Temple QB Walker always takes attention in stride
Very little fazes Temple quarterback P.J. Walker, which might explain the success the junior has enjoyed this season. When Temple (10-2) visits Houston (11-1) in the American Athletic Conference championship game at noon Saturday, Walker will be the second-most-touted quarterback on the field.
Very little fazes Temple quarterback P.J. Walker, which might explain the success the junior has enjoyed this season.
When Temple (10-2) visits Houston (11-1) in the American Athletic Conference championship game at noon Saturday, Walker will be the second-most-touted quarterback on the field.
Then again that's been the case for at least half of Temple's games. The AAC is deep in quarterbacks, and Walker stands eighth in pass efficiency (129.8).
Of course his team is also second in the AAC with 10 wins, which tells more about his value.
Much of the pregame hype has centered on Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr., whom Temple coach Matt Rhule calls "one of the most dynamic players in the country."
Ward is third in the AAC in total offense (282.9 yards per game). Walker is ninth (216.7).
Walker's reaction to being the so-called second story in this chapter of quarterbacks?
"That doesn't bother me at all," Walker said. ". . . I have to go out and play and play for my team and that is important to me."
Then he added with emphasis, "If we win the game I am pretty sure the conversation will be about this football team rather than me."
Walker doesn't really care who gets top billing among the quarterbacks. He understands Ward is a great player, but in his mind Walker doesn't take a backseat to anybody.
He is constantly being asked whether all these wins have helped his confidence and that of his team, and Walker usually makes the same point every time.
"We have been playing well all year, so we always had confidence," he said. "We had some setbacks, but that made us strong, actually."
The most recent setback was a 44-23 loss at South Florida in a game in which the Owls could have clinched the AAC East Division title. Instead, they faced two must-win games, and they won both.
In the Memphis game, Walker outplayed Paxton Lynch, a potential NFL first-round draft pick. Walker overcame an early interception and finished 14 of 26 for 261 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 49 yards on seven carries.
Walker developed the skill of not paying attention to the outside noise last year when he admittedly tried to force the ball on many occasions and ended up throwing 15 interceptions. This year he has completed 56.6 percent of his passes for 2,449 yards, 18 touchdowns, and six interceptions.
"I have been through a lot, and last year none of the talk was about me," Walker said. "Or if it was about me, it was probably about me in a bad way."
So through the difficult up-and-down season, he developed a thick exterior.
This season he has led Temple to three wins when the Owls were trailing in the fourth quarter. So Walker will listen to one voice more than any other - his own.
"We are winning games and things are different now," Walker said. "We have to respect what people say and let it go in one ear and out the other."