Temple wins first game of season 33-14 over Army
Finally, after seven tries, Matt Rhule has a win.
Temple won its first game of the season, and the first game of Rhule's head-coaching career, 33-14 over Army on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.
The win snapped a seven-game losing streak for Temple (1-6) and a six-game home losing streak dating back to last season.
Army (3-5) hasn't won in 11 tries at the Linc going back to 2004.
''Obviously, I'm happy,'' Rhule said. ''I'm more happy for my son and my wife because they live it every day.
''But I have to be honest, I'm more thrilled for our players. ... Those kids have been through it, and they weathered the storm, and they have come back and worked and work and worked. That, to me, is how you build something.''
Freshman quarterback P.J. Walker led Temple in his second college start, completing 10 of 16 attempts for 203 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He connected on eight of his first 11 throws and threw for two touchdowns in the first half with a 37-yard completion to Jalen Fitzpatrick and a 39-yard reception by John Christopher.
Fitzpatrick led all receivers with a career-high 128 yards on four catches. The junior wide receiver did not score in Temple's first four games but has caught three touchdown passes from Walker in the last three.
''We've been practicing that play all week,'' Walker said, referring to a fake QB dive that ended with Fitzpatrick in the end zone. ''We called it just to ensure that we would make a big play. I wasn't going to accept anything less. Jalen went out there, beat the guy on the stutter and kept running.''
While the Temple offense was piling up the points, the defense was working to frustrate Army's triple-option rushing attack. The Black Knights entered Saturday's game with the highest rushing average in the nation at 352.3, but had just 81 by halftime and ran into some turnover issues.
Army starting quarterback Angel Santiago left the game in the second quarter with an injury to what appeared to be his left ankle and did not return. He was replaced by a combination of sophomore Kelvin White and freshman Tevin Long.
White was responsible for all of his team's points, but also three of its four turnovers with two interceptions and a fumble. Temple scored 13 points off the two Army fumbles, and White's two interceptions ended any rally attempt in the fourth quarter.
''Turnovers are a big deal,'' Army head coach Rich Ellerson said. ''If we don't turn the ball over, then we have a chance at winning this game. Taking away 13 points that they got off of us, then that finish is a little bit more interesting. We were well-prepared, but they capitalized on our mistakes.''
Temple's Tyler Matakevich forced two of those mistakes. The sophomore linebacker entered Saturday's game with the most solo tackles in the nation (65) and racked up 13 more to go along with a fumble recovery and an interception.
The Owls' two other turnovers came off a Nate D. Smith fumble recovery for a touchdown in the second quarter and a Tavon Young interception in the fourth.
Temple had forced just three turnovers all season coming into the Army game, but got four out of the Black Knights.
''It's the same thing I've said every week: We control how we play, we never control the opponent,'' Rhule said. ''For the first time, I felt like the team was not looking around. Tyler Matakevich tips a ball up to himself. Nate Smith picks up a ball and runs it in for a touchdown. Guys controlled how they played today. I couldn't be more proud of them.''
Temple, 1-2 in the American Athletic Conference, returns to conference play next week when it travels to Dallas for a date with Southern Methodist. So Rhule will only have a few hours to enjoy his first win.
''Obviously, I'm excited,'' Rhule said, ''but at about 10 o'clock tonight, I'm going to start on SMU.''