It might be spring, but the Temple Owls displayed the same energy and effort you'd like to see in the heart of the offseason. The 2015 Cherry and White Game Saturday pitted P.J. Walker and the first team offense for the White team against the first team defense for the Cherry team.
With a substantial turnout for the event, which featured a tailgate, bleacher seating and hosted prospects in the Philadelphia region, the inaugural game was a hit. The highlight of the afternoon didn't occur during the game, it was from 4-year old Leah Still who overcame cancer in March. After performing the coin toss for the game, she had her moment on the field.
With a pass from QB P.J. Walker, her father Devon, a former Penn State DT and current Cincinnati Bengals DT, handed the ball off to her. She ran for the end zone with the offense and defense supporting her the whole way through. Players and fans cheered her on:
Leah Still taking a screen for a TD at the Temple spring game #LeahStrong pic.twitter.com/k2VZukt11M— Tyler Meininger (@TMeininger1) April 25, 2015
As much as it was about the game itself, her jubilation running toward the end zone was inspiring to witness. The play transpired right in front of me. I didn't take a video or tweet of what was occurring; the moment was too pure to not see it to it's fullest intent.
When she met her father on the field, he picked her up and carried her off the field as a jubilated and proud man. The Still family was represented extraordinarily by head coach Matt Rhule.
Rhule initiated the festivities with one-on-one drills in the trenches. Then he transitioned his team to oklahoma drills, running in a lane with a blocker against a defender, a Rampage drill (test of strength) between players and a field goal competition. Here are some notes witnessing the drills:
- OT Jaelin Robinson has serious potential as a bookend tackle. As a redshirt freshman, I wouldn't be surprised if he's the next Owl to be drafted in the 1st round. It might be bold, but in person, he's a monster of a man.
- Nate D. Smith wreaked havoc in both the one-on-one drills and test of strength. He got a nice reaction from the crowd.
- Matt Ioannidis showed solid agility with a swim move to get past his man. He should be a fixture for the Owls this year in their 4-3 defense.
- OG Aaron Ruff, another highly touted redshirt freshman, dominated his man and uses his hands effectively as a 4-star recruit
- Kicking game still a weak spot as misses were aplenty from the kickers.
Cherry and White Game
Walker, who struggled in his sophomore season in 2014, looked consistent and sharp Saturday afternoon. He located former DB and special teams star Samuel Benjamin in the back of the end zone for the game's first touchdown.
Lenny Williams, an ideal zone-read QB, showed out on his pass attempts firing the ball to his targets like he wanted that backup role. Gargantuan tight end Kip Patton hauled in a crossing route from Williams and carried defenders for yards on his rendezvous towards the end zone in dominating fashion for the White team.
It was a tough day for Jahad Thomas who lost a fumble after inconsistently holding onto the football in 2014. Roy Wesley, at 5'8 and 185 pounds, in the second quarter broke outside and rolled his way to the pylon on a substantial run. He subsequently dove into the end zone for a White team touchdown. It's doubtful, however, that he'll supass Thomas or Zaire Williams on the RB depth chart for the Owls.
On the other side of the ball, pass rushers Avery Ellis and Praise Martin-Oguike caused Temple's quarterbacks issues as the O-Line looked flustered on multiple drop backs from the quarterbacks. Freshman corner Kareem Ali Jr. forced a fumble on Thomas and subsequently recovered it on the play.
With Sean Chandler and Tavon Young contributing mightily in 2014, Ali could be another young asset for defensive coordinator Phil Snow to utilize. Freshman defensive back Jyquise Thomas led both teams six tackles and made plays manning the field.
Walker was at it again, tearing up the Temple secondary with a 40 yard bomb to Romond Deloach who burned his man badly on the fly route. The White team cruised to a 43-23 victory on the day as Walker looked crisp on his passes and commanding the spread attack in his third spring game.
Deloach looks to be a major asset in Walker's strides as a junior and talking to him about his thoughts on Thomas, Walker believes this is the year his high school teammate breaks out.
Press Conference Talking Points
- Matt Rhule Reflects on Third Spring Game as Head Coach, Still Family, Kip Patton's Potential Impact and What to Expect for Next Season
- P.J. Walker Talks About how Teammates Stepped up in Today's Game
- Tyler Matakevich Talks About Leah Still and Preparation
- Praise Martin-Oguike Shied Away From NFL Possibility Conversation but Felt he had Good Spring
- Romond Deloach Enjoyed Getting Into the end Zone but Doesn't yet Know if he's P.J. Walker's Number one Target
- Kareem Ali Jr. Talked About his Effort in the Spring to Play as a Freshman and Enjoyed Having his Family There to Support Him
- Sam Benjamin Talked About Catching TD and Enjoyment of Playing on Offense as an Owl