The defense played poorly, while Chester Stewart started at QB.
While it isn’t surprising that Temple beat a then-1-8 Miami (Ohio) team Thursday, a few surprising things happened during the game.
The first thing is the score: 34-32. Fun fact: The now-1-9 RedHawks have scored more points against the Owls than any other opponent this season, including Penn State. The Nittany Lions defeated the Owls, 31-6, back on Sept. 19.
“You’ve got to give tremendous credit to Miami [Ohio]. I can see they have changed on film early in the season until now. I knew we were going to have our hands full,” coach Al Golden said.
The defense certainly had its hands full trying to contain the spread offense led by redshirt freshman quarterback Zac Dysert. Dysert seemed to move the ball easily judging from his stats, 426 passing yards and three touchdowns. Every kind of pass play – short, long, screen – seemed to work against the Temple secondary. The defense managed to get one interception, which led to a first-quarter field goal, but other than that, it wasn’t the unit’s best week.
“We just didn’t get as many takeaways as you should get against a team that throws that many times,” Golden said.
Golden opted to go with redshirt sophomore Chester Stewart in a surprise start at quarterback instead of redshirt junior Vaughn Charlton. The move was surprising and not surprising at the same time. On one hand, Charlton has played poorly and can be seen as a liability rather than an asset to the team this season. But Golden stuck with him through eight games, so it seemed he was willing to ride out Charlton’s struggles.
“Chester’s been really improving,” Golden said. “He was ready for his opportunity, and we just made the decision.”
“Coach always preaches to prepare as if you were a starter,” Stewart added. “I’m always prepared to be the starter in case Vaughn goes down.”
Or if Charlton puts up a stinker like the one he had at Navy, where he threw for 37 yards and two interceptions. Stewart had a few hiccups taking snaps from the center, but he did the job he was asked to do – protect the ball. He only threw the ball 11 times, completing six of them for 143 yards, but that’s the way it should be with freshman running back Bernard Pierce having the success he’s had on the ground.
“We don’t need a guy that throws 300 yards when we’re rushing for a whole bunch of yards,” Golden said. “We want to control the clock. We can’t have a quarterback that turns the ball over.”
It doesn’t really matter who the quarterback is, as long as he doesn’t turn the ball over. Stewart was fine against Miami (Ohio), but whether he can keep this up remains to be seen.
Pierce had another multi-touchdown game, as he made three trips to the endzone to go with his 178 yards, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone by this point in the season.
“It’s awesome to have a running back like Bernard. It just makes our job so much easier,” sophomore offensive lineman Steve Caputo said. “When he makes big runs, it’s all him, and he’s unbelievable. We haven’t had somebody like this in a while.”
It’s remarkable that he can keep up this production as teams key in on him.
“There’s always a possibility that he’s going to score,” Stewart said. “The way he runs causes teams to stack the box and gives us the opportunity to throw the ball downfield.”
That was a big reason Stewart connected on a 31-yard pass to sophomore receiver Joe Jones. The Miami (Ohio) defense stacked the box because of Pierce’s 18-yard run on the previous play.
For this game, at least, the offense made up for some of the defense’s struggles to will Temple to the win.
“I kept telling the staff and the guys, ‘If you want to be a good team and have one of these streaks, there’s going to be games like this,’” Golden said.
Brian Dzenis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.