Just 10 years ago, Temple went 0-11 under coach Bobby Wallace. The dismal year accredits to the Owls’ noncompetitiveness, poor fan support, and lack of program support. Following that season, the Big East did away with the Owls and there were thoughts within the University of cancelling the football program altogether.
Whoever voted against that notion saw a tiny beam of light that had potential to grow, and ten years later, that same light is blinding all of college football.
Today, No. 21 Temple is 7-0 for the first time, atop of the American Athletic Conference’s east division, and will be hosting No. 9 Notre Dame in Philadelphia on Halloween. The same day ESPN’s College Gameday will be at Independence Mall in downtown Philadelphia. The game will air on primetime 6ABC with kickoff at 8 pm. As said by many, this matchup against the Irish will be the biggest contest the Owls have undergone in the program’s 121 year history. “We embrace the moment.” Coach Rhule said.
It’s definitely going to be something to cherish.
The Owls defense, which ranks first in rushing, passing and total defense in the conference, will have its hands full against a Notre Dame offense that averages upwards of 500 yards per contest. The offense is fueled by dual-threat, Sophomore replacement quarterback DeShone Kizer, who has shown flashes of potential but has portrayed slight growing pains early in the season. Starting with 4 interceptions in his first four games as starter, he hasn’t thrown one since. He is starting to heat up and the offense has been producing points, averaging 38 points per game this season. Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire, preseason heisman hopeful, suffered a season ending injury to in their second game and Kizer has been at the helm ever since. Exquisite skill position play from the Irish have alleviated some pressure from Kizer and allowed the offense to remain at an elite level.
Philly native and Junior WR Will Fuller has displayed his playmaking ability and electric speed for Notre Dame so far this season. Averaging over 21 yards per reception, the deep threat receiver has tallied 702 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. Only 8 players in all of college football have more receiving touchdowns. Senior HB C.J. Prosise poses Temple’s front seven a threat as he has rushed for 922 yards and twelve scores as well as reeling in 18 passes for 219 yards and a score. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield has proven to be a mismatch for opposing linebackers as he is the third leading receiver on the Irish.
Tyler Matakevich has other thoughts of how things will turn out against Prosise and the Notre Dame offense. The nation’s career tackles leader told the media on Tuesday, “For us, it’s all about us right now. We just have to stay together and stick to our plan to win.”
As for the Temple offense, all eyes are on number 11. P.J. Walker will have a good a chance as ever to display maturity and good decision making under center. Jahad Thomas will more likely than not be limited as Coach Brian Kelly, coming off of a bye week, has had two weeks to break down this Temple offense. One thing Kelly saw: without the ball in Thomas’ hands, the Owls have a tough time getting much going. This was seen vs. ECU and UMass this season as Thomas averaged just 3.3 and 2.6 yards a carry and both games were nail biters just barely favoring the Owls. Walker has to anticipate bearing the load this game and find a way to move the ball without Jahad. “If we go out there and play our best football we’ll be alright.”
Someone other than Thomas will need to have themselves a career night and key contributors to success this Saturday could include Robby Anderson, who racked up his third career 100 yard receiving performance against ECU which woke the offense up and propelled a win. Other targets could include receivers Ventell Bryant and John Christopher and tight end Kip Patton.