With a spot in the New Years Six line-up waiting for the champion of the American Athletic Conference, Houston appears to be in a favorable position. The Cougars took advantage of an early Temple turnover and lead the Owls at home 17-3 at halftime of the American athletic Conference Championship Game. A second-quarter 47-yard touchdown run by quarterback Greg Ward Jr. helped pad the lead for the Cougars.
Temple quarterback P.J. Walker made a costly error on the game’s opening drive when he decided to get rid of a football while being taken down, but did so by tossing the ball right into the hands of a waiting Tyus Bowser. Houston’s offense then got to work with it’s up-tempo style, which caused the Owls to use a timeout on a fourth and short as they tried to get in defensive formation. Houston picked up the first down after the timeout and a few plays later pushed into the end zone for the first score of the game. Javin Webb carried the football across the goal line for the first score of the game.
Temple’s second possession started to buyild some momentum and move down the field, although Temple receivers bailed Walker out on a few throws along the way. The promising drive ended with a turnover though when Robby Anderson had the ball knocked loose by Trevon Stewart just inside the Houston 10-yard line. Houston was forced to punt on their possession as the Owls defense started to crack down a bit.
It is not often Temple enters a season with high expectations, but that appears to be the case with the Owls in 2015. Though other teams may be favored to make a run in the American Athletic Conference (Cincinnati is the preseason favorite), many have been lauding Temple’s returning experience this fall. No team can match the experience Temple brings back in 2015 with 10 defensive starters and seven more on offense set to return. It is what Temple does with that experience that matters most, and head coach Matt Rhule feels his quarterback, P.J. Walker, is ready to take the next steps entering his third year under center.
“In the history of Temple, there are only a couple of guys that have been bowl-eligible quarterbacks,” Rhule said in a story published by CSN Philly. “To me, it’s just taking the next step and it’s just one simple thing and one simple thing only: don’t turn the football over as much.”
Walker had 15 interceptions last year, so Rhule’s concern is valid. Fortunately, Rhule also sees improvement in his quarterback in practices.
“You see a totally different kid maturity-wise,” he said. “Not that he was an immature kid; he just understands more and more of the game. He is a winner. My point to him was keep winning. He got us to six wins. Now make the next jump.”
Rhule will see his quarterback put to the test on Saturday afternoon. Temple opens the season at home against Penn State, which should bring a strong defensive secondary to Lincoln Financial Field.
The Temple Owls have just one conference championship in its program history. Winners of the 1967 MAC (the Middle Atlantic Conference, not the MAC you may be more familiar with) championship, but Temple head coach Matt Rhule is selling the idea his Owls have as good a chance to add a second conference championship to the record books as any.
“There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to bring a conference championship trophy back to Temple,” Rhule said this week Philadelphia morning TV show Breakfast on Broad. “There’s not one in our building anywhere, and that’s what I think this group of seniors is going to contend to do.”
Here is why you should entertain he idea Temple has what it takes to make a push for the American Athletic Conference. The defense was solid last season, holding opponents to 17.5 points per game. All 11 starters from that defense are back in 2015. On offense, the Owls return nine of 11 starters, including junior quarterback P.J. Walker. Temple has been a young team the last few seasons, and it is Rhule’s hope the experience on the field pays dividends this fall.
“We’ve invested a lot of time over these last three years into these kids, so it’s their time and they look like they’re going to play at a high level.”
Rhule and the Owls will be put to the test this season. Temple opens the season in Lincoln Financial Field against Penn State. Temple also hosts Notre Dame later in the year. Temple’s conference schedule has the Owls on the road against Cincinnati and East Carolina, but they get Memphis at home and there is no UCF, Navy or Houston on the schedule.
Temple ended the 2014 season with a 6-6 record but was left out of the postseason fun. If all goes according to Rhule’s plan, that will not be the case in 2015.
Looking to take its passing game to another level in 2015, Temple will add Glenn Thomas to the coaching staff. Thomas, a former quarterback coach for the Atlanta Falcons will join Matt Rhule as the Owls look to put together another winning season and avoid being left out of the postseason line-up. Thomas will not have Matt Ryan to work with, but P.J. Walker entering his junior season could be a fun project to watch on Broad Street this fall.
Thomas was one of the many assistants put on the coaching market following a head coaching change in Atlanta. Despite previous college coaching experience as an offensive assistant with multiple responsibilities, the focus for Thomas will solely be on the quarterback position. Owl Scoop reports Rhule will have offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield coach the running backs.
Temple’s passing offense was ranked eighth in the American Athletic Conference in 2014 with an average of just over 200 passing yards per game. Temple quarterbacks passed for 13 touchdowns and were intercepted 16 times last season. All but one interception was credited to Walker, who showed both good and bad as Temple’s starting quarterback last season. Cutting down on mistakes will be the first mission for Thomas and Walker. The focus on improving Temple’s AAC-worst third-down conversion percentage (24.39) and red zone success (eighth best red zone scoring percentage in AAC in 2014) will come next.
Walker appears to be a solid player with some good talent, but he has to improve his passing accuracy and efficiency. That happens with improved play around him of course, but Thomas can help Walker enhance his own play that can in turn make the players around him better as well.
The watch list for the Maxwell Award, presented by the Maxwell Football Club, has been released and it includes many of the top offensive players in the country.
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was an obvious name to include on the watch list. He is the lone returning 2013 Maxwell Award finalist this season and is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Other 2013 semifinalists appearing on the list include Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon, Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty.
Semifinalists for the Maxwell Award will be announced November 3, 2014. From that group, three finalists will be announced November 24, and the winner of the 2014 Maxwell Award will be announced December 11 during the annual Home Depot College Football Awards Show. The formal presentation of the award will take place during an annual banquet in Atlantic City, New Jersey on March 6, 2015.
The Maxwell Award has been presented to the top college football player in the country as determined by the Maxwell Football Club on an annual basis since 1937. The winner is not always the same player to win the Heisman Trophy. Where the Heisman Trophy has seen a share of underclassmen win the award over recent years, the Maxwell Award has a knack for going to upperclassmen. Last year’s winner was Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron. Penn State and Notre Dame are tied for the most Maxwell Award winners with seven each. Ohio State, Texas and Navy each have four.
Here is the 2014 Maxwell Award watch list:
The Paul Hornung Award watch list was also released today.