The AAC championship bout between the Houston Cougars and the Temple Owls ultimately ended up being somewhat of a defensive affair. However, Houston's sheer athleticism at quarterback and an inspired effort by their defensive front seven would keep Temple's offense off guard all game and would ultimately help the homestanding Cougars bring home the AAC title, 24-13.
Houston seemingly controlled the game throughout the first half, as Houston took advantage of early Temple turnovers to keep them out of the end zone and add one of their own. UH quarterback Greg Ward Jr. would bust open a huge 47 yard touchdown run in the 2nd quarter to put the Cougars in control by halftime.
Ward crested the 100 yard rushing mark in the 2nd half and added another rushing touchdown, but Temple would finally answer by finding paydirt with receiver Robby Anderson on a 13 yard balloon to the back of the end zone.
Heading into the final 15 minutes, the Owls at least tried to make things interesting. Temple began the 4th quarter in Houston's red zone and converted on 4th and 1, but an untimely holding penalty drove the Owls back out of the red zone and forced a 3rd and 8 pass to the end zone that was broken up by Houston's Jeremy Winchester. The Owls had to settle for a field goal, keeping Temple still at a two possession disadvantage with little over 11 minutes left in the game.
However, Temple stuffed UH's kickoff return at the 11 and forced the Coogs into a 3 and out, putting momentum solely in their corner. It looked as if the Coogs were about to force Temple into a 3 and out themselves, but a pass interference call from an otherwise forgiving AAC crew give the visitors new life. Temple drove into Houston territory, but their drive stalled again as Walker's 4th and 4 pass fell to the turf and Houston might've gotten away with pass interference.
Yet Houston couldn't get anything going on their next drive, and had to punt back to Temple with 5 and a half minutes left. The Owls drove once again into Houston territory, but two fumbled snaps on 3rd and 4th down doomed their chances. Houston took over with 2 minutes left and ran out the clock to secure the inugural American Athletic Conference championship.
Houston fans seemingly had issues making up their mind on whether to rush the field.
Houston fans are rushing the field. Sort of pic.twitter.com/kPjtD42pbN— Underdog Dynasty (@underdogdynasty) December 5, 2015
I believe that's what you call a bottleneck pic.twitter.com/AWCPHn5oo3— Underdog Dynasty (@underdogdynasty) December 5, 2015
However, the fans did eventually make their way to the field en masse.
Houston takes the podium pic.twitter.com/mML6aIjNHe— Underdog Dynasty (@underdogdynasty) December 5, 2015
Greg Ward Jr. was named MVP of the contest and finished with an impressive 149 yards rushing and two touchdowns. His passing numbers (11-21, 88 yards) weren't as spectacular, but his sheer athletic ability in his runs proved to be the difference for the Coogs.
Houston (12-1) will go to a New Year's Bowl, while Temple (10-3) may have some issues courting some of the bigger bowls after returning all but 50 of their ticket allotment. Stay tuned to Underdog Dynasty for updates regarding the bowl futures of both teams.