When you strip the game of football to its basics, the most important thing is making plays.
That is what I will remember of this senior group. We will remember the great plays of linebacker Tyler Matakevich for the next 30 or so years. When he is in his 50s and I am the age of James Woodside now, 97, I hope he will visit me in my assistant living center and talk to me about them. We covered Tyler yesterday.
Today is for the other guys, who I will all miss deeply, and who will all play their final games for my beloved Temple tomorrow (7 p.m., ESPN).
The plays, those are the things I will remember most.
For defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis (No. 9), I will remember him absolutely plastering a Penn State running back on a screen out of the backfield. That play said we are Temple and we are not going to take it anymore more than any other in that game. It was also featured in an outstanding photo in Sports Illustrated. For his line mate, Nate D. Smith, the three-man sack in the same game.
For Brandon Chudoff, a fellow Northeast Philadelphia homeboy, I will never forget him falling on two fumbles in the Connecticut game in 2012. Without Chudoff being at the right place at the right time, Temple never wins that game. Brandon was placed in a tough spot. He was recruited as a linebacker, then moved to the line, where he had to bulk up. He took one for the team and that’s the definition of Temple Tuff.
Robby Anderson, I will remember for making me sound like an expert. In a crucial moment of the Notre Dame game, I had to excuse myself from my seat because I was so nervous. I was the lone Temple fan in the concourse with about 20 Notre Dame fans watching on TV. Temple decided to go for it on fourth and 4. The Notre Dame fan turned to me and said, “That’s a big gamble, going for it on 4th and 4?” I didn’t hesitate: “Not when you have No. 19 on your team.” Seconds later, P.J. Walker lofted the ball over a VERY tight window and Anderson caught it with one hand and made me look like a genius. Great catch by No. 19. Anderson returning to Temple made me very happy, and I think it did him, too. Notre Dame fans thought I knew all the plays, which I did not.
Kyle Friend, I will remember from the same game, for spraining his knee and limping to the line of scrimmage on every play. He finished out the entire fourth quarter with the same injury where he would miss the next five games. That’s Temple TUFF right there.
Brandon Shippen, again the Notre Dame game, hit at the 2 and pirouetted for the touchdown and the best Temple athlete from Norristown since Khalif Wyatt, but not as good as the next one, Kip Patton.
John Christopher, I will remember for saving the season at UMass, catching a sideline pattern despite being completely obscured until the last second by a Minuteman defensive back. The guy was a human vacuum cleaner for four years.
Hershey Walton has been here seemingly forever but he’s been dependable for that long, too. Will Hayes will be remember for the two-point conversion and Alex Wells for coming here in mid-career to fill a need and Tavon Young for that 96-yard interception return at UConn and the even more important hit to set the tone against Memphis.
There are others, too, like offensive linemen Eric Lofton and Shahbez Ahmed who did their part to Leave No Doubt and assure that what’s next was usually always better than what happened before. Sal Major paid his way through Temple and caught a key TD pass against Memphis. Tyler Mayes promised me there would be another surprise onsides’ kick and I hope he makes it the opening kickoff tomorrow.
They all set the tone for the greatest Temple season ever and a season next year that I think will be even better, but the juniors have to prove me right about that. They could not have had better guys to follow.
Tomorrow: The Final Leave No Doubt Game Day