Temple came into Saturday night’s game against South Florida with a chance to clinch the American Athletic Conference’s East Division.
Ranked No. 22 in the AP Top 25 Poll, the Owls (8-2, 5-1 American Athletic Conference) lost to South Florida 44-23 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
Temple has a one-game lead over the Bulls in the East Division with two games remaining on its schedule—home contests against Memphis and Connecticut.
South Florida sophomore running back Marlon Mack, who came into Saturday night’s game with The American’s second highest yards rushing per game average, led the Bulls with 230 yards rushing and three total touchdowns.
Mack had a 57-yard touchdown run and caught a 20-yard touchdown pass in the first half, which contributed to a 17-0 run at the end of the second quarter for the Bulls, giving South Florida a 31-10 lead at halftime.
The sophomore running back put the game away with a 48-yard touchdown run with 2:38 left in the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 44-23.
The South Florida offense totaled 556 yards of total offense in Saturday night’s win. It was the second time this season the Temple defense gave up more than 500 yards. Against Cincinnati Sept. 12, the Owls allowed 557 yards of offense in 34-26 win.
Temple scored first in the game when junior running back Jahad Thomas capped an eight-play, 77-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run.
Thomas who came into the game as The American’s leading rusher at 107.8 yards per game, ran 16 times for 65 yards and did not record a catch.
After rushing for 100 yards or more in four of the team’s first six games, Thomas has not rushed for more than 82 yards in the team’s previous four contests.
The Bulls responded to Thomas’ score 20 seconds later with a 68-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Quinton Flowers to wide receiver junior Rodney Adams.
After junior quarterback P.J. Walker threw his fifth interception of the season on the ensuing drive, Flowers used a five-yard run to put his team up 14-7 with 14:49 left in the fourth quarter.
Flowers ran 18 times for 90 yards in the contest. Opposing quarterbacks have run for 90 or more yards against Temple in three straight games.
On the opening kick of the second half, redshirt-junior defensive lineman Praise Martin-Oguike recovered a Bulls’ fumble at the South Florida 26-yard line.
Walker hit redshirt-freshman wide receiver Ventell Bryant for a 14-yard touchdown pass more than three minutes into the half closing the gap to 14 points, but the Bulls outscored Temple 13-6 and kept their advantage at double digits for the rest of the contest.
In the win at Southern Methodist, Walker was 18-of-25 for 268 yards passing and four touchdowns along with 49 yards rushing and rushing touchdown. Saturday night Walker completed 20 of his 48 passes for for 259 yards and added 28 yards rushing.
Owen McCue can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Owen_MCue