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Senior LB Tyler Matakevich expects big things for Temple football

As Owls prepare for Cherry-and-White game on Saturday, Owls senior star linebacker thinks defense will shine this season.

DURING Tyler Matakevich's sophomore year in the Temple football program, newly installed head coach Matt Rhule posed a question to his entire football team. Rhule asked how each player wanted to be remembered at Temple.

For Matakevich, the answer back then was simple and has remained the same, as he heads for his last year in cherry and white.

"A hardworking, nose-for-the-ball type of football player," the senior linebacker said, describing how he wants to be remembered. "A kid that never stops. That's it right there."

For three years an an Owl, he has shown to be just that. He sits sixth on the all-time career tackles list at Temple, with 355. He has had more than 100 tackles in each of his three seasons. If he can do it again in his senior year, he will be only the seventh player in NCAA history to do so.

"Tyler is one of the guys on our defense that has to be in there for us to play well," defensive coordinator Phil Snow said.

Matakevich has a chance to become Temple's first defensive All-America in program history. Success of that nature cannot be ignored. It can be downplayed, which Matakevich does well.

He does not see his personal success as anything more than the success of the team around him. The third-year captain sees just how much everyone must rely on one another for success in football. He appreciates the work his teammates put in daily to make the team better.

"Everyone always looks at me and says, 'You make so many tackles,' but, at the end of the day, I can't do any of that without everyone else on the team," Matakevich said. "The defensive line makes it so much easier to play. When they are blowing up 300-pound guys and I can just meet a running back in the hole, that is so much easier for me. I get all the spotlight and stuff like that, but it is all these guys. It is literally a team effort."

This year's Temple team has the makings to be the best in recent history, and that starts with the defense. Last season, the Owls allowed only 17.5 points per game, and Matakevich has even higher expectations for this season.

"We are expecting to be the best," Matakevich said. "Last year, we were ranked high in some categories, but a few games came down to the wire. The way I look at it is, if you don't let the other team score, they can't win. It is completely on the defense."

As anchor of the Owls defense, Matakevich has his eyes set on team success rather than individual accolades. In his first two seasons, Temple compiled a record of 6-17. Last year, the Owls went 6-6. Things are on the upswing on North Broad Street, and Matakevich and company think they are close to competing at a high level.

The Cherry-and-White spring game is 1 p.m. Saturday at Chodoff Field at Edberg Olson Hall. As with all programs, optimism runs eternal before summer workouts start. Matakevich wants this year to end differently from the previous three and really wants to place his stamp on the program.

"Ever since I got here, the only thing I've wanted to do was win a championship at the collegiate level," Matakevich said. "I feel like this team this year has an opportunity to do something really special. We have tremendous leadership in guys like Kyle Friend, Matt Ioannidis and Tavon Young, guys like that who know its our last shot and we're not going to let our chance get away from us."

Rhule is relying on his senior leaders to carry the team to where it needs to be by Sept. 5 when Penn State visits Lincoln Financial Field to kick off the season. Matakevich, like the rest of the Owls, has been putting in the work to ensure the 2015 season ends as they want it to.

"I really care about this team and this program," Matakevich said. "Ever since I got here I've been trying each day to make myself better to make the team better and get the team going in the right direction."