Just as it appeared as if he could be seeing more action, the injuries began for Jullian Taylor, Temple's redshirt senior defensive tackle. He hurt his left knee in the opening game of the 2015 season, a 27-10 win over Penn State that began the best two-year run in Temple football history.
It was a season-ending injury for Taylor, who had arthroscopic surgery on his meniscus.
"It wasn't a major operation," Taylor said following Tuesday's practice as Temple (5-6) geared up for Saturday's American Athletic Conference regular season finale at Tulsa (2-9), one the Owls need to win to become bowl eligible.
Last year, in the third game of the season, also against Penn State, Taylor hurt the knee again.
This time, it was more serious, a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and he went to Pensacola, Fla., to renowned surgeon James Andrews for surgery.
So, in the two years that Temple went 20-8, won two American Athletic Conference East Division titles and the overall league championship in 2016, Taylor was able to appear in only four games.
"It was tough," he said.
This year has been a different story.
"I don't feel pain," Taylor said. "I have had a great season and don't feel anything."
Taylor has appeared in 10 of the 11 games for the Owls. He is coming off a career-best performance in Saturday's 45-19 loss to unbeaten Central Florida. The 6-foot-5, 280-pound defensive tackle had 10 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss. The fact that it came against a 10-0 Central Florida team that is No. 15 in the College Football Playoff Rankings added to the accomplishment.
"It's something not a lot of defensive tackles in the country can do," he said of his performance against UCF. "I was glad to show I have that kind of ability, and it felt really good."
Taylor has played his best football down the stretch, with six or more tackles in three of the last four games. But nothing compared to last week.
"I am really happy for him," Temple coach Geoff Collins said. "When you put out a game against such an explosive offense, the people at the next level are going to notice."
Taylor, a graduate of Williamstown High in South Jersey who has already earned his degree in strategic communications, says he is not thinking much about the next level just yet. But his goal is to give the NFL a shot.
Despite his limited playing time at Temple, it could be a realistic goal. A person familiar with the Temple program said that several NFL scouts have inquired about Taylor. He has shown great quickness and has a frame that can certainly add more weight.
This week, he earned the Temple No. 1 jersey for the second time this season. It is presented to a player who shows great toughness, production and dedication.
"I am glad to wear it, especially for this last [regular season] game," he said. "I got it at the beginning of the season and want to finish the season strong."
BY THE NUMBERS
The number of wins the current Temple senior class has earned, tied with the class of 2011 for the best in school history.
The number of two-sack games that Temple redshirt senior defensive end Sharif Finch has this season after getting two in last week's 45-19 loss to Central Florida.
The number of teams that Tulsa will have faced this season (including Temple) that played in bowl games last year.
THREE THINGS TO KNOW
–Before throwing four interceptions last week, Temple quarterback Frank Nutile had thrown two in his previous three starts. How he rebounds from his first subpar starting performance will be a key for the Owls.
–Tulsa's D'Angelo Brewer became the school and American Athletic Conference all-time leading rusher with 163 yards in last week's 27-20 loss at South Florida. The 5-foot-9, 190-pound senior has rushed for 3,662 career yards (5.1 avg.) and 22 touchdowns.
–Tulsa has a plus-4 turnover margin. Temple is last in the AAC with a minus-9 margin. Last week, Temple committed five turnovers while UCF had none. This will be the key statistic to watch against Tulsa.