P.J. Walker made his first NFL start in Charlotte on Sunday. Here’s a look at his first start as a college QB 5 years ago
By Richard Walker
On Sunday, quarterback P.J. Walker made his first Carolina Panthers start and came away with a surprising 20-0 victory over the visiting Detroit Lions.
It wasn’t Walker’s first start in Charlotte.
Let’s look back at how Walker led Temple to a 37-3 victory over the Charlotte 49ers on Oct. 2, 2015.
At the time, Temple was on its way to a surprising 10-4 season that began with the Owls’ first win over Penn State since 1941.
Temple was in its third season under head coach Matt Rhule, Phil Snow was defensive coordinator and wide receivers Robby Anderson and Keith Kirkwood and tight end Colin Thompson were members of the team; All five – and Walker – are members of the Panthers now.
When the 2015 Owls visited Charlotte, they were 4-0 and facing a 49ers team playing in its first season of Conference USA competition.
It was a Friday night contest that came as the region was being waterlogged by the remnants of Hurricane Joaquin.
Temple took a 10-3 halftime lead before Walker directed the Owls to 20 third-quarter points to turn a competitive game into a blowout in front of 13,105 fans at Richardson Stadium.
Walker completed 11 of 23 passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns and rushed four times for 18 yards. Both touchdown passes went to Anderson, who stated at wide receiver and caught three passes for 35 yards and ran one time for five yards. Colin Thompson started at tight end but had no catches and Kirkwood didn’t play.
Temple’s other offensive star was running back Jahad Thomas, who rushed 20 times for 109 yards and two touchdowns.
However, Charlotte actually outgained Temple 334 to 322 behind 125-yard rusher Kalif Phillips.
“That’s a really good football team,” then-49ers head coach Brad Lambert said of Temple after the game. “I thought their intensity level was good. The thing I’m proud about our team is we matched that intensity level. I was really proud of the effort and how hard our guys played, but against good teams your margin for error is not very big.”
In a sign of things to come, Charlotte drove into Temple territory three times in the first quarter but missed field goals of 55 and 28 yards.
Rhule had a positive assessment of the 49ers, whose top defender was current Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi.
“That is a really tough, physical football team,” Rhule said of Charlotte. “To think they started football three years ago – what coach Lambert has built really challenged our team. I told our guys at halftime the key to the second half was going to be to tackle Kalif (Phillips) because we couldn’t do that in the first half. We didn’t necessarily do it in the second half, he just kept running, but we made some big plays.”
In the second half, Temple scored touchdowns on its first two drives – and after forcing two straight Charlotte three-and-outs – the last on a Walker-to-Anderson 11-yard TD pass.
Walker and Anderson connected for a 13-yard TD pass to close the scoring in the fourth quarter.
Charlotte, which finished 5-6 in its first two seasons, would finish 2-10 overall and 0-8 in Conference USA. The 49ers lost their last 10 games after winning 23-20 at Georgia State and 34-10 over Presbyterian in their first two games.