Temple football finished the 2013 season with a forgettable 2-10 record. However, the occasional flashes left head coach Matt Rhule with reason to look forward to 2014.
At the American Athletic Conference's media day in Newport, R.I. on Monday, Rhule indicated that one of the biggest reasons to be excited is quarterback P.J. Walker.
“I think his best days are certainly ahead of him,” Rhule said on ESPN’s telecast of the American’s media day.
Walker threw for over 2,000 yards, 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions in nine games during his freshman campaign. He also showed the ability to tuck the ball and run, accumulating 332 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.
“I think the biggest thing for P.J. -- and it’s why I really like coaching him -- is he doesn’t want to just be a statistics guy,” Rhule said. “He’s proud of what he did last year, but I think he wants to be more than that.”
After concluding the season with a 41-21 win over Memphis and a 387-total-yard, four-score performance from Walker as high notes, Rhule has plenty reason to believe in his young quarterback.
“The ultimate statistic for that position is whether you win or not,” Rhule said. “I think you saw a little bit in the Memphis game, one of the reasons that we won that game was when he got outside the pocket, instead of trying to win it all on one play, he threw the ball away. He checked the ball down, and he realized, ‘I have a lot of good players around me, let me let them win the game.’
“That only comes with experience. That only comes with some hard losses sometimes.”
Despite having 10 losses, Temple was not simply rolling over for opponents. Last year, the Owls lost six games by one score or less.
Temple was selected to finish eighth in the 11-team American in 2014, while Cincinnati was named the favorite with 17 of a possible 30 first-place votes.
“I think the biggest thing is last year was painful at times, but what it did was it really spurred our kids forward,” Rhule said. “They recognize now what it takes to win.
“As we move forward into this season, we’re excited because we know we can compete and we know we can hang in there. Now we just have to make the plays at the end.”