In Temple’s first Big East Conference game in eight years, coach Steve Addazio said he wanted to see some smash mouth football.
His players responded, compiling a combined 261 yards on the ground to help lead Temple to a 37-28 win against South Florida at Lincoln Financial Field Saturday.
“We really wanted to get our run game going today,” Addazio said. “There was a big part of me early in the week that wanted to go smash mouth football [today]. I just wanted to get going. We didn’t exactly do that but at times we did. That’s who we are.”
Temple went with a no-huddle offense for much of the game and took advantage of it early to strike first with a 24-yard touchdown run by redshirt-junior quarterback Chris Coyer. Senior running backs Matt Brown and Montel Harris combined for 41 yards rushing in a scoring drive that saw Temple gain all 65 of its yards on the ground.
Senior kicker Brandon McManus broke his streak of 59 straight extra points made when his attempt hit the upright to keep it at a 6-0 Temple advantage midway through the first quarter.
After South Florida responded to take a 7-6 lead, the defensive back combination of Tayvon Young and redshirt freshman forced Daniels to fumble at Temple’s nine-yard line, the Owls failed to convert on the scoring opportunity.
After the offense went three and out, McManus set up for a 22-yard field goal attempt, and hit the upright for the second consecutive time.
McManus would later bounce back with a 50-yard field goal as time expired for the half.
“I couldn’t imagine I’d have the start I had today,” McManus said. “I didn’t like those first two kicks at all. I know what I’m capable of doing and unfortunately I didn’t start off well like I wanted. It was important to help the team and to go into halftime with the lead. You could feel the crowd and the momentum change when I made that to go into halftime.”
Brown gave Temple a 16-14 advantage when he carried the ball out to the right side and took it in on the edge for a 15-yard score midway through the third quarter. Coyer then continued his improved passing play with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Booth later in the quarter to make it a 23-14 contest. It was Booth’s first touchdown reception in a Temple uniform.
“There were a couple of things we weren’t quite clicking on in the first half that weren’t quite [right],” Coyer said. “Sometimes the game just changes like that and you have to be ready for it.”
South Florida would bounce back late in the quarter with a four-yard touchdown run by redshirt-senior running back Demetris Murray to pull within two at 23-21.
On a later Temple drive that saw Brown be removed from the game after being tackled awkwardly, Harris came in and later scored on a three-yard run for his first touchdown as an Owl to extend Temple’s lead at 30-21.
Daniels then snuck in for a one-yard touchdown run to pull South Florida back within two at 30-28 with over five minutes to play.
South Florida appeared to gain momentum when a roughing the passer call along with a delay of game penalty after the fact brought USF into field goal territory. A 46-yard attempt by redshirt senior Maikon Bonani was then blocked and returned down to the South Florida 35-yard line by sophomore defensive back Anthony Robey.
Harris then took it in for a 35-yard score on the ensuing play to give Temple the 37-28 lead it would not relinquish. Sophomore defensive back Chris Hutton’s interception sealed the Temple victory with just under a minute left to play.
After being hampered by a strained hamstring early on in the season, Harris had a breakout game Saturday, rushing for 133 yards, with 74 of those coming in the fourth quarter alone.
“I didn’t get a chance to show Temple fans how well I could play,” Harris said. “I was glad I was able to finally run the ball and get a win today.”
With the win, Temple is now 1-0 in conference play and 2-2 overall. It was Temple’s first Big East win since the university was expelled from the conference in 2004.
“This is a great win for our program,” Addazio said. “It’s an emotional win because it’s Temple back in the Big East conference. Our first [Big East conference] game and we’re making a statement that our program is headed in the right direction and that we’ll be a valued member of this conference.”
“I’m not going to stand here and tell you that this game makes the season,” Addazio added. “But this a great moment and we’re going to enjoy it.”
Andrew Parent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @daParent93