After 50 minutes of sluggish, sloppy football, the Owls woke up.
And when they did, they took off.
Temple scored two touchdowns in 73 seconds to turn a four point deficit into a 10 point lead, while the defense locked down East Carolina for the rest of the night en route to a 24-14 victory. The win will be cemented in the Temple record books: the Owls’ are 7-0 for the first time in program history.
Coming into Thursday night, Temple’s defense had allowed just 244 total yards in their previous two games. Blake Kemp and the ECU offense didn’t take note, as they put together 218 total yards of offense in the first half alone. Kemp finished a solid 31/48 for 272 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Austin Jones started things off well for Temple, connecting on a 28 yard field goal for a 3-0 lead. Later Jahad Thomas found a way to get in the endzone for Temple’s first touchdown of the night with 2:59 to go in the first half. Thomas finished the night with 66 yards, 23 receiving yards and two key touchdowns.
ECU found the endzone twice in the second quarter, their second a dagger coming courtesy of wide receiver Quay Johnson with just 18 seconds left in the half. The score put the Pirates up 14-10 going into the locker room. Penalties kept Temple close in the first half, as they were out-gained 218 to 118 and swallowed up in the run game, amassing just 2.6 yards per carry.
Prior to tonight, ECU had won 26 straight games while leading at halftime. It took some nail biting, but Temple proved numbers to be just that: numbers.
Temple had key opportunities in the second half to put points on the board. Tyler Matakevich reeled in his 4th interception of the year and returned it down the 27. However, two penalties stalled the drive. Matt Rhule trotted out Austin Jones for a 52 yard attempt, and the plan failed. Jones’ kick came down short and the Owls came away with nothing.
Temple failed to capitalize again in the 4th. With 10:20 left to play, Sean Chandler punched the ball away from ECU’s Anthony Scott and the Owls recovered at their own 45. After a 22-yard completion to Kip Patton, Walker couldn’t find an open receiver for a 1st down. Austin Jones’ tough night continued, as he pushed a 37 yard attempt wide right and Owls came up empty once again.
While the offense struggled, the defense keyed in. Mike Snow’s boys pitched a shutout in the second half and the spark could not have been any more timely. Keeping the pressure on the ECU offense when it mattered most, they forced two straight punts that set up the late offensive flurry.
Robby Anderson and the offense caught fire as it turned to desperation time. With 6:11 to go, a shaky P.J. Walker hit Anderson in stride over the middle for a huge 51 yard gain. He followed that up with a 23 yard bullet to Anderson in the endzone that gave the Owls a 17-10 lead with the 3:31 left. Anderson was the go to guy all night, hauling in eight catches for 123 yards and the go-ahead score. Walker, while missing multiple deep throws, was accurate down the stretch, completing 19/35 for 251 yards and the score to Anderson.
Just 73 seconds later, Jahad Thomas found his way into the endzone once again from 14 yards out to stretch the lead to a comfortable 24-10. It was Thomas’ 14th touchdown on the year, and was set up by a game changing blocked punt from senior Shariff Finch. The second blocked punt of the night set Thomas and the Owls up on the ECU 15 yard line. The two touchdowns sealed it for the Owls, as they secured a 24-14 win in front of a hostile East Carolina home crowd.
After the game, Rhule credited his team’s resilience That will quickly be put to the test, as next up for the Owls is the highly anticipated matchup with Notre Dame. On Halloween night, the Owls will battle the Fighting Irish at 8:00 at a sold out Lincoln Financial Field.