Recently I had the chance to chat with David Gerson, who maintains the website www.Owlified.com. Below are his answers to my questions about the Temple football program as they prepare to host Kent State on Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. The game will be shown live on the K-Zone, through the Kent State athletic website. To see my answers to David's questions, check out his website.
NewsFlashes: Describe the situation at quarterback. I know Stewart has started the past two games, but before that Vaughn Charlton was the guy. Why the switch? What has coach Al Golden said all season regarding his quarterbacks? Also, can you describe the attributes of each quarterback, especially Stewart. In the games I have seen, it looks like they give him a lot of run/pass option stuff and ask him to manage the game and protect the football while the running game gets going. Is that pretty accurate?
Owlified: Both Chester Stewart and Vaughn Charlton are very talented quarterbacks, and have had their opportunities to claim the starting spot. To start of the year, Vaughn earned that spot, and has play exceptionally well in most games. Despite being at the helm during most of the Owls' winning streak, the performances against Villanova and Navy stood out like sore thumbs. Vaughn Charlton is an absolute leader on this football team. On the field, he has had plenty of success this year. His main attribute would be his strong arm. When Adam DiMichele was injured against Miami (OH) several years back, Charlton came in immediately and threw a touchdown pass. A problem that was seen early, though, was VC's decision making at times. With the ball in scoring position against D-IAA Villanova, he threw his third interception of the day that ultimately lost the season opener. He has progressively improved though since that game, and has led the Owls himself to six wins in a row.
We've seen flashes of Chester Stewart from time to time, as he'd usually enter for a series and run the option. One reason we might not have seen him that much earlier on in the year is because of the problems he's had receiving the snap. There were numerous times where he'd come in to the run ball, but there would be miscommunications between the quarterback and center. Having Chester in the game however, does give Temple another element of attack against opponents: the mobile quarterback. Along with his speed and elusiveness on the run comes a great throwing arm. In the several starts he had last year, it was obvious the kid could air the ball out-- the main problem was his accuracy. So far in 2009, his throwing has improved and we've been able to hit many of the open receivers down field.
NewsFlashes: Talk about freshman phenom running back Bernard Pierce. What kind of back is he? What are some of the reasons why he has stepped into the fold in his first year and is having a great season? Also, at the beginning of the season, what were the thoughts about him making an impact this season? Was he expected to redshirt? etc.
Owlified: Bernard Pierce was described as the possible gem of the 2009 recruiting class, and this he has been. Straight out of HS, Coach Golden described Pierce as a mature runner, and a power back. At 6'0" and 212 pounds, that speaks for itself. A solid sized running back, Pierce has the ability to either push the pile forward with his strength, or bounce off an outside tackle and make moves to take it all the way. In addition, a lot of the credit has to go to the enormous offensive line that is giving him the room. These linemen have grown and developed together for several years now, and have become united on both the running and passing coverage.
The past several years, the running game has always been a question to ponder as future seasons have approached. Temple had 3-4 backs on the depth chart last year, and still had struggled to find consistency. Between solid backs entering the system, to cornerbacks taking a shot, there was no solid ground game that could be established by just one player. Things have changed now that the offensive line has established itself, and Bernard Pierce has been able to easily emerge as arguably the best freshman running back in College Football.
Many Temple fans expected Pierce would have his shot since several other backs were redshirted this 2009 season. Bernard has taken his opportunity and seized his chance to claim the starting spot.
NewsFlashes: Who are the main playmakers on the defense? How has Temple been able to rank 26th in the nation in rush defense?
Owlified: Temple's playmakers are found on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
As we've mentioned, Bernard Pierce has been a difference maker in many of Temple's matchups. In addition, the Owls have a number of wide receivers that can absolutely punish a defensive back for giving him too much room. WR's Michael Campbell, James Nixon, Jason Harper, and Joe Jones all have emerged as go-to wide receivers. They have been used both on airing the ball out, but also the wide receiver reverse. Two of these guys are converted running backs, and the other two are just speedsters-- the Owls have incorporated trickery into their playbook to utilize the elite speed of these offensive threats.
On defense, the Owls strength comes directly from the defensive line. Both the ends and tackles have been able to penetrate offensive lines game in and game out as well as stifle the run games. The linebackers have also played crucial roles and have made major impacts. In addition, safeties Dominique Harris and Jaiquawn Jarrett have had stellar seasons to propel the team to this 8 game winning streak.
Temple's defense has been consistent through Al Golden's tenure, and part of this is probably attributed to the constant underclassmen stepping up and making plays. Temple's defense has carried this team to its success through the rebuilding process has become the face of the program.
NewsFlashes: On Saturday Temple will honor their seniors, and Al Golden's first recruiting class. Talk about how influential those seniors have been in getting Temple's program on solid ground, and now in the position to compete for championships in the Mid-American Conference.
Owlified: They were the first ones. These guys have been through the absolute rock bottom all the way to the improvement and now winning. These players had the guts to step into an organization that was on the brink of dropping football, and have led the way to the slow and steady revival. Their commitment has not only bettered the team, but also themselves as players-- I believe we'll be seeing a few of these guys playing on Sundays in the near future as well.
NewsFlashes: Since Al Golden took over the Temple program in 2006, the Owls have gone 1-11 in 2006, 4-8, 4-4 MAC in 2007, 5-7, 4-4 in 2008 and now 8-2 and 6-0 in the MAC this season. Has there been a signature moment or a signature win during Golden's tenure that signaled things were on the right track, or that the program was really headed in the right direction? Did it come this year at any point?
Owlified: Al Golden's first win in that 2006 season is probably the signature win-- that game got the ball rolling for the transformation of the Temple football program. However, this improvement is a snowball effect. Every win, this team has honestly gotten better. Years two and three had promising seasons, but these teams were still too young too do everything right, and taste success. Year four was GOLDEN'S team, with the remaining players from BW (he who shall not be named) having graduated.
This 2009 season has been the year of truth: Coach Golden's had his time to bring in his talent, and put his rebuilding strategy into effect. The results have shown, and there's nowhere to go now but up for Temple University Football.
NewsFlashes: Last season Temple lost three games on the final play of the game. This season they have won a five point game, a three point game and a two point game. Has there been any talk about how Temple is winning some close games this season and not last season? Obviously some luck goes into it, but is there anything more to it than that? Also, I imagine it helps to win MAC games by 24, 16 and 39 points so the team hasn't had to put themselves in a close game situation due to their dominance in those games.
Owlified: Of course. The stereotypical Temple football is the team that blew the lead, or gave up the last second touchdown. Every senior for Temple has experienced that at some point, and the maturation has shown. These guys make sure now though that they don't have to be in that position.
Winning these MAC games is important, as our main goal has been to win a MAC Championship, go to a bowl game, and establish ourselves based off that. It's great to see that we're winning the games we should, but also that we are "playing with the big boys".
It's great to be a Temple football fan, alumnus, and player. That's all there is to it. We're back.