The fact that no one was happier seeing P.J. Walker throw for 294 yards — including two fourth quarter touchdown passes to lead Temple to a 35-24come-from-behind win over Tulsa Saturday — says all you need to know about backup quarterback Connor Reilly.
Because this time last year it was his job to lose calling the shots for Matt Rhule’s Owls. Until he lost it.
But rather than sulk or go through the motions as then freshman Walker’s backup, this Army brat who has called 11 different places home as the son of a Lieutenant Colonel, simply dedicated himself to being a model teammate.
He’s also making the most of limited opportunities as placekick holder. He scored a key touchdown on a fake field goal Saturday, as the Owls reached 4-1 for only the second time since 1979.
“We weren’t sure if it was right look,” said Rhule, as Reilly took the snap, hesitated for a moment waiting for a hole to open, then darted through it for a three-yard score to put Temple up 14-7 in the second quarter. “But we trusted him.We knew he’d find a way to get in there.”
Whatever it takes, says the kid who won’t look back.
“It’s been an adjustment,” said Reilly, who started four games last year — all losses — throwing for 771 yards and two touchdowns, to go with a pair of interceptions. “but it’s his turn.P.J.’s definitely matured. I can see it on the sidelines. I accept my role as the backup and prepare every week in case I have to go in.Our team’s winning so I’m happy. The best quarterback is playing right now.”
And Reilly’s done nothing but help him Walker reach that point.
“He?s like a coach on the field,” said Walker, who struggled much of the da, before catching fire when it counted most, connecting with Jalen Fitzpatrick and Jahad Thomas for late touchdowns to erase a 24-21 deficit. “He lets me know what he sees on the field.I was really excited for him when he scored. I’ve learned a lot from him and he’s been supportive all along. I feel if anything happened to me he’d come in and do a great job.”
Having seen firsthand how that can happen when Walker took his job last year, Reilly puts in the time just in case he gets another chance.
“I understand what’s best for the team right now,” said Reilly. “I’ve stepped into other roles.But if my number’s called I’ll be ready.”
His coach knows it, too.
“He tries to push the guys around him and does his job at a high level,” said Rhule, who’ll now take the Owls on the road to Houston and Central Florida, before returning to host No. 19 East Carolina Nov. 1. “I think he knows at some point he might have to go in so he wants to be ready. “He’s just a winner and a great teammate.”