Herschel Walker was head over heels for Steve Conjar’s record, but even Herschel’s records fell before Steve’s.
Going into his final college football season, it appeared that Temple’s Tyler Matakevich was poised to do a lot of special things, but one thing appeared out of his reach and that was the school record for tackles held by Steve Conjar.
Before the opening game with Penn State, he needed 138 tackles to break the record 492 held by Conjar, a linebacker who played between 1978 and 81, and even the most optimistic number-crunchers could see that averaging over 10 tackles a game might have been a bit much to ask.
Thanks to a season that saw him win the two top awards for national defensive player of the year (the Bronko Nagurski and Chuck Bednarik Awards), Matakevich has now put himself in a position to break the record. He is sitting on 481 tackles and needs “only” 11 in Tuesday’s Boca Raton Bowl against Toledo to tie and a dozen to win.
It’s going to be tough, but everything Matakevich has done in his Temple career has epitomized toughness and getting this record will be a fitting last hurrah. There is no bigger fan of Matakevich than Conjar and the two linebackers swap notes in the Lincoln Financial Field parking lot after home games. Now Matakevich will have a chance to do something Conjar did and that was to bring a school a bowl win. Conjar was a major player in a 28-17 Garden State Bowl win over California in 1979.
Matakevich also did a lot of things Conjar never did, like playing in a league championship game—the Owls fell short to Houston—and becoming a consensus first-team All-American, the first at the school since offensive lineman John Rienstra in 1987. He is the centerpiece of a senior class that has injected Temple football with a sense of legitimacy in the national eye after years of being known as a doormat.
All the while, Matakevich has had to overcome some hurdles placed in front of him, like playing in three conferences (Mid-American, Big East and American Athletic) in his four years. He also had to sit in a room in 2012 and be told his head coach at the time, Steve Addazio, was leaving to take the same job at Boston College.
After all of that, a dozen tackles remains his last individual goal in a team game. If he doesn’t get it and the Owls win, he will walk out with a big smile on his face. That’s why he deserves both.
Tomorrow: A Tribute to the Other Seniors
Tuesday: Game Day
Wednesday: Post-Game Analysis
Thursday: What’s Next?
Friday: The Boca Raton Photo Gallery
Saturday: Putting AAC Bowl Struggles in Perspective
Sunday: The Chinatown Syndrome