Temple defense takes step in win over Tulsa

The previously-unproven Temple defense has passed its first true test of the 2014 season and will work through a short week of preparation before attempting to replicate that feat. The defense’s most recent outing helped in a 35-24 win against Tulsa’s formidable spread offense at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday, and served as a confidence boost for the Owls (4-1, 2-0 AAC).

The previously-unproven Temple defense has passed its first true test of the 2014 season and will work through a short week of preparation before attempting to replicate that feat.

The defense’s most recent outing helped in a 35-24 win against Tulsa’s formidable spread offense at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday, and served as a confidence boost for the Owls (4-1, 2-0 AAC). Temple head coach Matt Rhule said he is hopeful that the confidence will carry over as the Owls continue a stretch of American Athletic Conference games in which they’ll face more of the same variety of spread attack.

Prior to the Tulsa game, Rhule acknowledged that Temple’s then-nation-best plus-10 turnover margin and 17 turnovers had, at least in part, been a product of inferior opposition. Rhule challenged his entire defensive unit to step up, and he did so with good cause considering that his largely untested defense would do battle with Tulsa’s then-No. 30-ranked passing offense.

The Owls responded with a strong outing against the Golden Hurricane offense, though, holding Tulsa below its per-game passing average as quarterback Dane Evans went for 260 yards on 21-of-36 passing. In pass defense, Temple committed itself to stripping Tulsa of opportunities to even try for a big play by limiting the Golden Hurricane to just six completions of more than 15 yards — there was only one such completion in the second half, too.

"The defensive backs are locking it down,” Temple junior linebacker Tyler Matakevich said following the win. "They’re playing a bunch of different guys, too, and they’re all making plays."

Matakevich, who finished with a game-high 14 tackles and two tackles for loss, played a significant role in turning Tulsa away during vital fourth-down stops throughout the game. The Golden Hurricane went 0-for-4 on fourth-down tries.

Rhule said it was the kind of defensive performance he had hoped for from his team.

"I thought the defense reacted (well),” Rhule said following the win. "I thought we showed resolve. We didn’t give up. Other than a couple gimmicky plays, we didn’t get a ball (thrown) over our heads. They hit some balls that we had to rally to (in front of us), but we showed mental toughness."

Matakevich agreed, saying, “We know what this defense is capable of. We wouldn’t to play a game (any other way). We take it one play at a time… Just do your job on that play and do it over again."

Now, it’s on to Houston for a Friday night tussle with the Cougars (3-3, 1-1 AAC) after a short week of preparation for both squads. The Cougars pulled their record even with a 28-24 win at Memphis. Houston has also claimed wins against UNLV and Grambling State during the current campaign in addition to a respectable Sept. 11 loss at then-No. 25 BYU, 33-25.

Owls freshman defensive back Sean Chandler said the team, and the Temple defense in particular, has every reason to expect a positive result at Houston.

“(Beating a spread offense) like Tulsa definitely gives us a lot of confidence,” Chandler told owlsdaily. "I think I showed Coach Rhule. I think our whole defense showed him.”


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