STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The hits keep coming.
Week after week, the Temple football team has been taking its share of licks. For the most part, the Owls have survived the adversity, but this time around, it will take a collective effort to get back in the win column.
After Saturday’s 45-3 loss to No. 16 Penn State, it was learned that redshirt senior quarterback Adam DiMichele would be sidelined for what coach Al Golden called a “considerable amount of time.” The offensive captain and morale leader was blindsided with a rattling hit in the first series of the game.
So, for the second straight year, the team will lose DiMichele to injury.
Last year it was junior Vaughn Charlton who took over the offensive reins. Charlton went 1-3 in starts to finish the season. In the offseason, Charlton’s backup spot was awarded to redshirt freshman Chester Stewart. Now, the Owls will look to rally around Stewart and use his talent and strengths to fool opposing defenses.
“Love the kid,” Golden said. “[I’ve] got a lot of confidence in him. I think anybody that watched [the Penn State game] could tell even when he was scrambling or running he’s always trying to move forward, he’s lowering his shoulder. He’s going to be a good player for us.”
In the first serious action of his collegiate career, Stewart went 16 for 30 for 116 yards and three interceptions. Not bad considering he was thrown into the fire against No. 16 Penn State, a team that has only allowed 10 points per game through four games.
“I have a lot of confidence in Chester,” freshman offensive tackle Wayne Tribue said. “He’s a real athletic guy, and not only that, he knows the offense in and out.”
Stewart provided a glimpse of his fabulous arm strength, easily flicking 40- and 50-yard bombs downfield. One concern is his accuracy, as he sprayed several passes wide of his intended targets Saturday.
However, his biggest asset is his mobility. Golden will be sure to showcase Stewart’s quick feet against upcoming Mid-American Conference opponents.
Stewart gained 52 yards on 18 attempts against the Nittany Lions and avoided a continuous convoy of blue shirts when he could.
“I’m very aggressive when I get on the perimeter,” Stewart said. “When I run, I try to make a statement.”
With the support of his coach and teammates, he should have no problem adapting to the starting role. Stewart believes in himself, and more importantly, in his teammates.
“We always preach to be one team, play as a team,” Stewart said. “Everybody looks out for each other, everybody plays for each other. Really it’s not just on me, it’s on everybody.”
Stewart will need more help from the offensive muscle in front of him. Against Penn State, he was sacked six times and consistently hurried out of the pocket. Buying time will give Stewart a chance to step up and make the plays he made in his high school days.
His impressive track record began at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md. There, he led his team to a 12-0 record and a No. 1 ranking in the state according to a poll of reporters. USA Today ranked the team No. 10 in the country. DeMatha has also bred all-pro NFL running back Brian Westbrook of the Philadelphia Eagles.
With those credentials on his resume, Stewart now looks to handle the spotlight that comes with being the team’s leading man.
Saturday’s homecoming game against Western Michigan should be a solid gauge of his abilities. If he has more time in the pocket to settle his feet and nerves, the Owls might find the endzone more frequently.
In the meantime, veteran leaders have embraced their new signal caller and are looking to move forward from recent hardships.
“He’s a great quarterback,” redshirt senior wide receiver Travis Shelton said. “He’s a young guy, but he’s ready. We have the utmost confidence in Chester.”
Anthony Stipa can be reached at email@example.com.