Starting Fresh

Two games ago, Temple football coach Matt Rhule declared the Owls found themselves a starting quarterback who was going to lead the team to many victories in the future. That quarterback was Connor Reilly. But two games later, Reilly was pulled in favor of true freshman P.J. Walker, who finished last week's game against Louisville and will make his first collegiate start tonight at Cincinnati.

Two games ago, Temple football coach Matt Rhule declared the Owls found themselves a starting quarterback who was going to lead the team to many victories in the future.

That quarterback was Connor Reilly, who came off the bench to spark three second-half touchdown drives against Fordham.

But two games later, Reilly was pulled in favor of true freshman P.J. Walker, who finished last week's game against Louisville and will make his first collegiate start tonight against Cincinnati.

What changed so drastically? Reilly has been slow to recover from a knee injury he suffered in the second week of the season, and Walker's versatility as a passer and runner has Rhule intrigued.

"He's had a couple good days at practice and he prepared at a high level," said Rhule. "We didn't want to play him until he was ready. Connor's banged up, he's not able to make the plays with his feet he did at Notre Dame and he's been out there with a bad wheel. He's still moving around, but he can't play the game the way he wants to play it.

"P.J. did a good job making plays with his arm and his feet and he's done the same at practice. It's all run together in fairness to Connor. He looked tremendous against Fordham. We didn't hit some plays against Idaho, and then against Louisville I just liked the way things looked with P.J. At the end of the day, I have a guy (in Walker) who I know is going to be really, really, really good."

When the season started, it appeared Walker was a candidate to redshirt as he was third-string behind Reilly and senior Juice Granger. But when Reilly was banged up against Houston and Granger struggled in the first half against Fordham, Walker made his debut to start the second half against the Rams.

He lasted just two series before Reilly came on and almost saved the day before a late Fordham touchdown pass handed the Owls a tough loss.

With Reilly hurt and Granger not practicing when Rhule gave the seniors a couple days off, Walker started feeling more comfortable in the offense. "After the Fordham game, I got a lot of reps with the 1s and 2s," said Walker. "I got 100 reps each day and it got me comfortable with the game speed."

Walker said he came into camp with the expectation to play, but once the season started he thought there was a good chance he might not see the field this year.

"I didn't pick up the system as quick as I thought, but I prepared every day, stayed in the film and learned," said Walker. "Connor and Juice helped me out a lot. My mindset didn't change at all. I just helped the team out with some scout team reps (until he was ready)."

While Rhule and Walker admitted he wasn't ready to play Week 1, they both feel it is his time now.

"In the last game, Coach Rhule said in the huddle, you're not a freshman no more, go out and play like an upperclassman, like a lion and that's what I did," said Walker. "I'm just trying to play good, go out there and help the team win. I'm feeling pretty good, feeling confident, feel like I finished last game on a good note."

Sophomore defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis played against Walker for three years when he was at Hunterdon Central and Walker was at Elizabeth. He'll be happy to have Walker starting for his team tonight.

"Our teams play every year and we go back and forth," said Ioannidis. "He was good. He is where he is today because he's good. He can throw, he can run, he's a defensive coordinator's worst nightmare."

Owls Daily Top Stories