PHILADELPHIA, PA. 10/11/2014 – The Temple Owls were expecting a battle against the Golden Hurricane of Tulsa. The Cherry and White got one. Temple got career day from running back Jahad Thomas, and showing fourth quarter resiliency Temple earned a 35 – 24 win over Tulsa in front of a Homecoming Day crowd of 25,340 at the Linc.
Thomas set a career-best 152 yards rushing on 14 carries despite missing some time in the game. He unexpectedly started the game. The move paid off as the sophomore back broke loose for a 68 yard run to the Tulsa 11 yard line on the first play of the game.
“It gave me a lot of confidence,” said Thomas about the run. “The last few games I’ve been in a slump and been very hard on myself, but I realized that you have to take every opportunity that you are given. I did that today.”
Three plays later senior running back Kenneth Harper scampered 8 yards up the middle for the opening score of the game. In the fourth quarter Thomas turned in a 34 yard gain settling Temple up in Tulsa territory. Two carries later Thomas got the ball 28 yards from the end zone. On a 3rd and 17 sophomore quarterback P.J. Walker found Thomas on a screen pass who ran up the right sideline for the final score of the game to give Temple the control with just over 3 minutes remaining in the game.
“I saw the end zone,” Thomas said about his view turning up the field after catching the ball. “It was a great block by the right guard and the right tackle that got out. Jalen (Fitzpatrick) had a great block and was able to escort me into the end zone.”
“He broke the early ones and we wanted to keep feeding it to him,” said Temple Coach Matt Rhule about Thomas. “He got hurt on the kickoff return and he fumbled the first return, so he was down for a while. When he got back in, we were able to get him going again. He has great change of direction and great quickness, and he is growing in the position.”
Thomas played defensive back last season.
Also making a record-setting contribution was junior running back Jamie Gilmore who registered a career-best 100 yards receiving. Gilmore also ran for 43 yards. He turned a 64 yard reception and a 32 yard run during the game.
The usually opportunistic Temple defense did not get a takeaway, but came up with a goal-line stand at the end of the second quarter. Tulsa was poised to go into the end zone and take a 7 point lead. Facing a 4th and 1 at the 1 yard line the Golden Hurricane gave the ball to running back Zack Langer, who rushed for 113 yards in the game. Langer went up the middle, but was met by Temple junior linebackers Nate D. Smith and Tyler Matakevich who stopped him short of the goal line with 2 minutes to intermission.
“We just lined up and everyone did their job,” said Matakevich. “It was just me and Nate’s play to make. Nate held him up and I came over the top and finished him. That’s what we were supposed to do, and that was huge for us.”
The Owls responded with a 5-play, 99 yard drive in 1:39, highlighted by the 64 yard reception by Gilmore to take a 21 – 14 halftime lead. Walker scored on a 5-yard run with 21 seconds on the clock.
Still, the Cherry and White could not pull away. Tulsa scored on the first possession of the second half when quarterback Dane Evans found wide receiver Keevan Lucas for a 29 yard touchdown to tie the game. Lucas caught 9 passes in the game for 109 yards. Evans threw for 260 yards and 2 scores.
Tulsa took a 24 – 21 lead in the fourth quarter in a 44-yard field goal by Carl Salazar. The Owls looked answer, but freshman kicker Austin Jones missed on a 37 yard field goal attempt at the 13:36 mark.
Undaunted, Temple got the ball back and responded with a 3 play, 64 yard drive in 1:05 when Walker threw a 30 yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jalen Fitzpatrick, who caught 5 passes for 107 yards, to get the lead back at 28 – 24.
In the game Walker completed 15 of 31 passes for 294 yards. He had 2 touchdowns and an interception.
Senior quarterback Connor Reilly scored a touchdown off a fake field goal in the second quarter giving the Cherry and White a 14 – 7 lead.
“It was kind of up and down game, but I am excited we had a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter,” said Rhule. “I’m proud of these guys for showing so much resolve and that they can battle to the end of the game.”
“It shows how far we’ve come,” Gilmore said. “Last year we lost a lot of games in the end, and this year we’ve gotten over that hump.”
It will be a short week for the Owls (4 – 1, 2 – 0) as they will meet the Houston Cougars on Friday, October 17 in a road contest.
Written By: Glenn Papazian