PHILADELPHIA, PA. 10/17/2015 – The Temple Owls trailed to the UCF Knights into the fourth quarter. The Owls were down 16 – 14 and were committing turnovers on offense and special teams. Two of the fumbles were on punt returns. Early in the fourth quarter the sophomore return specialist Sean Chandler, who committed the previous turnover, turned the game around in favor of the Cherry and White with a 65-yard punt return that set the ball at the Knights 21 yard line. Two plays later junior running back Jahad Thomas ran for a 22-yard touchdown. Along with a 2-point conversion Temple took a 22 – 16 lead, then controlled the game on the ground to earn a 30 – 16 win in front of 31,372 at the Linc. Temple remains undefeated at 6 – 0.
“I thought Chandler showed amazing resolve in fumbling that punt, and then come back on the next one that changed the game,” said Temple Coach Matt Rhule.
“As soon as that happened he (Chandler) was on the field, and I went over to him and he said ‘I’m going to get one back for us’,” said senior linebacker Tyler Matakevich. “That’s all he said.”
Thomas ran for 199 yards on 31 carries and three touchdowns. The rushing attack headed by the junior helped Temple survive.
After the initial drive of the game in which the Owls scored on a 12-yard run by Thomas, the offense appeared to be out of sync. Leading 14 – 3 in the second quarter junior quarterback P.J. Walker was intercepted at the UCF 20. Knights defensive back Shaquill Griffin turned it into a pick-six on an 80-yard return for a touchdown. It was the first interception by UCF this season.
Just over a minute before halftime the Knight got to within a point on a Matthew Wright 27-yard field goal. He would put the Knights ahead 16 – 14 making a 41-yarder at the 11:39 mark. Wright converted all three of his field goal attempts.
Credit the Temple defense with keeping the team in contention forcing field goals that could have been touchdowns, and limiting the damage of the turnovers. Three times UCF would get a turnover that would give them the ball on the Owls side of the field. The Cherry and White defense would turn them away or limit the damage to a field goal. Chandler got a key interception at the Temple 25 with just under seven minutes remaining in the third quarter and the Owls trailing by two points.
“It’s huge,” said Matakevich of the impact of not giving up touchdowns in those situations. “Twice they got the ball inside our 30 yard line, and we held them to a field goal both times. One time we got a pick. That changes the game completely. If you get the ball inside the 30, you think you’re getting points. We are going to keep pushing, digging, and we are not going to let you score.”
“We had opportunities out there,” said UCF Coach George O’Leary. “You just don’t get the ball in good field position; you have to put points on the board. We didn’t get that done.”
The UCF offense was held in check as Temple gave up 134 yards of total offense, 67 on both the ground and through the air. Matakevich led the Owls with 8 tackles which gives him 408 career tackles which leads the nation.
Once the defense was established, the ground game took over. Thomas ran for 137 yards on the second half. His touchdown runs were 12, 22, and 21 yards. As a team the Cherry and White ran for 212 total yards on 41 carries.
“I knew we were trying to put the game away,” said Thomas. “I was trying to get another touchdown and give us a comfortable lead and solidify the win.”
Walker 15 of 27 for 149 yards and had a touchdown to freshman wide receiver Ventell Bryant, his first collegiate scoring reception.
The Owls are off to their best start since 1974, and are bowl eligible. Temple has a Thursday night game at East Carolina before returning home to face Notre Dame on Halloween.
“We are happy to be 6 – 0 for the guys were were 2 – 10, who didn’t go to a bowl game, for the guys who stuck with us and worked and worked, to know they are 6 – 0 and are bowl eligible, I am proud of them and happy for them,” said Rhule.
Written By: Glenn Papazian