The Temple Owls rebounded with a defining 31-12 victory over the Memphis Tigers.
Football is a sport where it can make someone second guess themselves. Coming off a big loss to South Florida, Temple found itself in a must-win position. Instead of folding into the pressure, the Temple Owls defeated the No. 21 Memphis Tigers Saturday 31-12. The win gives Temple the opportunity to clinch the American Athletic Conference East Division with a win next week against UConn.
“The challenge this week was to our seniors to take the program to another level,” said Temple Head Coach Matt Rhule after the game. “By that I mean winning big games down the stretch, not being distracted, responding to adversity and we felt like we were prepared for it. We felt like everything we had been through had led us to this moment to play really well.”
The Owls went back to what made them successful earlier in the season: Running the ball effectively, making good decisions throwing the ball and playing tough on defense. The defense was stout, forcing Memphis to kick four field goals. They also kept the Tigers out of the end zone.
“We couldn’t run the ball and that sets everything else up for them,” said Memphis Head Coach Justin Fuente. “They’re tough, physical and they run a good scheme. They’re well-coached and have good players. I think it starts up for them where they did a good job controlling the line of scrimmage and keeping the ball in front of them.”
The Owls offense ran the ball 46 times for 200 yards. David Hood started the game and played well. The redshirt freshman accumulated 61 yards on the ground and scored a touchdown.
“Every week I practice like I am the starter” stated Hood. “Even if I am not getting all the reps in practice, you never know what may happen. I was just preparing myself as best as possible.”
The game was highlighted by two current Owls setting records. Senior linebacker Tyler Matakevich eclipsed the 100 tackle mark for the fourth straight year. He became only the seventh player in college football history to achieve that feat.
“This week we had to get back to our fundamentals and get back to what we were doing all year: Playing hard-nosed, tough football for four quarters and be the more physical team. That’s what we did today.”
“It just shows everybody that we have each others back. It doesn’t matter what situation we get put in. We tell Coach Rhule’ We got this, don’t worry about it.’ We told him to go for it. We were feeling great. When you are on the same page and with the defense rolling like we were today, we are really hard to beat.”
On offense, junior quarterback P.J. Walker threw for 261 yards and two touchdowns. His second touchdown pass to Saledeem Major was his 50th career touchdown pass. That moved him past Henry Burris for most career touchdown passes.
“It means a lot,” Walker said about his achievement. “You have to thank the guys around you. They have played up to their ability. You have to thank the offensive line for being able to protect me for me even to have the opportunity to throw the ball to the receivers.”
Temple now starts preparing for UConn. A win would place them in the AAC title game. Matakevich realizes what is at stake.
“Don’t get me wrong, this is a phenomenal win. That is a great team. They are tough. We have UConn next week. I know we are not in the conference championship game yet, so I know we need next week.”
“We know what’s at stake. We are considering this a playoff game. You win, you keep going. You lose, you’re done. That’s the mentality we have right now. It’s a playoff game.”
Game time for the regular season finale against UConn is 7 P.M.
Henry Burris commented on PJ Walker passing him in the record books: “I’m so happy and excited for P.J.! Records are created to be broken! It’s great to see his leadership in taking Temple football to the next level. This is only another step toward P.J. creating a legacy of success while at Temple! Proud of him and the team!!”…Today’s attendance was 31,708.