The Temple University football team continually shot itself in the foot on Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field, but fortunately it was facing a team incapable of taking advantage of the multitude of mistakes.
The Owls rallied from a 16-14 deficit for a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to beat Central Florida, 30-16. The victory improved Temple to 6-0 and made it bowl eligible for the fifth time in seven years, while Central Florida fell to 0-7.
It is the fourth time in Temple history it is 6-0, the other occasions being 1935, 1945 and 1974.
Jahad Thomas ran a career-high 31 times for 199 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Owls. While Thomas had 199 yards rushing, the Knights finished with 134 total yards.
“We’re really happy to be 6-0, for the guys who went 2-10 two years ago, who didn’t go to a bowl (at 6-6) last year and for the guys who lost to (UCF on a last-second field goal) two years ago," said Temple coach Matt Rhule.
“That was not a very good football game, but it was a dominating defensive effort.”
The Owls had a 14-3 lead and the ball on the Knights’ 29-yard line following a blocked punt by Adonis Jennings in the second quarter, but Shqll Walker picked off a rushed throw by P.J. Walker and returned it 80 yards for a score.
Instead of being ahead 17-3 or 21-3, the Owls were suddenly clinging to a 14-10 lead.
And the self-inflicted wounds continued as a muffed punt by Robby Anderson led to a Matthew Wright 27-yard field goal that sent the game into the half at 14-13. Before heading into the locker room, Rhule called his team together to enjoy the moment, even the announced crowd of 31,000+ showing its displeasure for letting UCF back in the game.
The Knights took the lead on the first drive of the third quarter on Wright’s third field goal, a 41-yarder. And Temple continued to give them chances to add to their lead.
Quarterback P.J. Walker fumbled a snap over to the Knights at the Owls’ 29, but Sean Chandler came up with an interception.
Chandler, who replaced Anderson as punt returner, muffed another punt to give UCF the ball on the Owls’ 41. But the defense stiffened and Chandler made the play of the game returning a punt 65 yards on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The long return set up Jahad Thomas’ 22-yard run with 14:03 top play. The ensuing two-point conversion gave the Owls a 22-16 lead.
Central Florida never threatened and Thomas put the game away with a 21-yard TD score with just under five minutes to play.