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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Commentary

Scouting the Temple Owls


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In its third season under head coach Matt Rhule, Temple enters the AAC Championship at 10-2. They started the season with seven straight wins. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

 

Coming off a decisive victory over the United States Naval Academy Midshipmen to secure the American Athletic Conference West title, the No. 19 Cougars welcome the No. 22 Temple University Owls to TDECU Stadium for the AAC Championship game.

A win would put the Cougars in prime position for a bid in one of the six New Year’s Day bowls.

The Owls enter the contest as the winners of their last two games, including a 27-3 victory over the University of Connecticut Huskies who gave the Cougars their only loss of the season.

Temple features a league-high, having seven players named to the first team All-American Conference list and 10 Owls receiving All-AAC honors. Senior linebacker Tyler Matakevich, a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player, was named the AAC defensive player of the year.

Temple is led by third-year coach Matt Rhule whose guidance has taken a team that was 2-10 in his first year, to a 10-2 record and an AAC East championship title. Poised for its first bowl appearance since 2011, this has brought national attention to the team. The Owls hosted ESPN’s College Gameday before their Oct. 31 loss to Notre Dame.

Temple’s defense has paved the way for it, ranking at the top of the AAC in scoring defense, total defense and rushing defense. The defense has been relentless all season in forcing 16 interceptions, racking up 33 sacks and holding No. 8 Notre Dame to its third-lowest offensive output of the season.

Matakevich has been a force all season, coming into the game with a team-high of 118 tackles, 14.5 for loss, 4.5 sacks, five interceptions and 10 passes defended. As the NCAA’s active career leader in tackles with 461, he is one of only six in Football Bowl Subdivision history to register his fourth consecutive 100-tackles season in 2015.

The Owl’s offense averages 32.2 points and 367.8 yards per game with a near-even split coming in passing and rushing. The offense is led by junior quarterback P.J. Walker, who has gone 197-347 for 2,450 yards while adding 18 touchdowns to six interceptions.

The offensive powerhouse for the Owls is junior running back Jahad Thomas, whose 1,188 yards are third in the AAC this season. Thomas is tied for second in the AAC with 17 rushing touchdowns and is a viable threat out of the backfield catching 21 balls for 210 yards and one touchdown.

In what should be a highly competitive game, the Owls hope their defense will be the difference-maker as they aim for their first AAC title.

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