PHILADELPHIA (AP) Temple had the perfect mix for its first victory over a ranked opponent in 16 years: aggressive defense, team discipline and a lot of rain.
All were present Saturday as Temple forced five fumbles and managed the game well enough offensively for a 20-10 victory over No. 21 East Carolina.
It was Temple’s first win over a ranked opponent since beating then-No. 14 Virginia Tech 28-24 on October 17, 1998, in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Temple beat a ranked team for just the third time in school history, and it was the Owls’ first victory against a ranked opponent at home. Temple had been 0-34 against ranked teams since beating the Hokies.
Kenny Harper scored two touchdowns for the Owls (5-3, 3-2 AAC) but the difference-makers were on the defensive side of the ball.
”There’s no better feeling than beating a ranked team like ECU,” said junior linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who led Temple with 16 solo tackles. ”The difference between this year and last year is, last year we would be clock-watching with the lead, hoping it would run out for us, praying for it even. This year we’re just going to keep doing what we do well until that clock hits zero. We don’t look up until it’s all over.”
And when it was over, the Temple defense and special teams had forced five fumbles and blocked one field goal, thwarting the top-ranked offense in the AAC.
”They did a good job of getting in there and trying to strip the ball on every play,” said Pirates running back Chris Hairston, who rushed for 153 yards but was responsible for one fumble. ”That’s no excuse though. We need to cover that ball up in traffic and make sure it doesn’t come out. I know it was wet out there, and that makes it challenging, but still we have to find a way.”
Playing much of the game in a driving rain storm, Temple appeared to be the more composed team and played relatively mistake-free, jumping out to a 14-point lead in the first quarter and never looking back.
”Last week, we were a little bit shell-shocked coming home from the loss to Central Florida,” said Temple coach Matt Rhule. ”As a staff, we made a decision. (Former Temple men’s basketball coach) John Chaney came in and talked to us and told us that in order to win at Temple you have to play tough. … that’s T-U-F-F, which is John Chaney tough.
”So, this week we wanted to get back to who and what Temple is: play good defense and special teams and run the football. We did that, and I couldn’t be more excited for our guys.”
The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Pirates (6-2, 3-1 AAC), who were whistled for 12 penalties worth 120 yards. The loss also spoiled East Carolina’s bid for the best eight-game start in school history.
Temple didn’t muster much offense. Harper led the way with two scores and 30 yards rushing on 12 carries.
East Carolina managed just three points in the first half. The Pirates were slowed by three fumbles by their running backs, including two by Breon Allen that led to Temple scores.
Tavon Young returned Allen’s first fumble 63 yards for a touchdown, giving Temple the early lead. Harper spun into the end zone from the 1-yard line to cap a six-play, 40-yard drive following Allen’s second fumble, making it 14-0.
Harper’s second touchdown came from 2 yards out and capped the only sustained offensive drive by Temple in the game, a 12-play, 76-yard sequence that built Temple’s lead to 20-3 in the third quarter.
The Pirates’ offense, which entered the game leading the AAC in yards per game (566.9) and points per game (39.6) struggled throughout.
Allen spent much of the second half on the bench after coughing up the ball twice. Quarterback Shane Carden, who was last week’s ACC player of the week, was held to 217 yards passing. He was sacked four times and fumbled once.
Marquez Grayson supplied the lone touchdown for East Carolina, and that didn’t come until the final minutes of the game, with the outcome all but decided.
Temple defensive end Praise Martin-Oguike, who disrupted Carden’s rhythm the entire game, also had a big game finishing with 1.5 sacks, 3.5 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles.