As sloppy play plagued the Owls through the 1st three quarters, the offense had to do something to keep the game from slipping away from them.
Matt Rhule found that answer in Jahad Thomas.
The breakout junior continued on his tear this season, rushing for 199 yards and scampering home for three TDs, two coming in the 4th quarter, en route to a 30-16 victory under the lights. The win pushed the Owls to 6-0 for only the 4th time in program history.
Coming in against an 0-6 UCF team, many did not expect Temple to face too many challenges Saturday night. Their first drive showed no indication they would. After receiving the opening kickoff, P.J. Walker marched the Owls 73 yards on 10 plays, capped off by Thomas turning the corner and bursting down the right sideline into the endzone for a 7-0 lead. It was the 1st time that Temple has scored on their opening possession in 2015, and seemed to be a good sign of things to come.
After UCF was able to muster a field goal late in the 1st quarter, the Owls responded right back, as Walker fired a bullet into the back of the end zone to find Ventell Bryant for a 14-3 lead. It was Bryant’s 1st career touchdown in the Cherry and White, as he finished the night with five catches for 40 yards.
The next drive swung direction of the game in full reverse. After the defense forced another three & out, Addonis Jennings snuck into the backfield and blocked the ensuing Knights punt to set the Owls up inside the 30. With a chance to put the game away, they instead gave the ball away. Rolling out, Walker badly overthrew Kip Patton, and the ball sailed right to UCF’s Shaquill Griffin, who took it back 81 yards to make it 14-10. The sloppy night continued, as Robby Anderson muffed a punt late in the 1st half which UCF converted into another field goal. The teams went into locker rooms at 14-13.
Uncharacteristically for the Owls, the 3rd quarter was a stalemate. Coming in outscoring their opponents 75-6 in the 3rd, Temple muffed a punt, fumbled a snap, and when it was all said and done, trailed 16-14 heading into the 4th.
Finally, the team got rolling in the final frame. After a costly muffed punt ealier, Sean Chandler redeemed himself. He took a UCF’s punt down the right sideline for 65 yards, all the way down to the UCF 21. Thomas gave the Owls the lead when he scampered into the end zone from 22 yards out, awakening the crowd of 31,752 at Lincoln Financial Field. Walker was able to connect on the 2 point conversion, as he threw across his body and across the field to find Colin Thompson to make it 22-16. Walker finished the night 15/27 for 149 yards, with a TD and INT.
A 6-point lead was not enough for Matt Rhule and company. With under five minutes to play, Jahad Thomas tacked another touchdown run, as he shot up the middle from 21 yards out. A little trickery found receiver John Christopher connecting with a wide open Walker for the two point conversion, pushing the lead to 30-16.
The defense put an end to any thought UCF had of coming back. A tipped ball found its way into the waiting arms of Tyler Matakevich, who sprung up and roared in elation as he sealed the game for the Owls. Matakevich recorded his 400th career tackle on the 1st play from scrimmage earlier in the contest. He finished the night with 8 tackles, leading a defense that let up only 134 yards and no offensive touchdowns. They kept the game within reach for the Owls. Buckling down, they allowed only 3/15 3rd down conversion, harassing UCF quarterback Justin Holeman time and time again, who finished a ineffective 10/37 for 67 yards and two INTs.
The Owls have to turn around a short week looking to go 7-0 for the 1st time in program history. They head back down South to take on a 4-3 East Carolina team Thursday night at 7:00.