On Senior night, the last game on home turf for those players as Navy earlier easily handled SMU to earn home field for the AAC Championship, the Temple Owls (8-3, 6-1 1st Place AAC East) were in a must win situation against the East Carolina Pirates (3-8, 1-6, 5th Place Tiebreaker), to return to that game after USF beat UCF 48-21, earlier in the day. A great holiday weekend crowd of 28,373 saw the Owls do just that in convincing style, 37-10 over the Pirates.
Head Coach Matt Rhule had this to say afterwards “Obviously we’re extremely excited to get the win tonight on Senior Night, to send our Seniors out the way they deserved to be sent out,” Rhule added “They are tremendous kids. They battled through adversity, going to back to back bowl games, back to back Eastern Division Champs.” He went on to say how proud of them he was that “They have overcome adversity in their own lives and they’ve overcome obstacles this year as a team, as a senior group.”
ECU & Temple Score Early in the 1st Qtr:
Temple’s 10 qtr shut-out streak was short lived as ECU got the ball first and had excellent field position after a 37 yd kickoff return to the Pirates 42. A mix of run and pass in a no-huddle offense saw ECU go 11 plays 58 yards 5:08, ending in a 13 yd TD pass from to Gardner Minshew to Jimmy Williams. The Owls then answered right back w/ a 5 play, 53 yd, 2:57 drive that featured a 44 yd pass from Phillip Walker to Adonis Jennings to make it 1st and goal from the 2. A returning Ryquell Armstead took it the rest of the way to tie the game at 7 with 7:38 left in the 1st qtr.
Temple Scores Twice in a Row in 2nd Qtr:
It was a battle of field position for awhile after that, until Temple scored twice in the space of less than a minute late in the 2nd qtr. They started w/ a typical Temple ball control drive of 12 plays 68 yards 6:03, culminating in Armstead’s 2nd short TD of the game. Then on the first play of the ensuing drive Praise Martin-Oguike sacked Minshew, while forcing and recovering a fumble at the ECU 34. 2 plays 34 yards 0:39 later, abetted by an ECU personal foul, Jahad Thomas took it 3 yds to extend Temple’s lead to 21-7 with 1:09 left until half time. Temple held and then ran out the rest of the half.
Second Half Temple Pulls Away:
Temple did little on their opening possession and the Pirates looked like they were getting back in their offensive groove, but after 14 plays 65 yards, 4:40, Temple’s D stiffened and Davis Plowman missed a 41 yd FG. Temple then made it a 9 point swing as they went 11 plays, 76 yards, 5:46, ending with Thomas’ 2nd short TD run of the game with 1:21 left in the 3rd pd.
ECU followed that with a 9 play, 49 yd, 2:37 drive with Plowman making this 41 yd FG to cut the Temple lead to 27-10, 12:46 left in regulation. Temple answered right back, though, with an Aaron Boumerhi FG from 35 yds out, 10 plays 48 yards 5:16 left in the game. Temple would score one more time to ice the game on a 5 play, 70 yard 2:28 drive ended by a 14 yd Jager Gardner run to make the final score 37-10.
Walker hurt his ankle on their second drive of the game but still went 12/20 158 yds, 7.9 YPC, 0 TDs, 0 Ints. His leading receiver was Jennings who as Ruhle said “was so huge tonight, just kind of throwing the ball out to him one on one, and making some guys miss”, had 6 catches for 100 yds. The leading rusher was Thomas with 152 net yds on 24 carries, 6.3 ypc, 2 TDs. Red-shirt Jr FB Nick Sharga while not big on the stat sheet had some big 3rd down carries to keep drives alive. 6 players totaled 256 net yds on 46 rushes, 5.6 YPC and Armstead added 2 short yardage TD’s.
This And That:
Temple has a six-game winning streak, the only AAC team with winning streaks of six or more in each of the last two seasons. ECU had amassed 400 yds total offense in 11 consecutive games, while Temple held their last three opponents under 200. In this contest they gave up a bit more than that, 225 yds, but still well under what ECU had been doing. As expected on his 5th reception of the game ECU WR Zay Jones passed the FBS single-season reception mark of 155 set by Freddie Barnes of Bowling Green in 2009, but the Temple D held him to only 7 catches for 61 yds. Late in the 2nd qtr, Walker passed 10,000 yds passing for his career. He is the first Temple player to do that. Temple had Zero – count-em- Zero penalties. Coach Rhule was incredulous when he heard that post game.
Temple Next Ups:
Temple heads down to Annapolis to face the AAC West Champions Navy Midshipmen (8-2,7-1) next Saturday 12/3/16 at noon.