The Temple Owls finally won their first game of the season last week, bringing their record up to 1-6 on the year. They’re still looking for their first conference win and have struggled under first year coach Matt Rhule to find some consistent production from anyone on the roster. Except at linebacker, that is. Sophomore Tyler Matakevich has been an elite defender for Temple this season, providing at least one bright spot in what has been a dreadful season so far.
Matakevich has been an absolute tackling machine this season, leading the nation with 95 total tackles (78 solo) through seven games, including seven tackles for loss and an interception. He has posted double-digit tackles in six games this season, including a 24-tackle clinic against the Idaho Vandals on September 28 that included 20 solo tackles. He’s been making plays sideline to sideline for Temple this season and appears like he’s really taken the next step from his 101-tackle freshman campaign a year ago.
Unfortunately, he isn’t getting a whole lot of help from the team around him. Temple ranks last in the AAC in total defense (486.1 yards per game) and No. 6 in scoring defense (26.9 points per game). They struggle to create turnovers, forcing just seven this season (tied for last in the AAC) and are tied for No. 7 in the conference in sacks. As a unit, they’ve been a major letdown that has made Rhule’s first year at the helm a difficult one. The one thing that the team can be proud of this season is the play of Matakevich and the fact that they’ll have him for at least one more year.
If Matakevich continues playing at the level he is playing right now, he may have a case for the best player to play on the worst team in history. His ability to chase down the play and make tackles should be getting him a lot more attention than it is but the lack of a solid team around him makes him an afterthought. Can this tackling machine elevate the play of the team around him and get Temple on the road to respectability during his career?