by Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
Pssst. Got a good one for ya.
That Temple football victory Friday night against South Florida, the one in which the Owls ran for better than 300 yards, controlled the clock throughout and somehow managed to keep one of the nation's most explosive offenses in check when it mattered most, well, that's the best one of the Matt Rhule era.
In fact, it may be the best in the program's history, post-Pop Warner days at least.
Oh, beating Penn State last season was big, ending a 74-year drought against its Big Brother within the commonwealth. The Owls also got a couple bowl wins to claim, as well as some against ranked opponents, including one against No. 21 East Carolina in 2014 with Rhule at the helm, and, of course, there was last year's prime-time Halloween special that saw Temple earn a morale victory against Notre Dame before a national-TV audience.
But, really, when you factor in the importance of this latest win, against a quality opponent that not only was the American Athletic Conference East Division favorite, but, frankly, a tougher opponent than Penn State was last year, East Carolina was the year before, and that it actually resulted in another notch on the actual “W” column, kinda tough to argue the merits of the aforementioned sentiments.
Maybe we could research the annals of a mostly dismal Temple grid history to come up with some long-ago decision worthy of greater celebration, but nothing has been better during Rhule's reign.
South Florida, at worst, was the third-best team the Cherry & White had faced in the four seasons the ex-Penn State linebacker has been running the show on Broad Street. ND last year was the best, and Houston's 2015 edition may have been better than this 2016 Bulls squad – but not by much.
That one-two tandem of quarterback Quinton Flowers and running back Marlon Mack, the pairing that absolutely decimated Temple last season in Tampa, Fla., is about as electric as electric gets in the college game. Yet, the Owls did a pretty impressive job keeping them under wraps, certainly much better than last year's far-more-ballyhooed defense headed by Tyler Matakevich did.
The two were responsible for all four USF touchdowns in this one, but neither got “off” to the point where they dominated the game – and both did so last November. Paced by Averee Robinson's 2.5 sacks, the Owls got to Flowers a total of 4 times ... among their 11 tackles for loss. Not bad.
Not bad on offense, either. Going ruan-heavy in this one, the Owls were beautiful to watch in essentially muscling their way to the top of the division, sophomore Ryquell Armstead cranking out 210 yards and 2 TDs, benefiting from the brilliant kick-out blocking of fullback Nick Sharga. Jahad Thomas added a pair of rushing scores and freshman wildcat-formation specialist Isaiah Wright 58 yards on just 6 carries.
For good measure, senior signal-caller Phillip Walker calmly, coolly led the attack and posted a highly efficient 14-for-21, 209-yard, 1-TD night himself.
The end result ... Temple finally reached .500 under Rhule (23-23), it reclaimed the top spot in the AAC East, it positioned itself to make a run at not only a second straight appearance in the conference title game but a second straight bowl appearance, too.
Take away the magic dust surrounding last season's 7-1 start, the reality is this 5-3 squad actually is playing better right now than that one was at the same juncture.
With the best win in a long time, if not ever, for the program already in the back pocket.
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