PHILADELPHIA, PA. 11/28/2015 – The meaning of the game was simple for the #25 Temple Owls, win and earn another meaningful game next week. That game is the American Championship game. The Cherry and White earned it winning 27 – 3 over the Connecticut Huskies before 28,236 at the Linc on Senior Night. The Temple Owls are the winners of the American Athletic Conference Eastern Division, and will travel to Houston to meet the Cougars for the title.
“This was a championship game,” said Temple Coach Matt Rhule. “To win the Eastern Division is a big deal to us. To have a chance to play in the first-ever championship game is a big deal. What I want to see is for us to play great in big moments. I want to see us answer the call in big moments, and we did that tonight. You want to have a championship culture, and that’s what I saw from our guys.”
The Owls did it behind a stellar defensive effort. The Cherry and White defense held the Huskies to 138 yards of total offense, 9 rushing and 129 passing, the lowest total since giving up since 134 yards against UCF this season. The 9 yards given up on the ground was one shy of the season low recorded against Tulane in October. Linebacker Tyler Matakevich led the team with a game-best 11 tackles. Connecticut punted the ball 7 times. The Huskies only points came on a 45-yard field goal by Bobby Puyol with 5:52 left in the fourth quarter.
“We couldn’t run it or block,” said Connecticut Coach Bob Diaco. “There were guys roaring through the backfield. We had off-target passing. It was just abysmal.”
Temple’s defense hit a rough stretch giving up 40 or more points in two games against SMU and USF, but seems to have found their swagger again holding their opponent without a touchdown for two straight games.
“We just went back to our basics,” said Matakevich. “We focused on the little details and it clearly showed out there tonight.”
Offensively, Temple got a rushing touchdown from running back Jahad Thomas in the first quarter. It was the 11th game where Thomas scored a rushing touchdown. He added another scoring run going 60 yards in the fourth quarter, his longest run of the season. Thomas ran for 119 yards, his 5th 100-yard game of the season, and has 19 touchdowns this season. Wide Receiver Robby Anderson made 6 catches for 42 yards, and became the 7th Owl player with more than 50 receptions in a season with 52.
With win Temple posts a 10 – 2 record for the season, 7 – 1 in the American. The East is theirs, the conference title is on the line, and could lead to a New Year’s Day Bowl Game for the Owls. They can celebrate now with the knowledge there is more to do.
“This is an amazing feeling; I don’t think it’s really has hit me yet,” Matakevich said. “Once you see that trophy finally in your hands, there’s no greater feeling than that but you can’t be satisfied yet. We didn’t work hard all year just to get there – we want to win. We’ll enjoy this tonight but we have the conference championship next week.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian