At the Cherry and White Game at Cardinal O’Hara high school, quarterbacks P.J. Walker and Connor Reilly combined for three interceptions and several overthrows, making the defenses of both squads look impressive in the Owls’ 2014 spring game and conclusion of their spring practice schedule.
Reilly’s team, the White team, would end up prevailing in a low-scoring affair by a score of 10-9 over the Cherry team. Reilly finished completing 15 of 27 passes for 204 yards with an interception. Walker completed 15 of 31 for 172 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
While neither quarterback outshined the other, coach Matt Rhule believes that his defense played at least some part in those picks, as well as the final result on the scoreboard.
“I was pleased with our defense,” Rhule said. “I didn’t call a lot of sacks, but there probably would have been a lot of sacks… I’m optimistic with the defense, and I’m know the offensive unit will come together if we’re talking offense vs defense.”
One of the biggest aspects that Rhule and his staff is focusing on is forcing turnovers. In Saturday’s scrimmage, the defense managed to intercept the same number of passes that they accumulated over the entire length of the 2013 season.
A new face that has stood out during spring practice is defensive back Alex Wells, a junior who transferred from ASA College in Brooklyn. Wells had the lone interception for the Cherry squad and also tallied six tackles, five of which were solo.
Rhule said that Wells has been “a guy who makes plays” and has been consistent throughout spring practice. Wells credits his current success to his coach at ASA as well as his defensive coordinator Phil Snow.
“Coach [Demarcus] White, he took me the ropes, I spent extra time with him,” Wells said. “Now with coach Snow, it’s changing even more… anything goes wrong [in practice], he’s going to tell you, boom boom boom, and you gotta come back the next day and fix it.”
A playmaker on the offensive side of the ball was redshirt sophomore wide receiver Khalif Herbin. Herbin was the game leader with 5 catches for 93 yards, including a 66 yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Herbin credited the touchdown to Rhule for his persistence about getting the ball into his hands.
“We ran the play several times before, but I guess I was kind of hesitant,” Herbin said. “But this time I decided to catch it and go like coach Rhule has been telling me to. And nine times out of ten, if my coach tells me to do it, it probably ends up positive.”
An area that wasn’t positive for Temple last year was the kicking game. The Owls were three for nine on field goal attempts last year—with seven of those attempts coming from less than 3o yards out.
Jim Cooper, who failed to make a field goal in three attempts last season, missed a 29-yarder in the second quarter for the Cherry team. Colby Perry missed a 45-yarder for the white team later in the quarter.
Rhule has kept his faith in his current kicking team, especially when looking at Cooper’s struggles.
“I feel bad for Jimmy [Cooper],” Rhule said. “It’s the only thing anyone ever asks me about, and he gets out there today and missed it… I think he’s just gonna keep getting better and overcome this. It’s like this little hurdle in front of him, and once he gets over top of it, it will be all downhill from there.”
The Owls face their first hurdle starting August 28, when they travel to Vanderbilt to battle an SEC team that posted a 9-4 record last season.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SteveSportsGuy1.