By Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
Lotta good times.
The best in my lifetime of following Temple University football.
That’s what Matt Rhule brought to me and my alma mater, and, if it’s all the same to everyone else, that’s the way he’ll be remembered here.
Oh, sure, hate to see him go. Saying goodbye to someone who brought so much joy and hope into your existence is never easy. But if they determine it is time to leave, who are any of us to say they can’t?
After all, it is their life and their choice on how to live it.
With that, in bidding a final adieu to the departing head coach, who, in four seasons, managed to turn a dysfunctional operation into an American Athletic Conference champion, a two-time AAC East Division winner, and back-to-back 10-game winner and back-to-back bowl participant, we present the following:
TOP 5 WINS OF RHULE ERA
Dec. 3, 2016 | Beat No. 19 Navy, 34-10
Mission accomplished. Rhule set out to win a conference title and did so, and probably stayed this season instead of bolting for Missouri last season only because Temple fell short against Houston on the same stage 12 months earlier. Regardless, his efforts, and those of everyone under his watch, paid off. The Owls didn’t just earn the crown, they annihilated the opposition in doing so, holding the Midshipmen’s vaunted option attack to just 306 total yards, including 168 on the ground – which was less than half its average. Quarterback Phillip Walker starred, as did running backs Ryquell Armstead, linebacker Jarred Alwan and safety Sean Chandler, but the effort was great throughout the squad. It was quite the capper to Rhule’s stint at Temple.
Oct. 21, 2016 | Beat South Florida, 46-30
Unranked, but the most formidable foe during Rhule’s tenure as their coach outside of Notre Dame on Halloween night in 2015, the Owls delivered serious payback for the damage done to them a year earlier in Tampa, Fla. Armstead was awesome, erupting for 210 yards on 20 carries, including a 76-yard jaunt that reawakened Temple after it had blown an early lead. This is the game that made Nick Sharga the best-known fullback in the country, courtesy of ESPN color commentator Mack Brown falling in love with the youngster’s tenacious blocking. All told, Temple rolled up 319 yards on the ground and the Bulls could do nothing to stop them. Defensively, it held electric USF QB Quinton Flowers in check with All-America DE candidate Haason Reddick and Co. posting 11 tackles for loss in the process.
Nov. 21, 2015 | Beat No. 21 Memphis, 31-12
Reeling after suffering their second loss in three games – an embarrassing blowout loss at that to South Florida – following a 7-0 start to the season, the Owls responded with their best overall performance during Rhule’s tenure. The offense, defense and special teams all clicked, as Temple basically manhandled the Tigers and eventual NFL first-round QB selection Paxton Lynch. The host Owls racked up 461 yards, including 261 through the air from Walker, while holding their explosive visitors to just 232, and they were dominant down the stretch, outscoring Memphis 17-0 in the final frame to put the game away.
Sept. 4, 2015 | Beat Penn State, 27-10
This is the one that put Rhule’s program on the map locally – a huge deal considering how stubborn the region is with recognizing anything grid-related that is not Eagles- or Nittany Lions-related. The defense, headed by All-American LB Tyler Matakevich, was spectacular in registering 10 sacks and pestering PSU QB Christian Hackenberg all afternoon. The victory marked the Owls’ first in the series since 1941, and took place before a sold-out crowd at Lincoln Financial Field. Thomas became a household name with anyone having allegiance to the Cherry & White, racking up 135 yards and two TDs on the ground in the shiftiest of fashions.
Nov. 1, 2014 | Beat No. 23 East Carolina, 20-10
Whether anyone cared to notice, this was the first time a Rhule-led Owls squad served notice that it could stick with, and prevail against, real quality competition. The win marked Temple’s first against a ranked team in 16 years and, again, Matakevich was key. He had 16 tackles in this one, whereas he’d have three sacks 10 months later against Penn State. Though the Pirates moved the ball, the conference’s top-ranked offense was derailed by five turnovers forced by the Owls.