Temple football hoping to learn from ugly season-opening loss

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Sifting through the rubble of Temple’s unsettling 28-13 loss to Army Friday there was little for Matt Rhule & Co. to be happy about.

Not when the Owls, a team which ranked 28th in the nation in rushing yards allowed last year (127.6) were literally ground into submissionby the Black Knightsamassing 329 yards rushing on a whopping 67 attempts.Not when quarterback Philip (no longer P.J.) Walker threw three interceptions—just five fewer than he threw all of last season. And not when the school which started off 7-0 last year, then came oh, so close to knocking off Notre Dame, has now dropped three straight including the AAC championship game and Boca Raton Bowl.

“I’m embarrassed by our performance , but if we have any chance of being a good team, we’ll come back from this,” said Rhule, who had to go without star running back Jahad Thomas, who also won’t play against Stony Brook Saturday due to an undisclosed hand injury. “They physically dominated us and that’s what this game is about.

“When we lose is when we get dominated up front.”

There wasn’t any argument from his shell-shocked players, who came in two touchdown favorites against an Army team coming off a 2-10 season. But for those looking for a sliver of hope among the despair, Temple’s special teams may provide it.

Early in the second quarter Sharif Finch roared in to block a punt, the fifth of his career and fourth in the last two seasons for a Owls’ unit that blocked an NCAA best five last year.

“I was just being relentless and attacking,” explained the 6-4, 255 lb. senior from Henrico, VA, who was in on six tackles from his spot on the defensive line.“I’m just being physical, using my length and my size and strength.Having that ‘want to’ to go get a punt.”

Unfortunately for the Owls, Finch’s “want to” failed to rub off on the rest of his teammates.The best Temple could manage after that block was Austin Jones’ 41-yard field goal to take a 10-7 lead which lasted until the third quarter when Army took command. Later, Jones banged through a 27-yarder, giving the junior from Orlando 38 field goals for his career, third best in school history.

No. 39 and beyond will have to wait for another day, as the offense struggled moving the ball all night to get him in range. And when they were successful it didn’t last, largely thanks to the two picks Walker threw—one on their first possession—and four sacks, along with Temple going just 3-for-9 on third downs.

“All we can do is just play better next week and try and get this season to 1-1,” said Walker, who threw for 168 yards, moving him past Henry Burris (7,495) into Temple’s career passing leader with 7,542 yards. “We know what we have to do to get better and might have needed this game to realize what kind of team we are.”

According to Rhule, that’s part of the problem. He think the Owls have too high an opinion of themselves and needed something like this to wake them up.

“Somewhere along the line we have gotten convinced that we are some team that we are not,” said Rhule, who got decent performances from Ryquell Armstead (16 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown) and David Hood (5 for 21) filling in for Thomas. “We have to learn to understand we are not this team that will be up by 45 points at halftime every game.

“I have not gotten that across to them yet.”

Linebacker Avery Williams, wants this to stick with them.

“I want us to feel this loss,” said Williams, who led the team with 12 tackles, the Owls clearly missing departed Tyler Matakevich and Matt Ioannidis. “We’re 0-3 right now. We lost the conference championship, the bowl game, and this game. I want it to hurt for the rest of the season. I want people to remember this game.”

Because they know their performance was certainly forgettable.

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