The Temple Owls (3-2, 1-0 AAC) continued conference play as they visited the Memphis Tigers (3-1, 0-0). Last season the Owls needed a big 17 point 4th qtr. to pull away from the Tigers for a 31-12 victory, which sent them to the inaugural AAC Championship game. This season Temple, with only the two non-conference losses, had to keep winning conference games to have a chance to get back there.
Memphis was a big play machine on this night as they scored one of their TDs on defense, two on big runs of 71 yd and 28 yds, and a third on a 95 yd kick-off return, while the Tigers D stopped Temple almost every time they were in the red zone, short of the end zone, on the way to a 34-27 mauling of the Owls.
Temple scored first after a nice punt return by Jahad Thomas started the drive at their own 41. They drove down to the Tigers 14, where the consistent Austin Jones (17 FG in a row, 8/8 this season, coming in) put 3 on the board from 31 yds out, 9 plays 45 yds, 3:44 TOP with 7:47 left in the 1st qtr. Temple then recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff at the Memphis 6, but again the Tigers stiffened in the red zone, and the Owls had to settle for another 3 points. Temple was not sharp on offense early with some missed passes by Phillip Walker and some missed catches as well, especially a drive killing drop by Brodrick Yancy on 3rd and 3 at their 16, which lead to the score being 6-0 at the end of the 1st qtr.
Temple’s D though was able to keep Memphis at bay even after giving them the ball at midfield on the punt after that dropped pass and also when Memphis got the next turnover at the Temple 36. The Owls were able to hold them, the last play being a sack by Praise Martin-Oguike, to a FG try which was hooked left by Tiger kicker Jake Elliot from 34 yds out, with 9:30 left until the break.
Temple finally found the end zone with 2:15 left until halftime, on a 12 play, 80 yd 7:23 drive culminating in a 2 yd pitch and run to Ryquell Armstead, to make it 16-0 Temple. The big play of the drive was a 4th and 3 pass at the Tigers 35, to normally blocking redshirt SR TE Colin Thompson, down to the Memphis 25. This drive played well into Temple’s obvious plan to shorten the game, especially with the Tigers running a no huddle offense.
Memphis did bounce right back with their best drive of the game, 12 plays, 73 yds, 2:15, Temple playing a bit of prevent as well. Only a saving tackle at the 2 yd line with 4 seconds left, after the officials missed a review of a play that should have been a sack of Tigers QB Riley Ferguson, kept Memphis to a FG, as the halftime siren blared, Temple 16- Memphis 3.
To start the 2nd half, Temple held Memphis to a three and out, mostly by great plays by DE Haason Reddick including a sack to end the series, and then drove down as far as the 26 where once again the Tigers held and Jones FG streak ended going wide left from 43, so a stalemate there, except more time off the clock for Temple. Memphis did finally score after a few more changes of possession, but only another FG to make it 13-6 with 5:15 left in the 3rd period.
Things changed quickly though after that when Temple’s D finally was breached on a 71 yd scamper by Doroland Dorceus, tying the game at 13 with 2:08 left in the 3rd. Walker followed that up on the next series by, after allowing a big sack, once again threw the ball too hard to a covered receiver, which turned into a 23 yd pick six by Genard Avery and just like that it was 20 – 13 Tigers with still 0:51 left in a disastrous 3rd period for Temple which the Owls were happy to let expire.
Temple did drive right back, but a 4 yd sack, and then a questionable offensive interference call in the end zone away from the play, ruined a first and goal from the 10, and the Owls wings were getting clipped, as Jones missed a 26 Yd FG at the 10:42 mark of regulation. Sirens soon blared again as the Temple D looked worn down, and a 7 play, 80 yd, 2:28 Tigers drive put this one out of reach at 27-13, with only 8:14 left in the 4th qtr.
Temple finally had a big play of their own as Walker scrambled to find a wide open Thomas for a 61 yd TD pass to end a short 5 play, 75 yd, 1:27 drive to close the gap to 27-20 with still 6:47 left.
But it was to be that kind of night for Temple, as after a 20 year streak, Memphis returned a kick-off 95 yds, to get the lead back to two TDs. To make matter worse Austin Jones was injured on the play and did not return.
Still the Owls would not give up. Jahad Thomas took a short toss to the house to once again make it a one score game at 34-27, with 3:49 left in regulation, and all their time outs. Temple did hold Memphis to possibly get the ball back, but Temple ran into the kicker and even when Temple did got the ball back again with 0:41 left, Walker’s second interception of the game would finally end the marathon with the score at the final siren, 34-27 Memphis.
On The Road Again End Notes: Not only were the Owls on the road but I am also heading back to Philadelphia, Pa. The motel layover for the night has spotty internet at best and I need to get up early tomorrow, so I will just throw a few stats out there tonight.
Walker’s #s looked gaudy, a career night, at 36/59, 445 yds, 7.5 ypc, 1 Int for a pick six, and 1 to end the final drive, 2 TDs. He and his receivers for the most part were not sharp and could not make the big play when needed until too late in the game. Walker hit seven different receivers, the top one being Jahad Thomas, 6/121 for yds, 20.2 ypc and 2 TDs. The leading rusher in a paltry running attack was Thomas, 37 yds, on 13 carries, 2.8 ypr, and total rushing yds was a measly 86 yds, on 29 carries, 3.0 ypr.
Next Ups: With the short week behind them the Owls get a bit of a break before heading to Orlando a week from Saturday 10/15/16 for a 7:30 kick-off against the UCF Knights coming off a bye week. Temple will need to win all it’s conference games, especially those in the East to have any shot at the championship game again. I will be back on the preview beat next Thursday. Thanks to Zach Bates for filling in while I took a much needed vacation.