Linebacker fills in, makes crucial plays

Peter Holland Jr./ Contributing Writer

The Panther’s defense took a huge blow earlier in the season when they lost their two starting linebackers junior Trayvon Williams and senior Davison Colimon.

To fill the void, University of Minnesota transfer Jephete Matilus steppin up and has been one of the leading tacklers on defense in the last three games.

During his career at Minnesota, the Delray Beach, Fla. native contributed in many ways as a Golden Gopher a year after he redshirted in 2011. In the 21 games he played, he saw the field as a linebacker, fullback on offense, and majority on special teams.

“It’s obviously a big transition not only playing in the Big Ten to Conference-USA, but the weather, timing, and speed, ” said the senior on choosing to return to his home state to play. “But it’s not much different, you’re still playing football, it’s still 11 on 11, everyone flying around to the ball to make plays.”

Playing college football is pretty tough in any climates or regions, but playing up north like Minnesota where in the middle of the fall feels as if it’s the beginning of winter. Imagine what the Delray Beach native have to go through.

“Around this time we probably be wearing hoodies, sweaters and sweat pants right now,” said the sports management & recreation major. “It seems like the heat is at its peak in the early October in which is very surprising.”

Since the beginning of October, the 6-foot-1 230 pounder has stepped up at the starting inside linebacker role after Williams went down. In the last three games as a starter, he finished with the total of 26 tackles, two tackles for loss, and one sack. For two games straight (against University of Massachusetts Amherst and University of Texas at El Paso) he lead the Panthers in tackles.

Matilus said Head Coach Ron Turner brought him in to contribute.

“Anytime I get a chance to get out there with the guys with a great front four and the other linebackers complimenting me and the secondary; it’s always great for anyone who can step in can find success with those guys out there,” he said.

Now the Panthers, with a 3-4 record, are focusing on getting bowl eligible for the first time under Head Coach Ron Turner. They play Saturday on Oct. 24 at 6 p.m. against Old Dominion University.

There is still no current update on starting middle linebacker Williams, which could mean Matilus will start in his replacement for the fourth consecutive game.

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