After freshman Jager Gardner took his second carry of the game 94 yards to the house, it seemed that Temple’s offense would revolve around the running backs.
That proved not to be the case.
Junior Quarterback P.J. Walker threw for 268 yards and four touchdowns, while rushing for 49 yards, including a 36 yard touchdown that proved to be the dagger in Temple’s 60-40 shootout win over the SMU Mustangs in Dallas. The Owls, ranked #23, moved to 8-1 on the year and remain undefeated in AAC play, as SMU dropped their 7th in a row, and now sit at 1-8.
Walker was the key to victory in the game where the Temple defense faltered. For the first time all year, the defense allowed more than 30 points and struggled to slow down a versatile SMU offensive attack. SMU quarterback Matt Davis kept the defense on their heels, throwing for 167 yards and also scrambling for 102. His ability to escape the pocket proved to be difficult to stop, as late in the first half he broke off a 48 yard scramble, weaving through Temple defenders to set up a 13 yard touchdown run by Xavier Jones to put the Mustangs up 17-14.
Trailing for the first time Friday night, Walker was not fazed. He orchestrated a 10 play, 75 yard drive, capped off beautiful 16 yard touchdown toss to Romond Deloatch on a fade route. Deloatch’s first score of 2015 put Temple up 21-17 heading into the half.
Walker opened the second half by leading the Owls down the field into the endzone again. Taylor Mays kept the drive moving with a fake punt on 4th down, and Walker took advantage by connecting with Addonis Jennings for a 4 yard touchdown. However, SMU answered right back. Davis accounted for 51 total yards on SMU’s next drive, but gave the ball off to Jones again, who scored on a 9 yard touchdown run to bring the score back to 28-24. Jones ran for 67 yards on the night and the two touchdowns.
Walker kept the offense rolling on the next drive, finding Robby Anderson streaking down the right sideline for a huge 46 yard pickup. Anderson finished the night with four catches and 83 yards, including an early touchdown grab, his sixth of the season. Jahad Thomas, playing with an injury, found the end zone from two yards out for his 16th total touchdown, and extended his streak of scoring in every game this year. He ended the night with 66 yards while splitting carries with Ryquell Armstead and Gardner.
Later, with Temple leading 38-31 after Davis found Jeremiah Gaines for a 30 yard touchdown, Walker kept pouring it on. He faked the handoff to Thomas, and made the easy toss to a wide open Ventell Bryant, who sprinted past the secondary for a 75 yard score, his second touchdown of the year.
SMU then made it interesting. Punting from their own endzone, Nick Sharga got flagged for a hold that resulted in a safety. On cue, Braeden West broke a couple tackles and took the safety punt back 80 yards to cut the Owls’ lead to 45-40.
After Temple punted again, SMU found themselves facing a 4th & 4 at their own 32. For the first time all night, the defense locked down. As SMU elected to go for it, Tyler Matakevich got his hands up and deflected Davis’ pass to give the ball back to Walker. The junior capitalized, as he rolled out, tucked the ball, cut upfield, and wasn’t touched on his way to a 5th and final touchdown of the night. While the score all but sealed the game. Sean Chandler added a late pick-six to push Temple’s point total to 60, their team’s highest since 2012.
Temple will stay on the road next week as the they travel down to Tampa to take on South Florida.