Anthony Russo didn’t mind the wait.
He waited for P.J. Walker to wrap up his Temple career when he watched as a redshirt. The young quarterback also waited while Logan Marchi took over the reins his freshman year for half a season before Frank Nutile replaced him mid-season and guided the Owls to a bowl game for the third straight year.
Then he waited when Nutile got the call to start the season and struggled in home losses to Villanova and Buffalo, before being shelved with a mysterious injury.
Well, Russo is not waiting anymore, throwing for 254 yards and a career-high four touchdowns in Saturday’s 49-6 romp over East Carolina in a game that was not as close as the score indicated.
As a result, 3-3 Temple, who is about to begin a brutal schedule against the American Athletic Conference’s best, might have a chance to survive.
“I think it is exciting for me,” said Russo, who now appears firmly entrenched as the Owls quarterback of the present as well as the future. ”It was a little bit of a wait, but that’s just what comes with college football. You just have to be ready when your number’s called.”
“The last couple of years all I wanted to do was prepare as much as I can,” he explained. “Learn from the older guys, learn from Frankie and P.J. my freshman year. That way when I do get that get that opportunity and my number is called I am able to step in and do the best that I can”
Since learning just before kickoff that he would be starting at Maryland in Week 3, the kid from Doylestown, PA. has gotten better by the week. Against East Carolina, who was coming off a win over an Old Dominion team that stunned Virginia Tech the week before, he shrugged off a bad interception on Temple’s first possession and proceeded to put on a show.
“That’s part of playing the quarterback position,” explained Russo, who is now 3-1 since replacing Nutile. “No matter if you have a great play or a bad play you have to move on to the next one. You can’t harp on it.”
Having been at the helm for a month now, the 6-foot-4 redshirt sophomore with the monster arm admits he’s much more at ease.
“I’m definitely more comfortable,” said Russo, who threw touchdown passes to Sean Ryan (24 yards), Branden Mack (7), Isaiah Wright (19) and Randle Jones (31). Wright also took a punt 59 yards to the house, the sixth straight game that Temple’s defense or special teams has scored a touchdown.
“The first game there was a little bit of a set of nerves,” he continued. “Communication with the offensive line in there is great. They’re always talking to me about what they see out there.”
“And then having Frank on the sidelines as well–someone who’s played a bunch of games for us–all that stuff makes my job so much easier,” added Russo “We’ve got so many guys who can get open and make plays for us. That’s a testament to our wide receiver group.”
It’s also a testament to the fact, Russo has assumed command, clearly the No. 1 option even when the graduate senior Nutile gets the go-ahead. With an imposing schedule looming: 2-3 Navy, 5-0 Cincinnati, 5-0 Central Florida, 4-1 Houston, and 5-0 South Florida—three of those on the road—the Owls have their work cut out for them.
However, they’re confident Russo gives them their best chance. “He’s just settling into his own skin,” said offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude.
“Understanding more. Being more confident with what we’re doing. The transition is always tough. Frankie played so well and did an unbelievable job for us at the end of last year. Unfortunate he gets banged up.”
“Anthony has been able to take over the team more in a leadership role. His confidence has grown and now he’s taking first reps.”
Of course, Temple will need more than solid quarterback play to win with that grueling schedule. Yet with a running game that racked up 173 yards on the ground—Ryquell Armstead just missing his fifth straight 100-yard game with 91—and a strong defensive effort that held ECU to 196 total yards and two field goals, the Owls are at least ready to find out.
In fact, they can’t wait.