After a pair of blown leads against conference opponents during recent weeks, things aren’t getting any easier for the football team. The Owls will host No. 15 Central Florida on Saturday at noon.
Temple is coming off a bye week in which the players got caught up on academics and rested their bodies, while the coaches hit the road to do some recruiting. The team’s most recent loss to Rutgers came in the final seconds of the game, as the Scarlet Knights scored on a 33-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-10.
“Having a bye week has been one of the best things,” sophomore linebacker Tyler Matakevich said. “If you’re going to lose, that’s definitely a tough way to lose. We were playing some of our great football the whole game except maybe two or three plays. Overall, this bye week is just getting us regrouped and refocused and just getting ready for ranked UCF coming in here.”
UCF is coming off a 19-14 win against Houston, handing the Cougars their second loss this season. The Knights are now 7-1 this season, the program’s best start through eight games since 1998. UCF is the only team that remains undefeated in American Athletic Conference games, holding a 4-0 record.
Redshirt-junior quarterback Blake Bortles has garnered a 67.6 completion percentage and redshirt-junior tailback Storm Johnson leads the Knights in rushing, averaging 89.9 yards per game. UCF’s only loss of the season came against South Carolina in a closely fought 28-25 match-up.
“They have a great quarterback and a great tailback,” coach Matt Rhule said. “Bortles is as good as anyone we’ve faced and anyone in the country. Storm Johnson is a dominant tailback who started at the University of Miami and transferred.”
“They’re very good on defense, they’re very mature up front – they have a few seniors on their offensive line,” Rhule added. “So there’s a reason they’re three points away from being undefeated.”
Redshirt-senior Chris Coyer left the Rutgers game with an ankle injury and did not practice last week. Rhule said he is unsure if Coyer will be able to play against the Knights this weekend.
Matakevich emphasized the importance of ending the season with a win streak – whether it starts with UCF or in the weeks that follow against Connecticut and Memphis.
“We definitely have our hands full, but it’s just like every week,” Matakevich said. “We just have to prepare the best that we can, make sure everybody is on the same page and then just execute in the game. You can’t have any mental mistakes, and that’s definitely one of the things that’s been killing us all year, me included.”
“We have mental mistakes,” Matakevich added. “Everyone sees it. When we’re not making mistakes, we’re a really good football team. That’s definitely one of the most frustrating things. We’ve put in so much work every week, and we rise to the occasion but we come up short come Saturdays.”
Despite the mental misteakes, running back Zaire Williams said the players are “hungry” and that the Rutgers loss is now all but forgotten.
“We have short-term memory loss,” Williams said. “We’re focused on the next game right away.”
Avery Maehrer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AveryMaehrer.