Temple linebacker Tyler Matakevich had a pretty dazzling debut as a starter last week in a win over USF. Matakevich led the Owls with a career-high 15 tackles, including a career-high 12 solo stops and two tackles for loss.
I caught up with him earlier this week to find out about his terrific performance.
Take us through your performance last week. Did you anticipate having such a big game?
TM: I didn’t expect that. I was fortunate enough to make the plays and as we kept going on, I felt more comfortable. We started paying better as a unit. We were playing really well as a group.
When did you find out you would be starting in place of Olaniyi Adewole?
TM: Right before kickoff. Olaniyi, he came out for warm ups. I even thought he was going to go. But coaches told me I was going in, so I had to switch everything up.
What was your reaction?
TM: Very excited. That’s always been my goal, and I was fortunate enough to get it.
So did you have to flip a switch mentally, from somebody who had not played on defense to all of a sudden being a starter?
TM: Well, mentally I was getting ready for whatever was going to happen during the week of practice. I knew he was banged up a little bit, so mentally I was ready to go whenever. I didn’t know if it was going to be in the beginning or late in the game.
Did you know you were having a great game?
TM: I guess so. Throughout the game I started getting confident. I felt a lot more comfortable out there, and all the older kids were helping me out on the field.
How did they help?
TM: They told me, ‘Just don’t think about other plays, whatever happens, take one play at time. Just do your job on that one play.’ It also helped having (Adewole) on the sideline. He’s the backbone of the defense. He knows the defense inside and out, so having him right there helping me out, I was very fortunate to have him.
That was your most extensive action on defense, so how were you able to make plays?
TM: Coach (Chuck) Heater puts in a great game plan. It’s all about everyone doing their responsibility and their job. I was fortunate enough to do my job and make the plays when they came at me.
Did you anticipate playing your first year?
TM: No. you always want to. It’s definitely your dream and your goal but I just knew that I had to work as hard as I possibly could and get better each day. Each day is a learning experience. I still have a lot to learn, so I’m going to keep working hard.
What do you think the coaches saw in you that gave them the confidence to put you in?
TM: I think it’s just learning the defense well and trying to get better each and every day, going as hard as I possibly can. That’s what coaches try to focus on, give everything you have.
What’s your best attribute?
TM: Just being around the ball. I have a nose for the ball, and I love this defense, the schemes and stuff. It just lets me play football and do my job.
How much of a confidence lift was that game?
TM: That was tremendous, coming off a loss to Penn State. That was a tough one, so we definitely wanted as much momentum and confidence as we can going into UConn. Beating South Florida, they’re a very good team. Our first Big East win is a tremendous win. We have a lot to prove after getting kicked out of the Big East. We need to keep it rolling, to keep up the momentum.
Are you starting again this week?
TM: No clue. We'll see what happens.