Matt Ioannidis, Temple not worried Notre Dame game is too big


Matt Ioannidis, Temple not worried Notre Dame game is too big

It would be easy for No. 21 Temple to get caught up in the spotlight.

Saturday night marks the biggest moment in TU football history and head coach Matt Rhule knows it.

"We've laid a plan out," Rhule said Tuesday. "We don't pretend it's not here. We don't pretend like we're not playing Notre Dame."

The 7-0 Owls will face the 6-1 No. 9 Fighting Irish in front of a sold-out Lincoln Financial Field in primetime. It's their toughest test of the season.

This is new territory for Temple. It's the program's first 7-0 start, and it's the first time TU's been ranked in 36 years. Its opponent, however, has been here before. Many times before.

Notre Dame is a storied program with 11 claimed national championships, seven Heisman winners and 17 wins in 34 bowl games. Being ranked No. 9 is nothing new to the Irish.

Two years ago, the Irish were in the national title game. Head coach Brian Kelly has 52 wins in six seasons at Notre Dame. Games like Saturday's are standard at ND.

So for Temple, a rising program, Saturday night is significant.

"I'm not concerned at all we won't be ready to play the game," Rhule said. "I'm not concerned that the moment will be too big. Are we good enough to be able to hang with Notre Dame? That's the concern."

The Irish come into Saturday's meeting averaging over 35 points, 264.3 passing yards and 234.6 rushing yards. Their defense is allowing just 22.6 points per game through seven games.

DeShone Kizer is a dual-threat QB, C.J. Prosise is averaging 7.1 yards per rush, and Roman Catholic product Will Fuller has eight touchdown receptions. The Irish are littered with playmakers.

But Temple is staying focused, as several Owls, including Rhule, said this game isn't about Notre Dame.

"It will be just like any other game to us," senior defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis said in contrast to his coach. "And that's part of making the moment exactly what the moment is.

"You can't let the moment be too big for you. It was sold out against Penn State and we went out there and played one of our best games. This is just going to be just another game."

Two years ago — in Rhule's first game as head coach — Temple went to South Bend for its meeting with the Irish. The Owls lost, 28-6, and went on to a 2-10 season.

Rhule said he believed the ND game was the team's best that season. That Notre Dame team was a giant. The Irish went 12-0 before getting blown out by Alabama in the title game.

Ioannidis, who had three tackles and one sack against the Irish in 2013, said the Owls can use the film to prepare for Saturday.

"We're learning from that tape," he said. "It was only two years ago. They have a lot of the same players. We have a lot of the same players.

"We have to learn from our mistakes from that game. Go back and see what they did because they're going to run the same things."

What's on the tape?

"Smaller mistakes," he said. "Safeties rotating the wrong way, people being out of their gap. Minor details, but it's always the minor things that hurt you in the long run."

Linebacker Tyler Matakevich was a sophomore when Temple lost at South Bend. In the loss, Matakevich had 11 tackles and two tackles for loss.

This season, the senior has 65 tackles, four sacks and four interceptions. Matakevich is one of the team leaders, and is the third player in Temple history to rack up over 400 career tackles.

As the NCAA-leading active tackler, Matakevich has led an Owls defense that has been dominant. In 2013, TU was filled with mostly sophomores and freshmen. This team has grown.

Now, Matakevich said, Temple knows what it means to play Notre Dame.

"I don't think we knew what we were getting ourselves into," Matakevich said of the 2013 game against the Irish. "I think now we understand what type of game it is."

Talking about how good Notre Dame is won't help Temple, especially given its slow starts against weaker opponents in recent weeks.

Another slow start this week for Temple will result in a one-sided game.

"It's not that we're playing Notre Dame," running back Jahad Thomas said. "We're going out there and competing against a very great team, but we're also competing against ourselves.

"We want to go out there and play the best we can — not just this week, the following weeks. It's not that we get extra excited that we're playing the Irish."

Thomas has been a major factor in TU's 7-0 start. Through eight games, Thomas has 886 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns.

Overall, Thomas has 14 TDs. In Week 2 against Cincinnati, Thomas retuned a kick 100 yards for six points, and against Tulane on Oct. 10 he added a receiving TD.

He's coming off his worst game of the season, however. In the Owls' 24-14 win last Thursday night, Thomas racked up only 66 yards on 20 carries, but he did find the end zone twice.

The ECU win was another resilient victory for Temple. While Notre Dame offers Temple a chance to beat a college football powerhouse, Thomas is confident the Owls will be ready to play.

"We know it's a great opponent ahead of us," the junior said. "It's a great opportunity to go out here on Saturday. It's going to be a hell of a game.

"You know they're going to play us very tough and we're going to give them our all. We just have to come out, prepare, do the things that we have been doing."

Saint Joseph's comeback bid comes up short vs. Florida

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Saint Joseph's comeback bid comes up short vs. Florida

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Keyontae Johnson saw Florida’s big lead shrink to almost nothing in the final minute. He made sure his teammates didn’t let this one get away from the Gators.

Johnson had a career-high 22 points to lead the Gators to a 70-62 victory over Saint Joseph’s at the Charleston Classic, playing without ejected leading scorer Kerry Blackshear Jr. on Thursday. Not that it came easily as Florida (3-2) saw its 18-point lead cut to 64-62 in the final minute.

“We just communicated, told everyone to stay together,” Johnson said. “We stayed locked in.”

The focus proved the difference as Florida hit six foul shots down the stretch while Saint Joseph’s missed two shots and committed a pair of turnovers.

“Down the stretch, I thought we showed a tremendous toughness,” Florida coach Mike White said.

The Gators needed it with Blackshear missing almost all of the game. He played three minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls. Then he was thrown out when he was battling underneath and his elbow looked like it hit Saint Joseph’s guard Taylor Funk. Blackshear, who came in averaging 14 points and 12 boards, was called for a flagrant two foul and sent off the court.

Blackshear’s departure seemed to energize the Hawks (2-3), who trailed 43-27 when the Florida star left the court. That’s when St. Joseph’s went on a 29-16 spurt to cut it to three points on Funk’s basket with six minutes left.

But Johnson followed with a basket and Andrew Nembhard made another to extend the lead.

St. Joseph’s had one last charge, slicing things to 64-62 on Ryan Daly’s layup in the final minute. The Hawks had several chances to tighten things, but could not. “We’re not going to go down easy,” Daly said.

Florida will take on Miami here Friday for a spot in the Charleston Classic finals.

The Hawks face Missouri State on Friday.

Johnson also had a game-high 12 rebounds. Nembhard added 16 points.

Florida took control quickly and appeared to make this a runaway as Noah Locke had two 3-pointers and Nembhard also hit one from behind the arc as the Gators went ahead 11-2 less than two minutes in and steadily built its lead.

St. Joseph’s had hit 34 first-half 3s combined its first four games. It made just one of its 14 long-range attempts this time as it fell behind.

Daly led the Hawks with 25 points.

Swider scores 26, No. 17 Villanova routs MTSU 98-69

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Swider scores 26, No. 17 Villanova routs MTSU 98-69

CONWAY, S.C. -- It’s been awhile since No. 17 Villanova shot this well from long range. Cole Swider has never scored like this.

Swider scored a career-high 26 points with six 3-pointers, and the Wildcats routed Middle Tennessee 98-69 on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Myrtle Beach Invitational.

Collin Gillespie added 16 points and hit four 3s, Justin Moore finished with 15 points and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl had 11 rebounds to help Villanova (3-1) - which never trailed, led by 35 and shot 57% while winning its second straight following a 25-point loss at No. 10 Ohio State.

And yet, another number in the box score caught coach Jay Wright’s eye - Swider’s seven rebounds.

“He’s more than just a shooter,” Wright said.

And the Wildcats have plenty of those. They made 18 3s - one shy of the school record, and their most since they also had 18 in a victory over Kansas at the 2018 Final Four.

“They have elite size with great shooters,” Middle Tennessee coach Nick McDevitt said, “and any short close-out or decent close-out results in three points.”

Eleven of them came during a first-half barrage that pushed the lead well into the 20s. Swider hit his fifth 3 from the corner shortly before the buzzer to put the Wildcats up 53-28 at halftime.

Saddiq Bey then took the lead to 30 with a 3-pointer two minutes into the second half.

Donovan Sims scored 18 points and C.J. Jones had 16 for the Blue Raiders (3-2). Leading scorer Antonio Green, averaging 23.5 points going into the game, finished with four points on 1-of-7 shooting while dealing with foul trouble.

“They’ve got a lot of interchangeable parts, so they were switching just to never let him see space,” McDevitt said.