College Football

Defense could find its way into the Boca Raton Bowl


The inaugural Boca Raton Bowl featured a high-scoring shootout that went to Conference USA champion Marshall, 52-23, over Mid-American Conference champion Northern Illinois. This year’s edition looks to be the opposite as two defensive-minded teams meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 22, at Florida Atlantic University Stadium.

The Temple Owls (10-3, 7-1), who played in the American Athletic Conference championship game, face the Toledo Rockets (9-2, 6-2), co-champs of the Mid-American Conference West Division.

“This is a truly compelling matchup, one that will surely make for an outstanding game,” said Marmot Boca Raton Bowl Executive Director Doug Mosley.

Both teams enter Tuesday’s bowl game having led their respective conferences in scoring defense. Temple allowed an average of 19.2 points per game this season while Toledo’s defense yielded an average of just 21.1.

Tyler Matakevich leads the Temple defense. His 126 tackles this year made him just the seventh college football player to ever register 100+ tackles in four different seasons.

Chase Murdock paces a stingy Toledo defense. The senior linebacker has 78 tackles this season.

But that doesn’t necessarily guarantee a defensive standoff. Both offenses from Toledo and Temple have proven a propensity to scoring points. Toledo averaged 35.3 points per game and 463.3 yards of total offense. Junior running back Kareem Hunt helped lead the charges, averaging 111.8 rushing yards per game.

Temple piled up an average of 30.8 points per game and 369.2 yards. The Owls are led by junior quarterback P.J. Walker, who has surpassed 2,000 yards for the third consecutive season and junior running back Jahad Thomas, who earned his first 1,000-yard season on the ground.

It will be the debut for Toledo head coach Jason Candle, who was elevated to the position after previously serving as the team’s associate head coach and offensive coordinator since 2009.

“I think for us at the University of Toledo, we do not take these opportunities for granted,” Candle said. “I remember in 2013 we had a 7-5 football team and we did not make a bowl game. You’re striving to win and gain momentum going into the offseason. The recruiting piece is also huge as well.”

Candle’s counterpart, Temple head coach Matt Rhule, expects to enjoy the experience.

“The fact that the game is right before Christmas, so many fans and the families of our players are excited to come down here to enjoy the game and festivities but then enjoy the area,” Rhule said. “I think my family and I were thinking about staying for a couple days. Coming to such a beautiful place at this time of year is just wonderful for people like us that are from up North.”

But winning is still the ultimate goal. “I had the pleasure of playing for Joe Paterno and he always said the bowl game was pivotal because it is the end of season but the first game of the next year,” Rhule said. “It builds momentum into the offseason and sets the tone for everything. Every time you put that Marmot Boca Raton Bowl shirt back on, you’re going to remember how you played, so I think it is crucial for us.”

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