For the second week in a row, Temple coach Al Golden and the football team defeated champions.
A week after defeating defending Football Championship Subdivision national champions Villanova, 31-24, by relying heavily on the leg of sophomore placekicker Brandon McManus, the Owls watched as McManus hit another game-winning field goal on Thursday against Central Michigan.
McManus, who hit 4-of-5 field goals against the Wildcats, missed his first two attempts against CMU. The 6-foot-3-inch North Penn High School product bounced back by hitting his next two attempts, including a 30-yarder in overtime that beat the defending Mid-American Conference champion Chippewas, 13-10.
“[McManus] didn’t start off the game real good, but he hung in there and stayed with it,” Golden said. “He was able to stay focused and not lose his poise. I’m really happy he had the chance to atone and get that opportunity.”
Sophomore running back Bernard Pierce did not start for the second consecutive game but finished with 10 carries for 57 yards and a touchdown. Pierce left the game in the third quarter after sustaining a hand injury. The injury came as a result of Pierce running a play from the Wildcat, a formation where the running back lines up at quarterback. Pierce chose not to speak to reporters once the game ended, but his injury did not appear to be too serious.
Sophomore running back Matt Brown, who started in Pierce’s place, rushed for 48 yards on 16 carries.
After Pierce’s touchdown, the Owls kept a lead until CMU freshman kicker David Harman connected on a 31-yard field goal to tie the game with 1 minute, 11 seconds remaining in the game.
Junior quarterback Chester Stewart attempted to lead the Owls on a scoring drive before the end of regulation but fumbled the ball on Temple’s 43-yard line with 35 seconds remaining. Junior defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson would bail Stewart out by forcing a fumble by CMU sophomore quarterback Ryan Radcliff to end regulation.
Wilkerson had another solid game for the Owls. The Outland Trophy watch-list member recorded two sacks and a forced fumble, as he helped limit the Chippewas to 43 rushing yards.
Temple’s defense prevented CMU from scoring on two of the four times the Chippewas entered the red zone. The resiliency of the defense was impressive, Golden said.
“[The red zone is] where games are won and lost,” Golden said. “That’s a sign of a good defense if you can be good in the red zone.”
“[Central Michigan often] scores 33, 34, 35 points a game, and in five quarters, they score 10,” Golden added. “I think that is probably the most pleasing [thing about the victory].”
The game did not appear to be headed toward such a tight finish after redshirt-junior quarterback Chester Stewart connected with junior wide receiver Rod Streater on a 56-yard bomb on Temple’s first offensive play of the game.
However, CMU’s defense prevented the Owls from finding the end zone, which led to McManus missing his first field goal. The Owls wanted to set the tone early with the deep pass, Streater said.
“[Offensive coordinator Matt Rhule] wanted to get the ball in the right position, and we figured that we’d start off with a big play,” Streater said. “I was hoping that I would score, but it still worked out really well.”
Stewart would finish with 151 yards off 16-of-22 passing. Streater, who has quickly become one of Stewart’s favorite targets, finished with two catches for 64 yards.
Ultimately, the Chippewas made too many mental mistakes to beat the Owls, Central Michigan coach Dan Enos said.
“I think that we had seven penalties alone in the first half, and when you do that against a good football team, then you’re not going to win,” Enos said. “We made too many mistakes to beat a good team … they are well-coached.”
CMU displayed a stingy defense during the game. The Chippewas limited the Owls to 265 total yards on offense, including only 151 yards through the air.
The Temple defense had trouble stopping Radcliff throughout the game. The 6-foot-2-inch signal-caller passed for 299 yards while completing 71-percent of his passes.
Sophomore wide receiver Cody Wilson proved to be the benefactor of Radcliff’s accuracy as he caught seven passes for a career-high 153 yards.
Along with Pierce’s injury, Temple also saw junior guard Wayne Tribue go down with an undisclosed injury. Tribue was later seen along the sidelines wearing street clothes and using a crutch.
“Obviously it’s hard to lose a guy like [Tribue] because he gives it his all every play,” junior tackle Steve Caputo said.
With the win, the Owls have started the season 2-0 for the first time since 1981. Additionally, the win marked the first time in school history that Temple has won an overtime game.
The Owls continue their homestand on Saturday when they play Connecticut. Kickoff is set for noon.
Kyle Gauss can be reached at email@example.com.