Coach Al Golden’s quarterback switch gives Mike Gerardi his first 2010 appearance.
Video by Dan Smith and Alex Wright. Edited by Brittani Miller.
By relying on two players with drastically different levels of gameday experience, coach Al Golden and the football team defeated Bowling Green, 28-27, in Saturday’s homecoming game.
After redshirt-junior quarterback Chester Stewart threw an interception on the second drive of the game, which was returned 49 yards for a touchdown, Golden decided to let redshirt-junior quarterback Mike Gerardi see his first action of the season. Gerardi, a former walk-on, did not disappoint as he connected with junior wide receiver Rod Streater for an 80-yard touchdown on his first play.
“I came out of the play-action fake, and I just saw [Streater] wide open,” Gerardi said. “I just threw up the ball. It wasn’t even the best pass, but … He caught it, and I knew it was a touchdown. Nobody was going to catch him.”
On the next Temple drive, Gerardi connected with redshirt-junior tight end Evan Rodriguez for another long touchdown, this time from 46 yards away. Entering the half, Gerardi was seven-of-eight for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Stewart, meanwhile, went one-of-three for 11 yards and an interception. While Golden said Gerardi was likely to get into the game regardless of Stewart’s performance, it did not make his preparation any easier, Gerardi said.
“It’s hard being the second quarterback,” Gerardi said. “You’ve got to go out there and execute when you get in. You never know what’s going to happen. You just go out there and wait for your turn.”
Despite playing his first meaningful game since prep school, Gerardi’s nerves were intact, he said.
“I really wasn’t nervous,” Gerardi said. “I had butterflies before the game, but I knew what I had to do when I got out there.”
“[Gerardi] played like he played at practice all week,” sophomore running back Bernard Pierce said. “He made every ball count. He didn’t throw any balls into the ground. He stepped up big this week.”
While Gerardi, who finished the game with 163 passing yards, revived the passing attack in the first half, the ground game appeared stagnant. Pierce and sophomore running back Matt Brown combined for just 27 yards on nine carries in the opening 30 minutes. At halftime, Pierce made his feelings about the shift in the first-half play calling known, he said.
“I didn’t like [the play calling in the first half],” Pierce said. “The coaches wanted to throw the ball more in the first half.”
Pierce responded to his coaches’ confidence by rushing for 92 yards and a touchdown in the second half. The Glen Mills product’s 106 rushing yards were the most he’s rushed since his 169 yards against Connecticut on Sept. 18.
Pierce found the end zone on a six-yard run toward the end of the third quarter to put the Owls up, 28-14. Not ready to go away quite yet, the Falcons would respond with two touchdowns, including a four-yard pass from redshirt-freshman quarterback Matt Schilz to redshirt-senior wide receiver Calvin Wiley as time expired.
With his team trailing 28-27, Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson elected to attempt a two-point conversion instead of kicking an extra point. On the attempt, the Owls managed to prevent redshirt-junior wide receiver Kamar Jorden, who finished the game with 12 catches for 143 yards, from coming down with the pass to secure the win. Temple’s team identity helped lead to the controversial call, Clawson said.
“Part of my thought was that we were not going to win a redzone contest with Temple,” Clawson said. “If it came down to running the football and kicking field goals, I did not feel like that was a back-and-forth battle that we were going to win.”
“I think [the Falcons] were probably a little banged up,” Golden said. “I think [Clawson] thought it was his best chance to have a shot from the three-yard line.”
“I thought that was the right decision if I was him,” Golden added.
After he missed the majority of the second half against Penn State with an ankle injury, Pierce sat out two weeks ago against Army. In last week’s game against Northern Illinois, Pierce managed a mere six yards on three carries. Being able to play closer to the level he’s used to was uplifting, Pierce said.
“[Missing games] is frustrating, and that’s why I came out with a big chip on my shoulder,” Pierce said. “I did miss a couple of games, so it did feel good to go out there and make a big contribution to the team.”
“You could see that he was ready to run,” Golden added. “He had a good week, and he was healthy. I’m happy for him that he had a consistent week and a good look going into it.”
After the game, Stewart appeared upset about his situation, but he said his benching would not lead to any complaining on his part.
“I’m a man,” Stewart said. “I’m not a little boy. I’m not going to cry about [being benched].”
With the win, Temple improved to 5-2 overall and 2-1 in the Mid-American Conference.
The Owls travel to New York this weekend to play Buffalo on Saturday. The last time the Cherry and White visited upstate New York, they lost on a controversial call at the end of the game. The game starts at noon and will be carried locally on 6ABC.
Kyle Gauss can be reached at email@example.com.