STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Last year, the football team lost its starting quarterback, Adam DiMichele, to a shoulder injury at Penn State.
This year, redshirt junior starter Vaughn Charlton made the trip back to Temple in one piece, getting sacked just two times.
And though the Owls lost, 31-6, to the No. 5 Nittany Lions Saturday, coach Al Golden said Charlton’s play impressed him the most.
“The thing that I was most pleased about was for Vaughn to come into this environment and really look it in the eye and not lose his poise,” Golden said. “I thought Vaughn Charlton played with great poise, made good decisions, made some big-time throws. We have to help him out a little bit better. We could have caught some of the ones he threw us early that would have got us going, but I thought he really came back well. Obviously, having no interceptions is great.”
Charlton finished the game 15-for-33 for 205 yards and no touchdowns. But, as Golden said, he didn’t commit any turnovers either.
In the season opener versus Villanova, Charlton went 19-for-28 for 317 yards and two touchdowns but threw three interceptions. The last one set the Wildcats up for their game-winning field goal.
“I think the preparation and the rest definitely helped me,” Charlton said. “I was prepared enough where I didn’t really have to think. I think I just really came out and played today. That was definitely a big thing coming into this game today for me.”
Charlton continued to accurately throw deep passes, carrying over his success from the Sept. 3 game. Against the Wildcats, he completed two touchdown passes, a 75-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver James Nixon and a 44-yarder to junior wide receiver Michael Campbell.
Charlton threw four passes of more than 20 yards against the Nittany Lions – a 36-yarder and a 24-yarder to redshirt sophomore running back Joe Jones, a 23-yard pass to Campbell for his lone catch of the day after a five-catch 93-yard performance the game before and a 29-yard pass to Nixon.
The 29-yard reception by Nixon came on a first-quarter drive after junior linebacker Amara Kamara intercepted Penn State senior quarterback Daryll Clark.
On the first play of that drive, Charlton threw deep to an open Nixon, who dropped the ball at the goal line for an incomplete pass.
“As soon as it happens, you’ve got to let it go,” Charlton said. “If you let it dwell on you, if you let it hang with you, then it will just be a negative thought with negative energy. It looked like it was caught, but whatever happened, happened. I didn’t really get a good look at it.”
Nixon said the defender made “a very good defensive play” as he was pulling the ball in for the catch.
“He reached across me and pulled it out at the goal line,” Nixon said. “Vaughn just told me to keep my head and my composure after the play. I’ll be working on my technique more before the Buffalo game.”
“We had a chance to hit a post early to James,” Golden added. “We didn’t convert it, and boy, that would’ve done wonders.”
By Golden’s estimation, the Owls also caught just one-of-six screen passes, skewing Charlton’s line a little.
“I just thought there were some times that we just either didn’t put it on them or a kid kind of just cut his route off. [They] just kind of lost their poise a little bit at times, especially on the little screen passes,” Golden said. “I’ll throw a number out there. I’m not sure it was correct, but I bet you we were one-for-six on screens, and you can’t do that on the screen game. A lot of that was just some guys losing their poise on the timing part of it.”
One player a little off on his timing was redshirt sophomore quarterback Chester Stewart, who entered the game in place of Charlton at quarterback four times during the game.
He attempted no passes but carried the ball four times for -10 yards.
His fumble on a first-and-10 play from Temple’s 20-yard line in the third quarter set up a Penn State field goal that increased the Nittany Lions’ lead to 24-6.
“It doesn’t bother me at all [when Stewart comes in],” Charlton said. “That is what we did this game. I love it. I love when Chester comes in because he is a dynamic player, and he causes problems.”
“When you get in, you want to make a play,” Stewart added. “You need to do the little things right first, though, and I didn’t secure the ball like I should have.
“We didn’t execute on our big plays, and that’s what we’ve got to do going forward,” Stewart said. “If we execute on our big plays, we’ll be fine.”
Jennifer Reardon can be reached at email@example.com.