As the game clock struck all zeros in the fourth quarter, the Memphis Tigers (6-3, 4-1) rushed the field in jubilation. Jake Elliott’s 31 yard field goal split the uprights and gave Memphis their third straight win and bowl eligibility for the first time since 2008. The Owls dropped to 5-4, 3-3 in conference.
On a frigid night, the Owls got off to a quick start, scoring ten points in the first quarter. Austin Jones booted a 43 yard field goal to begin the scoring cap off a five play, 35 yard drive spanning 1:55.
With 3 minutes left in the first quarter, the Owls showed off their big play scoring ability, as running back Kenny Harper took a handoff out of the shotgun formation over left guard and burst 75 yards to the end zone giving the Owls a 10-0 lead. Harpers’ run was the longest for the Owls since Tim Brown scored on a 78 yard run on September 30, 2006.
The Owls had an opportunity to extend the lead as they were driving deep in Memphis territory until quarterback P.J Walker threw his first and only interception of the game at the 11 yard line.
Early in the second quarter, momentum began to shift as Tigers wide receiver Mose Frazier blocked a punt and Memphis’s potent offense took over at the 31 yard line. The Owls defense made a stand against an offense that averages 36 points per game and forced Elliot to boot a 42 yard field goal to cut the deficit to seven points.
The Owls special team’s woes continued as punter Alex Starzyk botched a punt and booted it 16 yards as the Tigers had excellent field position at their own 41 yard line. Three plays later quarterback Paxton Lynch found receiver Brandon Hayes in the end zone as they tied the game.
Late in the third quarter Owls punt returner John Christopher muffed a punt after a fair catch and Memphis recovered at the Owls ten yard line. The defense put up a valiant stand but ultimately Memphis ended up taking a 13-10 lead.
In the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Owls recovered a muffed punt by Memphis at the Tiger’s 26 yard line. It bounced off the back of a special teamer who was sprinting down the field to block for the punt returner and receiver Zack Bambary was able to fall on it. The Owls could not capitalize on the excellent field position as Austin Jones’s game tying field goal attempt sailed wide right.
With under three minutes remaining in the game, Jones redeemed himself on the Owls drive as he tied the game on a 46 yard attempt. The drive was set up by a 21 yard punt return by Nate L. Smith and 20 passing yards by P.J Walker to three different receivers.
Memphis got the ball back with 2:40 remaining in the game and Lynch led them on an efficient, 12 play 66 yard drive to put the Tigers in prime field goal position to defeat the Owls and send them into bowl eligibility.
Temple travels to Penn State next Saturday to battle the Nittany Lions, time to be decided.