Coach Al Golden is a former Penn State Nittany Lion. He was also a co-captain on PSU coach Joe Paterno’s Fiesta Bowl-winning 1991 squad. On Saturday, he’ll be his alma mater’s adversary.
Fresh off its 30-16 victory over Big East Conference contender Connecticut, Temple now has the heavy task of facing Penn State. PSU goes into the contest 2-1 after posting a 24-0 shutout of Kent State on Saturday.
Happy Valley hasn’t been too happy for Golden and his crew as of late. Coach Golden is 0-4 against PSU, but he seems to understand there is work to be done. Temple has only scored nine points in the last four meetings between the two teams.
“I’ll be honest. We have not played well up there the last four years,” Golden said after Saturday’s win over UConn. “We can’t play like [the team did against UConn] if we want to beat Penn State.”
The No. 20 team in the nation will put its senior running back Evan Royster on display. Royster had a touchdown, but he had a mere 38 yards on 11 carries last week against the Golden Flashes. The senior has seen Temple every year in his Penn State career. In the last meeting, Royster rushed for 134 yards with a touchdown in PSU’s 31-6 win.
This means the run defense, which had trouble against UConn last week, will need to improve. The Huskies rushed for 240 yards and made the Owls run after them for a majority of the afternoon.
Fortunately for Temple, the Owls’ run game finally broke out. Sophomore running back Bernard Pierce will get another shot to shine against the school known as “Linebacker U.” Pierce had his break-out game of the season last week, as he rushed for two touchdowns and caught another through the air. His 169-yard day marked the third time in his career that he had three touchdowns in a game.
To reach that level again this week, Pierce will have to get through Penn State’s tailor-made run defense. Last week, PSU held the Golden Flashes to 228 total offensive yards, including only 58 yards on the ground. That makes for an interesting matchup for not only Pierce but also redshirt-junior quarterback Chester Stewart.
Stewart is starting to find his running shoes as of late. He rushed for 37 yards against the Huskies, but he also lost yardage on some plays for a net total of 20 yards. Stewart has had an up-and-down season so far for the undefeated Owls. In the three wins, Stewart has been sacked nine times and only had two touchdown passes, but he hasn’t thrown an interception, either. Stewart has been connecting with junior receiver Joe Jones and senior wideout Mike Campbell recently. Look for Penn State’s defense to blitz Stewart a lot, leaving him to somehow avoid PSU’s marquee linebackers, sophomore Mike Mauti and senior Chris Colasanti.
Penn State will rely on freshman quarterback Rob Bolden against a decent pass-defense, led by senior linebacker Elijah Joseph. Penn State should also take notice of the stellar play of junior defensive end Adrian Robinson, the reigning Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
Robinson made the game-changing strip-turned-touchdown against UConn that gave the Owls the lead for good. Expect Penn State to run the ball a lot with Royster, but the Owls should also be on the lookout for senior receiver Graham Zugg and junior wideout Chaz Powell.
The game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. at University Park.