For the first time in 19 years, the football team will finish at least .500.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – After Saturday’s 27-24 win against America’s finest, the Midshipmen of Navy, no one can call Temple football a bad program anymore. With six wins, Temple clinched its first non-losing season since 1990. With six wins, the Owls became bowl eligible, a concept that is foreign0000 to most Temple fans. The team is already in uncharted territory in that it’s still playing relevant football in November.
“If you’re in the hunt in November, then every game is important,” coach Al Golden said. “Our goal wasn’t to win six games. Our goal is bigger than that, and we are going just one rung at a time.”
The team definitely looks like it can climb a few more rungs with the always rugged defense and a certain freshman running back on offense.
Bernard Pierce, the centerpiece of this offense, single-handedly carried the offense against Navy. His clutch 41-yard touchdown run came with 1 minute, 32 seconds remaining in the game and his team trailing, 24-20.
“He ran hard, made people miss. I think he showed that when you give him a chance to build up speed, he is pretty hard to bring down,” Golden said. “He’s either going to make you miss, stiff-arm you or run you over.”
“That’s just how I run,” Pierce added.
The way he runs is incredible. Sure, his 267 yards and two touchdowns against Navy look unbelievable on paper, but after watching him run, the numbers make perfect sense. Just when it looks like he’s about to be tackled, Pierce busts out one of his many moves to keep the play alive.
“Amazing, and he is only a freshman. I never expected him to do this well, this quickly,” senior defensive tackle Andre Neblett said. “He hits the hole hard. He’s going to throw a stiff-arm at you. He is just a powerful runner.”
With 1,033 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, Pierce ranks among the top running backs in the country.
The same cannot be said for redshirt junior quarterback Vaughn Charlton, who passed for 37 yards and threw two interceptions Saturday versus Navy.
“He’s struggling, but he’s winning. The Ravens won a Super Bowl with [Trent] Dilfer [at quarterback],” Golden said.
Former Baltimore Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer carries the distinction of being the only National Football League starting quarterback cut from his team after winning the Super Bowl. It seems this is the closest Golden will come to admitting Charlton is not a very good quarterback.
Though Charlton continues to underwhelm under center, it may be best to keep him in the lineup. Taking him out may disrupt the team’s momentum. After all, the team has won six straight games despite Charlton’s struggles, and redshirt sophomore Chester Stewart has done little to inspire confidence throughout his tenure at Temple. So, a switch may not make the passing game any better.
While it’s unreasonable to suggest Temple should have an offense like Navy, which called just seven pass plays Saturday, four of them after the Owls took the 27-24 lead, the Owls should never have a series where they abandon the run and throw the ball three straight times en route to a fourth-down punting situation, which happened on a few drives Saturday.
On a third down inside Navy’s 5-yard line in the fourth quarter, the Owls elected to pass the ball. The pass fell incomplete, and Temple had to settle for a field goal and a 20-24 game when a touchdown would have tied it. If the team is ever inside an opponent’s 5-yard line, what it should do is a no-brainer – give the ball to Pierce. Against Navy, Pierce already had 200-plus rushing yards in the fourth quarter. Asking him to get three or four more yards and a touchdown probably would have made the end of the game a little less complicated.
Regardless, Temple can clinch a winning record with a win over 1-7 Mid-American Conference bottom feeder Miami (Ohio). The light at the end of the tunnel is beginning to emerge. The Owls are inching closer and closer to a big game in Detroit.
Brian Dzenis can be reached at email@example.com.