The White Stuff

Failure to force turnovers was near the top of a long list of problems for the Temple football team in a disastrous 2013 season. So the focus in this year's spring camp was on taking the ball away from the opposition. In what would have to be considered the most positive sign from Saturday's Cherry and White Game at Cardinal O'Hara High School, the Owls did just that in the White's 10-9 victory.

Failure to force turnovers was near the top of a long list of problems for the Temple football team in a disastrous 2013 season.

So the focus in this year's spring camp was on taking the ball away from the opposition. In what would have to be considered the most positive sign from Saturday's Cherry and White Game at Cardinal O'Hara High School, the Owls did just that in the White's 10-9 victory.

The White defense picked off starting quarterback P.J. Walker twice, while the Cherry recorded an interception of backup quarterback Connor Reilly. Sophomore linebacker Jarred Alwan finished with an interception and fumble recovery, while defensive backs Alex Wells and Shahid Lovett also recorded interceptions.

"I was pleased with our defense, we picked more balls off today than we did all last year," said head coach Matt Rhule. "The things we've been working on, pass rush and picking the ball off, I saw it."

Said Wells, a transfer from ASA Junior College in Brooklyn: "Interceptions, forced fumbles. … .Turnovers, that's what we need and I've been trying to voice we need this kind of stuff so we can win. The fact of the matter is we have to cover our guys and finish off games and make sure we can create turnovers and get our offense back on the field."

Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Khalif Herbin was the White team's No. 1 pick in this week's draft – second overall behind Walker. While he admitted he was surprised to be taken so high, Herbin earned the selection by catching five balls for 93 yards including a 66-yard TD reception in which he showed off his electrifying open-field skills.

"I can bring another element to the offense to be more explosive," said Herbin, who redshirted last season. "I've trained a little harder, I'm able to sustain a lot more. The biggest thing is what do I do after this? I have to build on this. I can't relax like I did last year."

Walker, who earned the starting quarterback job in the middle of his true freshman season, struggled in his first spring game, going 15-for-31 for 172 yards and two interceptions. He missed a few deep balls early in the game, though showed a good rapport with John Christopher, who caught four passes for 55 yards.

"I played pretty well, (but) the two turnovers hurt us bad and I'll go back tomorrow and learn from it," said Walker. "The plays were open and it was just me, a few plays I should never have thrown. The one I threw to Lovett I didn't even see him rotate over.

"It's tough because I practice with the full (first-stringers) every day this spring, and Thursday we just went out there as Cherry team and ran 10 plays. I don't usually throw with most of the guys I was playing with today, but that's no excuse."

Tyler Mayes opened the scoring with a 30-yard field goal for the White team, but Jim Cooper – who lost his spot in the third game of last season and never recovered it – missed a 29-yarder for the Cherry wide left.

There were also two punt snaps that weren't handled, even though punts included just a snapper, punter and returner who executed a fair catch.

"I felt bad for Jimmy because he had a real good spring and he just missed it," said Rhule. "I felt for him, and I think he's going to overcome this. He'll keep getting better. There's a little hurdle in front of him, and once he gets over it, it will be all downhill from there."

Cherry's lone touchdown came on a 65-yard run by Jamie Gilmore, who broke through a gaping hole in the middle of the line and ran to daylight. Cherry's other points came on a safety with 48 seconds to go when a bad snap caused quarterback Thomas Rumer to fall on the ball in the end zone.

Cooper was denied a chance to attempt a game-winning field goal when the White defense forced Walker and the offense to turn the ball over on downs on the final possession.

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