So, everybody saw that coming right? Temple, after disappearing in conference games versus UCF and Houston came back to life in front of approximately 45 people at a rainy Lincoln Financial Field Saturday afternoon.
The Owls didn't need to rely on a still struggling P.J. Walker to put them ahead of ECU. An up-to-the-task defense and miserable weather were enough to limit the potential of Shane Carden and ECU's lethal passing attack. However, the key takeaway from this one will be the importance of ball control. ECU lost five fumbles and didn't force any Temple turnovers.
For Temple fans who were so used to seeing their team undone by costly turnovers, this game was a welcome change. P.J. Walker tallied only 70 passing yards on 19 attempts, but he was able to keep from giving it to the Pirates. Temple fans will still be forced to be patient with the sophomore signal caller, but he remains the team's best option at the quarterback position. Connor Reilly, Walker's backup, fumbled a snap on an extra point which kept Temple from scoring their 21st point.
ECU's defense was more than up to the task as they allowed only 135 total yards on the day. In fact, ECU outgained Temple 428-135 on offense. There just simply wasn't enough gas in the tank for the Pirates to overcome a 5 turnover deficit.
Temple scored 14 of their 20 points in the first quarter. Tavon Young was the first player on the board for the Owls, returning a fumble 63 yards for a touchdown. The very next drive Tyler Matakevich forced a Breon Allen fumble, which set Temple up deep in ECU territory, leading to a 1-yard Kenneth Harper touchdown plunge.
ECU was able to add a field goal before the half, but 14 would prove to be more than enough for the Owls. Temple's defense kept ECU out of the end zone until there was 2:15 remaining on the game clock.
For Temple, the win keeps them afloat in the chaotic American. While they only have an outside shot at ending up on top, being above .500 in the conference this deep in the season is an accomplishment for Temple. More importantly, getting their 5th win before they play Memphis and Penn State on the road is huge. This is still a team with very real bowl aspirations.
ECU's New Year's Day dreams are dead, but the American is undoubtedly still in play for the Pirates. They are coming up on a stretch of schedule that brings them to Cincinnati, home versus Tulane, to Tulsa, and home again to face UCF in a game that likely could serve as the American title game.