Temple, Rhule earn 'emotional' victory No. 1

Temple, Rhule earn 'emotional' victory No. 1

October 19, 2013, 8:15 pm
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Players douse head coach Matt Rhule after Temple's 33-14 win over Army on Saturday. (USA Today Images)


The finish was somewhat anti-climactic -- which means there was time to really plan the Gatorade bath.

Matt Rhule got doused after the final whistle and picked up the first win of his head coaching career, as Temple topped Army, 33-14, on Saturday for its first win of the season (see Instant Replay).

"Had I known it was coming … I might have moved," said Rhule, who by this time had dried off, and for a moment opted to channel Nick Saban.

He likely enjoyed it anyway.

And why not? The victory advanced the Owls to 1-6 overall in 2013 and snapped two Temple losing streaks -- a seven-game overall drought dating back to last season and a six-game home drought dating back to last October.

Temple's win Saturday also marked the first time a home team has won at the Linc in the last 378 days. The Owls, Eagles and Army Black Knights had combined to lose 15 in a row.

Go figure, Army -- which dropped to 3-5 overall -- has never won at the Linc. The Black Knights are 0-fer in 11 tries since the stadium opened in 2004, losing three times to Temple and eight times to Navy.

By rule, somebody had to win. And for the first time this season, it was Temple, and Rhule.

"Obviously, I'm happy," he said. "I'm more happy for my son and my wife because they live 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 work and worked. That, to me, is how you build something."

Temple appears to be building something special with true freshman quarterback P.J. Walker, who completed eight of his first 11 passes and set up Temple's first two touchdowns with big plays on third down.

On 3rd-and-5 from the Army 46 on his opening drive, Walker hit receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick over the top for a 45-yard gain, allowing Kenny Harper to score his seventh touchdown of the year on a one-yard rush that put Temple up, 7-0.

On Temple's following drive, Walker faked a dive play on 3rd-and-5 from the Army 37 and dropped back to again hit Fitzpatrick, who made a diving, juggling catch behind two members of the Army secondary to put the Owls ahead, 14-0.

"We've been practicing that play all week," Walker said. "We called it just to ensure that we would make a big play. I wasn't going to accept anything less. Jalen went out there, beat the guy on the stutter and kept running."

After a slow start to the season, during which he failed to score in Temple's first four games, Fitzpatrick has scored three times in the last three weeks, all on passes from Walker. The junior receiver finished with four catches for a career-high 128 yards receiving, and the freshman quarterback completed 10 of 16 attempts for 203 yards passing, two touchdowns and an interception.

"At this point we are connecting very well," Walker said, referring to Fitzpatrick. "I don't want that to mess up, because I have another year with him and we have six more games left in the season."

Walker must have been counting a bowl game in there, because the Owls have only five regular-season games remaining. But, believe it or not, after starting 0-6, the Owls can still get bowl-eligible if they run the table and win out.

Regardless of what he meant, Walker's play allowed Temple to take a 26-0 lead into the half and build up a 33-0 lead in the third quarter, which also meant the defense was coming through with its best performance of the year.

Army entered Saturday averaging a national-best 352.3 yards on the ground but rushed for just 81 by halftime and eventually came undone by turnovers. The Black Knights coughed it up four times Saturday on two fumbles -- which led to 13 Temple points -- and two interceptions.

Backup quarterback Kelvin White was responsible for all 14 of his team's points and both picks after he took over for starting QB Angel Santiago, who left in the second quarter with what appeared to be an ankle injury.

Per usual, sophomore linebacker Tyler Matakevich led the way on defense. Matakevich, through six games, owned the national lead in solo tackles with 65 -- 20 more than any other player in the country. He racked up another 13 Saturday to go along with a fumble recovery and an acrobatic interception.

That pick was Temple's second of the game … and the season. Tavon Young had come away with the first about five minutes earlier in the fourth quarter.

"It's the same thing I've said every week: We control how we play, we never control the opponent," Rhule said. "For the first time, I felt like the team was not looking around. Tyler Matakevich tips a ball up to himself. Nate Smith picks up a ball and runs it in for a touchdown. Guys controlled how they played today. I couldn't be more proud of them."

Nor they of their coach.

Following last week's loss to Cincinnati, which dropped Temple to 0-6, Walker sent Rhule a text message that read, "Hey coach, hang in there. I'll have this thing right."

One week later, Temple got it right for the first time this season.

"It's very emotional in the locker room right now," Walker said. "We're a tough team. We just had to go out there today and prove it."

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