PHILADELPHIA, PA. 11/21/2015 – Maybe it is not quite proper to invoke a John Calipari mantra in a Temple story, but ….. Calipari’s slogan for UMass basketball was “Refuse to Lose.” And that was exactly what the Temple Owls did in downing the # 21 Memphis Tigers 31 – 12 in front of 31,708 at the Linc. Temple improves to 9 – 2 on the season and keeps the lead in the American East Division with a 6 – 1 record. This was the first game this season that the Tigers did not score a touchdown.
The Owls can clinch the East with a win next week against UConn.
“The challenge was to the seniors to take us to another level and win big games down the stretch,” said Temple Coach Matt Rhule. “We were prepared for it.”
But first things first.
It did not start well for the Cherry and White who lost the ball three times on a fumble, and interception, and turned the ball over on downs. However, the defense rose to the occasion by either stopping Memphis or gave up only field goals to limit the damage. The Tigers did not capitalize on the fumble recovery, but did turn an interception of a P.J. Walker pass by Reggis Ball at the Memphis 1 yard line into points getting a 31-yard field goal by Jake Elliott, who made four of five on the day, giving the Tigers a 3 – 0 lead.
Later in the second Memphis held Temple on downs to take over at the Owls 45 yard line. Seven plays later Elliott made is 6 – 0 from 46 yards away.
“The game did not go the way we planned early on, but we kept hanging in there and fighting,” Rhule said.
The key was that the Cherry and White did not give up seven points. It paid dividends when Temple put up touchdowns on two consecutive possessions to take a 14 – 6 lead. Wide receiver Romond Deloatch made an acrobatic catch of a 13-yard pass from quarterback P.J. Walker for the first score. On their ensuing possession running back David Hood scored his first collegiate touchdown with a 14-yard run. After Memphis got another Elliott three-pointer the Owls had a 14 – 9 halftime lead.
“It’s everything,” Tyler Matakevich said about the impact of yielding only field goals. “We have a mentality of if you get in the redzone, we are not going to let you score, we’re just not. We gave the offense all the momentum in the world. They have faith in us and we have faith in them, and that’s why it was a great team win.”
The Cherry and White put the game away scoring two more touchdowns. Tight End Kip Patton crossed the goal line with a 13-yard jet sweep run to the right for a 21 – 12 lead. In the fourth quarter Walker threw a scoring toss to tight end Saladeem Major. It was the first collegiate touchdown for Major, and for Walker it was the 50th touchdown pass and a school-record for Walker. For the game Walker was 14 of 26 for 261 yards.
“It means a lot,” Walker said about the record. “You’ve got to thank the guys around you for their play making ability, and the line giving you time to throw the ball.”
Temple kept the pressure on Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch who was held to 25 of 34 passes for 156 yards. Memphis gained only 76 yards on the ground compared to 200 for the Owls.
“We stopped the run and gave up no big plays,” Rhule said.
Matakevich also set a mark by making a hundred-plus tackles for the fourth consecutive season, the seventh player to accomplish this in NCAA history.
In a week it will be another meaningful late November game for Temple.
“We know what’s at stake, and that’s the mentality that we have,” Matakevich said. “It’s a playoff game.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian