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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.”

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