In case you missed Temple’s 38-7 win over Maryland last fall, the story in that lopsided Terps loss was Owls running back Bernard Pierce, who set a Temple record by rumbling for five touchdowns. Pierce had four of them before the midway point of the second quarter as Temple rolled to a 31-0 halftime lead at Byrd Stadium.
I’m not bringing this up to drive a dagger into the hearts of Terps fans -- trust me, I was groaning, too, when he ran hard against my alma mater, Penn State, a week earlier. Instead, it's to give anecdotal evidence as to how the Ravens might have found a between-the-tackles replacement for Ricky Williams, who retired in February. Pierce is listed at 6-foot, 220 pounds, but he looked four inches and 40 pounds bigger against the Terps.
Pierce churned out 149 yards on 32 carries that September afternoon. He scored on touchdowns from one yard out, nine yards out, four yards out, 44 yards out and 13 yards out -- breaking a bunch of tackles along the way. Maryland head coach Randy Edsall called his team’s effort in the loss “unacceptable and really embarrassing.”
Of course, Maryland was not alone in its misery. Pierce rushed for 100 or more yards in eight of Temple's 11 games in 2011 and more than 140 in five of them. He had a touchdown in all but one game, and had three or more in five of them. At season’s end, Pierce, who left Temple after his junior season to support his family, was named the 2011 ECAC Offensive Player of the Year after racking up 1,481 rushing yards and a school-record 27 touchdowns.
“He is a one-cut runner with some size. He runs very well behind his pads, and that’s the style of running game that we’re using right now,” Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said after the Ravens traded up to select Pierce in the third round Friday night.
Ravens director of player personnel Eric DeCosta echoed those comments -- and credited Ravens running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery for scouting Pierce -- saying that Pierce is a physical runner who can help the Ravens down near the goal line and also be a bruiser in short-yardage situations. They uncharacteristically struggled in that regard last season despite the presence of Pro Bowl players at running back, fullback, and both guard spots.
“You know, if you want me to get those short yards, those fourth-and-ones, third-and-shorts, I can definitely contribute to a game plan any way you want me to,” Pierce said on a conference call with Baltimore media on Friday night. “I’m a big back. I’m not just going to go down easy. I’m definitely going to fight for every yard.”
That’s what he did against the Terps. It may not have been pretty, but, led by Pierce, the Owls wore down the Terps by halftime. "It's hard to say this as a coach, but their will was a lot stronger than our will was today,” Edsall said after. He didn’t single out Pierce, but he was the sledgehammer who shattered Maryland’s will.