For the second consecutive week, Temple’s defense walked onto the field with a lead and less than six minutes remaining on the game clock.
After failing to stop Notre Dame’s offense in the team’s loss Oct. 31, the Owls’ defense stopped Southern Methodist on fourth down with 2:31 seconds remaining on their way to a 60-40 victory against Southern Methodist Friday at Gerald J. Ford stadium in Dallas Texas.
Senior linebacker Tyler Matakevich deflected Southern Methodist junior quarterback Matt Davis’ pass on fourth down and junior quarterback P.J. Walker scored on a 36-yard run three plays later, giving the Owls, the No. 23 team in the AP Top 25 poll, a 53-40 lead.
Sophomore defensive back Sean Chandler intercepted Davis and returned the ball 41 yards with 55 seconds remaining to give the Owls (8-1, 5-0 American Athletic Conference) 60 points, the most the team has scored since its 59-0 victory against Delaware State Sept. 20, 2014.
Walker totaled 268 yards passing and four touchdowns, connecting on 18 of 25 pass attempts and rushed for 49 yards and one score.
Friday night’s game was the first time this season Walker threw more than two touchdowns in a game and the second most yards passing the quarterback has totaled in 2015. Coming into the game, Walker had thrown for more than 200 yards passing twice this season.
After a holding penalty from redshirt-sophomore linebacker Nick Sharga in the end zone on a punt resulted in a safety with 8:16 remaining in the game, the Mustangs returned the ensuing free kick 80 yards for a touchdown to bring the score to 45-40.
Walker led the Owls on a three-play, 36-yard drive to give Temple a 53-40 lead with 1:56 remaining. Walker threw a two-point conversion to redshirt-senior wide receiver John Christopher following the score.
Following a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, the Mustangs outscored the Owls 28-10 over the next 24 minutes of play, culminating with a nine-yard touchdown run from Southern Methodist freshman running back Xavier Jones to give the Mustangs a 28-24 lead with 6:45 remaining in the third quarter.
The Owls responded with a two-yard touchdown run from junior running back Jahad Thomas, who did not start the game due to injury, and a 34-yard field goal from sophomore Austin Jones with 23 second remaining in the quarter to regain the lead, 38-24.
David threw a touchdown pass to junior tight end Jeremiah Gaines with 12:15 remaining in the fourth quarter, trimming the Owls lead to 38-31.
Nine seconds later, Walker found redshirt-freshman Ventell Bryant for a 75-yard touchdown, increasing the Owls lead to 45-31.
The 40 points allowed by Temple’s defense were the most the team allowed this season and the most since Southern Methodist defeated the Owls 59-49 Oct. 26, 2013. Coming into the game, the Owls were allowing 15.75 points per game.
Freshman running back Jager Gardner started the game for the Owls and scored his second carry of the game on a 94-yard touchdown run, the first of his career and the longest running play in Temple history.
Gardner finished the game with a career-high 110 yards rushing and one touchdown on six carries.
After receiving his first carry with 6:04 remaining in the second quarter, Thomas totaled 15 carries for 66 yards rushing and one touchdown. Through nine games, the junior has 15 total touchdowns, including 14 on the ground.
Redshirt-senior wide receiver Robby Anderson caught four passes for 83 yards and a score. It was the second time this season Anderson totaled more than 80 yards receiving.
Michael Guise can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Michael_Guise.