When Temple’s offense ran onto the field to face the Penn State defense, there was a different man under center than the one that entered the field Oct. 15, 2013. P.J. Walker was officially the starter that day against Louisville. The freshman quarterback was an athletic player with a good arm. He had the raw skills needed to be successful at the FBS level. He would go on to finish the season as the starter, showing some flashes of promise during the loss-filled season.
Fast forward to Sept. 17. Phillip Walker would be starting on the road against the Penn State Nittany Lions. Although P.J. and Phillip are the same person, a lot has changed between now and then. As a result, Phillip Walker has evolved into one of the best quarterbacks that Temple has ever had.
“I think we did a good job getting him in rhythm,” Temple Head Coach Matt Rhule said the 34-27 loss to Penn State. “I feel like that no huddle at the end of the half really got him in rhythm. He made some spectacular plays. He was hitting guys in tight windows, made some tight throws. It was a shame we lost. It was a beautiful performance by him.”
During Saturday’s game against Penn State. Walker looked sharp. He completed 74 percent of his passing attempts (25 for 34) for 286 yards. He also contorted his body, taking a hard hit to his back and willed his way into the end zone, bringing the Owls within a touchdown of tying the game.
“I’ll do whatever it takes to win. If I have to run, I will run. If I have to stay inside the pocket, I’ll sit inside the pocket. I just have to have the mindset that anytime I have the ball in my hands, I don’t have to make a play. I just have to do my job as the play is going on.”
While P.J. would have looked to one, maybe two reads and run around to make a play, Phillip has been able to spread the ball around the offense. On Saturday, he completed passes to nine different receivers. Having weapons around him like Jahad Thomas, Keith Kirkwood, Ryquell Armstead, Marshall Ellick and Adonis Jennings has helped Walker become more of a facilitator. Nothing is worse for a defensive coordinator than having to game plan for multiple players instead of keying on just one.
The biggest change that has occurred is his ability to be the man, the leader on offense. He knows that there is still some room for improvement. He took responsibility for the false starts, saying he should have used some silent counts in those instances.
“I’m going to go back to the tape. I still had some mistakes with changing protections and looking at the hot reads on pass plays. Also, not reading one of my progressions on one of the plays before the half.”
Would P.J. enter a stadium with 100,420 and nearly will the offense to a win? Probably not. However, Phillip could and he nearly did. There are at least nine more games left in his career. There are some promising prospects at the quarterback position coming down the line. However, Walker will be a tough act to follow. Enjoy watching him while you can.
Guard Johvan Fair was limping in the first half but remained in the game. It will be interesting to see if it is something minor or something that will linger into next week’s game against the Charlotte 49ers…In his first game of the season after suffering a thumb injury, Jahad Thomas had 100 All-Purpose yards (58 rushing yards, 42 receiving yards). Thomas accomplished that feat six times last year.