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Russo Is Tuff Enough For Temple

Written by: on Thursday, November 29th, 2018. Follow Don Leypoldt on Twitter.


To run in the November 29thBucks County Herald


Research Temple football and “Temple Tuff” inevitably surfaces. (Note the “TU”)

“We bank on being Temple Tuff,” explained redshirt sophomore quarterback Anthony Russo.  “We’re going to out tough teams.  We’re going to work harder than teams.  We take a lot of pride in that.”

The 8-4 Owls have (italics) been “Tuff” in 2018.  They showed toughness at Maryland in week three, Russo’s first start. Maryland was a 15-point favorite and playing just their second home game after the emotional death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair.

Yet Doylestown’s Russo calmly completed 60% of his passes and the Owls blew out the Terps 35-14.

The Owls were tough five weeks later.  Shaking off three picks against #20 Cincinnati, Russo found Cheltenham’s Branden Mack for a last second 20-yard touchdown pass to knot the game at 17.  Russo threw for 172 yards after the third quarter, getting 25 of them on an overtime game winning touchdown pass to Isaiah Wright.

In both wins, another “T” word- Trust- was evident.

Maryland “was 2-0.  They came out with a lot of energy and wanted to play for McNair so we had to come out and match it,” Russo recalled.  “The thing I remember the most about that game is the veterans all let me know that they had all of the trust in me.  We were going to go out there and it was going to be good.”

The Cincinnati game, Russo speculated, “showed me the trust that my teammates had in me and I think it allowed me to take a step forward as a leader.  We were struggling. I had thrown three interceptions in a close game.  My teammates were coming up and saying ‘I have your back.  I trust you.’

“When I said Temple Tuff, we always preach that no matter what the score, we’re going to play as hard as we can from the first snap to the last,” Russo continued.  “When stuff wasn’t going our way, we kept battling and we were able to come out on top.”

Collins had high praise for his quarterback after Temple’s first win over a ranked opponent since 2016.

“He’s a mentally strong guy, he’s resilient.  Anthony Russo isn’t just a guy that survives our team workouts, he attacks them,” Collins commented.  “This win showed the character of him and all the guys in our locker room.”

In consecutive AAC wins against East Carolina and Navy, Russo completed 44 of 56 passes for 554 yards and five scores.  “It was comfort and getting the nerves out of the way in the first couple of games,” Russo feels.  “I started to settle in.  Games started to slow down.

“The receivers made such good plays,” Russo continued.  “With East Carolina, we had receivers getting off of press coverage and getting open down the field.  When you play against Navy’s triple option, you are going to get limited chances because they control the ball for so long.  We needed to make the most of those opportunities.  Our receivers did a great job of going up and getting the ball.”

Originally a Rutgers signee, Russo de-committed and inked with Temple after the Scarlet Knights’ then coaching staff was fired.  He loved Temple’s blue collar culture.

“You can’t beat coming to every home game and having your family and friends there,” Russo pointed out.

Since filling in for the injured Frank Nutile, Russo completed 58% of his pass attempts for 2,335 yards and 13 touchdowns.  The Owls are 7-2 in Russo’s starts.  On November 17, Russo led Temple to 27 unanswered second half points in a 27-17 conference win over South Florida.

Russo was an All-State quarterback at Archbishop Wood.  He won the Philadelphia Catholic League MVP in 2015 by throwing for a record 35 touchdowns.  Russo led the Vikings to the AAA state title in 2014.

“Anthony is a born leader,” credited Ursinus defensive coordinator Steve Devlin, Russo’s coach at Wood.  “I knew that from the first time I met him.  He has the arm and ability to make all the throws.  Anthony stays even keel.  Nothing affects him.  He’s not afraid to take chances.  We still talk every week and he has the same mindset that he has always had.”

Russo’s speed in praising teammates is quicker than his ability to pick up blitzers.  The young quarterback has established good chemistry with talented wide outs Mack and Ventell Bryant.

“Those two are tremendous playmakers.  The way they prepare each week says volumes about how well they play on Saturdays,” Russo said.  “Ventell will probably leave here as the best receiver in Temple history and B-Mack is chasing all of the numbers that Ventell is going to set.”

Running back Ryquell Armstead, a 1,000 yard rusher, “makes my job a whole lot easier,” Russo added.  “A constant for us has been the play of the offensive line in both the run game and the pass game.  We’ve been able to establish the run early and that opens up the pass even more. A lot more credit needs to be shown to the O line and the receivers for the job that they’ve done.”

As the Owls await their bowl invitation, credit should also be directed to their head-turning quarterback.  “He’s a winner,” Devlin concluded.  “He makes everyone around him better.”

Follow on Twitter @EPAFootball

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