NCF Nation: Mike Gerardi

Gildan New Mexico Bowl

December, 4, 2011
Temple Owls (8-4) vs. Wyoming Cowboys (8-4)

Dec. 17, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Temple take: The Owls are back in a bowl under first-year coach Steve Addazio. They were bowl eligible last year but were not picked as an at-large selection. Running back Bernard Pierce has been incredible yet again. He earned All-MAC first-team honors, rushing for 1,381 yards and 25 touchdowns -- including a stellar 5.6 yards per carry.

They also have an outstanding backup, Matt Brown, who was a third-team conference selection for contributing 867 yards and five scores. Together they have teamed up to lead the nation's No. 7 rushing offense with 256.6 yards on the ground per game. Temple has had some quarterback issues, however, rotating through Chris Coyer, Mike Gerardi and Chester Stewart. Coyer is more of a fit for what Addazio likes to run with the spread, but he got hurt in the finale against Kent State, so Stewart and Gerardi are once again in the mix for the bowl game. Gerardi actually came into the year as the starter, but until the Kent State finale, hadn't played since Week 3.

Linebacker Stephen Johnson paces a stingy Owls' defense with 62 stops on the year. They allow just 13.8 points per game -- third nationally in scoring defense -- while allowing 122.5 rushing yards per game.

Wyoming take: Quite the surprise season from the Cowboys from Laramie. When last year's quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels -- the 2009 conference freshman of the year -- announced he was transferring, many thought Wyoming would sink. But freshman quarterback Brett Smith has been fantastic in his first season, rallying Wyoming to a eight wins -- including signature road wins at San Diego State and at Air Force. Ironically, Smith likely wins the Mountain West's freshman of the year award once held by his predecessor.

Wyoming lost top wide receiver Chris McNeill, who suffered a season-ending arm injury last month against Air Force, but Mazi Ogbonna has filled the void as best he can, catching 39 balls and three touchdowns on the year.

Despite good defensive numbers from Luke Ruff, Brian Hendricks and Gabe Knapton, the Cowboys give up a lot of yards -- 432.25 per game. They rank 115th nationally in rush defense, yielding 230.8 yards per game on the ground.

Turnovers are the name of the game for the Cowboys, who rank fourth nationally in turnover margin with 31 takeaways on the season -- recovering 18 fumbles and 13 interceptions.

Temple opening eyes with fast start

September, 29, 2011
Temple hit new highs under former coach Al Golden, but faced some uncertainty when he left for Miami.

Would new coach Steve Addazio be able to lift the program even further? After four games, that answer appears to be yes.

[+] EnlargeSteve Addazio
Howard Smith/US PresswireTemple coach Steve Addazio says the Owls take pride in their mental toughness.
The Owls just dominated Maryland in a 38-7 win, and they nearly upset Penn State the week before. Now at 3-1, they face a critical MAC test against Toledo, a team that has gotten close to pulling two upsets on AQ teams but fallen just short.

What Addazio has done is instill in his team a "lunch pail" mentality. That is no coincidence, either.

"I learned that this team, we're a physically tough football team, they like football, and they play hard," Addazio said this week. "That's a great starting point. We talk about being Temple tough and Philly proud. I'm not a big slogan guy. There's no T-shirts with slogans on them, but that means something to our football program -- that we are a tough football team and we play in a tough city. Our goal has to become increasingly mentally tougher."

That physicality has played out on both offense and defense. Temple leads the nation in scoring defense, allowing 7.8 yards a game. The Owls also lead the MAC in total defense, rushing defense, sacks and pass efficiency defense. The offensive line, the position group that Addazio used to coach as an assistant at Florida, has played better as well.

Indeed, running back Bernard Pierce is off to a terrific start, rushing for 496 yards and a nation-leading 12 touchdowns. He is averaging 5.7 yards a carry and has three 100-yard games already this season, on pace for a better season than his breakout freshman year in 2009.

Temple launched a Heisman campaign for Pierce last season, but he was hampered by injuries for most of the season. Pierce rededicated himself in the weight room this past offseason to work on his durability. He added 10 pounds and feels better than ever.

"I feel stronger," Pierce said in a phone interview. "This summer, I made sure I got more agility, and I worked on my lateral steps, burst and footwork."

Addazio has not shied away from playing two quarterbacks. Both Mike Gerardi and Chester Stewart have gotten game action, but Stewart will start this week against Toledo after a breakout performance against the Terps. Gerardi had started the first three games.

Stewart went 9-of-9 for 140 yards in the game. "He led the team," Addazio said. "I've been around some great quarterbacks. The mark to me of a great quarterback is the ability to lead, the ability to get your unit to play really hard and manage the game, and make the plays that are available to be made. Chester did a great job with that Saturday. He needs to be given that opportunity to do that again."

Addazio has managed his veteran team well, and brought a business-like approach along with a passion for the game. Temple is coming off back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1978, but his task is not just to maintain, but to elevate. The Owls fell just short of the MAC title game the past two seasons.

The Maryland win certainly is nice, but winning the MAC would be even better. That is why the players are not putting too much on the upset of the Terps. They have to keep bringing their lunch pails with them and go to work.

"It's always good to come out strong, but you can't get too big-headed and think we're on top because we're not," Pierce said. "We still have a lot of work to do."

Spring QB competition: MAC

February, 10, 2011
Now it’s time to look at spring quarterback competitions in the MAC. There should be plenty of intrigue here, especially at Toledo and Miami (Ohio), where starters are returning from injury but finding they are not going to be shoo-ins to get their jobs back.

Ball State

Who’s competing: Kelly Page and Keith Wenning will compete once again in the spring. They are no strangers to competing against each other -- Wenning won the starting job from Page in 2010 as a true freshman. With new coach Pete Lembo set to install his no-huddle offense, both players are going to have to audition for that job. Keep in mind, Page and Wenning are the only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster.


Who’s competing: The Bulls did plenty of quarterback shuffling last season under first-year coach Jeff Quinn, but nobody seemed to stick as the starter. So the competition is open once again headed into the spring between Jerry Davis, Alex Zordich and Alex Dennison. Davis will be a junior, while Zordich and Dennison will be sophomores. Davis started the majority of games last season, but Zordich did start a handful as a true freshmen. Neither put up stellar stats as they tried to learn the spread offense.

Kent State

Who’s competing: Spencer Keith returns, but he was wildly inconsistent last season, throwing for 2,212 yards, eight touchdowns and 11 interceptions. But with a new coach in Darrell Hazell, nobody is guaranteed of keeping their starting job. Expect a competition with Giorgio Morgan in the spring as Hazell installs more of a traditional offense. Morgan has been a career backup.

[+] EnlargeZac Dysert
Kim Klement/US PresswireMiami Redhawks quarterback Zac Dysert will be battling for the starting job in 2011.
Miami (Ohio)

Who’s competing: This is going to be a tremendous competition between Zac Dysert and Austin Boucher, two quarterbacks equally capable of leading this team. Dysert started the first 10 games of the season before injuring his ribs and sitting out the rest of the way. In came Boucher, who had only thrown 14 career passes to that point. But Boucher closed the season 4-0, with a come-from-behind win in the MAC championship game and then a win the Bowl against Middle Tennessee. Dysert threw for 2,406 yards, 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, and completed 65 percent of his passes. Boucher threw for 1,120 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions, and completed 64 percent of his passes. With a new head coach on Don Treadwell, both go in with clean slates and an opportunity to impress.


Who’s out: Boo Jackson

Who’s competing: Jackson and Phil Bates Bates have been involved in quarterback competitions themselves, so being in this position is nothing new for Bates. But this is opportunity to prove once and for all why he deserves to be the starter after taking a back seat to Jackson last season. He is a senior and the most experienced quarterback on the roster. But two will push him -- Kyle Snyder and Tyler Tettleton. Snyder redshirted as a true freshman last season, and Tettleton also redshirted and will be a sophomore. Tettleton attempted 23 passes in 2009.


Who’s competing: Chester Stewart began last season as the starter before then-coach Al Golden decided on a switch and put Mike Gerardi into the starting lineup during the Bowling Green game in October. Gerardi started the rest of the way, but it wasn’t enough to get the Owls into the MAC championship game. With new coach Steve Addazio taking over, both are in contention to become the starter. There is one more player in the mix -- Chris Coyer, a 6-foot-3 dual-threat, left-handed quarterback who has drawn comparisons to Tim Tebow. Addazio coached Tebow at Florida. Coyer’s bio says he worked out with Tebow in high school. Plenty of connections there for him to make a serious run at the starting job.


Who’s competing: Another intriguing competition here between Austin Dantin, who began 2010 as the starter, and Terrance Owens, who filled in quite nicely down the stretch. Dantin injured his shoulder/collarbone at the end of October and missed the final four games of the season. Owens went 2-2 as a starter, but he ended up with a better quarterback rating than Dantin and threw 13 touchdowns to seven for Dantin.

Other non-AQ bowl misses

December, 15, 2010
Earlier today, I had a breakdown on why Houston missed a bowl game this season. Now here is a breakdown of several other 2009 bowl teams that missed out in 2010.

Bowling Green

What happened: The Falcons had one of the youngest teams in the country going into the season and they had big shoes to fill with the departure of quarterback Tyler Sheehan and receiver Freddie Barnes. The offense struggled all season, especially the run game, which ranked last in the nation. The Falcons also lost four games by three points or fewer.

Bowling in 2011? Plenty of players return, so they should have the experience, but a big question is whether Matt Schilz can take the next step at quarterback. He already has his go-to target in Kamar Jorden.

Central Michigan

What happened: It's never easy to replace one of the best players in school history in Dan LeFevour, who led the team in rushing and passing last season. Ryan Radcliff held his own at quarterback, but threw way too many interceptions (17 TDs and 17 INTs). The Chippewas struggled to find consistency with their offensive line, failing to protect the quarterback (33 sacks allowed) or establish a decent run game. They also had problems taking care of the football, ranking as one of the worst in the country in turnover margin.

Bowling in 2011? It all depends on the development of Radcliff, and a big-time replacement for linebacker Nick Bellore.


What happened: Quarterback Nathan Enderle may have thrown for more yards this season than last, but that is because he had way more attempts. The reason? Idaho could never get its running game going, averaging 88.5 yards a game. The offensive line was a problem because it also failed to protect Enderle -- Idaho gave up 45 sacks this season, third worst in the country. Enderle also saw his completion percentage and yards per attempt drop, and his interceptions go up (from nine to 16). The Vandals were also one of the most penalized teams in the nation.

Bowling in 2011? Leaning no. Idaho is losing Enderle and a lot of senior leadership in defensive end Aaron Lavarias, linebacker JoJo Dickson, safety Shiloh Keoh, tight end Daniel Hardy and receiver Eric Greenwood.


What happened: Inconsistency at quarterback, along the offensive line and in the kicking game. Marshall struggled to run the ball, ranking No. 113 in the country and averaging 97.2 yards a game. Much of that was because of a young offensive line. The scoring suffered, too, as the Herd only averaged 20.8 points a game.

Bowling in 2011? Depends on what happens with the quarterback and offensive line. Brian Anderson is gone, leaving A.J. Graham and Eddie Sullivan as the lone returners with experience.


What happened: The Owls were bowl eligible at 8-4, but were not chosen to go bowling, thanks in part to two straight losses to close the year to Ohio and Miami (Ohio). Turnovers hurt in the loss to the Bobcats, and the offense just never showed up against the RedHawks. Leading rusher Bernard Pierce was banged up all season, though Matt Brown did a nice job filling in. The Owls also made a quarterback change midway through the season, finishing up with Mike Gerardi because Chester Stewart was too inconsistent.

Bowling in 2011? Depends on who Temple hires to replace Al Golden. There is talent here. Can the new coach continue to build on what Golden did the last two seasons?


What happened:A brutal schedule is what happened. After opening against Southern Utah, Wyoming played eight straight bowl teams, including nonconference games at Texas and home to Boise State. The offense took a step back, ranking No. 116 in total offense and 107 in scoring offense. Despite speculation that he may transfer, quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels will return. The Cowboys also dealt with tragedy early in the year when freshman Ruben Narcisse was killed in a car accident Sept. 6.

Bowling in 2011? It is going to be close. Wyoming has an easier out of conference schedule, but it does play two FCS schools. That means the Cowboys have to get to seven wins. They get Nebraska and TCU at home, but Air Force, Boise State and San Diego State on the road.

Ohio in control of MAC East

November, 17, 2010
Ohio is in control of the MAC East after its 31-23 win over Temple in a rainstorm in Philadelphia, eliminating the Owls from contention for the conference title for the second straight season.

The Bobcats (8-3, 6-1) won Tuesday night essentially the same way they beat the Owls last season -- with better play on the line of scrimmage, a solid run game and fewer mistakes. Ohio was able to play starting quarterback Boo Jackson, who was doubtful headed into the game after suffering a concussion and facial injuries in a bar fight two weeks ago. But Jackson was cleared Tuesday and led the Bobcats to their seventh straight win.

All they have to do is win at Kent State next Friday to secure their spot in the MAC championship game for the second year in a row and third time since 2006. They are tied atop the East with Miami (Ohio) but beat the RedHawks earlier in the season. If Miami loses to Akron tonight, then Ohio clinches the East. Northern Illinois needs one more win to clinch the MAC West.

Ohio racked up 204 yards on the ground, including 100 from Vince Davidson, who also scored two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Temple (8-3, 5-2) only had 81 yards rushing and was hurt by several key injuries. Starting running back Bernard Pierce got hurt on the first play of the game, pulling up at the end of a 67-yard run with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. The play was called back because of an illegal motion penalty, a sign of things to come. Temple ended up with eight penalties for 68 yards and could not get the ground attack going with Matt Brown.

The Owls -- the preseason favorite to win the East -- also lost starting middle linebacker Peanut Joseph late in the first half with an undisclosed injury.

“In games like this, you need your best players to play their best game," Temple coach Al Golden said. "I don’t think we got that overall and obviously we have those two guys down hurt."

Still, Temple had its opportunities. Trailing 17-10 early in the fourth quarter, Mike Gerardi threw an interception at midfield. Carl Jones returned it down to the 27, but a penalty gave Ohio the ball at the Owls 11. Ohio converted that turnover into points and a 24-10 lead.

Ohio went up 31-10 on Davidson's 41-yard TD run, but Temple refused to give up. The Owls scored twice in the span of a minute late in the game to make it 31-23 with 1:13 to go. But the ensuing onside kick appeared to be mis-hit, as Brandon McManus kicked the ball straight into the teeth of the Ohio coverage, with no Temple players around the area.

"We have a long way to go," Golden said. "As a program we have a long way to go. We’re competing two years in a row for a chance to play in a championship game. When I came here, that’s what I said I want us to do, to be in the upper third of the conference every year."
A familiar story line will unfold Tuesday night in Philadelphia: Ohio and Temple will play with a spot in the MAC title game on the line.

The two teams are in a three-way tie atop the East with Miami (Ohio). But if either the Owls (8-2, 5-1) or the Bobcats (7-3, 5-1) win out, then they get a spot in the league championship game, most likely against Northern Illinois.

Last season, the two teams also met in the second-to-last game of the season. Temple came in with a nine-game winning streak and unbeaten record in league play. But Ohio won 35-17 as the Owls struggled in the passing game. Chester Stewart and Vaughn Charlton completed a combined 11 passes and threw three interceptions.

The Bobcats later lost to Central Michigan in the MAC title game.

“We would have all liked to have left the film there,” Temple coach Al Golden said of going back and watching last season’s game. “They played better than we did. They were the tougher team. We’ve learned a lot about our team. We’ve learned a lot throughout the course of this year, but we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t learn from last year. It should be a great matchup. That’s what we’re in the business for -- to be in meaningful games in November.”

The big question is what will happen at quarterback for Ohio. Starter Boo Jackson has played well lately, but he sustained a concussion in a fight outside a bar and hasn’t been involved in practice. Coach Frank Solich said Monday that Jackson was doubtful to play.

Phil Bates, who has split time with Jackson this season, took reps this week in practice but he’s been hobbled with a shoulder injury. Freshman Kyle Snyder has also gotten reps, but Ohio hopes to hold him out because it wants to redshirt him.

“(Bates is) not 100 percent, but been playing on and off at not 100 percent, so we’ll just wait and see,” Solich said. “He’s practiced well and felt good during practice. We think he’ll be able to start the game and hopefully be able to hold up.”

Bates presents a different style than Jackson. He is more of a runner than a passer, and leads the team with 423 yards on the ground.

As for Temple, the Owls have gotten a huge lift since Mike Gerardi replaced Stewart in the starting lineup. In three starts, Gerardi has gone 54-of-81 for 871 yards and eight touchdowns. But there has been shuffling along the offensive line, and Golden wants to make sure his team is just as physical as Ohio.

“They’ve been more explosive than we have been on offense,” Golden said. “That’s the challenge. They really put it to us a year ago in terms of the offensive side of things and didn’t allow any big plays. Frank has always had a physical team, has always had a rugged team and that’s what they pride themselves on. They are certainly that.”

Non-AQ Players of the Week

November, 8, 2010
Here are the non-AQ Players of the Week, as selected by each conference:

Conference USA

Offense: UCF quarterback Jeff Godfrey. Went 15-of-19 for 294 yards and a pair of touchdowns and rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown, giving him 399 yards of total offense in a 40-33 win against Houston. It was just the second 100-yard rushing game by a UCF quarterback in school history.

Defense: UCF linebacker Josh Linam. Had 17 tackles, 1.5 for a loss and a pass breakup against Houston. It more than doubled his previous career-high of seven.

Special Teams: Tulsa kick returner Damaris Johnson. Totaled 322 all-purpose yards and scored three touchdowns in a 57-27 victory against Rice. Johnson became the Conference USA record-holder for career kickoff return yards with 3,054 yards and needs only 64 yards to become the NCAA’s all-time kick-off return leader.


East Division

Offense: Temple quarterback Mike Gerardi. Threw for 368 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-10 win at Kent State. In four games, Gerardi has three starts and is 54-of-81 for 871 yards and eight touchdowns.

Defense: Ohio defensive lineman Stafford Gatling. Recorded six tackles, including 1.5 sacks and two tackles for loss with a forced fumble in a 34-17 win against Buffalo.

Special teams: Kent State punter Matt Rinehart. Averaged 48.4 yards on seven punts in a 28-10 loss to Temple. Rinehart had a pair of punts downed inside the 5-yard line as the Flashes averaged an impressive 48.1 net average.

West Division

Offense: Ball State receiver Jack Tomlinson. Had a career day with seven catches for 175 yards and three touchdowns in a 37-30 double overtime win against Akron.

Defense: Central Michigan linebacer Armond Staten. Recorded 11 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one sack and three forced fumbles in a 26-22 win against Western Michigan.

Special teams: Ball State kicker Ian McGarvey. Made three field goals and four extra points against Akron.

Mountain West

Offense: TCU quarterback Andy Dalton. Went 21-of-26 for a career-high 355 yards and three touchdowns in a 47-7 win at No. 5 Utah. His 93-yard touchdown pass to Josh Boyce marked the second-longest play in MWC history.

Co-Defensive Players: TCU linebacker Tanner Brock and San Diego State linebacker Miles Burris. Brock had a career-high 12 tackles, an interception and a pass breakup in the win against Utah. Burris had a career-high 10 tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles in a 24-19 victory against Colorado State.

Special teams: New Mexico kicker James Aho. Kicked a 38-yard field goal as time expired to help New Mexico stop a nine-game losing streak with a 34-31 win against Wyoming. He also made a career-best 51-yard attempt.

Sun Belt

Offense: FIU receiver T.Y. Hilton. Had 291 all-purpose yards, scoring four touchdowns in a 42-35 win in double overtime against ULM. He had two receiving touchdowns, one rushing touchdown and one kickoff return for a touchdown.

Defense: Arkansas State linebacker Demario Davis. Had seven tackles and a career-high two interceptions in a 51-24 victory against Middle Tennessee.

Special teams: Hilton. Had 168 kick return yards, including 95 on a touchdown return. The return was his fourth-career return for touchdown, tying him for first all-time at FIU.


Offense: Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore. Went 30-of-37 for a career-high 507 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-7 win against Hawaii. The 507 yards are the second most by any player in the nation this year.

Defense: Utah State linebacker Bobby Wagner. Tied a career-high with 17 tackles in a 27-22 win against New Mexico State.

Special teams: Louisiana Tech return specialist Phillip Livas. Returned seven kickoffs for 225 yards, including a 95-yarder for a touchdown, and a punt for another 29 yards in a loss to Fresno State.

Non-AQ Helmet Stickers: Week 10

November, 7, 2010
Time for a few non-AQ helmet stickers for Week 10:

TCU quarterback Andy Dalton. The senior threw for a career-high 355 yards in a 47-7 win over Utah, breaking his previous career high of 344 set in 2007 at Stanford. He also had a career-high 93-yard touchdown pass, the third-longest play in TCU history. Dalton also moved into second place on the Mountain West Conference list with 11,320 yards of total offense. He is within striking distance of the record Max Hall set with 11,569 between 2007-09.

Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore. Moore threw for a career-high 507 yards in a 42-7 win over Hawaii, which came into the game with the nation’s most prolific passing attack. But it was Moore who dominated, helping the offense rack up a school-record 737 yards of total offense. He had three touchdown passes to give him 85 for his career, setting the school record.

New Mexico coach Mike Locksley. Give this man a helmet sticker already. The Lobos won for the first time all season, beating Wyoming 34-31. That brings his career total to two. But still, this one was one to savor, leaving Akron as the only winless team in America. James Aho kicked a 38-yard field goal as time expired, and New Mexico forced four turnovers in the win.

Navy offense. What can you say about a team that rolls up a modern day school-record 76 points in a win over East Carolina? This is the same team that lost to Duke last week. But Alexander Teich ran for 157 yards and Ricky Dobbs had 100 as Navy ran up 521 yards rushing.

Tulsa kickoff returner Damaris Johnson. He had 322 all-purpose yards and scored three touchdowns in a 64-27 victory over Rice. He became the Conference USA record-holder for career kickoff return yards with 3,054 yards. He now needs only 64 yards to become the NCAA’s all-time kickoff return leader. Johnson is now 10th place on the NCAA list with 6,824 career all-purpose yards.

Western Kentucky running back Bobby Rainey. He ran for 152 yards in a 17-16 loss to FAU. His game allowed him to become the 14th back in school history with more than 1,000 yards in a season.

Temple quarterback Mike Gerardi. He threw for a career-high 368 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in a 28-10 win over Kent State. Girardi completed 72 percent of his passes and has steadily improved since becoming the starting quarterback four games ago.

Lunchtime Links

October, 22, 2010
These should help get you through the last day before a huge Week 8 Saturday.

TCU coach Gary Patterson said Ed Wesley was never in harm's way, trying to calm a brewing storm over a verbal confrontation he had with the team doctor that was caught on camera. Wesley had sustained a concussion, but now Patterson and Dr. Sam Haraldson are blaming poor communication on the incident.

Utah comes out a big winner in Pac-12 divisional alignment.

Boise State is focusing on finishing strong.

If Fresno State center Joe Bernardi can play against San Jose State, he will see a familiar face on the opposite sideline: his father, Gary, the Spartans' offensive line coach.

Houston is working to tighten up its third-down defense.

Trey Ragland will kick field goals for UAB this weekend, taking over for Josh Zahn, who is just 3-of-12 on the season.

UCF RB Ronnie Weaver landed in the right place.

Football pedigree is a vital part of the search for a new coach at North Texas.

Temple is going with two quarterbacks against Buffalo -- Chester Stewart and Mike Gerardi.