The situation looked eerily familiar.
With 32 seconds to play in the fourth quarter on Saturday against Central Florida, senior quarterback Phillip Walker and the Owls’ offense took over at the 30-yard line with no timeouts, trailing by five points.
Against Penn State on Sept. 17, Temple had the ball with 37 seconds and no timeouts needing a touchdown to tie the game. Walker threw an interception on the second play from scrimmage to end hopes of a comeback.
In last week’s game against Memphis, the Owls needed to go 80 yards in 50 seconds to score a game-tying touchdown. Temple got 34 yards on three plays before an interception thrown by Walker essentially ended the game.
This time Temple’s senior quarterback—who had completed just eight of 20 passes before the drive—came through, giving Temple (4-3, 2-1 American Athletic Conference) a 26-25 win in miracle fashion.
Walker started with a 20-yard pass to redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Ventell Bryant. Then the pair connected for a 16-yard pass. The two connected again for a 26-yard gain across the middle to move the ball inside Central Florida’s 10-yard line.
Instead of spiking the ball to stop the clock with less than 10 seconds left, Walker lofted a pass to redshirt-junior wide receiver Keith Kirkwood in the back of the end zone for the game-winning score with one tick left on the clock.
The win moves the Owls into second place in The American’s East Division behind South Florida, who the team faces next Friday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
Temple had two shots to take the lead before Walker’s late game heroics. After an interception by redshirt-senior defensive back Nate Hairston, the Owls drove down to the Knights’ 31-yard line. Two incompletions led to a 4th-and-15 with 6:21 left.
Coach Matt Rhule called timeout and unsuccessfully went for it rather than attempting a 48-yard field goal with freshman Aaron Boumerhi.
Walker led the Owls back into Knights’ territory on the next offensive series, but the drive ended with a sack on 4th-and-18 with 1:41 left.
The Owls’ defense forced three-and-outs after both failed conversions to give the team another chance.
Central Florida freshman quarterback McKenzie Milton had two passing touchdowns and a 63-yard rushing touchdown in the first half to help put the Knights up 25-7 with 12:34 left in the second quarter. After the long touchdown run, Temple’s defense held the Knights scoreless for the game’s last 42 minutes, 34 seconds.
Led by redshirt-senior defensive lineman Haason Reddick and redshirt-senior tight end Romond Deloatch, who each had two sacks, Temple accumulated seven sacks for 69 yards. The sacks took their toll on Milton who only completed three passes in the second half. He completed 13-of-22 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns on the night.
The Owls’ rushing attack controlled the clock and kept the Knights’ offense off the field. Temple had the ball for more than 37 minutes, compared to Central Florida’s 22:42.
Senior running back Jahad Thomas carried the ball 27 times for 120 yards and a seven-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. He also had a receiving touchdown, bringing his season. He now has 10 total touchdowns in five games. Sophomore running back Ryquell Armstead added 78 yards on the ground.
The offense’s efficiency did not peak until the final drive. The Owls settled for two field goals from Boumerhi in the second half before Kirkwood’s touchdown reception. Temple combined to convert four of its 19 opportunities on third and fourth downs. Walker had only thrown for 97 yards before the final series in the two-minute drill.
Owen McCue and Evan Easterling can be reached at email@example.com.