Junior QB P.J. Walker
set the Temple career passing touchdown record and senior LB Tyler Matakevich
became just the seventh FBS player to record 100 tackles in four seasons, leading Temple to an impressive 31-12 win over #21 Memphis in front of 31,708 fans at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday.
The win moves the Owls to 9-2 overall (6-1 American) and keeps the Cherry and White one game ahead of USF (7-4, 5-2) for the East Division title. Memphis lost its third straight game to fall to 8-3, 4-3."
That was a great win and a great day," said head coach Matt Rhule
. "The challenge this week was to our seniors to take the team to another level. By that, I mean winning big games down the stretch, not being distracted, responding to adversity, and we felt like we were prepared for it. Everything that we have been through has led us to this moment to play really well."
Walker, who completed 14 of 26 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns, played nearly flawless in directing the Owls to 461 yards of total offense in a must-win game. The junior also rushed for 49 yards on seven carries.
Matakevich, who earlier in the week was named a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski award, led an Owl defense, which held the high-scoring Tiger offense to just 12 points, with 11 tackles. The senior from Stratford, Conn. is the only FBS player to have led his team in tackles in every game this season.
Temple's defense never played better, holding Memphis out of the end zone for the first time all season and snapping junior QB Paxton Lynch's streak of 15 straight games with a TD pass. The Owls also held the Tigers to 232 yards of total offense, their lowest number of the season (previous low of 425), which was over 300 less than their average (541) entering play. The Tigers' 12 points were also 31.7 below their nation's sixth best scoring average (43.7 ppg.).
Matakevich and Walker were hardly the only stars of the game. They were just the only one recording milestones in this monumental win for Temple. A win that tied the 1973, 2009, and 2011 squads for second most wins in program history, and one shy of the school record set in 1979 when that Owl team posted a 10-2 record.
Redshirt junior Romond Deloatch
was one of those other heroes. It was his acrobatic 13-yard touchdown reception that gave Temple the lead, 7-6, with 8:14 remaining in the half. It was a lead the Owls would never relinquish.
Redshirt freshman David Hood
, who entered the game with just 76 yards rushing, had a career and team high 61 yards on 14 carries, including a 14-yard TD run on the Owls' next possession to make it 14-6. That score was set up by a Walker to senior WR Brandon Shippen
49-yard reception to the Memphis 15.
Memphis cut the deficit to 14-9 right before the half on a 44-yard field goal by Jake Elliott. The Tigers had a chance to get even closer early in the third quarter as sophomore Alex Starzyk
fumbled the ball while punting with his attempt hitting the back of a teammate and being recovered by Memphis on the Temple 21.
The Owl defense held strong, forcing another Elliot field goal attempt. The Memphis kicker, however, hit the right upright.
Memphis then forced a turnover on downs on the Owls next possession to give the Tigers the ball at the Temple 44. Lynch directed the Tiger offense to the Temple 18, but sophomore DB Sean Chandler
(9 tackles) sacked the Memphis signal-caller on a third down play to force an Elliott field goal attempt. This time the Tiger kicker was true from 39 yards to make it 14-12.
Temple then took control in the fourth quarter. Redshirt freshman TE Kip Patton
took a handoff from Walker and ran around the right corner for a 13-yard touchdown on the first play of the frame to give the Owls a two-score lead, 21-12.
After the defense held Memphis to a three-and-out, Walker directed the Owls on a 13-play, 62-yard drive with sophomore PK Austin Jones
drilling a 35-yard field goal to make it 24-12.
The defense again came up big on the Tigers next possession, forcing a turnover on downs with a stop of Paxton on a fourth-and-one from the Memphis 37. Five plays later Walker made them pay, hitting Saledeem Major
for a 19-yard touchdown. It was the first career touchdown for the redshirt senior tight end and the record 50th passing TD for the junior QB from Elizabeth, N.J.
Walker broke the mark of 49 career touchdown passes set by Henry Burris (1993-96), Said Burris today, "I'm so happy and excited for P.J. Records are created to be broken. It's great to see his leadership in taking Temple football to the next level. This is only another step towards P.J. creating a legacy of success while at Temple! Proud of him and the team!"
That sealed the win for the Owls, who now can clinch a spot in the inaugural American Athletic Conference Championship game with a win over UConn next Saturday night (7:00 pm/ESPNU/97.5 The Fanatic) at Lincoln Financial Field. Box Score (PDF)
| Photo Gallery
| Video Highlights
| Press Conference
| Player Interviews