The Owls (0-4, 0-1 American Athletic Conference) fell 26-24 to the Vandals (1-4) in Moscow, Idaho. Much like the loss to Fordham, Temple underperformed after being the favorites. Idaho had more yards, a higher possession time, a better third down conversion ratio and more trips to the red zone.
Idaho was led by redshirt-freshman Chad Chalich, who threw 43 times for 26 completions, 310 yards and a touchdown. Chalich also ran for 114 yards, accounting for 68 percent of the Vandals’ 168 rushing yards.
Redshirt-junior quarterback Connor Reilly threw for 23 completions, 249 yards – a season high – and one touchdown on 47 attempts. He was successful throwing the ball for short distances but struggled throwing deep balls, often overthrowing his receivers down the field.
“We ran by them a couple times and had a chance to maybe make a couple of those plays,” coach Matt Rhule said. “What [Reilly]’s not saying is guys are hitting him as he’s throwing it … [Reilly’s] our starting quarterback. He’s only played three and a half games, really. Everything’s a learning experience.”
Temple struggled in the first half. Idaho outscored the Owls 17-3 and gained 281 yards to Temple’s 146. Reilly went 11 for 26 for 83 yards in the first half. He improved to 12 for 21 for 166 yards and a touchdown in the second half. When Reilly’s rushing stats are discounted, the Owls averaged 4.4 yards per carry in the first half. In the second half, Temple averaged 7.2 yards per carry, also not counting Reilly.
“We cannot come out and start slow at all,” Reilly said. “We have to start fast. This game I blame myself. I didn’t make the throws I need to make.”
A bright spot for Temple was sophomore linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who set a school record with 24 tackles, 13 of them solo and two for a loss. Matakevich now leads the nation in solo tackles with 47 solo tackles, 14 more than second-place Keith Smith, a San Jose State senior.
“[Matakevich] has tremendous vision and a feel for the game,” Rhule said. “He can see where the ball’s going to end up before it’s there … He’s earning the place he’s making right now.”
Another positive for the Owls was the stabilization of the kicking game. Freshman Nick Visco hit his first collegiate field goal attempt, which also marked the Owls’ first made field goal of the season. Visco also made three extra points, establishing himself as the Owls’ most reliable kicker.
Despite the extra week to prepare, the Owls came out flat and did not get going until the second half. That slow start ended up costing them.
“The bye week and this week of practice helped us tremendously,” Reilly said. “You saw a lot of young kids play with a lot of heart and determination. We didn’t quit at all … But at the QB position, you have to make throws and I didn’t get that done today. That’s why we lost.”
Evan Cross can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @EvanCross.