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Temple springs into action at annual Cherry and White Game

Head coach Matt Ruhle particularly liked the performance of starting quarterback P.J. Walker

Temple University held its traditional Cherry and
White football game Saturday afternoon at it's North Philly training
facility Edberg-Olson Hall. (Ed Hille/Staff Photographer)
Temple University held its traditional Cherry and White football game Saturday afternoon at it's North Philly training facility Edberg-Olson Hall. (Ed Hille/Staff Photographer)Read more

TEMPLE'S CHERRY and White Game got off to a quirky start on Saturday afternoon, as an announcer stood on the field to narrate the Owls' performance through the Rampage, a modern update on the old-school Oklahoma drill, and a kicking competition. Points were awarded for success in those workouts to the Cherry squad, the defense, and the White team, the offense, respectively, in the spectacle.

Those points were distributed throughout the game more haphazardly than on "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" with Temple's offense pulling off the 43-23 win, but the on-field scrimmage action still brought real physicality, opportunities for improvement and some optimism for the fall as spring practice sessions came to an end.

As a starter in 12 games as a true sophomore in 2014, quarterback P.J. Walker threw for 2,317 yards, while tossing 13 touchdowns to 15 interceptions and completing 53.3 percent of his passes. Coming off that inconsistent 6-6 campaign for the Owls, Walker's development has been an obvious focal point for head coach Matt Rhule this offseason.

"I thought P.J. looked sharp for a spring game. He hit the deep ball. He hit some other throws," Rhule said of Walker's performance. "It's hard when I'm on the field. I'm so busy yelling at the linemen under my breath that I don't really evaluate everything, but he made good checks, had us in the right plays, didn't turn the football over. I thought P.J. played well."

While alternating drives with the Owls' backup signal callers, Walker finished the Cherry and White Game with 99 passing yards and two touchdown strikes, as he completed seven of 13 attempts.

Walker's first touchdown throw came early in the contest on a 10-yard pass to Sam Benjamin. As Benjamin ran a fade route to the back left corner of the end zone, Walker executed the play precisely with a high loft and perfect spiral on the ball.

His second touchdown was the best throw he made all afternoon, hitting Romond Deloatch with a 40-yard bomb on a post route. Walker faced a stingy pass rush on the play, and was forced to scramble a bit in the pocket, step up and sling it down the field to Deloatch, getting the ball to him in stride.

"They've worked hard. They came out. They had no lapses out there," Walker said of Temple's receiving corps.

"Last year, Romond, he wouldn't have been a deep threat. He was pretty heavy last year. He wasn't as physical and fast as he is now.

"He'll be a deep-field threat that'll help us because he has size and he can run, so that's an amazing thing for us."

"Touchdown are always good," Deloatch, a redshirt junior this fall, said in discussing the play. "But I have to thank the line, thank the quarterback for getting me the ball, so I have to celebrate with them. It always feels good getting points for my team.

"P.J.'s one of the best quarterbacks I've played with . . . I thank him for trusting me and trusting all of the receivers. That's pretty big."

Rhule was as encouraged about Deloatch's work, three receptions for 63 receiving yards and that touchdown catch, as he was about Walker's improvement.

"Romond has all the physical talent in the world," Rhule said. "We're just trying to get him to not just think of himself as a one-trick pony, a guy that's going to get down near the end zone and catch fades. We want him to do more."

As the semester winds down and the Owls transition to summer practices to continue their development in advance of their Sept. 5 season opener against Penn State at the Linc, Walker simply summed up his and the team's goal going forward.

"I just want to get better and better each day from here on out."

Touchdown, Leah

Leah Still, the 4-year-old daughter of Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman Devon Still, was honored before the game and performed the coin toss. Leah spent time at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in the fall being treated for neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer. She was declared cancer-free in March.

On the first play of the game, Temple quarterback Lenny Williams took the ball from center, and tossed it to the elder Still, who handed off to Leah. With Hooter the Owl acting as a blocker, Leah ran 45 yards for a touchdown. The school pep band played as the entire team ran onto the field to meet her in the end zone.