QB change for Temple this week?

Posted: September 12, 2013

NEXT GUY UP.

With injuries being what they are in football, that's the reality. Every backup is one snap away from being a starter. When your time arrives, you'd better have that chin strap buckled.

Clinton "Juice" Granger took over as Temple's quarterback for the last two games last season, a 63-32 win at Army in which he only had to throw four times but rushed for 85 yards, and a 38-20 home loss to Syracuse in which he was responsible for two touchdowns and as many interceptions.

Then, in the spring, the fifth-year senior was beaten out by redshirt junior Connor Reilly, who'd never even made it onto the field as an Owls quarterback. New coach Matt Rhule wanted to pass more, and Reilly apparently offered a little something extra in that department.

Now, two losses into the Owls' first season in the new American Athletic Conference, it could be Granger's turn once again.

Reilly hurt his right knee midway through the fourth quarter of Saturday's 22-13 loss to visiting Houston. He left for one play (a Granger incompletion) before coming back to finish the game. But the knee was bothering him enough yesterday that he didn't practice. So he's being listed as day-to-day. Which means Granger is getting the first-team reps, with promising true freshman P.J. Walker also moving up a notch on the depth chart. Rhule might not make a decision until Friday, or 24 hours before his team hosts FCS Fordham (2-0), which just beat Villanova in the Bronx.

This is one that the Owls - who have lost seven of their last eight going back to last season - have to get. Even if Rhule was playing QB. Ditto their next one, Sept. 28 at independent Idaho, which was 1-11 a year ago and has been outscored 82-16 by North Texas and Wyoming. Especially with dates against Louisville and Cincinnati coming up after that.

"Fordham's 2-0 for a reason," said Granger, who played his high school ball at George Washington and a season at Pierce Junior College in Los Angeles. "It would be great to get our first win, but that won't be our only win this season. It's a long season. We have to keep grinding, stick together as a team. We can do something this year. We know what we have to do to win. Maybe those losses happened for a reason, you never know.

"I feel like I can do a lot [to help]. As long as we keep looking forward, the sky's the limit."

It's never easy watching from the sideline, particularly when it's your last season. Yet by all accounts he's been a solid soldier. That's just the way he's built. Maybe there's something to be said for simply being there when you're finally called upon.

"I prepare the same," said Granger, who wears a single-digit jersey number (3), which are given to the team's toughest players. "It's about having faith in what the coaches are telling you and just going out and playing ball. I was ready before the game even started, just waiting for my name to get called. I want to be the quarterback the team needs me to be.

"I have experience, and confidence I can play at this level. I'm not going to get overwhelmed by the pressure and the fans. That's the whole point. I'm just going to go out and do what I do every day in practice, which is make plays."

The Owls, not shockingly, have been most successful of late when they had QBs who could do exactly that, be it Adam DiMichele back in the early days of the Al Golden era (when Rhule was an assistant) or Chris Coyer (now an H-back) in the second half of 2011.

"[Granger's] a little bit more of a runner than Connor," Rhule acknowledged. "But he can still throw. He's an outstanding athlete. Connor's a good athlete. Our offense won't change. Connor's taken off with it, and gotten us first downs. They're both big, strong, physical guys. But where Connor might have got 4 yards, maybe Juice can hopefully get you 8 or 10.

"You want to accentuate the personnel you have out there . . . As a team, we better be mentally there. It doesn't matter who we play. We have to get in the business of winning. There's a level of detail we are not hitting on yet."

This is their opportunity to start changing that. And Granger's chance to make the most of the situation.

"My teammates . . . give me encouragement to keep my head up straight, play the way I know how," he said. "It's definitely been a challenge. I just try to get better, even if things didn't go my way. I can't control what decisions they make. I believe in me, I believe in the system. I want to go out and play quarterback and win.

"Each and every step is a confidence builder. The quarterback position's hard, because there's only one quarterback. You can't get down on yourself. You never want to take a step backward. Just grow and mature."

In a perfect world, so will the 10 guys in the huddle with him.

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