COMING UP BIG
Despite others possibly having more impressive season stats in 2015, Temple senior LB Tyler Matakevich seemed to have a knack for playing his best when the Owls needed it most. The following are his most impactful performances of the season – in order of importance.
Penn State | September 5
In leading the Owls to their first win against the Nittany Lions in 74 years, he registered 3 sacks among his team-high 7 tackles in the season opener, setting the tone for an historic campaign for the program.
Cincinnati | September 12
Just a week after Penn State, he racked up 13 tackles and picked off two passes, including the game-clincher in the end zone during the waning moments and the AAC favorite Bearcats driving for the tying score at home.
East Carolina | October 22
The Owls needed every one of his 13 tackles, not to mention the sack and interception he had, in order to escape Greenville, N.C., with an unbeaten record intact after 7 games – a first for an Owls squad.
Notre Dame | October 31
If Temple had hung on to win this one, perhaps our list here would have a different order. Still, his 13 tackles and interception against the Irish even had ESPN’s Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit gushing … and the Owls, and Matakevich, getting national respect.
Connecticut | November 28
With Temple having to win in order to clinch a spot in the American Athletic Conference East Division title, and thus a spot in the inaugural conference title game, he posted 11 tackles, including half a sack.
Memphis | November 21
The Owls were reeling after getting embarrassed at South Florida the week before, so they desperately needed a strong, steady performance from their leader … and got one: 11 tackles, and general nuisance to Tigers QB Paxton Lynch all afternoon.
T-MAT TACKLE TRACK
67 solo, 34 assisted: 101 total
99 solo, 38 assisted: 137 total
88 solo, 29 assisted: 117 total
75 solo, 51 assisted: 126 total
- School-record 24 in a game
- No. 2 at school in career, 481
He’s deserving. No question about that.
Oh, maybe not so much for strictly this season, but in regards to a career, a brilliant one of almost mind-numbing consistency and production that has gone vastly unnoticed by a nation of college football followers, oh, yeah, oh, hell, yeah, Tyler Matakevich is deserving.
Of being named the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
Of being honored as the Bronco Nagurski Award winner as the nation’s top defender.
Of being the first Temple player since Paul Palmer in 1986 to receive first-team All-America recognition.
Of all that and more.
Frankly, all the accolades have been long overdue.
Not for nothing, but yours truly isn’t normally the one to go for the lifetime-achievement factor when it comes to individual season awards, but the seasons Matakevich had posted prior to this one were so good and yet so grossly overlooked … well, let’s just say, there are legit exceptions, and this is one.
For all he accomplished individually with the Owls 2012-14, racking up monstrous tackle numbers, not to mention posting another outstanding campaign the last three months and change, it really isn’t so hard to give him the nod over performers who, statistically, may have had better seasons in 2015.
The 6-foot-1, 232-pound senior finished 18th among the nation’s tacklers, averaging 9.7 per game (126 in 13 games). Truth is, he didn’t even lead the AAC in that category, or in total tackles. Those honors went to Tulsa defensive back Michael Mudoh (10.5 per game) and Houston linebacker Elandon Roberts (132).
But his impact was felt every week by Temple, in a way that is pretty much impossible to quantify. That being said, Matakevich did lead his team in tackles every game this season, a feat accomplished by no other player in the nation. He set career highs in tackles for loss (15), sacks (4.5) and interceptions (5), a stat that ranked among the top 20 in the country.
Oh, and he also became the seventh player in FBS history to record 100 tackles or more in all four of his collegiate seasons.
Truth is, while we could nitpick and point out that Matakevich may not have even been the best defensive player in the commonwealth this fall as Penn State end Carl Nassib led the country in sacks (15.5) and forced fumbles (6), the reality is he is a kid who has deserved to be recognized as being one of the nation’s top defenders as far back as 2013.
Following a freshman campaign that netted him 101 tackles, Matakevich was challenged by new head coach Matt Rhule to become more physical and to make more impactful plays, and the youngster responded by unleashing a beast of a season: nation-leading 99 solo tackles among his 137 total stops, 11.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and two recoveries. This in 11 games.
It was a first-team All-America-worthy effort that did not yield such notoriety. What he did the following season wasn’t too shabby either: 117 tackles, including 10.5 for loss, and the driving force behind Temple’s defensive-based charge from losing outfit to bowl-eligible one.
But it wasn’t until this season where everything dovetailed in a way that allowed his play, both current and past, to be celebrated as it deserved to be … pretty much all along.
- Jack Kerwin | email@example.com
Temple linebacker as good as it gets
History-making season for Temple
Owls getting some respect nationally