The Temple Owls defense had been the subject of criticism after allowing 45 points to SMU and 63 against UCF in back-to-back losses. A far cry from the unit that held Memphis, Georgia Tech and Maryland in check.
The Owls got back into early season form Thursday night as the defense tormented USF quarterback Jordan McCloud with nine sacks, and linebacker Sam Franklin’s 39-yard fumble return for a touchdown secured a 17-7 win for Temple.
Temple defensive end Quincy Roche had 3.5 of the nine sacks, the most since the Owls had 10 sacks in the 2015 upset win over Penn State. The Cherry and White defense limited USF to 61 yards rushing, who rushed for 347 yards against ECU last week.
The offense was not spectacular, but a couple of personal marks were met in the win. Running back Jager Gardner ran for 133 yards on 25 carries, both career highs, while wide receiver Jadan Blue hauled in career-high 11 receptions for 121 yards. Will Mobley’s 44-yard field goal in the fourth quarter tied a career long.
Tight end Kenny Yeboah hauled in a 1-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Todd Centeio on the Owls lone touchdown drive. Centeio typically plays one series per half, and was the spark Temple needed on the nine-play, 80 yard series just before halftime.
Cornerback Christian Braswell knocked the ball loose from USF receiver Terrence Horne and Franklin scooped up the fumble, taking it 39 yards for the touchdown to make it 14-0.
USF responded with their only points of the evening as McCloud directed a seven-play, 90-yard scoring drive to put the game within reach. He converted a pair of third downs with big plays – a 40-yard completion to wide receiver Xavier Weaver and a 25-yard pass to tight end Mitchell Wilcox – before finding wide out Bryce Miller on a 14-yard touchdown.
The Owls became bowl eligible for the sixth consecutive season, the best span in program history (I mistakenly wrote five seasons in our preview, but Temple was not invited to a bowl game in 2014 despite being bowl eligible). What makes the feat more remarkable is Temple went to just four bowl games in the university’s long history leading up to the current run.
Meanwhile, USF (4-5, 2-3) welcome Cincinnati to Raymond James Stadium next week in desperation mode if they hope to make a bowl game this season. They’ll need to come up with two wins in a remaining schedule that features Cincy and Memphis at home, and the regular season finale at UCF.
Temple (6-3, 3-2) will be at home next week for a meeting with Tulane, who is on a bye in Week 11. Kickoff is scheduled for noon EST and the game can be seen on ESPNU.