STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Amid his sophomore quarterback’s four turnovers, Matt Rhule approached P.J. Walker with some motivation to turn things around.
“I said to him out there, ‘These are the moments that make you a good quarterback,” the second-year coach said. “You can’t just keep throwing the ball up and throwing picks. That has to stop.”
Despite the counsel, Walker struggled to recover, watching the game slip away.
Throwing four interceptions and fumbling a snap, Walker’s turnovers led to 14 points for the Nittany Lions en route to their 30-13 win at Beaver Stadium Saturday.
Walker, who now has 14 interceptions on the season, said he felt himself begin to overcompensate with his arm, especially when his play started to put his team into a hole.
“I’m just trying to do too much,” Walker said. “I’m just trying to make too many plays and just not being smart with the football … I just have to be a lot smarter.”
The Owls’ first drive effectively told the story of their season, ending with a dropped pass that led to a failed third-down conversion.
The pass thrown by Walker bounced off junior receiver John Christopher’s chest before falling to the turf, marking the team’s first of 13 failed conversions of the game.
However, moments later, the defense forced its first of three turnovers on the game, coming in the way of senior running back Bill Belton’s fumble forced, and recovered by Nate D. Smith.
The Owls’ added to their Division I FBS-leading 83 points scored off turnovers with a field goal by freshman kicker Austin Jones, tying the game. The team finished the game with 89 points off turnovers during the season.
Both teams flourished on the defensive side of the ball early, allowing a combined total of nine points at the first half.
The Owls managed two first downs in the first half while amassing a season-low 49 yards in the first half.
The offensive struggles continued for Temple in the third quarter, as Walker’s performance snowballed, committing four turnovers in the third quarter, one of which was returned for a touchdown and the other returned inside the Owls’ 10-yard line.
Struggling with crowd noise generated by a crowd of 100,173, the offense burned timeouts early in the game in order to remain on the same page.
“Our communication today wasn’t what it needs to be,” Rhule said. “You’re down in that student section, it’s loud, everyone needs to be on the same page … There was a lot of that today, there was a lot of that today, there was a lot of ‘I thought this, I thought that’ as opposed to everyone working together.”
“Whose fault is that? That’s my fault,” Rhule added. “I’m taking this one hard on myself.”
EJ Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ejsmitty17.