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September 30, 2008

Temple no longer under the radar

In the immediate aftermath of the decisive play of this past Saturday's Ole Miss-Florida game, there was quite a debate in interview rooms concerning who exactly stopped Florida's Tim Tebow on fourth-and-1.

The official game book distributed to media members gave the credit for the tackle to Ole Miss defensive tackle Peria Jerry, who said he and fellow defensive tackle Ted Laurent made the stop.

Ole Miss defensive end Kentrell Lockett, who blocked Jonathan Phillips' extra point earlier in the fourth quarter, said he was on the bottom of the pile talking to Tebow. Greg Hardy laughed at Lockett's account but did not question it outright. Let the record show that Hardy, who did play a role in the decisive tackle, dismissed any credit for the stop of last year's Heisman Trophy winner.

No one mentioned Marcus Temple. Neither coaches nor players credited the defensive back with the stop. No media member was observant enough to request Temple's presence at the post-game press conference. Instead, the 5-foot-9, 181-pound freshman from Manquin, Va., boarded the team bus and flew back to Mississippi, completely under the radar.

In the hours following the game, with the team in the air, several photographs _ including one taken by RebelSports.net's Dave Childers _ surfaced showing Temple making initial contact with Tebow. ESPN's SportsCenter program shadowed and spotlighted Temple's play at the Ole Miss 32 with 41 seconds left, one that sent the nation's fourth-ranked team to a stunning defeat. And just like that, Temple's anonymity was gone.

"I have to credit the other 10 guys that were on the field with me," Temple said Monday. "They followed their assignments to allow me to come off the edge free. (Ole Miss defensive coordinator) Coach (Tyrone) Nix called a good play. He told me, 'Don't worry about the tight end. Just come off the edge.' I saw Tebow sitting back there. Once he got the ball, I just came off the edge and I wanted to hit him before he made the first. It was an impact."

"I thought Tyrone made a good call to really overpopulate the line of scrimmage," Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said Monday, having had a couple of days to look at the film. "They had one wide receiver and we had one guy out there covering him, and we basically said that we were stopping the run. I don't think you could just say that it was one guy. Peria (Jerry) had a lot to do with it because with the interior linemen, there wasn't any movement or pushback. They held their ground.

"Marcus Temple really made the first contact if you look back at the film coming off the edge, and that was good. It just kind of held him up until his teammates got there. Peria, Lockett -it's just really the entire defensive line deserves credit along with the linebackers _ Tony Fein and all those guys. So I don't know if you can really say that one guy did it. It was totally the team. It was a team effort for how they did it that play."

That explanation is fine with Temple, who spent last season at Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy and signed with Ole Miss later in the spring after Nutt heard about him from Hargrave coach Robert Prunty and several other more high profile Rebel signees from the heralded prep school. Temple reported to campus early, threw himself into the offseason program and flourished.

"We are surprised," Nutt admitted Monday. "For a true freshman, he's our starting nickel back now. I'm just really proud of his intensity. It's just really unusual. That's a tough position that he's in. To ask him to play defensive back in this league at a very early age is a huge task. He's accepted it, and he's gotten better. He's very physical. He hustles and listens. I'm very excited that he's in there. He's helping us on special teams as well. He's very mature for his age, and I'm very proud of him."

Through five games, Temple has six tackles and a fumble recovery. Just as importantly, he has added depth to a defensive secondary that exited spring training without any.

"(The summer work) was very critical," Temple said. "It couldn't have been anything better, because it really got me prepared for the season. The coaches had been telling me since I got here that I had a chance to get some playing time, so I just continued to work hard and listened to whatever they told me to do."

Thanks to that, Temple has secured a spot in Ole Miss lore and the satisfaction that comes with being one of the key people responsible in shocking the college football world.




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