Connor Reilly didn’t wait long to show fans why he had been selected the starting quarterback of the White squad in the school’s annual spring football game.
The junior quarterback rolled to his left and hit junior running back Kenneth Harper for a 50-yard bomb on the team’s first play from scrimmage, setting up the Reilly to fire an 11-yard touchdown pass two plays later to put the White squad up 7-0.
The White team, consisting of the first-team offense and the second-team defense beat the Cherry squad 34-28 at Chodoff Field in the team’s annual Cherry & White game. The Cherry squad featured the defensive starters and offensive second unit led by senior quarterback Clinton Granger.
“The team did pretty well,” Reilly said. “There were a lot of missed throws on my part but the O-line only having nine and going both ways did well. As a whole unit, Cherry and White, I think both sides did phenomenal today, but there’s a lot we can work on.”
The offensive line was limited to nine players. The unit wore black jerseys and played on both sides of the ball.
The starting quarterback for opening day last season, redshirt-senior Chris Coyer suited up for the White squad at tight end. While he did attempt one pass on a gadget play, he didn’t line up under center one time. Coyer, still listed on the roster as a quarterback, went 0-for-1 passing, but was on the receiving end of two Reilly touchdown passes. One for the first score of the game, another a 65-yard strike on what would be the eventual game-winning score.
“He is a weapon,” coach Matt Rhule said about Coyer. “If Connor can come through and Chris come through now you have two really good players and two guys the players believe in… He’s a 230 pound guy out there catching passes and as the game wears on defenders get tired of tackling 230-pound guys.”
The team threw more than they had in any game in all of last season. Reilly went 26-of-41 for 366 yards and four touchdowns while Granger threw 44 times, completing 26, for three touchdowns. Both quarterbacks threw one interception. The team collectively threw above 30 times once last season when they attempted 32 passes against Cincinnati. They averaged 20 attempts per game on the season.
“We are pass-heavy right now,” Rhule said. “I want to see what they can do when the lights come on. Connor hasn’t played in a long time and [Granger] has two starts at Temple. I need to see what they can do with a pass rush.”
In what Rhule is saying is an open competition at the quarterback position, Reilly moved the ball better than Granger and led the team to a win. Rhule said it was important to look at the whole picture when evaluating the players’ performance.
“[Granger] was under more pressure at times than Connor was, and I think that’s important to note,” Rhule said. “I’ll have a better feel when I watch the film but they’re both right there as we go through camp.”
Granger was sacked five times to Reilly’s two. Redshirt freshman Thomas Rumer, who lined up at quarterback for the Cherry squad, went 1-of-2 for 13 yards while being sacked three times.
Freshman Averee Robinson turned heads in what was the first time Temple fans got to see him perform. Robinson, the younger brother of former Owl Adrian Robinson, finished with four sacks and a forced fumble despite being undersized at his position.
Robinson said he needs to gain 15 more pounds from where he sits at 260 pounds right now.
“I did pretty good today I think,” Robinson said. He said his biggest challenge is to keep from getting discourage, something his brother aids him with. “[Adrian] always tells me to keep my head up. It helps having someone to turn to that you can connect with.”
Lost in the quarterback battle has been the departure of Brandon McManus. McManus handled all of the team’s kicking duties last season and left behind a group of players that have no collegiate experience.
Sophomore Tyler Mayes and redshirt freshman Colby Perry handled the team’s kicking duties while Mayes and senior Paul Layton handled the punting. Mayes missed a 25-yard field goal while Perry missed a 42-yard kick and an extra point. Mayes and Perry combined for 11 kickoffs with only one being downed in the endzone for a touchback. Last season McManus missed three kicks all year while 40 of his 56 kickoffs (71 percent) resulted in touchbacks.
“I can’t speak on their behalf if they are concerned but I can imagine that they would be,” Mayes said. “I can’t be missing kicks, certainly not ones as short as 25 yards. I can’t speak for Colby for that but I hope the coaches have faith in us and we have the summer to show what we can do.”
One of Mayes’ kickoffs was intentionally short. With the team electing to not play out any returns, two players took the field to receive each kickoff. With both players back, Mayes kicked the ball 10 yards and was able to recover the kick himself. This gave the ball back to the Granger and the Cherry squad with two minutes left and a six-point deficit, however they were unable to convert on the drive.
This concluded spring practice for the team. They open the season August 31, 2013 against Notre Dame.
Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ibrahimjacobs.