It is always dangerous to overlook an opponent, but this weekend's matchup against Temple might be SMU's easiest game this season. ‘Might be' is the key term here, because last week's fourth quarter against Memphis proved this SMU team is capable of laying an egg against any opponent at any time. Temple's record this year is 1-6 -2-11 over a stretch dating back to last season- with its lone win of the season coming against Army last week. The Owls have suffered defeats to teams such as Fordham and Idaho and thus make a suitable Homecoming matchup for the Mustangs. Here are the five players to know before you turn on your televisions or head to the Hilltop Saturday.
1. RB Kenneth Harper- The Owls have a very balanced running attack between the junior Harper and true freshman Zaire Williams. Both have very similar numbers (372 yards on 79 carries for Harper and 354 yards on 69 carries for Williams) but what Harper specializes in is getting into the end zone. He has seven touchdowns this season compared to Williams's two so Harper will be the one with the ball in his hand near the goal line. Harper is a strong running back -he also has experience at fullback for the Owls- so the Mustangs will have to hit him low and wrap to bring him down.
2. QB P.J. Walker- A true freshman, Walker replaced the Owls' original starter Connor Reilly in their loss to Louisville. Walker struggled in his first few performances but had a breakthrough last week against a weak Army team. He completed 10 of 16 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns. His most impressive moment came on a third and one when he faked a quarterback sneak and instead threw for a 37-yard touchdown. After the game, Mike Sielski of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote that Walker was ‘the future of the Temple football program.' Walker may build upon that this week against SMU, but he shouldn't be able to do much more than make the game interesting in the second half.
3. LB Tyler Matakevich- Matakevich is Temple's leading tackler, and it is not even close. The sophomore's 95 takedowns (71 solo) are 44 more than the next Owl defender. Matakevich also has a tendency to take away the ball- one interception and a fumble recovery. The one area where last year's Big East Rookie of the Year needs to improve is his ability to make plays in the backfield. Despite his large tackle tally, Matakevich only has seven for loss, which still tops on a dismal Temple defense, and no sacks. In fact, he only has one quarterback hurry on the season. So look for Matakevich to make plays all day Saturday, but don't worry about him getting after Garrett Gilbert.
4. DB Tavon Young- Young is another important sophomore on the Temple defense. Last year in limited playing time as a freshman the versatile Young collected two interceptions, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a sack. This year he has 34 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble. He is strong in pass coverage -three breakups and four passes defended- and will play a prominent role defending SMU's staple of receivers.
5. KR Jahad Thomas- Thomas, a freshman, does not see much of the field on defense, but he is the Owls' returner on kickoffs. While Thomas's numbers are not through the roof -an average of 23.1 yards per return and a long of 43 yards- SMU's special teams have a knack for making even the most average returner look spectacular.
5 Temple Players To Watch
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