Walker struggles in Temple's Cherry and White game

Stephaun Marshall forces Thomas Rumer into the end zone for a safety after a high snap. Owls coach Matt Rhule said he was optimistic about Temple's defense.
Stephaun Marshall forces Thomas Rumer into the end zone for a safety after a high snap. Owls coach Matt Rhule said he was optimistic about Temple's defense. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff)
Posted: April 28, 2014

The Temple football team held a draft last week to divvy up sides for its Cherry and White spring game.

To the surprise of no one, quarterback P.J. Walker was taken first. This is his team, and the development of the soon-to-be sophomore will be the single most-watched aspect of the coming season.

Saturday's game at Cardinal O'Hara High School, which Walker's Cherry team lost to the White, 10-9, was the first public barometer of that progress. Fortunately for Walker, it will not be the only.

Walker completed 15 of 31 passes for 172 yards. He was intercepted twice. The Cherry team's only touchdown came on a 65-yard run in the third quarter by Jamie Gilmore.

Walker's touch and timing seemed a bit off in the first quarter as he overthrew a few open receivers.

"I wasn't pleased with the fact that as things didn't go well he started trying to force the ball down the field. That's really what happened to us in some big games last year," Temple coach Matt Rhule said. "He's one of those kids when he's not live, it's hard for him. . . . He'll be fine. He's had a really good spring."

Perhaps it was not surprising that the defense seemed to be ahead. The Owls remain a young team with just three seniors on scholarship.

The game mixed players who have not taken reps together during spring practice. Walker said his team had about 10 plays together at practice Thursday.

"The plays were open, it was just me on a few bad throws," Walker said. "I usually don't throw to most of the guys that I was playing with, but that's no excuse to come out here and not complete the ball."

On the positive side, the defense did something it did all too rarely last season - force turnovers. There were three interceptions - junior-college transfer Alex Wells picked off Connor Reilly - a fumble recovery, and a safety on a poor snap.

Linebacker Jarred Alwan was in the middle of much of it. He had an interception and a fumble recovery. Rhule said he would have loved to have redshirted the Camden Catholic product last year, but instead he had to throw him into the thick of things as a freshman.

"I had a rough season. I came in nervous every game, and I didn't know what to expect," said Alwan, who gained 10 pounds in the offseason. "But now I feel comfortable in this defense."

The offense had another glimmer when Khalif Herbin took a dump-off from Reilly and broke it 66 yards for a touchdown. But make no mistake, this was the defense's day.

"The things we're trying to work on on defense - pass rush and picking the ball off, I saw out there," Rhule said. "I'll be optimistic about the defense, and the offense, I know the unity will come together."


tmcmanus@philly.com

@ByTimMcManus

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