As if Temple's football team didn't present the Mid-American Conference with enough problems early in the season, the league has looked up and found a one-headed, two-footed monster coming from Philadelphia.
Bernard Pierce, a six-foot, 212-pound true freshman who wears No. 30, has done something no other running back in the history of Temple football has done—rush for over 100 yards in each of his first three full starts.
Before you dismiss that as a byproduct of a less than stellar football history, that includes a Heisman Trophy runner-up in Paul Palmer (1986), who was also an NFL first-round draft choice.
It includes Todd McNair, a pretty good running back in the NFL who is now an assistant coach at Southern Cal.
It includes a guy, Sherman Myers, from Coatesville, who scored four touchdowns on on the ground in a 1979 Temple 49-17 rout of Syracuse.
It also includes recent NFLers like Stacey Mack (Jacksonville) and Jason McKie (Bears).
There are plenty of good running backs who have played at the school.
None did what Bernard Pierce has done.
But then again, none may be as good when all is said and done.
Pierce is a guy who was Pennsylvania state high school indoor champion in the 60-meter dash and then pulled the impressive double of winning the state 100-meter dash in the spring season.
That's scary enough against track guys.
Against football guys, it translates to one juke and plenty of 40-, 50- and 70-yard touchdown runs coming soon to a stadium near you.
Pierce is not a track guy who plays football. He's a football guy with a running back's instincts who happened to dominate in track.
There's a difference. He was born to run the ball.
"We thought he could be special," is the understated way Temple coach Al Golden describes it.
The Temple student rooting section, which sometimes numbers in the tens of thousands, has taken to Pierce already.
"SAINT BERN-ARD!" the students chant in unison. "SAINT BERN....ARRRD!"
So the inevitable question arises.
"Who does he remind you of?"
Not really any of the prior Temple backs, I thought. He really doesn't remind me all that much of Paul Palmer. Paul could break tackles, sure, but not as well as Bernard. What Bernard doesn't do as well as Paul is make tacklers miss, with a little juke here and a head fake there, but it's still early.
People who watched Temple practice in the summer came up with one name.
It's what I thought when I saw Pierce for the first time in the Villanova game.
Dickerson was the kind of guy who would approach the hole, take about a half-second to mull his options against the defense, and then attack the weakest part of it.
So, I thought, that pretty much was Pierce, a modern-day Eric Dickerson.
I thought that I was the only one who felt that way until I heard the Buffalo announcers.
"He kind of reminds you of Eric Dickerson," one of them said during the Owls' 37-13 win three weeks ago.
Then the Eastern Michigan announcer said the same thing.
"He runs like Eric Dickerson," said Matt Shepard, the play-by-play man for Eastern Michigan games that are streamed online. "It's going to be a pleasure to watch this young man develop the next four years."
That's all I needed to know.
We're all in agreement then.
There is a new Eric Dickerson, and he runs the football for Temple University.
That has a nice ring (and a whole lot of truth) to it.
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