No. 21 Temple knows what's at stake in crucial matchup with USF


No. 21 Temple knows what's at stake in crucial matchup with USF

Everything Temple football has fought for this season is within reach this Saturday in Tampa, Fla.

A win over the University of South Florida clinches the East Division and a berth in the American Athletic Conference championship game.

"We know what's at stake," senior linebacker Tyler Matakevich said Tuesday at Edberg-Olson Hall. "You really can't start thinking about that stuff.

"You just have to do what you've been doing since the beginning — get back to our process and that's what coaches have been saying."

Temple improved to 8-1 last Friday night with a 60-40 win over SMU, which is also the last team to score 40 or more points against the Owls's defense in a 59-49 win on Oct. 26, 2013.

On Sunday, the Owls moved up to No. 21 in the AP poll. Last week, they were ranked No. 22 in the initial College Football Playoff rankings and stayed No.22 this week (see story).

With an opportunity to seal their spot in the conference championship game on the line, the Owls also are in play to host the title game.

They are now 5-0 in the AAC, and the team with the best conference record hosts the game. No. 24 Houston (9-0) and No. 21 Navy (7-1) are also 5-0 in conference.

Houston hosts No. 25 Memphis on Saturday night, while Navy plays SMU.

Since Temple does not play either Houston or Navy this season, the championship site would come down to the third tiebreaker — overall winning percentage.

In team meetings Sunday, head coach Matt Rhule talked to his players about the importance of this week's game.

"I always talk about things like that because I know they're hearing it, but that's over," Rhule said of clinching the division. "Saturday will be a great test. I'm expecting us to play our best game.

"I wouldn't say we're playing our best football yet. I hope that will be the next three games."

Temple has three games left on its schedule: USF on Saturday, Memphis the week after and UConn on Nov. 28. But back to giving up 40 points on Friday night …

"It was frustrating, but at the same time it's good that it happened so we can get those things corrected," Matakevich said.

Matakevich led the Owls with nine tackles against the Mustangs, but Temple is a team that prides itself defensively.

Entering the game, the Owls allowed 15.8 points per game. Now, it stands at 18.4. Rhule was quick to point out the defense allowed 31 against SMU — not 40.

SMU got a safety and then returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown.

Rhule also said he wasn't surprised with the 60-point output, either, as the Owls average 39.4 points per game in conference.

"We're scoring a lot of points," he said. "We had a turnover on the last play of the Notre Dame game, but in the actual game part of it, we haven't had a turnover in three games.

"Those are the things I'm looking at. The only group I'm upset with is the special teams. I thought our special teams production last game really took a step back."

As for the defense, senior defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis and sophomore cornerback Sean Chandler each said it was refreshing to see the offense have their back against SMU.

"We've always known they're capable of it and it was just a matter of time," Ioannidis said. "We were just saying, 'It's coming, the big game's coming.'

"Something like that is big for the program. They're going to keep that moving. They have a great scheme worked up for every game and it was just a matter of time before they popped."

Saturday's game against the Bulls offers a third straight contest in which Temple will see a mobile quarterback in sophomore Quinton Flowers.

Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer burned Temple for 143 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, while SMU's Matt Davis had 102 yards and a touchdown of his own.

What will Temple have to do to contain Flowers?

"We have to tackle better," Rhule said. "At the end of the day, I thought we were in position to make every tackle last Friday night.

"Matt had some great runs and we weren't able to tackle in space. Guys have to make that one-on-one tackle."

While Temple allows 110.7 rushing yards per game — 12th in the nation — the Fighting Irish and Mustangs were able to gain traction on the ground during the last two games.

South Florida (5-4, 3-2) comes into Saturday's matchup as one of the better teams in the country running the ball, averaging 217 yards — 22nd out of 128 FBS teams.

Sophomore Marlon Mack leads the way with 835 yards and four scores, while Flowers has 657 yards and seven rushing touchdowns.

"When a team has a good run game, it's a really good challenge," redshirt junior linebacker Stephaun Marshall said.

"Coach [Phil] Snow always says the run game comes down to two things: Being physical and doing your job, so that's two things that we've strived to do here at Temple."

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.