Jacobs: Coyer shines in season opener

Chris Coyer fulfills the role of leader, not team’s best player.

Ibrahim Jacobs

Ibrahim JacobsWhen the top two quarterbacks on the roster have the nicknames of “Juice” and “Fat Cat,” the general consensus is that you would choose the former to start over the latter.

Nobody would confuse the starting quarterback with a pocket passer. His teammates call him “Fat Cat” because his build likens him more to throwing fullback rather than a running quarterback. But the “Fat Cat” can move.

Redshirt-junior quarterback Chris “Fat Cat” Coyer showed why he could be the leader the offense needs to succeed in the Big East during the team’s 41–10 victory against Villanova on Aug. 31.

By no means was his stat line eye-popping — he completed 5 of 11 passes for 61 yards and a touchdown, while adding 80 yards and another touchdown on the ground. What won’t be seen in the box score is the show Coyer put on for the 32,709 fans in attendance.

Coyer could simply be heard. He was heard making audibles at the line of scrimmage. He was heard leading his team on and off the field. He is probably still being heard by the Villanova defensive back whom he planted while throwing a block for a run.

“We probably don’t need to be doing that too much, you know what I mean?” coach Steve Addazio said about the block. “He takes enough shots. Our kids are tough kids and competitive kids. It’s hard to take that away from a guy. But I would probably rather not see him do that too much more.”

What wasn’t heard was Addazio complaining about Coyer’s turnovers, because he didn’t commit any. What wasn’t heard was Coyer complaining after the game about how he wanted Addazio to call more passing plays.

“You have to play it by ear,” Coyer said. “Maybe next week we throw a little bit more, maybe we don’t. It all depends on how the game is played.”

Addazio admitted that he called mostly running plays for the offense against Villanova, but not due to a lack of confidence in Coyer.

“I came out here today and I wanted to get something established,” Addazio said. “I wanted to establish that toughness, I wanted to see that. I wanted to see us have the ability to go out there and smash mouth them a little bit and that’s my call.”

However, the title of the team’s best player belongs to senior running back Matt Brown. With 145 yards rushing and a touchdown, while netting another 125 yards on special teams against Villanova, Brown flourished in the spotlight on a team devoid of Bernard Pierce.

Brown’s emergence, coupled with a relentless defense that is adamant about finishing plays and creating turnovers, will be Coyer’s best friends throughout the season.

In all likelihood, this team will not score 41 points again all year. The competition only gets better and its ability to continuously run the ball all game is not realistic. What they managed to do though, is hide a majority of their game plan from future competition. The use of athletic playmakers — such as sophomore wide receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick, freshman wide receiver Khalif Herbin and sophomore running back Kenny Harper — to run a spread offense gives Coyer an entire bag of tricks that he and Addazio have yet to use.

“We didn’t get that piece going,” Addazio said. “We have a piece there that we did not get going tonight. Utilizing [the players] in a spread component is something that we will get some mileage out of.”

The challenge for Coyer this season is not to be what Pierce was to this team last year. He doesn’t need to put the entire offense on his back and try to run down the field. His strong supporting cast can carry most of the load for him. He just needs to be consistent, make plays when called upon and play smart football. Most importantly, he needs to lead.

Coyer may not be the best player on this roster, but the team belongs to the “Fat Cat.”

Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at ibrahim.jacobs@temple.edu or on Twitter @ibrahimjacobs.

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