The Temple football team won its first game last Saturday behind its best defensive performance of…
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Neither did junior wide receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick.
Why had Fitzpatrick, expected to be a dynamic player this season, struggled in the first month of the season?
Whatever the reason, it seems the explosive wideout is finally coming out of his shell after a four-catch, 128-yard performance against Army that included a 37-yard touchdown and not coincidentally came in the Owls' first win of the season.
"I'm not sure, I can't really say why , but I can say practice helped me and the quarterbacks get on the same page and helped me do better in the game," said Fitzpatrick. "Things are clicking a little more for myself, I've changed my practice habits a little more, getting more work in with all the quarterbacks and it seems to be paying off with (true freshman quarterback) P.J. (Walker) in there."
Rhule said the Owls probably hadn't gotten the ball to Fitzpatrick effectively enough this season. He noted it was often the case last year that Fitzpatrick made big plays when the quarterbacks hit him in stride but that didn't happen often enough.
The touchdowns the last two games have been 35 and 37 yards, taking advantage of Walker and Fitzpatrick's abilities to stretch the field. Walker played just two series the first four games of the season before taking over early against Louisville on Oct. 5.
"Jalen's practicing really hard and playing well and I think we're kind of settling in to who we are," said Rhule. "Jalen is getting more deep shots and he made two fantastic catches (against Army). He's starting to make a lot of plays. We're able to use P.J's athleticism to get outside the box and use his athleticism and we have to hit those shots."
Walker has found Fitzpatrick for scores in three straight games. The 128 receiving yards against the Black Knights were a career high.
"It's exciting," said Fitzpatrick. "We're starting to stretch the field a little more with me and Robbie (Anderson). It's just a little different.
"P.J.'s a real confident guy, he has a strong arm and he brings more legs in the pocket, he can stretch the pocket a little bit more. His deep ball is definitely his strength. On the field, it's starting to click for both of us."
Walker definitely feels he is developing a go-to receiver in Fitzpatrick.
"He does a great job getting open a lot," said Walker. "I just have to put enough air for him to run under it because he has great speed."
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