LeVar Talley has seen it all at Temple University. The bad, the ugly and then this season.
The senior linebacker on the Temple football team finished his time at Temple with a 7-0 loss to Pittsburgh on Nov. 18. Talley leaves Temple after only being able to compile 11 wins in four seasons.
But this season, the one that started on a high note with a 3-1 start, filled players’ eyes with bowl dreams, and came crashing down to earth with a 4-7 record, was an improvement over Talley’s past memories.
Talley, who finished with the team lead in tackles (135), has been on the Temple ship through its trek through the murky waters of below mediocrity and now into respectability.
“We’ve been through a tough transition and LeVar Talley has been the main leader throughout the whole thing,” coach Bobby Wallace said. “There’s not enough words that I could say to tell you how much LeVar Talley has meant to this program and Temple University.”
Talley and Temple succumbed to a brutal Big East schedule and finished the season at 4-7. Even after losses to Miami and Virginia Tech, the team was still filled with talk of a bowl game, the first in 21 years. But after a huge defeat against Boston College, 31-3, and a loss to Syracuse, the bowl hopes were erased and another losing season chalked up.
But on North Broad, 4-7 is nothing to balk at. This season, the third under Wallace, the team recorded its best record since 1990’s 7-4 finish. Progress, although hard to see with the naked eye, was made to the Owls this season.
Temple cruised through non-conference games against Navy, Bowling Green and Eastern Michigan. But when the Big East hit, starting with a 29-24 loss to West Virginia, Temple was caught flat footed. They won only one conference game, a rout over Rutgers.
But unannounced to the world, they were in games against Pittsburgh and Syracuse, and they played as good as possible against Miami and Virginia Tech.
But in the season finale, the loss to Pittsburgh, the team’s season was encased in a nutshell. A defense holding it down whle the offense sputtered and was unable to score points.
It wasn’t as bad as last season when the Owls were outscored 153 to 366, but it was something the team desperately needs to work on in the off season.
“I just think we stopped executing,” Talley said. “We have to start putting the pieces together. Once everything jells together it will be cake and we’ll be in a bowl game.”
“The game was kind of indicative of the year,” Wallace said of Pittsburgh. “We were close to having a great year. 4-7, and in four of our losses we were right there in the fourth quarter.
“Defensively we’ve come a long ways since last year and I think it was indicative (against Pitt). Offensively, I’m very disappointed.”
Asides from tailback Tanardo Sharps who finished the season with 1,104 rushing yards, the offense was not a strong point of the team. Junior quarterbacks Devin Scott and Mike Frost jockeyed for starting time all season long, but neither were able to move the ball during Big East play. Frost, a junior college transfer from California, played in eight games and completed less than 40 percent of his passes.
Frost, who blew away California junior college records, seemed to be blown away by the Division-I level of competition. He will most likely be red shirted for next season.
“I think it would be a disappointment for me to say anything besides that Mike was probably disappointed with his own performance and the way the year has gone,” Wallace said.
Scott, hampered by injury down the stretch, finished the season passing for 1,456 yards. But he, too, was unable to move the ball in the big games that held the Owls’ bowl hopes alive.
The battle between the two was not one that Wallace was fond of. Having the two splitting time also hurt the flow between quarterback and the Owls’ core of receivers.
“I think it’s important we make a good decision there,” Wallace said of the passing situation. “We’ve got to solve that problem. The QB situation, as the year went on, might have hindered the progress of the offense.”
If anything, the running game was not hindered. Sharps powered the ground attack with his quick cuts and exciting downfield jaunts. 65-yard touchdown runs were nothing out of the ordinary for the sophomore. He was the first Temple player since 1987 to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season (Todd McNair). He will be back and will be asked to lead next season.
“We still have a ways to go,” Sharps said. “We stepped up in games but then there were game when we fell off. We just have to be consistent in games.
“It’s still a good vibe, we’re heading in a positive direction. We’re just looking forward to next year.”
This year the team only had three seniors in Talley, defensive lineman Raheem Brock and offensive lineman Mathias Nkwenti. Both Talley and Nkwenti have been getting looks from the pros, while Brock expects to graduate this year and be eligible for another season.
With the team only losing two players, and gaining a wealth of scholarships, the outlook for next season will be a lot better.
“This will be a very important off season,” Wallace said. “I think we’ve made improvement going into the off season. I think the players see that and realize it.”
But with Talley headed out, who will step up and become a leader on this young football team?
“They got some leaders in that team man. I’m just a small portion of what they had to offer,” Talley said. “Tanardo is a leader and he doesn’t even know it yet. They’ve got so many leaders that I’m not going to make much of a difference.”
Brock is hoping that he can be one of those leaders and help propel the team from 4-7 and to a bowl.
“We came very far from last year, but there’s still a lot of things we have to work on,” he said. “Our defense made a big impact on the Big East this year. Next year it should be even better.”
And when the team does improve and make it to a bowl, Talley will be right there cheering them on.