WRITTEN BY TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin
Temple linebacker Avery Williams has no interest in filling Tyler Matakevich’s shoes as the senior leader on defense this season – he doesn’t even believe that such a feat can be achieved.
But after his candid address following the Owls’ 28-13 season opening loss to Army last Friday, Williams’s responsibilities on and off the field might be changing, whether he realizes it or not.
In a game that constantly exposed Temple’s chief strength, its defense, Williams still managed to finish with 12 tackles and half a sack, a standout performance that head coach Matt Rhule spoke highly of.
“We’ve had some great linebackers here,” Rhule said after this past Tuesday’s practice at Edberg-Olsen Hall. “Tyler was great. I’m proud of him for making the Steelers. Avery Williams probably played the best game, maybe the most passionate game, the most energetic game, maybe not the production Tyler has had, but it was one of the best games I have ever seen a defender play here, and all that gets lost in that we lost.”
Williams, who ultimately volunteered to take the heat for the team’s collective failures, deemed all defensive blunders his fault, despite acknowledging that no single player can do all the work.
“Our thing is that if you have that [Temple] hat on your head, you have to produce, and it isn’t about one guy making all the plays,” Williams said. “If they are looking at me to make the plays, I love it. I never shy away from being a great leader, I am just going to lead by example. If they need any word of encouragement, I am there for them.”
Williams’s leadership abilities will be put to the test this weekend, as the Owls look to claim their first victory of the year against the Stony Brook Seawolves (1-0) at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday afternoon. While an FCS opponent isn’t necessarily intimidating, Temple regrettably learned last weekend that underestimating another team is counterproductive.
“We never look at our opponent,” Williams said. “We only look at ourselves.”
“Whomever we play, we’re going to play them to the same standard. We’re never going to look at anyone as lower or greater than us, because when you do that, you’re going to get beat. I feel like a lot of young guys found that out last week and they’re ready to go this week.”
The Seawolves, who have 12 transfer players on their roster, are led by redshirt sophomore quarterback Joe Carbone, who completed 16 passes on 31 total attempts for 156 yards in Stony Brook’s dramatic 13-9 opening win against 19th-ranked FCS opponent North Dakota. Stony Brook’s offensive line is anchored by 6-foot-5, 310-pound left-tackle Timon Parris, whom Rhule believes is an NFL-caliber talent.
“They have some NFL players on their team,” Rhule said. “Their left-tackle is fantastic. I love offensive line play. Parris is fantastic to watch. Carbone, their quarterback, you can just tell he’s a winner. He’s a guy that figures out how to get it done and they have some fast wideouts. We’ll be challenged in the passing game and really the play-action passing game as well from them.”
On the offensive side of the ball for the Owls, quarterback Phillip Walker wants to see more passion and energy.
“As a team, we’ve got to pick it up as a group,” said Walker, who tossed three interceptions against Army. “I think this team will bounce back stronger than we expect, because for a lot of guys on this team, this game means something to them, especially to the senior class. So we want to show people what we’re capable of.”
Regardless of the expectations and pressure, the Owls’ mantra remains simple – pick up their first win in 2016.
“We just want to go 1-0 this weekend,” Williams said. “We’re not really focused on anything else.”
WEEK 2: STONY BROOK @ TEMPLE, SEPTEMBER 10, 2016
LINCOLN FINANCIAL FIELD, PHILADELPHIA, PA
TV: 1:00PM ON ESPN3
RADIO: WHIP RADIO, PREGAME BEGINS AT 12:40PM