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Temple's Matakevich wants wins to go with individual honors

NEWPORT, R.I. - A year ago, Temple linebacker Tyler Matakevich led the nation with 99 solo tackles and was in on a total of 137.

Temple linebacker Tyler Matakevich.
Temple linebacker Tyler Matakevich.Read more

NEWPORT, R.I. - A year ago, Temple linebacker Tyler Matakevich led the nation with 99 solo tackles and was in on a total of 137.

He earned first-team American Athletic Conference honors and was named a Sports Illustrated honorable-mention all-American.

But as far as Matakevich is concerned, everything he accomplished meant as much as a deflated football.

"They were unbelievable individual statistics," the junior said during Tuesday's conference media day. "But in the end, I came here to win. Doing that and going 2-10 wasn't a satisfying feeling.

"If I could do that and get us to a bowl game, I'd be the happiest man in the world. As an individual, I'm trying to push these guys as hard as I can to get us to a bowl game."

Even though Temple was 2-10, Matakevich's play impressed opponents, especially Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville - whose team beat the Owls, 38-20, in a game in which Matakevich made 11 solo tackles.

"I coached linebackers in college as an assistant for almost 12 years," Tuberville said. "I recruited and coached Ray Lewis, Jessie Armstead, and Darrin Smith . . . guys that played years in the NFL. I have a passion for looking at linebackers when I watch film when we play against somebody.

"You never knock [Matakevich] off his feet. If he's on the ground, he's not there very long. That's how I judge a linebacker - how active he is. He plays with his eyes. You can see him looking at formations. We went into the game knowing he was going to make tackles. But we had to make sure if we had one on him, somebody else had to be around to help make that block."

Tuberville praised Matakevich's instincts and aggressive style.

"He's going to be a force for Temple this year," he said.

Temple coach Matt Rhule believes that Matakevich possesses other qualities that enable him to play at a high level.

"I think he's highly self-critical," Rhule said. "He's always looking at himself and trying to find a way to do it better, whether it's preparation or what he's done to his body.

"He puts in all the work. He sees what he's doing wrong and then he tries to do it at a higher level. Plus, he was blessed with tremendous instincts. He sees the football. You take work ethic, a guy that's trying to get better, and a guy with natural ability, and you get Tyler."

Natural ability notwithstanding, Matakevich realizes there is room for improvement.

"If I could work on my athletic ability even more and study the game, that would push me to the next level," he said. "I could tell you what a team's going to run before it even runs the play. I think that's the one thing that's helped me. But it's definitely one thing that I've learned.

"Being able to understand the game and what other teams are going to do is one thing that's benefited me."