Junior running back Bernard Pierce broke five school records in win.
For the second year in a row, the football team has had back-to-back shutout wins as the Owls defeated the Buffalo Bulls 34-0 in the team’s annual Homecoming Game on Saturday.
The Owls’ ground game led the team to victory as the team ran roughshod against the Bulls with 400 combined rushing yards. Junior running backs Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown both topped 100 yards on the ground with 154 and 120 rushing yards, respectively. Pierce added two touchdowns while Brown had one. Pierce gave credit to the offensive line for the big day.
“That’s my line, I love them to death, they do the majority of the work on the field and I just run,” Pierce said. “They’re the hogs, they’re moving people and hitting people every play, but I’m proud of them, they opened up holes on every play for both me and [Brown].”
With those two touchdowns, Pierce’s total on the season is now 17, which surpasses the single-season record for total receiving and rushing touchdowns he set in 2009 and tied the all-time record for career total points with 264 points, a record set by former running back Paul Palmer from 1983 through 1986.
“It means a lot, it means I’m in the mix with all the great backs that came to Temple, but at the end of the day, it means we have five regular season games left, so I have to keep looking toward the next game,” Pierce said. “It’s nice to know, but I’m not worried about it too much.”
Because of the Owls’ prowess on the ground, they were able to control the clock to the tune of keeping possession of the ball for nearly two thirds of the game at 39 minutes, eight seconds compared to the Bulls 20:52 time of possession.
“That’s what we’re about, our whole goal is to play great defense,” coach Steve Addazio said. “When you’re able to run the football, you’re speaking to time of possession.”
“It’s really rejuvenating if the offense keeps the ball and controls the clock and leaves the defense fresh so we can go out and play strong,” senior defensive back Kee-Ayre Griffin added.
The defense made the most of the time it saw on the field as defensive coordinator Chuck Heater’s unit limited the Bulls to 155 yards of total offense and forced an interception during the course of the game.
“I think the defense has played really well, but I think we played well as a team,” Addazio said. “We had 39 minutes of possession on offense, and that gives the defense a chance to be fresh. Our whole program is centered around defense. Number one is defense. Defense gives you a chance to compete for a championship.”
“We think [the shutouts are] a big deal, we don’t go into games thinking we’re shutting the teams out, we just think about going play by play and going through the game like that,” Griffin added.
The special teams unit also made two huge plays that contributed to the win toward the end of the second quarter, which Addazio called “explosives.”
The first “explosive” came off a fake punt play that resulted in redshirt-junior linebacker Ahkeem Smith taking a direct snap 49 yards for a touchdown.
“[We’ve been working on the fake punt] since spring, everyday,” Addazio said. “We told them today, this may be the day we’re going to use that. I was ready to roll on that one. 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 added. “We saw that it was the perfect situation, so we called it before they snapped the ball.”
The second major play came when Griffin blocked Buffalo senior placekicker Peter Fardon’s 39-yard field goal attempt, which snuffed out one of the Bulls few chances of scoring in the game.
“When I blocked the field goal I was pretty excited and started celebrating before the play was over. I’ll probably get chewed out in the meetings for it—we pretty much schemed it and executed the play,” Griffin said.
With the win, the Owls are a win shy of bowl eligibility with a 5-2 overall record and a 3-1 mark in the Mid-American Conference, which currently has them in first place in the MAC East.
Up next, the Owls have their next two games on the road as they travel to Bowling Green, Ohio next Saturday to take on the Falcons.
Brian Dzenis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.