Matt Rhule has led quite the football renaissance at Temple. He’s gone from 2-10 to 6-6 to 10-4 in just three seasons with the Owls and hopes to achieve even more success in 2016.
That’s a distinct possibility, too – just as long as his players don’t get complacent following the program’s first 10-win season since 1979.
“It’s a balancing act,” Rhule said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “You want them to know what’s possible. You want them to have a taste of it. You want them to appreciate what they had and all the good times that they had and want to get back there. But you don’t want them to think that they’re going to get there just because they were there last year. You want them to work. You want them to go through the exact same process of grinding and practicing and working just the way they did last year to get where they were.”
Temple started 7-0 last season, ultimately suffering its first loss on Halloween – a 24-20 setback against then-No. 9 Notre Dame. The Irish needed a late touchdown from DeShone Kizer to Will Fuller to escape with a win.
Interestingly, that loss may have done more for Temple than any win last season – and the Owls had some good ones.
“I certainly think that the Notre Dame game maybe opened some eyes of people across the country about Temple football,” Rhule said. “I think even going into the game, some people (didn’t take us seriously). I think when people saw the way we played, they saw how physical our kids were, how competitive, how much passion they played with – I certainly hope that it told everybody, ‘Hey, this is a football team, this is a football program, that we can get behind and we can enjoy to watch and will hopefully be good for years to come.’”
Looking ahead to 2016, Temple must replace linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who recorded 100+ tackles in each of his four seasons with the Owls.
“He obviously left a tremendous mark on the program – lots of tremendous tackles, great leadership,” Rhule said. “But I think one of the things he did was he sort of left a legacy of hey, this is what a leader looks like, this is what a complete player looks like. We have a lot of kids that spent two, three, four years with him and they saw him. They saw the way he worked, they saw the way he held himself accountable, they saw the way he practiced – and they now want to emulate that. So I think his leadership continues to this day when you see our other seniors like Avery Williams and Stephaun Marshall doing exactly what he did and leading in the same ways that he did.”
Temple started 10-2 last season before losing its regular-season finale at Houston and then dropping its bowl game to Toledo, 32-17. Rhule hopes to win a bowl game this season – something Temple has done just twice in program history.
“My expectations were always to get to bowl games and compete for the conference championship,” Rhule said. “How long it took, I didn’t really know. I certainly hoped it would take two or three years. I didn’t think we would be 2-10 the first year, though. I thought we’d be a little bit better. That was sort of always my goal: Get Temple to a place where ever year they were going to compete for the conference championship, they would be relevant in that conversation all the way down the stretch, and we can go to bowl games and win them. Getting bowl-eligible in Year Two and getting there in Year Three was obviously exciting. Now we just have to get back and win them.”