After he replaced Stewart on Saturday, Gerardi improved the passing game.
Last Saturday, Temple fans saw the era of redshirt-junior quarterback Chester Stewart come to an abrupt end. He started for the Owls in their 28-27 win over Bowling Green, but he wasn’t under center when it was over.
“We were going to play [Gerardi] anyway going into it. He would have been out the next series anyway,” coach Al Golden said. “I know you guys wouldn’t believe it because it was like a Hollywood script, but he was going to play in the third series. It just so happened that the previous series ended with a pick-six.”
Yeah, I’m totally convinced Golden’s decision to put Gerardi in had absolutely nothing to do with Stewart throwing an interception that was returned 49 yards for a touchdown.
I’ll never truly know whether the decision was scripted or a knee-jerk reaction, and I don’t really care. What I do care about is Gerardi’s performance, which was really good, considering he never threw a pass in his collegiate career before Saturday’s game.
He did something Stewart rarely could do: hit an open receiver on a deep pass. That 80-yard touchdown pass to junior wideout Rod Streater was a refreshing sight.
“I came out of a play-action fake, and I just saw him wide open,” Gerardi said. “I just threw up the ball, and it wasn’t even the best pass, but he was just so open. He caught it, and I knew it was a touchdown.”
Hitting wide-open receivers for touchdowns? What a concept.
His overall line was impressive, too, as he went nine-for-15 for 163 passing yards and two touchdown passes with no turnovers. I’ll gladly take that line game in and game out for the rest of the season. Gerardi’s play showed classic, ideal quarterback play in this offense, making the most of limited passing attempts, not turning the ball and occasionally making a big play here or there.
“Clearly he made some good throws,” Golden said. “He conducted the game well and managed the game well.”
Golden wasn’t clear about who will be the starting quarterback going forward. If I had a say in the matter, I’d recommend riding the hot hand of Gerardi to see where it takes the team. Switching around quarterbacks doesn’t seem like a sound idea, especially when one is playing well and the other had to be benched after throwing only three passes.
“I’m kind of frustrated, but it’s part of the game,” Stewart said. “I’m a man. I’m not a little boy, so I’m not going to cry about it. I’m going to work and do my best and control what I can control.”
Given Golden’s track record with quarterbacks, it’s likely Stewart will see playing time again. Last season, then redshirt-junior quarterback Vaughn Charlton lost the starting gig only to reclaim it when the Owls went to the EagleBank Bowl.
Will it be a bad thing when Stewart returns? If he shows no improvement from the past six games – yes. He has to work on hitting the deep passes consistently and find a cure for his fumblitis. Even though the quarterback is not the focal point of the Owls’ offense, the guy under center needs to handle his role and not ruin things for the rest of the offense.
Speaking of focal points, it was nice to see sophomore running back Bernard Pierce back doing what he does best, gaining triple-digit rushing yards and scoring touchdowns. After being relatively inactive for the past two weeks due to injuries, Pierce rushed for 106 yards and scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter. He did most of his damage in the second half, as he only had three carries for 14 yards in the first, as the offense was more pass-oriented.
“The coaches wanted to throw the ball in the first half, so I came into the locker room and I kind of got mad and started yelling, and they said ‘All right, we’re gonna run the ball,’” Pierce said.
I’m cool with running the ball, too, especially with the team’s struggles on third down, where the team went one-for-nine against the Falcons. Running the ball allows the team to eat up time on the clock when it has the lead and give the defense a rest, which has been an issue for the past few games. It also provides a boost for the offense.
“Our running game is our foundation,” Gerardi said. “When our running game is going well, it opens up everything else.”
The close score aside, a lot of things went right against Bowling Green. Gerardi showed signs he can be a legitimate quarterback, Pierce bounced back from his injuries, and the defense lived up to its bend-but-don’t-break moniker by stepping up when the game was on the line.
Sure, there will always be adjustments to be made, but right now, things are looking pretty solid for the Owls.
Brian Dzenis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.