Temple focused on Cincinnati after historic win vs. Penn State


Temple focused on Cincinnati after historic win vs. Penn State

When the clock ticked zero Saturday, the score read Temple 27, Penn State 10.

It was the Owls' first win over the Nittany Lions since Oct. 18, 1941. Head coach Matt Rhule on Tuesday called it a great win for Temple, its football program, students and alumni.

On Saturday night, North Broad Street felt like a college football town. Students celebrated throughout the night after TU's historic win. It's a win this generation of Owls will not forget.

"That game's over. It was awesome," Rhule said after Tuesday's practice. "I'm sure (the players) went to a party or hung out with their families afterward. That's all over. What's next?"

For TU's aspirations this season, a matchup with more meaning than the Penn State game: a road game against the American Athletic Conference favorite, Cincinnati Bearcats.

Beating PSU is not lost among the Owls. It was the program's first win over its intrastate foe in 74 years. It's another sign Temple's football program is growing under Rhule's direction.

But Rhule's approach is "what's next?" When he took over in 2013, the Owls were not ready to compete for the AAC. Last season, they were bowl eligible but didn't get an invite.

This season? Many expect Temple to be competitive in the conference and its season-opening win did nothing but confirm that notion.

For the Temple community, snapping the 39-game losing streak to PSU was a relief, but to the Owls it had no impact on their objective.

"Our goal is to win a conference championship and that game had no affect on that," senior linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who had three sacks against PSU, said. "We're getting focused on Cincinnati and we're preparing. That's the one thing I would say we do really well. We got guys in here every night late, studying and watching film. That's a sign of a good team."

At 8 p.m. this Saturday at Nippert Stadium, Temple kicks off against Cincinnati in an important conference game against a team that has handled the Owls the last three seasons.

Last season, the Bearcats beat the Owls, 14-6. Since 2002, TU has been outscored, 50-36, in three meetings with Cincy. Temple also enters Saturday on a five-game losing skid against Cincinnati. The last time the Owls were victorious against the Bearcats was Oct. 5, 1985.

And with Cincinnati on the schedule, a team this group of players has lost to before, Rhule believes it's beneficial for the Owls to put the Penn State game behind them.

"It's helpful that we're playing Cincinnati because they're so good and they've beaten us," he said. "Last year was the first close game. The other two games were blowouts. They haven't really been close. I think now, our kids know that this is a really good team and we have to play great."

In Cincinnati, Temple faces a high-powered offense. Last season, the Bearcats averaged 34.0 points. In its season opener, Cincy spotted 52 points in its win over Alabama A&M.

Bearcats quarterback Gunner Kiel completed 18 of 22 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns. Kiel enters Saturday with 33 career touchdowns to 13 interceptions. Cincinnati has three running backs that can do damage — Tion Green, Hosey Williams and Mike Boone — six senior wide receivers and a strong offensive line.

"How do you get them to be ready? We will be ready," Rhule said of preparing for Cincinnati. "That I'm not worried about, but is ready good enough? This is a really good team. This is a really dynamic offense."

What makes Cincinnati's offense so good, Matakevich said, is its speed. The AAC Defensive Player of the Week called the Bearcats the "definition of speedball."

Temple's defense entered the season as the team's strength. It was a dominant unit last season and held Cincinnati to 14 points. The Owls are coming off an impressive showing against PSU. Ten sacks and an interception against an offense led by Christian Hackenberg, who many see as a potential first-round NFL draft pick.

Still, those 14 points weren't enough to beat Cincinnati last season. The Owls forced 30 turnovers last season but only one against Cincy, something they'll need to do Saturday.

"We played pretty well last year, but we didn't play good enough," Matakevich said. "We still lost. We've been watching film, seeing what we did wrong, seeing how they schemed us, and looked at all the games last year. Preparing the best we possibly can."

Saturday night marks the first of three straight road games for Temple. After Cincy, the Owls are at UMass and Charlotte before returning to the Linc on Oct. 10 against Tulane.

It will be a while before Temple takes the field again in South Philadelphia. When it does, the atmosphere will be different than this past weekend.

While this Owls team is a veteran squad, there are freshmen that Rhule expects to contribute. Running backs Ryquell Armstead and Jager Gardner got playing time against PSU, and wide receiver Ventell Bryant reeled in two catches for 41 yards. To the freshmen, all they know is a 27-10 win over Penn State.

What can the freshmen take away from a win like that?

"It gives them the mindset that there's something here, that there's something that's growing," quarterback P.J. Walker said.

"It's a process and you got to believe in the process. Believe in everything that we've been doing since I've been here and that's something I'm learning still. Learning to believe everything that Coach Rhule is telling us. It's working. We won a big game. Believe in each other, believe in your teammates and believe in the coaches."

And there is something there.

What's next?

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

AP Images

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

USA Today Images

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.