his sophomore year and his numbers dropped across the board after an outstanding freshman. Now, injury-free and without the pressure of unfair expectation, Pierce is hoping to maintain his health and return to prime form.

“Last year, I would say I wasn’t as prepared for the season,” Pierce said. “I was caught up in the hype rather than actually getting ready. I just want to prove to myself that I can play a full season.”

“He’s absolutely as talented [if not] more than most all running backs I’ve ever coached,” Addazio said of Pierce.

Junior running back Matt Brown has overcome conflicts with the team in the offseason and will return to the backfield to create an impressive split-back system.

Wide Receivers
At wide receiver, Rod Streater and Joe Jones will retain their starting positions for their senior years. Battling for the third and fourth spots are sophomore Deon Miller and junior C.J. Hammond. Hammond has a chance to play in what could be his first full season as a starter- he missed all of last season with a knee injury.

“This year I have a chip on my shoulder,” Hammond said. “I’m more hungry than ever to get back out there.”

Tight Ends
Senior Evan Rodriguez will regain his starting role at tight end, where he caught 21passes last year. Rodriguez was one of 34 players named nationally to the 2011 John Mackey Award Watch List, which is awarded annually to the most outstanding tight end in college football.

Another tight end competing for reps is senior Matt Balasavage, who played in 10 games last season with four starts. Also competing for playing time at the position will be four sophomores- Cody Booth, Matt Brookhart, Alex Jackson and Chris Parthemore -who all stepped on the field last year.

Offensive Line
New offensive line coach Justin Frye inherits a veteran group with versatility. Six starters return on the offensive line, all whom have started multiple games at different positions. Seniors Derek Dennis and Wayne Tribue will start at guard, junior Martin Wallace and senior Pat Boyle will play at tackle and senior John Palumbo will anchor the line at center.

“I think they’re athletic,” Addazio said of the offensive line. “I think they’re fundamentally pretty good. [Frye] has done a great job with them. I feel great about our first offensive line.”

Once the question at quarterback is solved, this offense potentially has enough talent at running back and wideout to compete with any defense in the Mid-American Conference.  If Addazio’s history of success means anything, 2011 will be another step up for Temple football.
“I think that what is yet to be determined is, are we at the stage where we can take this thing to the next level and that’s going to be determined on the playing field,” Addazio said.