Ankle injury sidelines Temple's star back

Posted: September 26, 2010

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - For Temple's resurgent football program, the challenge of playing at Penn State on Saturday was clear. After all, the Nittany Lions had beaten the Owls 27 straight times.

But what Temple coach Al Golden did not expect was having to overcome the absence of star running back Bernard Pierce for most of the second half. Pierce, who scored on 5- and 3-yard runs in a first period that ended with Temple's leading by a touchdown, went down in the third quarter during a 2-yard run with what was believed to be a right ankle sprain.

Pierce was helped off the field, and after Penn State's 22-13 win, the 6-foot, 218-pound sophomore from Ardmore needed crutches to get back to the locker room.

Before he was hurt, Pierce carried 10 times for 42 yards and had caught one pass for 2 yards. Temple was also leading at the time, 13-9.

Immediately after the game, Golden had not talked to the team doctor and was not sure about the severity of Pierce's injury.

With Pierce out, Golden turned to the reliable Matt Brown (12 carries, 48 yards) to fill in - and Temple needed quarterback Chester Stewart to come through in the passing game.

But the 6-3, 214-pound redshirt junior threw his first three interceptions of the season - two in the second half - and finished 8-of-19 passing for 46 yards.

Stewart was sacked twice, bringing that total to 11 in three games. His second interception came as Temple led, 13-12, and resulted in the go-ahead field goal for Penn State. His last pick occurred after Penn State had established the final margin with 3 minutes, 35 seconds to go.

"You start to get in those third and 10s, and those third and 11s, then you're going against more than just the 11 guys on the field," Golden said. "I'm sure there were some throws Chester would like to have back. But you can't be in those situations and win the game, and we have to protect better. At the end, he was just trying to make a play. But we didn't make any big plays, and we needed to make some big plays."

Stewart said the loss of Pierce was not the reason his team lost.

"We left a lot of plays on the field, and obviously, you can't turn the ball over that much," he said. "It's tough to lose one of your best players, but that's not why we didn't come out with a win."

Temple, a Mid-American Conference squad, lost for the first time this season and is 3-1. Penn State, ranked No. 23, improved to 3-1 and begins its Big Ten schedule next week at Iowa.

"I was proud of them, and proud of their effort," said Golden, who played tight end for the Nittany Lions and coach Joe Paterno. "It's easy to fold. It's easy to roll over. I don't think they did that. They really came in here with the intent to win the game."

While the teams were going through their pregame routines, Golden and Paterno met at the 50-yard line with a gaggle of photographers clicking away. The two chatted for about three minutes, before Golden summoned Temple defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio to greet their old coach. D'Onofrio played linebacker at Penn State, where he was Golden's roommate.

Because of the Penn State connection between the two coaching staffs, none of the players on either team had names on the back of their jerseys. That is in the tradition of Paterno, and Golden brought it with him when he took over at Temple in 2006.

Before Saturday's hard-fought win, Penn State had outscored Temple, 154-9, the previous four meetings.

"They came up here to win, and Al's always been a really tough competitor, smart," Paterno said. "We talked early, and I talked to D'Onofrio because I know their families well. We chatted a little bit about their families, and I told them that I think they're doing a great job.

"Two or three plays, Temple wins that game today. I think as a coach, without getting into the fact that I'm pulling for them because they're former players, that's a well-coached football team. I think that's a credit to Al and to Mark, and there's another kid on that staff, Matt Ruhle, is the offensive coordinator, and he's done a really good job. He was a walk-on. Sure, I want to win, but I'm kind of pulling for them."


Contact staff writer Kevin Tatum at 215-854-2583 or ktatum@phillynews.com.

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