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.