Houston Cougars Hold Off Temple Owls to Win AAC Championship Game 24-13

Temple Owls lose AAC Championship Game 24-13 to Houston Cougars

Temple quarterback P.J. Walker threw for 287 yards and a touchdown but also threw a critical first-quarter interception in the Owls’ AAC title game loss to Houston on Saturday. (USA Today Images)

It was a  bonus Saturday of football as the # 22 Temple Owls (10-2,7-1) traveled to the # 19 Houston Cougars (11-1,7-1) for the Inaugural American Athletic Conference Championship Game (preview here ). The winner of this one had a very good chance to be invited to either of the New Year’s Six bowls in the  Fiesta Bowl (University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona NYD) or what seems more likely the Peach Bowl (Georgia Dome in Atlanta NYE).

From the start Houston proved to be the better team on both sides of the ball on this day, scoring early and just enough to stave off Temple’s late game resurgence.

The 1st qtr was all Houston as after an int. of P.     J.      Walker, the Cougars took over on the Temple 36 and ended the short drive w/a one yd plunge by Javin Webb.  It was the 1st TD given up by Temple since the 2nd qtr of the USF loss on 11/14. The qtr ended w/ the same score and Houston @ the Temple 27.

Temple D did hold them to a 24 yd FG by Ty Cummmings as Houston increased their lead to 10-0 w/ 13:28 left in the half. The Cougars D proved the better unit as except for a few 1st downs, the Owls offense could not sustain a drive. Meanwhile Houston’s mobile QB  Greg Ward showed how dangerous he was w/a 47 yd keeper for another Cougars TD, ending a quick 5 play 71 yd drive, to make the score 17-0, 5:32 left ’til the break.

Temple had been in this situation quite a few times this season and they showed a bit of their ability to bounce back on the ensuing drive, going 9 plays, 51 yds, 3:46, settling though for just a 40 yd FG by Austin Jones to finally get on the scoreboard, w/ 1:46 left until half time, and at the half the score remained Houston 17 – Temple 3.

The 2nd half started out more of the same as the Owls D just could not find an answer for the mixed Cougars attack of rushes, passes and well timed QB keepers, and their offense, though moving the ball between the 20’s (they failed on a 4th and 3 @ the 29 just out of FG range {and Houston scored a TD on the next drive}) but in the end they just could put enough points on the board to overcome the early deficit. Temple did show why they are 2nd in FBS for 2nd half point differential, eventually outscoring the Cougars 10-7 the rest of the way.

Not that they did not keep trying their hardest as Temple finally found the end-zone w/ 2:26 left in the 3rd period as Walker found Robby Anderson to cap off a 10 play, 75 yd 4:14 drive, to lessen the deficit to 24-10, and the momentum seemed to be shifting. The 3rd ended w/ the same score and Temple driving, 2nd and 10 @ the Houston 39.

The wraparound drive ended w/ Temple, this time converting on 4th and 2 w/ a nice misdirection pass to  Jahad Thomas,  getting another Jones FG from 39 yds out, to close to w/i 11 points of Houston and still 11:29 left in regulation, and the Owls defense finally starting to show it’s mettle and helping to win the battle for field position. On the next drive though the offense came up short once again on a 4th and 3 try @ the Cougars 38 w/ 7:13 left. At this point in the game the defense or special teams was going to have to come up with some kind of big play to give Temple a chance to complete yet another comeback.

That was not to be though, as after a bad snap on 3rd and 8 at the Houston 30, it all came down to a 4th and 11 w/ 2:08 to go. Another bad snap followed by a 9 yard scramble by Walker was not enough, so Temple’s valiant try and bid for the championship virtually came to an end as Houston was able to run out the clock. At the whistle, the final score was Houston 24 – Temple 13, giving Houston their well earned 11th conference championship (1st since 2006 C-USA), and Temple still looking for their 1st FBS one -in 1967, Temple went 7-2, 4-0 winning the old Middle Atlantic Conference before the program went to Div I.


Tyler Matakevich had 8 tackles adding to his 473 coming in getting him to w/i 11 of the school record of 492 set by Steve Conjar (78-81)

As many other teams have tried, Houston was successful at keying on Jahad Thomas holding him to just 69 yds rushing on 19 attempts. Walker tried gamely to make up for this w/ his arm going 26/44, 287 yds and the one TD and the early int., w/ his leading receiver being Robby Anderson winding up w/ 150 yds on 12 receptions and that TD.

Though a chance at a major bowl game is now out of the picture, Temple still should go to a decent one and can still achieve their 1st 11 win season.

Overall this has been a great season for the Temple Owls and for me covering them – thank you again to PattisonAve.Com for giving me the opportunity – and I look forward to being back here again w/ a preview and recap of the bowl game to come for the Owls…and only 74 more days ’til Pitcher and Catchers so my Phillies postings are not far behind.



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