E.J. Warner, the son of Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner, started as quarterback for Temple on Saturday for the first time in his career.
Warner's presence in the starting lineup, however, wasn't quite enough to lift the Owls to the win. Rutgers beat Temple 16-14. Warner finished 19-of-32 for 215 passing yards with one touchdown and one interception.
His touchdown came on a 47-yard connection to Jordan Smith in the fourth quarter.
— Temple Football (@Temple_FB) September 17, 2022
Exciting day of college football in the Warner house today… Watching @KadeWarner playing WR in his final year for @KStateFB & @elijah13warner getting his 1st start as a true freshmen for @Temple_FB… very proud papa today! #EMAW #TempleTuff #LetsGo
— Kurt Warner (@kurt13warner) September 17, 2022
The young Warner is a true freshman. He's replacing D'Wan Mathis, who won the starting job several weeks ago after making seven starts in 2021 as a redshirt freshman transfer from Georgia. He's made two starts this year and has struggled in both. He's 14-for-29 with 125 yards on the season, and fumbled the ball twice in the first quarter against Lafayette last week.
That's when head coach Sean Drayton decided to replace Mathis with Warner, and the decision paid off. Warner went 14-for-19 with 173 yards and two touchdowns over three quarters of play, leading Temple to a 30-14 win over Lafayette after being tied 7-7 at the end of the first quarter.
— Temple Football (@Temple_FB) September 10, 2022
EJ Warner, son of Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, is a true freshman and will start for Temple🦉
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) September 17, 2022
“The way he handled the pressure ... he didn’t flinch,” Drayton said on Monday via the Philadelphia Inquirer. “He went out there and executed the offense, didn’t try to step outside himself, went out there and put the ball where it needed to be.”
While comparisons to his father Kurt Warner and the inspirational story about his journey to the NFL are unavoidable (there's even a movie about his life story now), Drayton isn't thinking about the elder Warner. All he knows is he saw something special when E.J. was on the field, especially when he was able to stay calm and take hits from the Lafayette defense while still completing accurate passes.
“He was the guy who took those hits, and those are normally the signs of a good quarterback,” Drayton said via the Inquirer, “a guy who can sit there and keep his eyes down the field, trust the protection is going to be OK and take those hits, get back up and deliver it again. And that’s what we saw out of E.J. That’s exciting.”