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Homecoming is always special at Temple University
, but this year's version was extra special. On Friday the University held the Inauguration of Neil D. Theobald
as its 10th President, and Saturday, with Theobald on the field for the coin toss, the Owls football team posted its first win under head coach Matt Rhule
, defeating Army, 33-14, in front of 25,533 fans.
It was an all-around team effort that provided Rhule with his first win as a college coach.
"I'm more happy for my son and my wife because they live it every day," Rhule said. "My son lives it every day. I'm thrilled, but I have to be honest. I'm more thrilled for our players. There were kids out there starting today that started the year on the scout team. Those kids have been through it, and they weathered the storm, and they have come back and worked and worked and worked. That to me is how you build something. You build something with work ethic, and eventually that results in wins."
Offensively, freshman QB P.J. Walker
looked poised in his third collegiate start, completing 10-of-16 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 28 yards on five carries.
Junior WR Jalen Fitzpatrick
showed his explosiveness as a playmaker with four catches for 128 yards and a touchdown. His 45-yard reception on a brilliantly designed third-and-five play, where Walker faked a hand-off and hit him down the middle of the field, set up the Owls first score. He then made a 37-yard catch for a touchdown to put Temple up 14-0 in the first quarter.
Fitzpatrick became Temple's first 100-yard receiver since Michael Campbell had 132 receiving yards on Nov. 16, 2010 against Ohio.
Freshman RB Zaire Williams
set new career highs with 19 carries for 94 yards, including a 15-yard third quarter TD to extended the Owls lead to 33-0. Junior RB Kenneth Harper
accumulated 50 rushing yards on 13 carries, and his one-yard TD – his team-high seventh of the season – gave Temple the early 7-0 lead.
Defensively, the Owls forced three turnovers, including the team's first two interceptions of the year (Tavon Young
& Tyler Matakevich
). Sophomore Nate D. Smith
, who was challenged by Rhule to step up prior to the game, did indeed, making nine tackles and returning a fumble for a 19-yard second quarter touchdown.
Matakevich, who continues to lead the nation in solo tackles, led all defenders with 13 in the contest. He also had an interception and a fumble recovery. Freshman Jahaad Pretlow and Abdul Smith
also made nine tackles as the Owl defense held Army to 255 yards on 58 carries, nearly 100 yards under its nation-best average (352.3 ypg.).
The Owls started quickly, energized by the Homecoming crowd. The Cherry and White took the opening kickoff and marched 78 yards on six plays for Harper's one-yard score. The other big play, other than Fitzpatrick's catch that put the ball at the one, came from Harper, a 22-yard rush that moved the ball to midfield.
On the Owls' next possession, Walker showed he can move a team as he took over following an Army punt at his own one yard-line. Williams rushed twice for a first down to give the Cherry and White some breathing room before Walker hit sophomore WR Robby Anderson
for an 11-yard first down play and then connected with Fitzpatrick for a 30-yarder.
Another Williams first down run, this one for 11-yards, moved the ball into Army territory. Walker then rushed twice for nine-yards before connecting with Fitzpatrick for a 37-yard TD.
Temple added on two late second quarter touchdowns, the first one coming after the defense pinned Army inside its own 10 to force a punt from its end zone. Senior WR Ryan Alderman
returned the punt 10 yards to the Army 37. Three plays later, Walker found sophomore WR John Christopher
for a 39-yard TD. Freshman Nick Visco
, however, hit the upright, which made the score 20-0.
On the very next play, Smith picked up a fumble by Army's Kelvin White and scampered 19 yards to make it 26-0. The two-point conversion attempt failed and that would be how the score would remain at intermission.
The Owls added to their lead midway through the third quarter. Following a Matakevich fumble recovery at the Army 21, Williams would score from 15 yards out two plays later to make it 33-0.
Army finally got on track offensively. The Black Knights first score came on a 13-play, 78-yard drive that culminated in a White pass 15-yard pass to Patrick Laird to make it 33-7. On its next possession it was all White as the sophomore QB rushed three times for 45 yards, the last for a one-yard touchdown to account for all scoring.
Temple (1-6, 0-3 The American) next travels to Dallas to take on SMU (2-4, 1-1) on Saturday, October 26 (3:00 pm ET/ESPN3/1210 AM WPHT).