The Owls should build on their winning record with upcoming bouts vs. Army and Toledo.
After beating Ball State, 24-19, the Owls have an unprecedented 3-0 start in the Mid-American Conference. For now, Temple is in the driver’s seat in the MAC. The Owls are two games ahead of the nearest teams, Ohio and Kent State, in the MAC East Division standings, and the best part about it is that as Temple finds its groove, it enters some of the softer parts of the schedule.
For Homecoming, the Owls go up against Army, a team they butchered in last year’s season opener. The following week, they have Toledo, a team that currently sits at .500 but had two of its wins against the “mighty” football powerhouses Florida International and Ball State. Assuming Temple heads into Annapolis at 5-2, the Owls could be serious frontrunners to be MAC Champions.
“I hate the word frontrunner because you don’t win the league in October. You can lose the league in October, and we’ve found many ways to do that,” coach Al Golden said. “We’ve rewritten the book on that, so we’ll try it this way now.”
Golden is probably right: It’s too soon to gaze ahead all the way to Navy or the MAC Championship.
So how did Temple look against Ball State? It was a typical Temple win. Make a note of that last sentence; it’s the first time the phrase has been used in a while.
What is a typical Temple win? It involves the ability to survive and bounce back from seemingly catastrophic miscues, along with an offense that does not turn the ball over.
The offense executed the same way it did against Buffalo and Eastern Michigan. Freshman Bernard Pierce ran for 125 yards (the third straight game he has hit triple digits in yards) and two touchdowns to lead the offense. Redshirt junior quarterback Vaughn Charlton did not turn the ball over and threw a touchdown pass, basically playing the game-manager role very well.
In every game this season, the defense always seems to make a big play, which again was the case against Ball State. With nine total tackles, a fumble recovery and two interceptions, it’s safe to say junior safety Jaiquawn Jarrett was defensively the Most Valuable Player of the game. While the defense did not put any points on the board, it was definitely a big reason the Owls won this game and will win in the future.
Though Temple has won three straight games, it hasn’t always been a smooth ride. In Saturday’s game, the special teams made some serious errors. High snaps plagued the field goal and punt units. One poor snap led to a blocked field goal and another snap sailed over junior punter Jeff Wathne’s head. Ball State recovered that ball in the endzone for a touchdown.
“It was ugly at times, and we have to get the special teams squared away, but we kept battling, and we won,” Golden said.
What happened after that touchdown was interesting. While a disaster on special teams would demoralize most teams, Temple seemed unfazed, and it looked like Ball State’s touchdown lit a fire under Pierce. He only ran for 51 yards in the first half, but after that play, he seemed to become more aggressive with his running and subsequently put the Cardinals away with two touchdowns.
“[Pierce]’s starting to feel it. He’s starting to carry it, and he’s getting stronger as the game goes on,” Golden said. “He’s giving us a glimpse of obviously what he can be.”
For the most part, it looks like all systems are go for the Owls. They’ve won three straight and from the looks of it, could do something they haven’t done in nearly 20 years.
What exactly that is, well – it’s probably best not to jinx it.
Brian Dzenis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.