BOCA RATON- Under sunny skies and temperatures that reached 80 degrees, the Owls arrived in Boca Raton, Florida on Friday afternoon with one objective: beat Toledo.
Temple Football will hit the gridiron one final time in 2015, as they take on the Toledo Rockets in the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl. The game will be played tomorrow, December 22nd at 7 pm, and will be televised by ESPN.
According to ESPN’s Power Football Index, the Matchup Predictor is almost fifty-fifty, with a slight edge to Toledo at 50.8%. Both teams are looking to bounce back following losses that concluded their regular seasons.
The Rockets (9-2) reached as high as #19 in the AP polls this season, and will look to control the clock at FAU stadium Tuesday evening behind Kareem Hunt and a stellar run game.
Toledo comes into the game from the MAC conference, with impressive wins over Arkansas and Iowa State. Toledo’s offensive line has allowed only a mind boggling four sacks through their 11 contests, and pave the way for a rushing attack that produces over 213 yards per game, ranking 26th in the country. That matches up with the Temple defense that ranks 26th in the nation in run defense, allowing just 126.2 yards per game. The unit is led by the Chuck Bednarik Award winner Tyler Matakevich, who needs 11 tackles to become the program’s all-time leading tackler.
Matakevich and company are not fazed by Toledo’s impressive stats in the run game. First-team all AAC defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis described the situation as a great matchup for defensive line, explaining “They are very talented and we are going to have to be at our best to win the battle up front.” Senior cornerback Tavon Young told the SportsDesk, “Our defensive line will have no problem putting pressure on (Phillip Ely),” and he believes his defensive line can make Temple’s pass defense more effective.
Toledo’s Senior quarterback Phillip Ely has been an impressive leader after suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week Two of last season, and his poise and experience under center has been instrumental to the team’s success. Ely is no nonsense heading into the game. “I’ve been to a few of these bowls now, I understand the schedule, and I can understand how you can get distracted. We need to do a good job of letting the younger guys know that this is a business trip.”
Juniors P.J Walker and Jahad Thomas will need to spark the Owls offense that is bouncing back from producing just 13 points, and 3 first half points, against Houston- both season lows. Walker threw a season high 18 incompletions in the loss, and will need to be more efficient in his pass attempts against a Toledo defense ranked 24th in the nation. “We’re going to go out there and keep the same mind frame as we would any other game.”
Jahad Thomas is healthy and ready to take on the bulk of the carries for the Temple offense and get back in early-season form. Thomas has been held under 100 yards in six of the last seven contests after starting the season eclipsing the century mark four times in six games.
A win Tuesday night would give the Owls their 11th win of the season- the first time Temple has accomplished that feat in program history. After a 7-0 start, the Owls have finished the season 3-3, their latest contest ending in a loss in the AAC Championship. A final win would leave an ever-so-important lasting impression for the senior class, who have turned this program around.