By John Agovino, Associate College Football Editor
2009 SEASON IN REVIEW: The 2009 season was a coming out party for the Temple Owls. Once a doormat for each team on their schedule, the Owls have soared to
new heights since joining the Mid-American Conference and in 2009 Al Golden's
squad put together one of the best seasons in the program's history.
The season did not begin smoothly however, as the Owls fell to Villanova and
Penn State. Like years before, the Owls could have went through the motions,
but that was not the case for this Temple team, which instead regrouped and
began one of the greatest runs in school history. Golden's gang ripped off
nine consecutive victories, which was the longest winning streak for the Owls
in one season. The streak began with a 37-13 decision over Buffalo, and
continued with wins over Eastern Michigan, Ball State, Army and Toledo. After
two close decisions over Navy (27-24) and Miami-Ohio (34-32), the Owls went on
an offensive tear, pummeling Akron and Kent State by a combined 103-30 margin.
With their most victories in a season since reeling off 10 back in 1979, the
Owls were set to face Ohio for the outright title in the East Division.
Unfortunately, the Owls could not overcome a tough Ohio squad, and fell to the
Bobcats by a 35-17 margin. Even though the team did not battle for the
conference title, the Owls still had one more game on their schedule, a
meeting with UCLA at the EagleBank Bowl. Golden's team put forth another solid
effort, but fell just short against the Bruins, 30-21. Clearly the Owls did
not have a storybook ending, but a nine-game winning streak and a bowl
appearance finally put the Owls back on the map.
OFFENSE: There was no secret to the Owls' gameplan last season; they were
going to pound the ball down their opponent's throat and wear them out over
the course of the game. Temple finished second in the MAC with 187.0 ypg on
the ground, and a large reason for that success was due to the explosive play
of freshman Bernard Pierce. Pierce took the MAC over in his first season,
setting freshmen records at Temple with 1,361 yards, 16 touchdowns and six
100-yard rushing games. His 16 touchdowns set a single-season record as well
at Temple, and all those numbers led to Pierce being the overwhelming choice
for MAC Freshman Player of the Year. The only knock on the tailback was his
inability to stay healthy, but look for the sophomore to be more prepared for
the wear and tear of a full season.
"We did want to win that bowl game (against UCLA) real badly and that last
game of the year (at Ohio) to play in the MAC Championship," said Pierce.
"Saying that, I could have contributed a little bit more. I had been out. I've
been worried about staying healthy. I've been doing a lot more shoulder work
and a lot of extra work to keep my body in shape and durable for this year. It
would be nice to get to the MAC Championship game this year."
Matt Brown, who filled in admirably for Pierce when he was inactive, also
returns, giving Golden a sensational sophomore combo in the backfield. What
could possibly make Temple's ground game even more dangerous is running behind
an offensive line with four starters back in the mix, along with some other
players with game experience.
Having a terrific ground game is always a plus, but for Golden's squad to be
truly successful the offense needs to balance out, which is where quarterback
Chester Stewart comes into the conversation. Stewart, along with wideouts
James Jones and junior college transfer Rod Streater, will need to make
opposing teams unable to concentrate solely on the run.
DEFENSE: The defense for Temple enjoyed watching the offense run the ball and
the clock, giving them time to rest and prepare for the next time they were on
the field. However, there were some tough times as well for this unit,
especially against the pass.
The good news for this season is the team returns three starters in the
defensive backfield, and seven overall. Jaiqwuan Jarrett returns after
recording 76 stops last year, as does Kevin Kroboth, giving the Owls a
solid duo at safety. The Owls are even stronger in the front seven, especially
on the line where Adrian Robinson resides. The junior end racked up 13 sacks a
year ago and earned Defensive Player of the Year honors in the MAC. He will be
joined by Muhammad Wilkerson and Elisha Joseph. If Robinson, along with
sophomore end Kadeem Curtis can put consistent pressure on opposing
quarterbacks, that would definitely help Temple's lackluster pass defense.
Last, but certainly not least are the linebackers for Temple. Coach Golden has
a plethora of experience and talent at this position, beginning with Elijah
Joseph. Amara Kamara also returns to his outside spot, while junior Tahir
Whiteside will likely fill in the final starting role. Veterans such as Jordan
Martin and Quinten White will definitely play a large role this season as
Overall, the Owls have game-changing players at each position, and coach
Golden believes Temple's defense is the straw that stirs the drink for his
"We built the program on defense," Golden stated. "We felt that was the
quickest way for us to turn the program around and most particularly to
compete in this conference was on the defensive side. Hopefully this is the
first year our offense catches up to our defense. That would be great if that
happens, because then we'd have all three phases cone together. We haven't had
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Owls are one of the few teams in this league with a
dangerous offense and a tenacious defense, but once the success of the special
teams unit is added to the equation, the Owls are now an elite team in this
conference. Brandon McManus was sensational for the Owls as a freshman,
nailing 17-of-24 field goals. However, he was a tad inconsistent from beyond
40 yards (3-for-9). With a year under his belt, look for a steady improvement.
What makes this unit so dangerous are the return men in James Nixon and Delano
Green. Last year Nixon returned two kickoffs to paydirt, while Green followed
suit with two punt returns for scores. Both players are back for coach Golden,
giving the Owls that extra explosion needed in this area.
OUTLOOK: For years the Owls were a punching bag in college football, but that
has definitely changed after last season. Coming into 2009 the Owls were
improved, but without question caught league opponents off guard. The question
is, can the Owls repeat their success now that it is expected? Can Temple
perform to the same level this time around with the added pressure as being
dubbed one of the top teams in the conference?
One thing is for sure, coach Golden has his troops grounded and prepared for
"I know that this is our most talented team," said coach Golden. "But the best
players don't always make the best team. The best team always wins. We have to
make sure that we're not just a bunch of talented individuals, and that we
come together as a team. I think our kids have done a good job with that."
Unfortunately, the schedule-makers lined up a few tough hurdles for the
Owls to start the year. Temple opens the season with three straight home
games, but they come against Villanova, Central Michigan and Connecticut. That
stretch is followed by three consecutive road contests against Penn State,
Army and Northern Illinois. There is no question those matchups will be tough
for Temple, but the Owls are filled with talent across the board and have a
very solid coaching staff, which is why this could be a real special season