STATE COLLEGE, Pa.—The football team lost their leader.
Then they lost the game.
Redshirt senior quarterback Adam DiMichele injured his shoulder on the Owls’ opening drive, and without him, his teammates were dominated by No. 16 Penn State, losing the contest 45-3 Saturday at Beaver Stadium.
The Nittany Lions scored on five consecutive possessions in the second quarter, and before halftime, the game was out of reach for coach Al Golden’s squad.
But the real focus of the contest was on the injury to DiMichele.
On third down and 13 from the Penn State 49-yard line, DiMichele was sacked by Penn State sophomore defensive end Aaron Maybin from his blind side, causing an excruciating amount of pain to the redshirt senior’s shoulder.
The Owls’ offensive leader was examined on the Temple (1-3) sideline for a few minutes after the hit, but mid-way through the first quarter, he was carted off into the locker room and didn’t return to the sideline until the second half.
On the sideline, DiMichele had a towel over his head and was wearing street clothes, a clear sign that he wasn’t returning to action.
After the game, Golden indicated that DiMichele will be out a significant period of time.
“It’s going to be a while,” he said. “I don’t know what the complete diagnosis is, but it’s going to be a while. He’s going to be out a considerable amount of time.”
So with the centerpiece to the Temple offense out, redshirt freshman quarterback Chester Stewart stepped into the spotlight and played the first significant minutes of his collegiate career.
And things didn’t exactly go as planned.
Even though Stewart completed his first pass from the Temple 2-yard line, he finished the day with just 116 passing yards, 3 interceptions and a completion percentage of 53 percent.
However, the freshman from Hanover, Md. was still confident in his ability to now lead this football team, as Golden already named him the starter for next week.
But, with the Owls’ captain out, Stewart emphasized that this is now a team effort.
“We always preach to be one team,” he said. “Play as a team, everybody look out for each other, everybody play for each other. So, really, it’s not just on me, it’s on everybody.”
Though his teammates, especially the veterans like senior wide receivers Bruce Francis and Travis Shelton, made a point to come up to Stewart and let him know that they have his back.
“We have all the confidence in Chester,” Shelton said. “He’s a great quarterback, he’s a young guy, but he’s ready…so we have the up-most confidence in Chester.”
The confidence they have him in didn’t exactly show on the field, as the difficulty of Stewart’s day was compounded by the pass rush of the Nittany Lions, one that the Owls offensive line was unable to contend with.
All told, Penn State (4-0) accumulated seven sacks, 12 tackles for losses, a forced fumble and they allowed Temple to run for just 67 yards on 28 carries.
“We need to protect the quarterback better,” Golden said. “Obviously that’s the bottom line…but we didn’t do a good job protecting the quarterback.”
Redshirt junior tackle Devin Tyler, who gave up him the sack that caused the DiMichele injury, was well aware of his struggles on the field.
“They played very well today,” Tyler said. “I stayed away from my technique a lot, I didn’t execute like I wanted to.”
Perhaps the only positive for the Owls, besides holding the Nittany Lions scoreless in the first quarter, was the kick return game, headlined by Shelton’s 74-yard return in the second quarter.
In the end, the Owls finished with 221 return yards on six returns, which helped the Temple offense start in formidable field position all game.
“The return team is doing a great job,” Shelton said. “Coach is calling the right returns, and we’re just trying to execute them. [But we’ve] got to finish it.”
The Owls will need to take that lone shining light of optimism into next week’s Mid-American Conference matchup with Western Michigan, which will be the homecoming game for the Cherry and White. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m at Lincoln Financial Field.
There was some Cherry shirts sprinkled around the sea of Blue and White at Beaver Stadium…Though, the stadium was not filled to capacity…The Temple cheerleaders, some Diamond Gems, and President Ann Weaver Hart were on hand…Penn State now advances to 34-3-1 all-time against Temple…The two teams will meet each of the next four seasons, with 2010’s contest slated for Lincoln Financial Field.
Todd Orodenker can be reached at email@example.com.