In front of a considerably smaller crowd than present for last week's Mayor's Cup, the Temple University Football team slugged out an ugly victory over the Central Michigan Chippewas Thursday night in OT. Temple's chances would once again rest on the foot of Owl kicker Brandon McManus, who, after having missed two of his first three kicks wide right, was able to compose himself and split the uprights to end the 13-10 affair.
Temple was the beneficiary of some very lucky late breaks, including a Central Michigan fumble on the last play of regulation and an ill-advised force into the end zone on the opening drive of the extra session, the latter resulting in an Owl interception. From there, Coach Golden ordered up a steady diet of Matt Brown. Three consecutive rushes proved barely enough to gain the first down. Two more short yardage gains and third down to center McManus between the hash marks would close it out.
For those who have been knocking the Bernard Pierce for Heisman campaign, last night really only bolstered your argument. Pierce, who began to look like the Bernard of old after some explosive touches and bulldozing broken tackles in the first half, entered the fourth quarter with a touchdown on 10 rushes for 57 yards and 2 catches for 15 yards. Bernard would finish the game with a TD on 10 rushes for 57 yards and 2 catches for 15 yards. Just so we're clear, Bernard Pierce (yeah, this guy) did not touch the football in the fourth quarter or overtime.
I know the decision to bump him below Brown on the depth chart was due to his inability to practice after experiencing some concussion-like symptoms, but one has to wonder exactly what the problem is now. If he's still hurt or feeling any irregularities with his head, he shouldn't be playing. If he is completely healthy, why is the most talented guy on the team sitting on the bench during the fourth quarter and overtime in a meaningful in-conference match up? I can appreciate the argument that Golden is perhaps limiting his touches early in the season to try to keep him healthy late in the year, but that all goes out the window with the game on the line. I don't really get it myself, any guesses? Update: Owlsports.com is reporting that Bernard's disappearance was caused by a hand injury sustained during the third quarter. No word on the severity of the injury has been released. Hopefully, it isn't serious and his absence was largely precautionary.
(Quick digression: As long as I'm asking for feedback, are there any medical personnel who read the site and can explain to me, and anyone who may be curious, the difference between a concussion and "concussion-like symptoms." Sports fans can attest to the fact that any number of athletes are diagnosed each year with only "concussion-like symptoms," rather than an actual concussion after taking solid shots to the head. I clearly am not a doctor and have almost zero medical expertise outside of the application and removal of band-aids, but it just seems odd that an athlete would experience symptoms usually associated with a concussion without having actually been concussed. Anybody have any knowledge on the matter? Is there a doctor in the house?)
Back to the gridiron, Chester Stewart is...well, let me say this off the bat: I like Chester. I want him to succeed, and, having met him, he seems like a nice enough guy. All I'm saying is that if he keeps teasing Temple fans with some solid play under center only to twice fumble the ball at absolutely huge moments of the game, every member of the student section is going to wind up either prematurely gray, or start drinking more than they already do. Big C's first pass of the night came on a bomb; a 56 yard completion to wide out Rod Streater gave the impression that things were going to be clicking for the Temple offense. And though we proved ineffective once inside the red zone for the majority of the night, Chester's throws were noticeably more steady and on point than the week prior, an exciting sign of some quick growth in his release and timing.
His actual decisions with the football, however, remain back-breaking. Pierce's touchdown right before half gave the Owls a 7-0 lead with little time left. An almost immediate CMU turnover put the Owls well within range for a Brandon McManus FG to end the half. Going into the break up 10-0 after a largely scoreless opening thirty would have really swung the momentum in Temple's favor. Instead, Chester would cough up the ball with just seconds left to send the Owls into the break up 7. Later, with only 35 ticks on the clock, Stewart attempted to break out of the pocket and scramble out of bounds. This might have been less disastrous if he wasn't holding the ball like a loaf of bread (read: L.J. Smith) in the open field. Failing to wrap up the football resulted in a hard hit and strip that might have cost Temple the game if not for a late Chippewa mental cramp of their own. I'm pulling for you, Chester. I am.
Defensively, DT Muhammad Wilkerson had a huge game and seemed to be in on almost every key tackle. The unit as a whole really deserves recognition on its performance. Bending but not breaking, the Owl D bears ultimate responsibility for the victory. At least we're 2-0, right?
Nick Menta is a TU Senior and the Sports Director of WHIP Temple University Student Run Radio.
Photo by Jazmyne Anderson