Let's not print those Temple Owls AAC East champion t-shirts yet. The South Florida Bulls ran over, around and through the Owls' number one ranked defense en route to a dominant 44-23 win.
Led by Flowers and Mack, the Bulls unleashed big play after big play against a Temple defense that has been one of the nation's strongest this season. Mack and Flowers accounted for all four USF touchdowns, as Mack had one rushing and one receiving score and Flowers added two through the air and one on the ground. The Bulls rolled up 556 yards on offense, 326 of which came on the ground.
Temple looked in control in the early going, even pulling out a fake punt on 4th and 1 during their opening possession, but missed a field goal after a long drive. After USF was stifled on their opening drive, Jahad Thomas opened the scoring with a two yard score. The Bulls answered when Flowers found Rodney Adams on the post for the 68 yard score to tie the game with six seconds left in the first.
The Owls were uncharacteristically sloppy in the first half, with blown assignments and turnovers giving the Bulls momentum. Deatrick Nichols picked off Walker on the first play of the second quarter, then Flowers cashed in with a five yard keeper to take a 14-7 lead.
Temple answered with a field goal to make it 14-10, but Marlon Mack struck for a big 57 yard right touchdown run right through the heart of the Temple defense to give the Bulls a 21-10 lead. The Bulls weren't done, as Flowers scrambled and found Mack for a 25 yard touchdown catch to make it 28-10. The Owls continued to look out of sorts on offense, and were unable to answer any of USF's big plays. The Bulls added a field goal to take a 31-10 halftime lead.
Temple's defense made the first big play of the second half when Praise Martin-Oguike took the ball away from Darius Tice, giving the Owls the ball on the USF 26. Walker then hit Ventell Bryant for a 14 yard score, making it 31-17. After both teams traded field goals, USF took a 34-20 lead into the fourth.
In the fourth, both sides traded field goals before Mack put the game away with a 48 yard touchdown run to seal the 44-23 win.
The Temple defense had no answer for Mack, who finished with 230 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns. Flowers was excellent as well, going 15-22 for 230 yards and two touchdowns of his own. USF's defense was stellar, as well, shutting down Thomas (16 carries, 65 yards) and pressuring Walker into mistakes. Walker finished 20-48 for 259 yards with one TD and one INT.
What You Need To Know:
USF is the real deal. Specifically, the run game. Flowers and Mack have been the engine for the Bulls all season long, but tonight just solidified it even more. Against the top run defense in the conference, Mack was able to do the impossible. He gashed the Owls on both touchdown runs, scoring from 57 and 48 yards. Flowers was able to make plays with both his arm and his legs, as well. The Bull offense is just scary good right now, and if they can do that to Temple, what does that mean for USF's remaining opponents?
For Temple, tonight's loss has to be very disheartening. The Owls came in with a chance to lock up the AAC East, and instead they got run right out of Raymond James Stadium. Yes, USF's offense was riding a hot streak coming into the game, but the Owls' calling card all season has been stopping the run. They didn't even come close to doing that tonight, and it may have cost them a shot at a New Year's Day bowl.
USF not only kept their AAC championship hopes alive, they also became bowl elible with the win, moving to 6-4. The Bulls move on to face Cincinnati next week. The Owls, meanwhile, fall to 8-2 on the year and face Memphis next week.