Two Shirreffs in Town Tonight


No one knows if Bryant Shirreffs will play for against Temple for UConn tonight (7 p.m., Lincoln Financial Field), but the general consensus is that Shirreffs is the more athletic of the two Huskies’ quarterbacks.


It should not surprise former Temple head coach Wayne Hardin. Shirreffs’ grandfather, Jack, was a star two-way end some of Hardin’s great Navy teams in the late 1950s and will no doubt be in attendance on Saturday night. Shirreffs is organizing a golf outing with Hardin’s ex-Temple and ex-Navy players for the coach’s 90th birthday.

The Temple-Shirreffs’ connection doesn’t end there as Bryant has a brother, Evan, who was recruited by former Temple head coach Al Golden and is at Miami.


Right now, UConn head coach Bob Diaco is using the old “day-to-day” designation regarding Shirreffs and it could be an important one because there is a significant dropoff between No. 1 and No. 2.  Shirreffs, a sophomore, has started all 11 games for the 6-5 Huskies but took a blow to the head on the second series of the 20-17 win over Houston. He has completed 158 of 262 passes for nine touchdowns and seven interceptions, amassing 1,992 yards. Boyle went 12 for 22 for 110 yards.

Another injury that might be just as important is UConn tight end Tommy Myers, who will not play on Saturday. The Huskies like to utilize two tight ends almost as much as Temple and they might have to scale back an already limited package.

Fun fact: UConn beat Villanova, 20-15, but not as bad as Ivy League co-champion Penn did (24-13).

Nick Sharga is Temple’s Unsung Hero


Nick Sharga has been the kickout block for Jahad Thomas all season.

Somewhere along the line on Saturday night, if head coach Matt Rhule keeps a promise, Nick Sharga will carry the football for Temple’s 25th-ranked football team and it will be an appropriate reward for the team’s most unsung hero.

Sharga, a 6-2, 235-pound redshirt sophomore, is just the kind of player teams need more of and just the kind of player Rhule has built a respected program upon. Three weeks ago, Rhule said the team is going to give him the ball at some point and, with one more regular-season game left, that time will probably be on Saturday night (7 p.m.) against visiting Connecticut.

Nick Sharga, Temple,

A handoff to the fullback would be a fitting reward for Sharga, who has led the way through the hole for tailback Jahad Thomas all season. The only thing that has stood in the way of Sharga being a two-way starter an All-American linebacker named Tyler Matakevich, but there can be no doubt that Sharga already has played a huge role in the team’s 9-2 record. When Matakevich takes his considerable talents to the NFL next year, Sharga will slide over into his “Mike” linebacker position and the Owls probably will not suffer a significant drop off.

While no one plays 60 minutes anymore, Sharga is a throwback in that he starts on offense at the fullback position and is a backup linebacker on defense.  In a 31-12 win over then No. 23 Memphis last week, Sharga played 20 plays on offense, 15 plays on defense and five on special teams and that’s just not done in big-time college football anymore.


I hope that damp means dew not rain.

Matakevich is one of the three finalists for the Chuck Bednarik Award, given to the nation’s top defensive player. Bednarik, like Matakevich, played his home college football games in Philadelphia but, unlike Matakevich, was the last of the 60-minute men. Sharga  isn’t a 60-minute guy, but he’s getting there.

Sharga injured his ACL his senior year of high school, ended up at Division II West Virginia Wesleyan, put some outstanding film together and decided to walk-on at Temple last year. In spring ball this season, he made plays all over the field and his teammates voted him a single-digit number (4) awarded to the nine toughest players on the Temple team.

If he gets the ball on Saturday and runs far with it, no one will be surprised because of how far he’s run to get to this point.

5 Things to Watch on Saturday Night

Part of Temple head coach Matt Rhule’s message to Justin Fuente that became clear after a 31-12 win over Memphis on Saturday is that the plays Fuente prepared for were not necessarily the ones the Owls would use. The Owls either scored or set up scores on plays that they had not used or did not execute earlier in the year. That’s a good thing, and shows that former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco has a lot of things to think about while preparing for Saturday’s game (7 p.m.) at  Lincoln Financial Field.

  1. Return of the Tight End

The Owls have three special talents at the tight end position and they used them all against Memphis. Colin Thompson, a Florida transfer, caught a seam pass over the middle for 43 yards; Saladeem Major released from a two-second block and found himself wide open in the flat for another score and Kip Patton scored on the same tight end reverse play that would have been perfect for Chris Coyer in 2013. In fact, we called for that play a few times in this space and thought that Coyer’s ability as a passer on the same play would have resulted in a few touchdowns. Now, maybe Patton will get to throw a pass off the same play he scored.


  1. The Deloatch Effect

All Romond Deloatch does is, as Buddy Ryan once said of Cris Carter, is catch touchdowns. At the time, Ryan meant it as a backhanded compliment, thinking that Carter did not catch enough passes in the middle of the field. Yet, with big games coming up, Deloatch is going to be an effective red zone target, using his great hands and 6-4 frame. The attention that Robby Anderson gets on the other side of the field is going to make him particularly dangerous.

  1. Attendance

All Temple has to do to win the AAC attendance title is to draw more than Memphis does for its game against SMU. The Owls have the slimmest of leads, averaging 47,343 per game to Memphis’ 46,547. The Owls can still draw a few hundred less than Memphis and win the attendance title, but the fans should take a page from the team and #LeaveNoDoubt. If you are planning on watching this game on TV and live near Philadelphia, one word of advice: Don’t. The kids feed off the energy of a loud crowd and all hands should be on deck.

  1. Mass Substitutions

Defensive coordinator Phil Snow said one of the problems in giving up too many points to both SMU and said he ran in defensive players in waves. This is good for the Owls for a couple of reasons. One, it keeps the team fresh late in the season, and, two, many of these players are youngsters like redshirt freshman DT Freddy Booth-Lloyd who are getting valuable experience. Booth-Lloyd made the initial hit on Paxton Lynch’s failed QB sneak.


No one would be happier for Tyler Matakevich than Steve Conjar.


  1. Closing in on a record

With 462 career tackles, Tyler Matakevich is closing in on the remarkable school tackle record of 492 held by Steve Conjar (1979-1981). Matakevich can do it, but it becomes a lot more manageable task if he had three games, not two. To get that extra game, the Owls have to beat UConn. That’s why the fans adhering to the suggestion of No. 3 is so important.

Tomorrow: 60 Minutes

The Competition Thins for Tyler

Plays by Tyler Matakevich, video by Scott (OVO) Hartkorn.

Too many times national college football awards are the result of vague criteria like “eye test” and pro potential. Tyler Matakevich has separated himself from two groups, the latest of which was the Chuck Bednarik Award for the nation’s best defensive player. He is now in the three finalists there, and  he is the in the Final Five for another. What has set that award, the Bronko Nagurski Award, given by the Charlotte Touchdown Club, apart, and given it additional credibility, is that assigns particular weight to hard numbers like tackles, sacks, tackles for losses and interceptions. It is now down to these five.

Georgia Tech v Clemson

Shaq Lawson

  1. Clemson DE Shaq Lawson

The 6-foot-3, 275-pound junior has 44 tackles in 11 games, 18 for losses with 7.5 sacks and no fumble recoveries and no interceptions. He is the best player on one of the best defenses in the nation, but doesn’t produce in the all-important turnover area.

Illinois v Penn State

Carl Nassib

  1. Carl Nassib, Penn State (DE)

The walk-on from Malvern Prep in the suburbs of Philadelphia has had a superb season for the Nittany Lions. In 10 games, Nassib has 46 tackles, 19.5 for losses, including 15.5 sacks. He also has one interception and returned it for 10 yards and forced six fumbles. He played only the first three snaps on Saturday against Michigan before being removed with an undisclosed injury.

Charleston Southern v Alabama

Reggie Ragland

  1.  Reggie Ragland, Alabama (LB)

In 11 games, the 6-2, 252-pound Ragland has 85 tackles, 6.5 for losses with 2.5 sacks, no interceptions and two forced fumbles. He almost has no impact, though, on the opponent’s passing game as he has no interceptions this season.


Jeremy Cash

  1. Jeremy Cash, Duke (SS)

The 6-2, 210-pound is projected as a strong safety on the next level, but has played both strong and free safety for the Blue Devils. This year, in 11 games, he has 85 tackles, 18 for losses with 2.5 sacks. After recording two interceptions a year ago, he has none this season.


Tyler Matakevich

  1. Tyler Matakevich, Temple (LB)

No one seems to be nearly as qualified for the Nagurski hardware as does the 6-1, 232-pound Matakevich, who is only the sixth player in FBS history to record fourth-straight 100-tackle seasons. He is also the only player in college football this season to lead his team in tackles in every game. He has 107 tackles, 13 for losses, four sacks and five interceptions.

Tomorrow: On to UConn

Temple at Navy Would Be a Dream Showcase for the AAC Title Game

Colgate v Navy

Members of the Navy Midshipmen take the field before the start of their game against the Colgate Raiders at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on September 5, 2015 in Annapolis, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Disclaimer: For all of the “let’s concentrate on UConn crowd” out there, nothing written below will affect the outcome of the game on the field on Saturday. Pure speculation is one of the joys in sports and we’ll speculate here on what the corporate offices are thinking. We’ll return to talking about UConn on Saturday.

When it comes to business, and the business of big-time college football, perception of success can mean everything. The big power conferences are perceived as such because, among other things, they are able to fill their stadiums for big games.


Temple fans filled 2 decks at RFK for EBB.

The life of a small, non-power, conference can reflect failure as much as success as, for years, the Mid-American Conference has attracted regularly around 10,000 people to its title game at the cavernous Ford Field in Detroit.

That’s why the site of the first-ever AAC football championship game is so important to the league right now. They are only two possibilities, either at the site of West contenders Houston  and Navy, and the bean counters in the league’s corporate offices in Providence, RI, have to be crossing their fingers and toes and hoping Navy wins and take the game to its home base in Maryland. For the other team, the league needs nearby Temple, bringing the nation’s fourth-largest TV market, Philadelphia, to the Dec.  5 (noon, ABC-TV) broadcast. Navy is located in the Washington, D.C. TV market, the ninth-largest but has the additional appeal of having a national fan base. Houston is the 10th-largest TV market.

For this dream matchup to happen, Navy will have to win at Houston and Temple would have to hold serve at home against UConn with both games coming up at  the end of the week. (The only other way Temple can get in without beating the Huskies is in the unlikely event of winless UCF holding off visiting South Florida on Thanksgiving Day.)

A couple of reasons have the AAC getting goosebumps over that potential matchup. The game will be a likely sellout at the picturesque 34,000-seat Navy Marine Corps Stadium, one of the most beautiful venues in college football. The sight of a sold-out championship game, when so many other leagues have had trouble selling out championship venues, creates an additional aura of success to project to league TV viewers. Although the stadium seats 34,000, Navy often sells standing room seats and an AAC title game could easily exceed the 38,255 stadium attendance record set on Oct. 5, 2013 when the Midshipmen beat Air Force, 28-10.

Any seats Navy is unable to sell will likely be gobbled up by Temple fans, who traveled 20,000 to RFK Stadium for an Eagle Bank Bowl at UCLA in 2009. They will not be able to get that many tickets this time, but it should be an overflow. The game would feature the G5’s best Heisman Trophy candidate,  Navy’s Keenan Reynolds, against a top-notch defense led by a likely first-team All-American linebacker in Temple’s Tyler Matakevich.

When it comes to the business of college football, nothing projects success like sold-out stadiums and TV ratings and Temple at Navy figures to project that image best and, in the case of a fledgling conference championship game, image is everything.

Tomorrow: The Competition

Temple’s Wacky, Wonderful Throwbacks


Did anyone notice that 1 of the 17 guys stopping Lynch on the sneak was Freddy Booth-Lloyd? The Owls’ future is bright along the DL.

One of the nation’s top quarterbacks was on display at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday afternoon.

Paxton Lynch was also there.

If a random fan not following college football was told one of the two quarterbacks had six NFL scouts watching him, they could have only assumed one thing after three hours of play:  It had to be the Temple guy, P.J. Walker.


In reality, Lynch, of Memphis, was the guy all of the NFL scouts came to see, but he was clearly outplayed by Walker, who just might have punched Temple’s ticket to a New Year’s Six game. Walker completed 14 of 26 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns. Lynch was 25 of 34 for 156 yards, but no touchdowns. Credit that to a spectacular performance by the defense, led by Tyler Matakevich, who, with 11 tackles, recorded his fourth-straight 100-tackle season. Lynch will probably be either the first or second QB drafted in the first round, but he was the No. 2 quarterback on the field on Saturday or, from Temple’s standpoint, that’s all that mattered.

While Lynch will be headed to the pros next year, in all probably Walker will return to Temple and that will suit the Owls just fine.  They need only to beat UConn on Saturday night at home to clinch the AAC East title. While the Huskies have played better of late, Temple beat UConn last year, 36-10, and the Owls are a much better team this season.


One of the great photos of the season, P.J. Walker with Tyler Matakevich. Photo by Morgyn Siegfried.

Stylistically, Walker’s game is very reminiscent of current Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. He can make all of the throws Bridgewater makes, and might be a little more elusive in the open field.

The Owls dominated a team that had been dominated only once before—in a 45-20 home loss to Navy—because Walker was better than the more hyped quarterback on this day. The Owls streamlined their offense down from the trendy multiple wide receiver formations most of the Power 5 conference teams use and the style seems to suit Walker well. They establish the run, pass off play action, and use the speedy Walker to get to the edge on read-option plays. It’s a style that helps them run the clock, keep opposing offenses off the field and their defense fresh. It suits the Temple TUFF brand.

It is a no-nonsense style of throwback offense derided by some, but if it helps the Owls hoist that AAC trophy on Dec. 5, it will be both wacky and wonderful. Just the kind of team that Harry Kalas would have loved.  We all should.