Undefeated Temple using valuable lessons from 2-10 season


Undefeated Temple using valuable lessons from 2-10 season

Two years ago, people would have laughed at you if you even made the slightest suggestion that Temple football would be in this position.

That’s because the 2013 Owls stumbled to an embarrassing 2-10 record that included losses to Idaho and Football Championship Subdivision school Fordham, not to mention numerous heartbreaking defeats.

Needless to say, it was not a fun time for players, coaches or fans.

But yet, here we are two years later as undefeated No. 21 Temple prepares to host No. 9 Notre Dame at sold-out Lincoln Financial Field this Saturday night in a high-stakes nationally televised game with potential bowl implications hanging in the balance.

Temple still has 22 players who were on that 2-10 team and those players haven’t forgotten what they went through that year.

In fact, those Owls say the valuable lessons they learned that year have helped them to their 7-0 record (see how Temple got here).

“We were young and trying to find our way and identity,” senior defensive line anchor Matt Ioannidis, who has recorded 3½ sacks on the year, said. “I think we’ve found our identity.

“And learning to trust the coaching has been huge. It’s tough when you’re that young. It’s something that’s come a long way from that year to now. We take everything they say personally.”

That dreadful 2013 season, ironically enough, started out with a 28-6 loss at Notre Dame, a game Temple head coach Matt Rhule called his team’s “best game that year.”

After that came the back-to-back demoralizing losses to Idaho and Fordham, a loss at SMU in which Temple allowed 538 passing yards and 59 points, an unbelievable loss to nationally ranked Central Florida that included an absurd one-handed catch by UCF’s J.J. Worton that tied the game late and resulted in a walk-off UCF field goal, as well as a last-second loss to Rutgers.

Defeats at the hands of Houston, Louisville, Cincinnati and Connecticut were also sandwiched in. The only wins came against 3-9 Army and 3-9 Memphis.

The Owls’ finished 110th out of 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in total defense that year when they gave up 474.3 yards per game. The pass defense checked in at 121st with 298.6 yards allowed per game.

The special teams unit was even worse. The Owls made just three of nine field goals they attempted. That’s not a typo. They only attempted nine field goals all year. They also missed five extra points.

It was not pretty, to say the least.

Junior quarterback P.J. Walker got his first taste of collegiate action during that year’s loss to Fordham. He said the Owls learned the hard way that year that they have to play for 60 minutes.

“We learned how to finish games and I think that shows now,” Walker, who has thrown for 1,313 yards and nine touchdowns so far this year, said. “We look at it like we have a great team and we have to believe in ourselves. We learned we have to go out there and play great defense and great special teams and not turn the ball over. It’s things like that we didn’t do as a 2-10 team.”

Rhule was blunt when asked about what was wrong with that team and what needed to be learned.

“They learned to take nothing for granted,” Rhule said. “Sometimes people think they’ll win because of what they look like in the mirror before the game. When I first got here, I think that’s what a lot of guys thought. I think they thought you won because of how talented you are or because of the pregame speech. It was all those things. There was no personal responsibility.

“We had so many hard losses that year that came down to details. We’re playing the same defense now that we played then. We kept teaching. I think they learned about details and attention to details."

The players weren’t the only ones to learn some tough lessons that year. Rhule, who was in his first year as a head coach, and his staff did, as well.

“I learned to consistently pay attention to details and focus on the process,” Rhule said. “If you have a tough team and they focus on the details, they have a chance. That’s why I run the scout teams. That’s the details of it. Those are the young guys and I’m teaching the young guys how to be detailed.”

Despite the lumps Temple took that year, Ioannidis, for one, always believed that this undefeated record, this frenzy and this chance are things the Owls were always capable of. He said his teammates feel the same way.

“We figured our time was coming," he said. "We were young. We were 2-10. We were playing I think seven or eight sophomores on the defense and same on the offense. But we knew this moment was coming.”

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.