PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Two months ago, the Temple Football season appeared to be headed towards a rebuilding year. Two months later, the Owls will have a chance to play in a conference championship game.
Temple has rattled off five straight victories in a row and needs one more win over East Carolina this Saturday night to clinch the American Athletic Conference East Division. A victory would also put Temple in the AAC Championship game against Navy on December 3. Temple’s turnaround has been surprising to many fans, but not to Senior Linebacker Avery Williams.
“It’s just our process,” said Williams. “We knew where we were. We knew it was going to take some time to get where we are right now, but as long as we followed our process, we knew it was going to happen.”
The Owls still need to get past East Carolina on Saturday to reach the conference title game. Temple is 8-3, while the Pirates stand at 3-8 and have lost eight of their last nine games. On paper, the Owls appear to be in strong shape to complete their impressive march to a division title. However, Rhule is keeping his team focused as the Owls prepare for the Pirates.
“It’s just a tremendous opportunity to face an East Carolina team that we’ve had some history with ,” Rhule said. “We had a tremendous game with them last year that was really hard to win. We couldn’t really run the ball on them last year. When we don’t run the ball, we’re not a very good team.”
Temple Quarterback Phillip Walker has been playing at a high level during the Owls’ five-game winning streak. The senior and his teammates continue to take the one-week-at-a-time approach, but Walker believes the Owls will do well if they stick with their style of play on Saturday night.
“We really don’t think about what other teams do,” Said Walker. We know if we play our brand of football and our best football, we’ll be in good shape. We’ve got to just keep going out there and play our game of football and that’s most important for us.”
For the seniors, Saturday’s game will have extra special meaning. It will be their last regular season game together and the group that came to Temple the same year as Rhule has set the standard for future Temple teams. Rhule believes the 2016 Owls may be even better than the team which captured national headlines a year ago.
“This team’s better than the team last year,” Rhule said. “That’s no disrespect to the team last year. They’ve just had a different path, a different journey. They’re just a more complete team. They lost that strong senior class from last year, so they had to incorporate more of the young guys.”