Junior wide receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick, Temple’s leading receiver last season, is starting to make plays for the Owls.
After being held without a touchdown in the Owls’ first four games, Fitzpatrick has caught a touchdown in each of the Owls’ last three.
The junior had the best game of his career in the Owls’ first win of the season Saturday, a 33-14 victory over Army, catching four passes for a career-high 128. This included a 37-yard touchdown reception on the second drive of the game. And it was Fitzpatrick’s 45-yard reception of a P.J. Walker throw on the first drive of the game that set up Kenny Harper’s 1-yard touchdown.
Fitzpatrick’s performance marked the first 100-yard performance by a Temple receiver since Michael Campbell caught 11 passes for 132 yards for two touchdowns against Ohio on Nov. 16, 2010.
Fitzpatrick said that he and Walker have developed a chemistry from which both are starting to benefit.
“He’s mature and he plays with a lot of confidence,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think we’re going to continue to develop as we play together.”
Coach Matt Rhule said that the main reason the Owls had the success they did against Army’s running game – holding a triple-option attack that leads the nation in rushing (352 yards per game) 97 yards below its average – was the play of defensive ends Matt Ioannidis and Hershey Walton, a pair of sophomores, against the run.
“Those guys were crucial to controlling the line of scrimmage against Army,” Rhule said. “They stepped up and set the tone early.”
The Owls allowed just 81 yards rushing in the first half.
Ioannidis and Walton are part of a true youth movement on the defensive side of the ball.
Against Army, Temple started seven sophomores and a pair of true freshmen on defense. The other sophomore starters included Shahbaz Ahmed, Brandon Chudnoff, Tyler Matakevich, Nate D. Smith, and Tavon Young.
The Owls also start a pair of freshmen (Sharif Finch and Jihaad Pretlow). Anthony Robey (a junior) and senior Abdul Smith were the only upperclassmen starters against Army.