It turns out Temple is not the only Mid-American Conference team led by a star freshman. On Thursday, the Owls weathered the offensive storm of 426 yards and three touchdowns from redshirt freshman quarterback Zac Dysert for a last second 34-32 win over Miami (Ohio) (1-9, 1-5 in MAC).
At first, it did not look like Miami would be a serious threat to the six-game win streak as the Owls got off to good start with two quick first quarter touchdowns. The first involved freshman running back Bernard Pierce with a 1-yard touchdown run at the goal line and the other was another 1-yard touchdown run from redshirt junior quarterback Vaughn Charlton off a fake field goal attempt. It was the first time the Owls have attempted a special teams trick play this season.
“We just wanted to run the play. I thought we could score there, and we did.” Coach Al Golden said.
There was also another first for the team that game. Golden decided to start sophomore Chester Stewart at quarterback instead of Charlton, who was the starter since the beginning of the season.
“It was no secret that Vaughn didn’t have a good game last week and Chester’s really been improving.” Golden said. “He never complained about not being the starter, he was ready for his opportunity and we just made the decision.”
Stewart played the game-manager role well for the Owls, throwing for 143 yards with no interceptions.
With five minutes left in the second quarter, Pierce scored his second rushing touchdown on a 7-yard run to make the score 21-3. Miami was able to cut their deficit with Dysert throwing an 11-yard touchdown pass to redshirt junior wide receiver Armand Robison and junior placekicker Trevor Cook kicked a 26-yard field goal to cut Temple’s lead to 8 points and the RedHawks went into halftime losing 21-13.
While Temple was winning at halftime, the RedHawks were giving the Owls a run for their money in the passing game. Miami’s spread attack was stretching the Owls defense and Dysert already had 214 yards and a touchdown.
“The kid did a good job getting rid of the ball, he had a hot hand. He made some big time plays creating on the run.” Golden said.
Temple added 10 more points in the third quarter with a 42-yard field goal from freshman placekicker Brandon McManus and 14-yard touchdown run from Pierce, his third of the game.
“It looked like we had a big lead and would move away with it, but they came back.” Golden said.
And come back they did. Dysert opened the fourth quarter with 24-yard touchdown pass to freshman tight end Steve Marck. After the Miami defense forced a three-and-out from Temple. Dysert and the offense marched up the field and threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Robinson for the tandem’s second touchdown. They attempted a two-point conversion, but failed as Dysert’s QB sneak was stopped short of the goal line. Another three-and-out from Temple and Miami scored a touchdown off 2-yard run from junior running back Travis Merriweather and following another failed two-point conversion, the RedHawks were ahead of the Owls 32-31 with four minutes left in the game.
Just like the Navy, the Owls needed another fourth quarter comeback.
“The look on everybody’s face is ‘OK, let’s get the ball. Let’s get the ball and let’s go.’” Golden said.
An 18-yard run from Bernard Pierce and a 31-yard pass from Stewart to sophomore receiver Joe Jones put the Owls in the red zone. Pierce tried to pound the ball inside for the game-winning touchdown but was stalled and with three seconds left in the game, McManus was called in to kick the game winning field goal.
“I figured it would [come down to a field goal], I just had to keep my composure and just stay calm throughout the process.” McManus said.
McManus drilled the 18-yarder, a kick slightly shorter than an extra point attempt for the win and kept the team’s win streak alive.
“Yeah, that one was the first ever of my career, I just thank the [Miami] defense for stopping them on two to give me the chance to win the game.”
Game Notes: The win guarantees a winning season for the first time since 1990. The last time Temple won seven straight was in 1973 under coach Wayne Hardin, that team won eight straight games that season. Pierce now has 14 touchdowns this season, one shy of the school record, 15, held by Paul Palmer (1986) and Walter Washington (2004). This is Pierce’s fifth multi-touchdown game and his second game with three touchdowns; his last three touchdown game came against Toledo.
Brian Dzenis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.