Owls Can’t Overcome Second Half Deficit, Fall to SMU

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A year after upsetting an unbeaten SMU team, Temple entered Moody Coliseum looking for its first win in AAC play this season. The Mustangs came out hot, and carried a double digit lead throughout the game, defeating the Owls 79-65 for their 9th consecutive victory.

The Owls could not overcome an 18 point second half deficit, and fall to 0-3 in AAC play to start the season.

SMU dominated the first half, with runs of 11, and 13 straight points. The Mustangs hit five threes in the first half, including two by senior guard Sterling Brown, who tallied eight points in the first 20 minutes of play. Forward Semi Ojeleye led the way for the mustangs with 10 points in the first half.


The Mustangs dominated the glass in the first half, with a plus 10 rebound advantage at 22-12. They tallied 13 offensive rebounds in the first half, compared to only 12 total rebounds by the Temple.

Obi Enechionyia scored 11 points in the first half, to lead all scorers. The 11 points mark the first time Enechionyia has scored double digit points in a game since December 17th against NJIT.

The Owls started hot early in the half, leading SMU by six points, but ended up shooting just 9-25 in the first 20 minutes, and

shooting just 36 percent from the field. Temple, a team that averages 12 turnovers a game, turned the ball over eight times in the first half, leading to nine

Quinton Rose scored 14 points to go along with five steals (Cred:// Andres Kudacki)

SMU points on the other end.


The second half was a different story for both teams, as Temple was able to cut the lead to nine points with under five minutes remaining, but could not complete the comeback.

The Owl’s second half success was due in large part to the play on the defensive end of the floor. Freshman Quinton Rose had five steals, to go along with 14 points, most of which coming in the second half.

Temple was led by Enechionyia, and Shizz Alston Jr., who each scored 16 points in the game. As a team, the owls shot just 39 percent from the field, and 30 percent from beyond the three point line.

Key starters Alston Jr., Daniel Dingle, and Enechionyia were in foul trouble for most of the second half, including Dingle fouling out with just five points on the night. Ernest Aflakpui also had three personal fouls in the game.

SMU was led by Ojeleye, who was seemingly unguardable throughout the game, and scored a game high 19 points, to go along with a game high nine rebounds. Ben Moore and Shake Milton each scored 18 points on the night.

The Owls are next in action saturday afternoon against East Carolina at the Liacouras Center.

Walker and Thomas Among 19 Seniors to Leave a Lasting Impact on Temple

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After winning just two games in their freshman season, the 19 departing seniors following the 2016 season have come a long way since the 2013 campaign.

Back to back 10 win seasons, back to back American Athletic Conference East division champions, and 2016 American Conference Champions are accomplishments the seniors that tied for third in Temple history in wins over a four year span, with 28, can carry with them as they continue their careers.

Losing to Fordham in their freshman season, turned into hosting nationally ranked Notre Dame on Halloween, under the lights, on national television, along with a visit from College Gameday just two years later.

High school teammates at Elizabeth High School Jahad Thomas and Phillip Walker have been the feature stars of the Temple offense for the last three plus seasons.

QB Phillip Walker

Walker, a letter winner in each of his four seasons at Temple, holds the all-time Temple record in pass attempts, completions, passing yards, touchdown passes, and total offense. In his senior season, Walker broke his own record for passing yards in a season, that he set his junior season. This season, Walker became the first quarterback in Temple history to throw for over 10,000 yards in a season, and became the first quarterback in Temple history to lead a team to multiple bowl games

RB Jahad Thomas

As for Thomas, who was named First Team All-AAC last season, followed up by being named Second Team All-AAC for his senior season. After missing the first two games of the season, Thomas proceeded to rush for over 900 yards, and scored two touchdowns in six consecutive games, an NCAA best, and school record. Thomas was awarded a single digit number prior to his junior season, and proceeded to rush for over 1,200 yards, and account for 1,677 all purpose yards.

The duo have combined for over 15,000 total yards in their careers, and 121 touchdowns. Thomas has received an invite to the NFL combine.

As for the big guys up front, offensive line starters Dion Dawkins and Brendan McGowan have finished their careers at Temple after the AAC championship trophy.

RT Dion Dawkins

Dawkins, who was one of only four freshman who started at left tackle in the nation in 2013, has protected Walker’s blind side for the past four seasons. Dawkins, a three year letter winner, has also received an invite to the Senior Bowl, and the NFL combine, and was named First Team All-AAC this season. ESPN’s draft insider Mel Kiper named Dawkins as one of the best offensive tackles in all of college football.

After starting his career as a right guard, Brendan McGowan stepped in at center this year after the departure of Kyle Friend. McGowan started every game this season after being the backup to Friend a year ago.

Defensively, much like a year ago following the departure of Tyler Matakevich, the Owls will have to replace three starting linebackers in Jarred Alwan, Stephaun Marshall, and Avery Williams. The outstanding linebacking corps helped lead the number one defense in the AAC, and the fourth ranked defense in the country.

The trio combined for 181 total tackles this season, led by Williams with 66, followed closely by Marshall with 64. All three recorded over 150 tackles in their respective careers. Williams, a native of Maryland, returned home and helped the Owls win their first conference championship since 1967 in Annapolis against the Navy Midshipmen.

DE Haason Reddick

Perhaps the most talented player on the defense, Haason Reddick leaves Temple after a stellar season. The former walk-on from Camden, New Jersey led the nation in tackles for lost for most of the season. Reddick was awarded a single digit number (7) prior to the season, and proceeded to record 65 tackles, along with 10.5 sacks, and 22.2 tackles for loss. Along with Dawkins and Thomas, Reddick received an invite to the senior bowl, as well as the combine.

Reddick had a key interception of Navy quarterback Zac Abey late in the fourth quarter of the AAC championship to help secure the win. He recorded two sacks in three consecutive games this season, including two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery against SMU. He is second all-time in Temple history in tackles for loss with 46.0, trailing only Dan Klecko. He tied Klecko’s record of 22.5 tackles for loss in a season in his senior campaign.

CB Nate Hairston

Senior cornerback Nate Hairston is another key defensive starter moving on after the 2016 season. Hairston totaled 27 tackles on the season, along with two interceptions, the first two of his career. Hairston began his career as a wide receiver, before converting to defensive back in his junior season, and becoming a starting cornerback prior to the 2016 season.

After losing this talented 2016 senior class, new head coach Geoff Collins still inherits a talented team with returning starters. With the talent still remaining on both sides of the football, and talented recruits coming in, the Owls will look to continue their dominance in the AAC East, and to compete for a second consecutive AAC title.






Temple Hires Geoff Collins as Head Coach

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Temple to Hire Geoff Collins as Head Coach

According to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy, Temple has hired former Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins as head coach, replacing Matt Rhule, who departed for Baylor last week.

Collins,  45, a native of Conyers, Georgia, has spent the last two seasons as the Gators defensive coordinator. He led the seventh ranked total defense in the country this season, allowing just 17.9 points per game, which is tied for 10th in the nation.

Prior to his time at Florida, Collins spent two seasons as the defensive coordinator at Mississippi State while also coaching linebackers. He has also spent time at UCF, Alabama, and Georgia Tech.

Like Rhule, Collins has no prior head coaching experience. Collins marks the fourth consecutive coach hired by Temple that has no prior head coaching experience.

Collins spent two seasons at local Albright College in Reading as the defensive coordinator, and linebackers coach.

The Owls will face Wake Forest in the Military Bowl on December 27th under interim head coach Ed Foley looking for just the third bowl win in program history.

Temple Head Coach Search: Update

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With the departure of Matt Rhule last tuesday, Temple Football is in search of a new head coach heading into the offseason. Rhule had been the team’s head coach since the 2013 season, and led the Owls to back to back 10 win seasons, including an AAC title this season. Assistant coach Ed Foley will take over the interim job for the Military Bowl against Wake Forest, but the program is left to look for its next long term head coach. Here are some possible candidates for the job.

Phil Snow

Snow, the current defensive coordinator at Temple, is an obvious candidate, and would benefit the program because he is popular among his players. Many players, including Phillip Walker and Haason Reddick took to twitter voicing their support of the Owl’s defensive coordinator. Players used the #LetItSnow on twitter, to show their support.

Snow, along with Rhule, came to Temple in 2013, and has led a stellar Temple defense since his arrival. This season, the Owl’s defense ranks 3rd in the nation in total defense, behind only Alabama, and Michigan.

Snow has coached at many big name schools including; Boise State, California, Arizona, UCLA, and Washington. He also was a member of the detroit lions coaching staff from 2005-2008, serving as a defensive assistant, and linebackers coach. Snow has never been a head coach at the collegiate level.

Hiring Snow would benefit Temple in the recruiting aspects, as keeping the hire in house would essentially help already committed recruits remain committed, and would help Temple’s recruiting in the future because of Snow’s experience in the area.

Ed Foley

Foley is the team’s interim head coach heading into the bowl game, and is another possible in house hire for head coach. Foley ha

Foley alongside former head coach Matt Rhule (Credit: coachrhule.com)

s been at Temple since 2008, and has served a multitude of positions within the program. Most recently, Foley was the team’s assistant head coach, and tight ends coach before being promoted to the interim head coach position last week.

Foley was the head coach at Fordham, where he posted a 7-15 record in two seasons with the Rams. Foley has coached locally at the University of Pennsylvania, before eventually coming to Temple.

John DeFilippo

According to Marc Narducci, current Philadelphia Eagles quarterback coach John DeFilippo has been contacted by Temple about the head coaching position. DeFilippo graduated from Radnor High School, and took over as the Eagles quarterbacks coach this season.

DeFilippo has served as the quarterbacks coach of four different NFL teams, and was the offensive coordinator at San Jose State in 2011. Before joining the Eagles, Defilippo was the offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns in 2015.

High School Teammates Are Back In Familiar Position

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After a loss in the American Conference championship game a year ago, Phillip Walker and Jahad Thomas walked off the field after having career years. This week, the high school teammates from Elizabethtown, New Jersey are back in the AAC championship game as seniors, looking for a different outcome.

Coming off of a week in which he became the first quarterback in Temple history to throw for 10,000 yards in a season, Walker looks to continue his recent streak of stellar play. Thomas, who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season, has returned and scored two touchdowns in all but one game in his senior season.

Walker is no stranger to record-making. As his senior season winds down, he has already broken school records in pass attempts, completions, touchdowns, yards, and wins by a starting quarterback. Walker has also started 45 consecutive games since the middle of his freshman season.

As freshman, the duo were part of a team that won just two games, with losses to Fordham, and Idaho. Since that season, Walker and Thomas have led the Owls to 25 wins, and the chance to be part of the first team in school history with back to back 10 win seasons. With a win, Temple would win its first conference championship since 1967, as a member of the Mid-Atlantic Conference.

Thomas was a two sport captain at Elizabeth High School (Cred://nj.com)
Thomas was a two sport captain at Elizabeth High School (Cred://nj.com)

The pair are no secret to big games, under John Quinn at Elizabeth High School, after losing in the state championship their junior season, Walker and Thomas led the team to a new jersey state championship their senior year. That same season, Walker won the Newark-Star Ledger State Offensive Player of the Year, and was one of the state’s most accurate passers in his junior season.

As for their time in high school, playing at Temple has almost been a mirror image for the two. As freshman in high school, the team had a record of 1-9, compared to 2-10 as freshman at Temple. Elizabeth High School posted a .500 record in their sophomore season, identical to Walker and Thomas’ sophomore season at Temple. Losing in the state championship their junior season relates to losing in the conference championship just a year ago. Now, just like high school, they’re back.

“We had the will to not want to lose,” said Walker after the victory over East Carolina. “We played for one another, we knew what was at stake.”

After a slow start to the season. Walker has turned it around, throwing eight touchdowns and just two interceptions since the season defining win over UCF. Including that game, the Owls have won six games in a row.

For his efforts this season, Jahad Thomas was named Second-Team All American Athletic Conference, after being first team last year.

Heading into the conference final, Phillip Walker, and Jahad Thomas have the Temple Owls prepared to finish what they couldn’t a year ago. Defeating Navy will not be easy, but the Owls certainly do not lack experience.

Owls Win AAC East for Second Straight Year With Victory Over East Carolina

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The Temple Owls will return to the American Athletic Conference championship game for the second consecutive year following a 37-10 victory over East Carolina. The Owls will take on the Navy Midshipmen next saturday in Annapolis Maryland.

Temple used a strong rushing attack to take down East Carolina for the third consecutive year. Jahad Thomas led the way with 152 yards , on 24 carries, and two touchdown. Thomas has scored two touchdowns in eight of the nine games he has played in this season.  Sophomore running back Ryquell Armstead also scored two touchdowns on the ground.

ECU struck first, and opened the scoring on a 13 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Gardner Minshew to wide receiver Jimmy Williams. The pirates used an 11 play, 58 yard drive, spanning over 5 minutes to jump out to an early seven point lead.

The Owls proceeded to score 21 unanswered points to close out half, lead by two touchdowns from running back Ryquell Armstead, and another by Jahad Thomas. Thomas is 10th in the nation with 17 total touchdowns on the season.

Thomas led the way on the ground for the Owls in the half, rushing 12 times, for 79 yards, and a touchdown, including a big 28 yard run to set up his three yard touchdown run late in the first half. Phillip Walker completed five of eleven passes, for 91 yards in the half, including a 44 yard pass to Adonis Jennings that setup the Owl’s first touchdown of the game. Jennings had a career high 100 yards receiving on six catches, for an average of 16.7 yards per reception.

Temple scored first to open the second half, on a three yard touchdown run by Thomas, his second of the game.

East Carolina responded with a field goal to make the game 27-10. The score was the first points allowed by the Owl’s defense in the second half in the last four games, including shutouts of Uconn, and Tulane.

Temple proceeded to score the final ten points of the game, on a 35 yard field goal by Aaron Boumehri, and a 14 yard touchdown run by Sophomore running back Jager Gardner on his first carry of the game.

Phillip Walker completed 12 of 20 passes on the night, for 158 yards. He became the first quarterback in Temple history to throw for 10,000 yards in his career. He is also 7th in the NCAA in terms of career passing yards.

Avery Williams totaled eight tackles on the night to go along with one tackle for loss. Haason Reddick tallied six tackles, and one tackle for loss. He now has 21.5 tackles for loss on the season. Praise Martin-Oguike totaled five tackles, to go along with two sacks, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.

Owls Roll Over Tulane 31-0, Record Second Straight Shutout
Martin-Oguike had two sacks on the night, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery

As a team, the Owls did not commit a single penalty in the game, while East Carolina committed four penalties for 33 yards.

19 Owls played in their final home game, including 11 starters. The Owls will look to win their first AAC championship in the history of the program next week at Navy.  

Temple vs Tulane Preview: Owls Look to Keep Pace in AAC Championship Race

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The Owls celebrate their win vs UConn on November 4th

Temple Football (7-3) travels to Yulman Stadium Saturday afternoon to take on Tulane (3-7) looking to stay on the winning track, and continue its push towards its second conference championship appearance for the second consecutive season.

The Owls enter off of a bye week, having last played on November 4th, a 21-0 victory over UConn. They enter winners of four straight, and following a shutout of UConn. Tulane comes in loser of its last five. The Green Wave have given up at least 30 points in each of their last four games. The Owls have beaten Tulane in each of the last two meetings between the teams, including a 49-10 victory last season.

Matchups to Watch

Phillip Walker vs. Tulane Pass Defense

Walker threw 3 TDs but also had 2 INTs last game vs UConn

Phillip Walker enters week 12 with 2,205 passing yards on the season, with 16 TDs and 12 INTs. Walker threw three touchdown passes against Uconn, all coming in the first quarter, to go along with two interceptions. Walker has thrown multiple interceptions in four games this season.

Wide receiver Ventell Bryant has been playing his best football of the season, amidst the Owl’s four game win streak. Bryant has 357 receiving yards in that stretch, to go along with one touchdown reception. Walker will look to Bryant down field against a tough Green Wave pass defense.

Running back Jahad Thomas has once again emerged as a formidable target for Walker in the passing attack. Thomas caught two touchdown passes against Uconn, and has totaled 354 yards receiving on the season, along with five touchdowns.

Defensively for Tulane, the Green Wave’s defense ranks second in the AAC in terms of pass defense. They are led by cornerbacks Parry Nickerson, and Donnie Lewis, both ranking in the top five in the AAC in terms of passes defended. Nickerson is 10th in the conference with three interceptions on the season.

Temple Defense vs. Tulane Offense

Tulane enters ranked last in the AAC in pass offense, averaging just 117 yards per game. Tulane quarterback Glen Cuiellette has thrown for 1,126 yards, and 10 TDs on the season. Cuiellette has also thrown seven interceptions on the season. As a whole, Tulane has a +8 turnover margin on the season.

Green Wave junior running back Dontrell Hilliard has rushed for 737 yards on the season along with

Credit: CBS
Credit: CBS

nine touchdowns on the ground. He is averaging over five yards per carry on the season.

As for the Owls defensively, they enter first in the AAC in scoring defense, total defense, and passing defense. The Owls are also second in the conference in sacks, facing a Tulane offense that has given up 20 sacks in 10 games.

Safeties Sean Chandler, and Delvon Randall have not started together very often this season, with Chandler missing multiple games with a knee injury. Randall has 43 total tackles on the season, along with three interceptions, and two fumble recoveries. Chandler was named to the Jim Thorpe Award Watch list before the season, given to the nation’s top defensive back. In six games this season, Chandler has 28 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and one interception.

Players to Watch

Praise Martin-Oguike

Martin-Oguike celebrates a sack (cred:// philly.com)
Martin-Oguike celebrates a sack (cred:// philly.com)

Redshirt senior defensive lineman Praise Martin-Oguike will look to continue his fine play against a Tulane offensive line that has given up the third most sacks in the conference. On the season, Oguike has five sacks, to go along with two forced fumbles. Oguike should be in the backfield early and often on Saturday.


Aaron Boumerhi

After the injury to Austin Jones against Memphis, the kicking game was in question for Temple. Enter walk on, true-freshman kicker Aaron Boumerhi who has been nothing short of spectacular in his first season for the Owls. Boumerhi has made all seven of his attempted field goals, with a long of 47 yards. He has also converted on all 15 of his PATs. The kicking game should have a big impact against a strong Tulane defense Saturday afternoon.

The Owls control their own destiny heading into the final two weeks of the season, and must win their final two games in order to reach the conference championship for the second consecutive season. Tulane will look to play spoiler on Saturday, and crush the Owl’s hopes of a conference championship.

Owls Lose Close One to UMass

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Courtesy of CSN Philly

Temple fell to UMass thursday night by a final score of 70-67. Obi Enechionyia led the way once again for the Owls with 26 points, five threes, to go along with six rebounds, and one block.

The game went down to the wire, with Daniel Dingle missing a go ahead three with 11 seconds remaining. In all, there were 17 lead changes, and nine ties throughout the game.

UMass freshman guard Dejon Jarreau led the way for the minutemen, scoring 16 points, including the go ahead three with under a minute remaining.

Enechionyia was the only Owls player to score in double digits on the night, with Shizz Alston being the second leading scorer on the night, with nine points.

The Owls shot under 40 percent from the field for the second consecutive game, at just 38 percent. The team also attempted 26 threes, they have attempted over 20 three pointers in each game this season. //The Owls next take on Manhattan, at home on saturday afternoon.

Owls use dominant rushing attack to defeat Cincinnati 34-13.

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Isaiah Wright looks for running room (Credit:// cincinnati.com
Isaiah Wright looks for running room (Credit:// cincinnati.com)

Temple’s rushing game was the difference maker for the second straight week as the Owls took down Cincinnati 34-13 to remain atop the standings in the American Conference East division.

As a team, the Owls rushed for 275 yards, led by Jahad Thomas who ran for 151 yards on 17 carries, for an average of 8.9 yards per carry. Redshirt Sophomore Ryquell Armstead followed up his career performance against USF with two touchdowns and 61 yards on the ground. Temple is now 6-0 on the season when rushing for more than 150 yards.

The Owls opened up the scoring with a 26 yard field goal by Boumehri. After forcing a fumble by Gunner Kiel, The Owls drove down the field on a four play 55 yard drive capped off by a 40 yard touchdown pass from Walker to Adonis Jennings. It was Jennings’ second touchdown of the season.

On the ensuing kickoff, Cincinnati running back Mike Boone returned it for 60 yards to the Temple 32 yard line. The Bearcats scored five plays later on a touchdown pass by Kiel to wide receiver Devin Gray to make the score 10-6.

The Owls responded on a 28 yard touchdown pass by Walker to Ventell Bryant to make it a 17-6 game. Jahad Thomas set the Owls up in the red zone with a 56 yard run. He rushed for 63 yards on seven carries in the first half.

Gunner Kiel moved the Cincinnati offense down the field, throwing for 56 yards on the drive leading to a 10 yard touchdown pass to Devin Gray to bring the Bearcats within four at 17-13 heading into halftime.

Temple scored 17 unanswered points in the second half, including two touchdowns by Armstead in the span of 2:04, and a 26 yard field goal by Boumehri.

The Owl’s defense held Cincinnati quarterback Gunner Kiel to -3 passing yards in the second half. The defense was led by Avery Williams who totaled seven tackles, along with one tackle for loss. They held Cincinnati’s last ranked rushing attack to just 67 yards, and Gunner Kiel to only 119 passing yards. Delvon Randall continued to make plays, recovering a fumble in the first half and recording three tackles.

Phillip Walker threw for 199 yards and two touchdowns on the game, and did not throw an interception for the second straight week. Ventell Bryant continued his fine play catching three passes for 66 yards, an average of 22 yards per reception.

Freshman kicker Aaron Boumehri is now 7-7 on field goal attempts this season, and has yet to miss an extra point.

The Owls are now bowl eligible for the third consecutive season. They travel to Uconn next week to take on the Huskies (3-6) in the final road game of the regular season. The game will be played friday night at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.

Temple Runs all Over USF 46-30, Now 1st in AAC East

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rs_phillythumb2_1200x800_20161021_owlsfb22-01PHILADELPHIA- Ryquell Armstead led the Owls to a 46-30 victory over USF Friday night moving into first place in the American Athletic Conference East division. Armstead rushed for 210 yards on 20 carries, and scored two touchdowns. He scored on touchdown runs of 76, and 42 yards. The 76 yard touchdown run was the longest of his career, and the longest for Temple this season.

The Owls opened the scoring with a 14 play, 70 yard drive capped off by a 22 yard field goal from Aaron Boumerhi. Ventell Bryant had 45 yards receiving on the opening drive that lasted 7:50.

USF answered with a 37 yard touchdown pass by Quinton Flowers, to take a 7-3 lead. The Bulls went 68 yards, on six plays in just 1:18.

Phillip Walker and the Temple offense responded with another long drive leading to a one yard touchdown pass to Colin Thompson. Bryant was the Owls go to player once again on the drive, collecting 34 yards, including a 15 yard reception down to the one yard line on 3rd and 12.

Following a touchdown by USF to take the lead, the Owls responded with 10 unanswered points heading into halftime. Ryquell Armstead’s 76 yard touchdown gave the Owls the 17-13 lead, and Aaron Boumehri ended the half with a 35 yard field goal to make it 20-13.

The Owls had over 20 minutes of possession in the first half, and were 3-3 in red zone opportunities.

USF scored the first ten points of the second half, finishing with a three yard touchdown run by Flowers, his 23rd of the season.

Ryquell Armstead once again responded with a 42 yard touchdown, to once again give the Owls the lead. The Owls would take a 34-23 lead heading into the fourth quarter and extended the lead to 14 on a 42 yard field goal by Boumehri.

The Bulls came within seven on a 30 yard touchdown run by Marlon Mack, but were shutout for the rest of the game.

The Temple defense shut down the USF offense the rest of the way. Delvon Randall came away with a late interception, and Romond Deloatch sacked quarterback Brett Kean in the end zone for a safety to cap off the scoring. Jahad Thomas also scored on a 3 yard touchdown run set up by Randall’s interception.

It was a game of career highs for Temple, as Ventell Bryant set a career high in receiving yards of 115, all coming in the first half; Armstead also set his career high in rushing yards on the night. Phillip Walker managed the game well, completing 14-21 passes for 209 yards and a touchdown. He only had 5 pass attempts in the second half.

Defensively, the Owls were led by Stephaun Marshall with eight tackles, and Delvon Randall with seven tackles and the late interception. Facing a USF offense that averaged 44.1 points per game entering this week, the Owls held the dynamic Bull’s offense to just 30 points, and only 352 yards of total offense.

The Owls now control their own destiny in the American East division, and enter another big game next week against Cincinnati. With four games remaining, Temple has a chance to return to the American Conference Championship game for the second consecutive season.