Despite some hiccups along the road this season, Temple is now right where it planned on being to start 2016: atop the American Athletic Conference East Division.
Temple turned the tables on run-oriented South Florida to gash the Bulls for 319 yards rushing (210 coming from Ryquell Armstead) in a 46-30 win at Lincoln Financial Field on Friday night.
The Owls (5-3, 3-1 AAC) avenged last season’s blowout with the win and, more importantly, moved into a first-place tie in the conference’s East Division. With back-to-back victories over South Florida and Central Florida, Temple now holds tiebreakers over the two closest teams in the East standings.
South Florida (6-2, 3-1 AAC) had its three-game winning streak snapped.
After falling behind 23-20 on a quick three-play, 84-yard touchdown drive, the Owls’ defense looked like it might allow the floodgates to open for good.
However, Temple’s offense picked up the D by scoring in just three plays of its own. Jahad Thomas and Isaiah Wright churned out big runs before Armstead broke free around the right side for a 42-yard touchdown.
Even with South Florida getting good field position on the next possession thanks to a taunting penalty by Armstead, the Owls’ defense was able to pick up on the momentum. The unit forced a three-and-out and then blocked the ensuing punt to get the ball back at the Bulls’ 20-yard line.
Two plays later, Thomas scampered into the end zone from nine yards out to give Temple a double-digit lead.
Big men on campus
Armstead did the heavy lifting for Temple. He racked up 20 carries for 210 yards, to become the 10th back in school history to reach the 200-yard rushing plateau. He ran in scores from 76 yards and 42 yards out. The 76-yarder was TU’s eighth-longest touchdown run in school history.
Jahad Thomas increased his streak of two-TD games to six with a pair of rushing scores in the second half.
Phillip Walker was efficient for the Owls as he completed 14 of 21 passes for 209 yards with one TD and zero interceptions.
Ventell Bryant had five catches for 115 yards to top the 100-yard receiving mark for the first time in his career.
Linebacker Stephaun Marshall led Temple with eight tackles while Delvon Randall had seven tackles and an interception. Averee Robinson had a pair of sacks for the Owls and Romond Deloatch tacked on a sack for a safety.
For USF, the dynamic duo of quarterback Quinton Flowers and Marlon Mack combined for 377 total yards and four touchdowns.
Inside the box score
• Matt Rhule improved his all-time record to 23-23 with the win.
• Temple moved to 4-1 at Lincoln Financial Field this season.
• South Florida had won nine straight AAC East Division games prior to Friday night.
• USF entered the game ranked eighth in the nation in rushing yards per game (268.4). The Bulls were held to 165 against Temple.
• Praise Martin-Oguike blocked an extra point to give him an NCAA-leading five blocked kicks in his career.
Friday’s game marked the third all-time matchup between the two schools.
South Florida rolled to a 44-23 win over then-ranked No. 22 Temple last season, while TU took the first-ever meeting, 37-28, back in 2012.
The Big 12 Conference announced earlier this week that it would no longer be seeking teams for possible expansion.
That decision certainly wasn’t made for a lack of effort as over a dozen schools were rumored to be potential expansion candidates, including American Athletic Conference programs Houston, Connecticut, Cincinnati and Tulane.
The possibility of an AAC team defecting to a Power 5 conference didn’t bother Commissioner Mike Aresco. For him, it’s all good publicity for the up-and-coming American.
“It spoke volumes about the fact that our schools are the ones that everybody looked at in terms of being in a P5 (Power 5 conference) and we were the schools that the Big 12 looked at for the most part,” Aresco said before Friday’s Temple-South Florida game at Lincoln Financial Field. “The majority of our schools and at times it almost seemed like it was virtually all of our schools and exclusively our schools.
“The truth is, that really gave us the kind of publicity and attention and a lot of it was good. Our schools are good schools and we played well. Houston had the big win in the meantime against Oklahoma. That was priceless publicity. We probably haven’t gotten that kind of branding and recognition nationally any other way.”
Temple will be back at the Linc next Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. matchup against Cincinnati.
South Florida returns home next Friday for a big tilt against No. 24 Navy.