"This was a much needed win for our program," TU head coach Bobby Wallace said. "This may be one of the most needed wins we've ever had."
The Owls (3-7, 2-5 Big East) led 3-0 then fell behind 7-3 before the half. But instead of folding, Temple used West Virginia (3-7, 1-5 Big East) against itself.
The Mountaineers helped sustain two scoring drives with a couple of its 10 flags for 120 yards -- including a personal foul on Richard Bryant for a late hit -- and gave TU solid field position with three turnovers. The fourth, after WVU was helped by a 15-yard flag on its last gasp drive, came on the first play from scrimmage and served as a microcosm of the Mountaineers' season.
The passed pigskin bounced off one WVU wideout and into the hands of Raheem Brock, who added the pick to his two fumble recoveries.
"That's the story of the team," offensive tackle Lance Nimmo said. "It seems like we get something going and we shoot ourselves in the foot. We are not going to win any games if we don't stop doing that."
It's true WVU outgained and outplayed Temple. The Mountaineers had more total yards, more first downs, and more plays. But at key times WVU let chances slip away, like two missed field goals.
"I thought we were getting better and getting on an upward swing," dejected WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez said. "We hit a bump today. (The loss) might be the toughest I have had as a coach."
The Mountaineers, playing freshman Rasheed Marshall at quarterback after the first three drives led by senior Brad Lewis ended in a punt, fumble and missed field goal, moved the ball well. But West Virginia bogged down inside the red zone and couldn't score. With 6:26 left in the half Marshall hit receiver A.J. Nastasi on a 23-yard pass play to pull ahead, 7-3, at the half. It capped a 10-play, 84-yard drive.
The teams swapped possessions to start the third quarter before Temple put together an eight-play, 42-yard drive capped by a Cap Poklemba field goal from 30-yards out. That pulled the Owls to within one at 7-6.
"Then they got a belief they could win," Wallace said of his players. "I don't think they had it in the first half."
West Virginia drove the ball again only to go for it on fourth and six from the 35-yard line. Marshall threw incomplete to Avon Cobourne and Temple responded with a three-play, 56-yard drive that saw a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty, a 42-yard Tanardo Sharps run and a four-yard face mask flag.
From the 35-yard line Temple was aided by 19 yards in flags and one big play. They punched in to grab the lead from two yards out on a Lester Trammer run. A receiver screen for two-point conversion from quarterback Mac DiVito to wideout Krishan Lewis gave TU a 14-7 lead.
"We stressed it. We talked about keeping poise and things of that nature," Rodriguez said. "I thought we were good, but today was embarrassing. We had a lot of stupid penalties. I don't know what it was. We can't beat anybody doing those kinds of things."
WVU answered with a touchdown drive dominated by Marshall runs, and Temple retook the lead on a 35-yard field goal by Poklemba. Ahead 17-14, TU forced a three and out next possession and were content to grind it out offensively.
West Virginia went three and out after the Owls gained three first downs, and Temple took another 2:46 off the clock on its next drive. Just over 1 1/2 minutes remained when the Mountaineers, out of timeouts, got the ball back.
They had it for seven seconds before Marshall was intercepted to seal the loss.
"That killed us, the mistakes killed us," the signal caller said. "I am very surprised. Overall I don't think they were a better team. The whole year we beat ourselves. It's mistakes. I don't think they were better."
West Virginia, ambushed because of miscues and a lack of concern for a foe, had allowed the Temple Owls to hang by a thread too long.
"We took them lightly," Cobourne said. "We know they should not have beaten us. We made so many mistakes, we didn't prepare like we should have."
Perhaps it was the Owls who controlled the string all along.
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