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Temple springs into action with split-squad game

Head coach Matt Rhule said the annual Cherry & White game is “good for the program.”

IT WAS ANYTHING but an offensive outbreak at Temple's annual Cherry & White game at Cardinal O'Hara High on Saturday.

The beautiful afternoon featured an opportunity for Temple fans, parents and alumni to get a sneak peak of the Owls in their first live action of 2014. The intersquad battle ended with the White team earning a 10-9 victory over the Cherry squad.

"I think when [the fans] come out and watch us practice more than when we scrimmage they see how we do things and it's good for the school; it's good for the program," coach Matt Rhule said. "I'm not so sure that I won't do this next year on Saturdays and go around to South Jersey and Pennsylvania and take our show on the road and let people see us and who we have."

In the first half, both offenses were limited by solid defensive play. For junior defensive back Alex Wells, who intercepted a pass by Connor Reilly in the second quarter, improving the defense this season will be the key to the Owls' success this fall.

"We need to create more turnovers; that's the main point right now," Wells said after the defenses from both squads combined for three interceptions. "Our box has to improve with stopping the run and rushing the passer and our defensive backs need to get better communication skills. As a defense we need to get in better shape because we have Vanderbilt coming up [Aug. 28] and they are going to try to run all over us so we have to be in our best shape coming up."

After a scoreless first quarter, the White jumped on the board first after a 30-yard field goal by redshirt junior Tyler Mayes. A year removed from missing all three of his field-goal attempts, sophomore kicker Jim Cooper Jr. struggled once again Saturday by missing a short field goal for the Cherry team.

"I felt bad for Jimmy because he had a really good spring and he gets out there and misses it," Rhule said. "He came back and knocked the extra point through and I think he is going to keep getting better and overcome this. I think he will be able to overcome this hurdle and I was pleased to see Tyler [Mayes] knock that field goal through so there were some good things there."

Although sophomore quarterback P.J. Walker was able to locate eight different receivers on the Cherry squad, he struggled to get in a groove in his first Cherry and White game, finishing 15-for-31 with 172 passing yards and two interceptions.

"I thought I played pretty well," Walker said. "The two turnovers hurt us bad but we will go back tomorrow and learn from it. It was just me on two bad throws and it was a few plays I shouldn't have thrown on my weak side and the one play I threw to [defensive back] Shahid Lovett, I didn't see him rotate and that was really it."

Redshirt sophomore Khalif Herbin led the White team with six catches for 93 yards and one touchdown. Herbin also had two rushing attempts for 16 yards, but on the ground, it was junior running back Jamie Gilmore who made the biggest difference with his 65-yard untouched rush up the middle for a touchdown for the Cherry team.

Overall, Rhule was happy with the performance of both squads but said he didn't think the offensive played up to his expectations for the season.

"I think any time you divide the team up guys get a little nervous," Rhule said. "We were a little sloppy today and sometimes there are some mismatches but I thought it was important for some guys to compete and have fun with it. It was fun to see and I was pleased with our defense."