PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Second-year Temple coach Matt Rhule has clear expectations for this season.
"We're expecting ourselves to be bowl eligible," Rhule said. "We don't put any limit on what we can do and don't put any excuses on what we can't do. We're just going to go compete."
Rhule endured a 2-10 mark in his first season and the Owls' initial one in the newly formed American Athletic Conference. But the coach is optimistic after the Owls finished well, winning 41-21 at Memphis in the season's finale after losing the three previous games by a combined 13 points.
The Owls, who were picked to finish eighth in the 11-team AAC, open their season Aug. 28 at Vanderbilt.
"Now we know who we are, what we're doing and the players are comfortable in the system," Rhule said. "Last year there were times you feel like you're the only person who knows what you want. You're trying to get all of these people on the same page. In year two, all of the people are on the same page. It goes from being an introductory phase to being something where we all work together."
If they are to reach their fifth bowl in school history, the Owls will need to continue the pace they began under the offensive-minded Rhule after averaging 24.9 points and accumulating 4,788 total yards in 2013. But Temple needs to improve the other side of the ball after ranking last in the conference in total defense last season while allowing opponents to score 29.8 points per contest.
Five things to know about Temple:
TACKLING MACHINE: With 99 solo tackles, linebacker Tyler Matakevich led the nation in 2013. He has 237 tackles in the last two seasons.
Rhule had high praise for the 6-foot-1, 230-pound junior.
"He's a leader, he's tough, he's physical, he represents what we want to represent," Rhule said. "Players around him respond to him. He has the physical tools, the mental tools and the intangibles - the instincts, the feel for the game - that are hard to find. I don't think there's any secret why he led the nation in tackles last year and right now he's much better than he was last year."