Temple beats Memphis, 41-21, in season finale

Posted: December 02, 2013

MEMPHIS - This time there was no drama and no heartbreak for Temple. Just the warmth of a solid, all-around, 41-21 victory over Memphis on Saturday at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, a win that the Owls and coach Matt Rhule hope will carry them into a better 2014.

"We started not playing well, then playing well for a half, then three quarters. Today we finally put it together for an entire game, and it will be a big boost to all the young guys we have," Rhule said as his team finished 2-10, and 1-6 in the American Athletic Conference.

Freshman quarterback P.J. Walker closed with his second straight 300-plus-yard passing game for the Owls, going 20 of 32 for 328 yards and four touchdowns. Three of the scores went to 6-foot-3 sophomore Robbie Anderson (seven catches, 96 yards). A fourth was on a 75-yard catch-and-dash to senior Chris Coyer (three catches, 129 yards) early in the third quarter.

"It was tough going through what we did," Walker said of a four-game stretch in which the Owls couldn't hold a halftime lead, and a year with three last-minute losses. "But if we dwelled on what happened we couldn't move forward."

Since taking over midway through the season's fifth game, Walker has thrown for 2,084 yards (the fourth-best one-year total in school history) and 20 TDs to just eight picks.

The scoring pass to Coyer came one play after the Tigers (3-8, 1-6) had closed to 17-14 on a 10-yard pass from Paxton Lynch to Sam Craft, who also ran for a pair of Memphis scores. Starting on its 25, Walker sensed a blitz coming and called an audible for a seam route to Coyer, who was playing on a bad ankle.

"He was exactly where he was supposed to be, and I knew he could do the rest," Walker said. "He runs pretty fast, even on that ankle."

Anderson, who caught two first-half jump balls for scores with a shorter defender draped on him, had nine TD catches in the Owls' last five games. He knows why.

"P.J. is just a remarkable athlete," Anderson said. "You know every throw is going to be right where it needs to be."

Moments after Coyer's heroics, freshman linebacker Sharif Finch came into the game and made back-to-back statement plays. He tipped a third-down pass deep in Memphis territory, one of five passes the Owls batted at the line. Then he blocked a punt by Ray Guy Award finalist Tom Hornsey, only the second of his career. Michael Felton recovered in the end zone to give the Owls a 31-14 lead with 10 minutes, 49 seconds to go in the third quarter.

"I got in there all excited, wanted to make a play, and [Memphis] gave me the chance," Finch said.

Temple's final score, a 21-yard Walker-to-Anderson pass late in the fourth, came after the Owls defense stopped Memphis on fourth and 1 at the Temple 43.

"The coaches have put us in great places to make plays. It's been up to us to make them," said sophomore cocaptain Tyler Matakevich, who forced a Memphis fumble at the Owls 13 in the first half.

Temple's defense had its best showing of the year, allowing just 228 yards. Two of Memphis' touchdowns came after misadventures by Temple kick-coverage teams gave the Tigers a short field.

The Owls ran for 206 yards, including 92 on 16 carries for sophomore Jamie Gilmore, who had just 87 yards before Saturday. The 534 total yards came against a top-20-rated defense that was allowing just 337 a game. Temple was 8 of 19 on third down and 4 of 5 on fourth down, including a fake punt by Paul Layton on the Owls' opening drive.

"We didn't wait around for someone else to make plays," senior wideout Ryan Alderman said. "Today was an awesome way to end because I think these young guys will take this team a long way."