Before Avery Williams walked off Lincoln Financial Field two years ago, he was stopped by a Cincinnati offensive lineman.
“Guess y’all not going to a bowl game this year,” the Bearcats’ player said to Williams after the Owls’ loss dropped them to 5-6.
Temple won at Tulane the next week and finished that season 6-6, but did not receive an invitation to any of college football’s postseason games.
On the same field as the unruly exchange two years ago, Williams and Temple clinched bowl eligibility for the third year in a row with a 34-13 win against the Bearcats on Saturday.
“That stuck with me,” Williams said. “So these two years I just wanted to beat them. I still don’t like them though.”
Temple (6-3, 4-1 American Athletic Conference) remained in first place in The American’s East division with Saturday night’s win. While Central Florida lost to Houston on Saturday, South Florida’s victory against Navy on Friday night put the pressure on the Owls to grab a victory.
Coach Matt Rhule said he caught parts of the Central Florida game Saturday. But the team isn’t checking box scores or conference standings to figure out all the scenarios to get to the conference championship game. If the Owls continue to win, they’re guaranteed a spot anyway.
“We’re not really worried about losing,” said redshirt-senior tight end and defensive Romond Deloatch. “We feel like we’re not going to lose no more.”
With eight minutes, 21 seconds left in the first half, the two teams looked poised for a high-scoring shootout. They’d just scored a combined 27 points in a little more than 10 minutes of action. Bearcats’ redshirt-senior quarterback Gunner Kiel was giving Temple fits with quick passes to receivers on the outside.
The Owls held Cincinnati scoreless on its last two drives of the second quarter. The last stop came after Temple gave Cincinnati the ball back at its own 45-yard line with 31 seconds left in the half. The defense continued its success into the second half, keeping Cincinnati off the board for the rest of the game.
Cincinnati tallied just 186 yards of total offense. Temple kept the Bearcats from breaking off big chunks of yards. Cincinnati’s longest play from scrimmage was a 19-yard pass.
“If you don’t give up big plays, we’ll play well on defense,” defensive coordinator Phil Snow said.
For the third game in a row, the Owls ran the ball more than 50 times. After 51 rushing attempts in the past two contests, Temple ran the ball 60 times for 275 yards.
Sophomore running back Ryquell Armstead ran for 210 yards and two touchdowns last week, and followed it up with 61 yards and two touchdowns Saturday.
Senior running back Jahad Thomas picked up most of the yards Saturday, running 17 times for 151 yards. He broke off a 56-yard run in the second quarter that set up a 28-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Phillip Walker to redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Ventell Bryant. He added a 35-yard run later in the game, which set up one of Armstead’s touchdown runs.
It looked like Armstead was stopped around the two-yard line on the play, but as the pile of players around him grew, the sophomore running back kept his legs moving, inching them all toward the end zone with him. The score put Temple up 27-13. After Temple recovered a squib kick on the ensuing kickoff, Armstead punched in a 6-yard score to put the Owls up by three touchdowns.
“You’re going to have a lot of runs that are one, two, three yards,” offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas said. “You just gotta keep patient, keep patient then you’re going to have a couple big ones pop.”
Owen McCue can be reached at owen.mccue at temple.edu or on Twitter @Owen_McCue
Walker completed 12 of 19 passes for 199 yards and two touchdown. The senior did not throw a touchdown for the second straight week. … Freshman kicker Aaron Boumerhi continued the perfect start to his career, converting both of his field goal attempts and all four extra points Saturday. … Redshirt-senior defensive lineman Avery Ellis blocked a kick for the second week in a row. … Junior defensive back Sean Chandler returned to the lineup after missing the past four games with an injury. … Redshirt-senior defensive lineman Haason Reddick passed Tyler Matakevich for second all-time in tackles for loss.