PHILADELPHIA, PA. 11/1/2014 – For the Temple Owls to defeat their 21st ranked opponent Pirates of East Carolina University the coaching staff wanted an aggressive defense, then turn the ball over to the running game. The plan worked and allowed the Cherry and White to post 20 – 10 win over the 21st ranked Pirates on a rainy day at The Linc. This was the first win over a ranked opponent for Temple since defeating #14 Virginia Tech in 1998, and the first time they took down a top 25 team at home.
“We’re thrilled and excited,” said Temple Coach Matt Rhule. “I couldn’t be happier for our players. I thought that they went out and did exactly what you had to do to win that game. Two things: they had to be extremely competitive, which I thought we were. We didn’t panic when they
made a play. They’re an extremely good team, and we got to the quarterback and just gave up no big plays. Secondly, I thought we were extremely unselfish. I was saying we were going to run the ball three more times, take four more minutes off the clock and put it in the defense’s hands. It was just an unselfish team win.”
Defensively the Owls held the high-powered Pirates offense that averaged almost 40 points per game to 10. ECU gained 432 on offense, more than 100 yard under their average, The most important factor was that Temple reestablished their identity as a defense that causes turnovers. In the contest the Pirates fumbled the ball seven times, losing five.
“If you look at all of the games that we’ve won, when we have turnovers and win the turnover margin, we usually come out on top,” said Temple junior linebacker Tyler Matakevich who had a game-high 16 tackles, all solo. “We knew going into this game that was going to be the key, and we bought in the whole week and focused on no big plays and turnovers.”
The first fumble resulted in a touchdown for the Owls. ECU running back Breon Allen was hit at the Temple 30 by junior defensive tackle Praise Martin-Oguike. Owls junior defensive back Tavon Young scooped up the ball and returned it for 63 yards and a touchdown for a 7 – 0 lead. Later in the quarter an Allen fumbled was recovered by junior defensive back Will Hayes. The turnover began a drive the was capped by a one-yard touchdown run by the Owls senior running back Kenneth Harper and 14 – 0 advantage.
Special teams played a role. In the third quarter ECU drove to the Temple 24. The field goal attempt of 41 yards was blocked by Martin-Oguike. The Cherry and White took over and put together a 12 play, 76 yard drive taking 5:55 capped by the second touchdown of the day by Harper. The extra point attempt snap was fumbled and a pass by senior holder Connor Reilly fell incomplete. Still, the Owls held a 20 – 3 lead with 4:36 on the clock.
Temple kept East Carolina out of the endzone until the fourth quarter with 2:15 to play when running back Marquez Grayson scored on a 2 yard run.
Rhule challenged his running game to shorten the game. The Owls ran the ball 37 times for 65 yards, but attempted only 19 passes. The backs were ready to be a factor.
“It feels good for all of the running backs knowing the coaching staff has trust in us,” said Harper. “We just wanted to do what we had to do and come out with the win.”
The victory snapped a two-game conference losing streak for Temple (5 – 3, 3-2). The Cherry and White prepare for a Friday night American Athletic Conference home game against Memphis. The Owls go into that game with a significant win over a ranked opponent.
“For Temple it’s big because we haven’t beaten a top-ranked team since beating Virginia Tech in 1998,” Harper said. “For us we see them as another good team and a test for us. We just want to keep pushing, stacking the chips, and continually getting better.”
“This is huge for us. it gets us over the hump,” Matakevich said. “We dug ourselves into a ditch, and this is definitely one great way to get out of it. I know we’re going to enjoy this win tonight, beating a top ranked team. That’s definitely something we have to pat ourselves on the back for. We’re going to enjoy it and get right back to work. We got a short week to get ready for Memphis.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian