2. Owls LB Tyler Matakevich is a first-team All-American. Enough already with ignoring this kid. Doesn’t matter if he plays in the AAC, the ACC or the CYO. There is no better LB in the land, non-professional division. A senior who entered the season as the NCAA’s active leading tackler with 355 career stops, T-Mat made 7 in this one, including 3 – that’s right, count ’em, THREE – sacks of Hackenberg. He is an inspirational force who has a knack for finding the ball, or getting a teammate in position to attack it instead.
3. Junior RB Jahad Thomas is an amalgam of head bobbing, arms flailing and legs churning who doesn’t seem to fit the mold of “feature back” because he is neither big nor particularly fast, yet he managed to rip off several long-distance, 25-yardish gains to either set up a touchdown, score one or earn a seal-the-deal first down late. The high school teammate of Owls QB P.J. Walker, he was the key cog to the home team’s offense on this day, posting 135 yards and two TDs in 29 carries. Oddly, he wasn’t one of the nine Owls who hauled in at least one pass from Walker.
4. Likely lost in the shuffle of this much-needed “program win” were the punting efforts of Alex Starzyk, who averaged 46.9 yards on seven boots. But those numbers don’t tell the real story as he was a weapon against PSU, putting it back on its heels whether he went classic style or Australian rules style in an attempt to make the visitors think he might be running a fake. Placekicker Austin Jones wasn’t too shabby, either, going 3-for-3 on PATs and 2-for-2 on FGs.
5. Coverboy John Christopher, who was solo-featured on the gameday program made two brilliant plays, first snatching a pass way off its mark in the first quarter with a body-contorting twist and then turning it into a 13-yard gain and first down, and later with a nifty flea-flicker aerial to Walker that netted 25 yards in the third quarter. That play set up Jones’ game-tying 40-yard 3-pointer in the third.
6. The announced sellout crowd of 69,176, a record number at Lincoln Financial Field, certainly included a few thousand empty, albeit paid-for, seats. Still, the showing was a good one for Temple as it tries to build its program under, oddly enough, former PSU player Matt Rhule. It was pretty much a 50-50 split among Owls and Lions fans, and gave Philly a chance to see what big-time college football can be like … even with the team from town winning.
7. Though polite throughout the contest, the climate turned a tad sketchy post-game as a series of fights and near-fights started to pop up with people exiting the stadium. As a Temple alum, I can’t say I was bursting with pride when the younger Owls among us started doing chants of “F#ck Penn State,” or sported T-shirts that stated the same sentiment. Yeah, the Blue & White contingent can be arrogant and pompous and condescending with back-handed compliments, but how about we chill on ill-conceived retaliatory stuff? The win was enough.
8. Oh, finally, the new Owls unis are nice … but I don’t see them as a step up from their most recent getups, and, frankly, I’m already starting to fear that the feathered-Owl helmet may be a permanent thing of the past. The dots, or whatever the heck they are, on the new helmet stripe, sleeves and pant sides look silly to me. But that’s me. Perhaps the change was the last step needed to end 74 years of failure against PSU on the gridiron.
- Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org