Saturday, September 18, 2010

Temple tops UConn

Pierce had 169 yards rushing and 3 TDs vs. UConn
By John McMullen

Philadelphia, Pa. (The Phanatic Magazine) - Temple took a big step back to its Big East roots on Saturday.

The culture has certainly changed in North Philly since Jerry Berndt, Ron Dickerson and Bobby Wallace were piloting the Owls to a miserable 14-80 Big East Conference record from 1991-2004. Al Golden's bunch is no pushover in the MAC these days and the Owls proved they could stand-up to Big East competition with a 30-16 win over UConn in front of 18,702 at Lincoln Financial Field.

Heisman Trophy candidate Bernard Pierce rushed for 169 yards and matched a career-high with three touchdowns, two on the ground and one receiving for Temple, which improved to 3-0 for the first time since 1979 and won for the eighth straight time at home, a school record. A possible fourth TD for Pierce was erased in the waning months when replay overruled what was originally called a 38-yard TD run, placing the ball at the 1-yard line.

Quarterback Chester Stewart finished 11-of-21 for 159 yards and a TD and added another 20 yards rushing.

Jordan Todman had 192 yards and a TD on the ground for UConn (1-2) but his fumble in the fourth quarter turned the game around. Zach Frazier, meanwhile, completed 16-of-31 passes for 150 yards for the Huskies.

Temple was trailing 16-14 when the battered Owls defense, which had already allowed well over 200 yards rushing, came through in a big way midway through the final frame.

Todman went off left tackle and was stood up by Elijah Joseph when junior defensive Adrian Robinson stripped the ball from him and scampered 24 yards into the end zone to make it a 20-16 game. Temple went for the two-point conversion but it failed when Stewart faked a QB draw and threw an awkward jump pass that went off the fingertips of Vaughn Charlton.

UConn went three-and-out on its ensuing possession and Delano Green, sprung by a brilliant Michael Campbell block, brought Cole Wanger's punt back 47 yards to the Huskies 4-yard line. Two plays later, Pierce took it in from two yards out with 5:54 left to give Temple a 27-16 advantage.

Brandon McManus' 32-yard field goal with 26 seconds remaining accounted for the final margin.

UConn took an early lead when Dave Teggart capped an impressive 12-play, 71-yard drive that mixed the run and pass nicely by booting a 36-yard field goal with 7:02 left in the first quarter.

Golden rolled the dice late in the first by calling for a fake punt deep in his own territory. It should have worked as punter Jeff Wathne found a wide open Muhammad Wilkerson in the flat but Wilkerson, an All-MAC defensive tackle by trade, bobbled the ball before reeling it in and his right foot stepped out of bounds just before the first down marker at the Temple 34. Frazier and the huskies offense couldn't took advantage of the short field, however, and Teggart came up short on a 48-yard field goal attempt.

Pierce finally flashed the big play ability that was a staple last season when he took a simple screen pass 27 yards for a TD to give Temple a 7-3 edge with 12:24 left before intermission. The sophomore from Ardmore squirted out of the backfield and tip-toed down the left sideline before diving for the pylon to cap a lightning-fast 3-play, 69-yard march that also included a nice 33-yard run-and-catch by junior receiver Joe Jones.

UConn tightened things up late in the first half when Teggart nailed his second field goal of the game, a 26-yarder with two seconds left to make it a 7-6 contest.

The Huskies quickly took back the lead when Todman scampered 59 yards for a score on the opening drive off the second half. The diminutive Todman literally ducked under a scrum of four Temple defenders before surfacing on the other side and racing down the right sidelines for a 13-7 UConn edge.

The Owls finally got their running game going later in the third quarter to see-saw back in front. Pierce had a number of nice runs during a nine-play, 60-yard drive, culminating with a 1-yard TD run. The ensuing PAT by McManus put Temple in front 14-13 with 5:21 remaining in the third.

UConn wasn't trailing for long as Teggart matched his career-high by blasting a 47-yard field goal with under a minute left in the third quarter to vault the Huskies back on top, 16-14.

Temple now moves on to its biggest game of the year, a date with Penn State in Happy Valley next Saturday.


OWL DROPPINGS:

*Temple's eight-game home winning streak bests a seven-game run that spanned the 1940 and '41 seasons at the old Temple Stadium.

*The last time Temple was undefeated when playing Penn State was way back in 1945.

*Temple is now 8-4 all-time versus UConn in a series that dates back to 1963. The Huskies, however, are 3-2 against the Owls since moving to the FBS (Division IA).

*Golden upped his career record at Temple to 22-30 and is 12-4 over the past two seasons.

*Frazier's younger sister Emily is a freshman outside hitter on the Temple volleyball team. Frazier, a Mechanicsburg, PA native, transferred to UConn from Notre Dame.

*Scouts from the Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills and Optium Scouting were on hand.

*With most of the roster shuffling done in the NFL, Temple has six players on NFL rosters: DL Raheem Brock '01 (Tennessee), DT Terrance Knighton '08 (Jacksonville), TE Steve Maneri '09 (New England), DT Andre Neblett '09 (Carolina), DB Dominique Harris '09 (Buffalo-practice squad), DE Brian Sanford
(Cleveland-practice squad). Meanwhile, QB Henry Burris '96 plays for the Calgary Stampeders of the CFL.


SCOUTING THE OWLS:

*Stewart has been very inconsistent early in the season. Like a lot of dual-threat QB's, he holds onto the ball far too long at times while looking to make a play. That has resulted in sacks and fumbles that have killed drives during the team's first three games. Temple has seen a lot of eight- and even nine-man fronts so far this season and will continue to do so until Stewart proves he can beat teams with his arm. So far, Stewart has failed to make a number of routine throws and was especially bad in the second half this afternoon.

*A veteran Temple offensive line was supposed to be the strength of this team but that just hasn't been the case. Right guard Colin Madison, right tackle Darius Morris and center John Palumbo all received preseason All-MAC recognition but the line has been slow to gel this season, making things tough at times for playmakers like Stewart, Pierce and Matt Brown. Pierce has also seen his touches limited due to a concussion he suffered during training camp. The vaunted Temple running game averaged just 3.3 yards against Villanova, 3.2 versus Central Michigan and 2.2 at halftime today before getting things going in the third quarter.

*Wilkerson, a junior, is a load inside and has the frame and ability to be an NFL player. In fact, Wilkerson (6-foot-5, 305) has such good movement skills that Golden had no problem using him as a receiver on the failed fake punt call in the first quarter.

*The Owls offense has impressive size on the outside in Campbell (6-foot-2, 214, Sr.) and Rod Streater (6-foot-4, 196, Jr.) but Stewart has been unable to use it properly. Jones, a former running back, offers speed and open field running ability as the third receiver.

*Special teams is a strength for Temple. McManus and Wathne are both solid, and the team has a host of excellent return men in Green, Brown and James Nixon.

*Tackling is an issue with most college teams these days and Temple is certainly not immune. Six defenders had a shot at Todman on his 59-yard TD run and all six failed to locate the ball and wrap-up.

*Scouts in attendance were on high on junior tight end Matt Balasavage's blocking skills, especially his ability to seal on the edge.
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