The Temple University Owls closed their regular season schedule with 34-16 win over the Kent State Golden Flashes on Black Friday afternoon. The win—Temple's eighth of the season—puts the Owls squarely in the mix for an at-large invitation to a bowl game.
Should they receive an invite, quarterback Chris Coyer may need to heal quickly. Coyer—2-0 as a starter since taking over earlier this month—suffered an injury to his left arm during the first quarter against Kent State. Revealed after the game to be a "sprained shoulder," the sophomore will be out of action for the next two weeks.
With Coyer in the locker room, head coach Steve Addazio turned briefly to red-shirt junior Mike Gerardi, but ultimately settled on fifth-year quarterback Chester Stewart to lead the Temple offense.
Stewart, honored prior to the game as part of the team's Senior Day festivities, struggled in the first half, fumbling the ball three times and turning it over twice. Chester and the team would muddle their way through the opening 30 and find themselves up 10-6 at the break thanks to a 100-yard kick-off return by backup running back Matt Brown.
While Stewart would settle in and ultimately finish the contest 6-6 for 94 yards, it was, once again, Bernard Pierce who would carry the team in the second half. Bernard exploded for his sixth 3-TD game of 2011, running for 189 yards and an average of 7.9 earned per attempt.
Pierce's second half, undoubtedly as good as any half he's put together in his three years at Temple, was typically impressive, but uncharacteristically bittersweet. Each touch of the football carried with it the feeling that this could be the very last time Temple fans will see their all-time leader in rushing touchdowns in uniform at Lincoln Financial Field—well, at least as an Owl.
Though his future remains unknown, Bernard's immediate plans will be to join his teammates in the wait for a bowl invitation. A record of 8-4 left Temple as one of only two eligible teams who did not participate in a year-end bowl in 2010.
"There is no doubt Temple will be in a bowl game," said coach Addazio in his post-game press conference after running through his program's 2011 resume. "Anything else would be ridiculous."
"We're an unbelievably desirable team to a lot of bowls out there…if they care about good football."
Given the unfortunate realities of the college bowl system, that's one very big IF.