The Temple University football team put its bye week to good use and now will take its perfect record into October when it plays at Charlotte on Friday night.
Owls coach Matt Rhule is hoping the exposure of playing on Friday night ahead of the Saturday madness will be good for his program, which is 3-0, and has shown the major strides the coaches were hoping for in Year 3 under Rhule.
"We're one of two games on Friday night," said Rhule. "There's a lot to choose from on Saturday and hopefully they choose us, but I want recruits to tune in and see us play."
Those who have been watching so far have certainly been entertained.
Temple knocked off Penn State for the first time in 74 years, won at American Athletic Conference contender Cincinnati and survived in a wild finish at Massachusetts. All three games were the types of games they might not have won last few years.
“We were very young and didn’t know how to finish games (before),” said running back Jahad Thomas. “We didn’t have the seniors and group of leaders we have now to lead us to win those kind of games. The work we put in the last two or three years is starting to show late in the game.”
Part of winning this year has been the development of sophomore kicker Austin Jones, who is 7-for-7 on field goals after an up-and-down freshman season. In comparison, the Owls made three field goals the entire 2013 season before Jones arrived.
Jones made the game-winning 30-yard field goal with seven seconds left to beat Massachusetts.
“It shows up early in the game,” said Rhule. “Last year he missed a bunch on the right hash. This year we’ve made a bunch from there. We’re setting up field goals, accumulating points and that’s how you win in the fourth quarter.
“To put that game in his hands, we just feel good about it. He has that air about him.”
Jones said he has matured over the last year.
“The more you practice the less pressure you feel,” said Jones.” I still get nervous, but I kind of like being a little nervous because it keeps you focused. We feel pretty good (as a team) right now, and we’re just working as hard as we can.“
Rhule said the multiple games Temple lost on missed field goals and defensive breakdowns in the final minutes have shown the Owls what it takes to win at the end of the game and the veterans are applying the knowledge in the key moments.
“Our team is scarred from that,” said Rhule. “At the end of that game, you have to make one more play to win the game. You have to win in the fourth and that’s our brand of football. We won in the fourth, and that hasn’t been the case in the past.”
If all goes according to plan, there won’t be as much drama Friday night against a 2-2 49er team which has wins over Georgia State and Presbyterian but suffered a 73-14 loss to Middle Tennessee. But both Rhule and quarterback P.J. Walker praised the Charlotte defense.
“They play hard, they force a lot of turnovers and that’s a physical group,” said Walker. “Last week we went out expecting a game. That’s what we’re expecting. We are going out there expecting a whole game this week.”
Thomas, who has been leaned on heavily the first few weeks, said the week of rest did him good. Rhule said he’s going to try to work in some of the other backs, mostly likely true freshman Ryquell Armstead, to give Thomas more of a blow.
The junior has fumbled late in the last two games and the coach blamed the issue on fatigue.
“My legs feel a little fresher,” said Thomas. “I’m definitely not 100 percent, but nobody on the team is. Everybody in the country is a little banged up at this point in the season.
“(The fumbles) are still upsetting. I still look back at it, but I just have to make sure it doesn’t happen again. It’s the devil. You only get away with it for so long.”
After perfect September, Owls move on
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