BOCA RATON, Fla. - The most decorated defensive player in Temple history was devastated.
After Tuesday's 32-17 loss to Toledo in the Boca Raton Bowl, Temple all-American linebacker Tyler Matakevich, tried hard fighting back tears, but clearly lost that battle.
Matakevich was a consensus all-American, won two national college defensive player of the year awards and with 12 tackles finished with 493, the leading tackler in school history.
After the game, Matakevich tried to look at the overall picture, while also dissecting a difficult final act.
"It is the last time wearing this uniform and it definitely [stinks], but I see a bright future and they should hold their heads high," said Matakevich, who broke the career tackles record of Steve Conjar, who had 492 from 1978 to 1981. "We had a great year and accomplished so much, more than any other Temple team in a long time."
Matakevich earned a starting spot in the fourth game of his freshman year. The Owls finished 4-7 that season, then fell to 2-10 in coach Matt Rhule's first year. After that, the Owls took a major leap, going 6-6 last year and finishing 10-4 this year and earning their first bowl appearance since 2011 and just the fifth in school history.
So Temple exceeded expectations this year, but after a 7-0 start, just earning a bowl appearance, wasn't enough for Matakevich and his teammates.
"I don't like losing," he said. "I said since I got here the goal was a bowl game and we got here, but we lost."
Then emphasizing the matter, he added, "I didn't come here to lose, and it hurts."
This loss followed Temple's 24-13 defeat at Houston in the American Athletic Conference title game on Dec. 5.
Just as against Houston, Temple missed several tackles in the bowl loss.
"We weren't in our gaps, weren't tackling and the coaches stress tackling and turnovers and those were the two biggest things," Matakevich said. "Unfortunately, I dropped a pick, we missed a bunch of tackles, I missed a bunch and you are not going to win a football game like that."
Even though he has now exhausted his eligibility, Matakevich continued to lead when talking to his teammates after the game.
"I told them don't let it happen again," he said. "I know they won't, I know they will get better from there and keep moving in the right direction."
It's a direction the Owls now has to move on without the school's all-time leader in tackles.