TAMPA, Fla. — Temple’s defense, led by Quincy Roche, had nine sacks and Sam Franklin had a 39-yard fumble return for a touchdown Thursday night as the Owls became bowl eligible with a 17-7 win over South Florida at Raymond James Stadium.

Temple (6-3) is likely to go to a bowl game of for the fifth consecutive year and the ninth time in the program’s history.

“[Making a bowl is] big,” Temple coach Rod Carey said. “We are trying to establish a tradition here. And we are young in that tradition. So any time you can do that, get to a bowl and repeat it, it’s a good thing."

Two weeks after giving up 63 points and 614 yards to UCF, the Temple defense wanted to make a statement. Roche had 3 1/2 sacks as Temple held South Florida to just 61 rushing yards.

“Coach called [the defense] out big time this week,” Roche said. “They really called us out and we had to respond. We had no choice but to respond. This was our way of responding. If [the defensive line] does our job at a high level, everything else will be taken care of.”

Dana Levine added 1 1/2 sacks and DeAndre Kelly had a sack and a forced fumble.

"They have a young quarterback,” Carey said. “He is a good football player. We wanted to get pressure on him with our front four and we did a pretty good job of getting that done tonight.”

Quarterbacks Anthony Russo and Todd Centeio split time running the Owls offense, which managed to make enough plays to keep a comfortable lead for most of the game.

The Owls took a 7-0 with 1:29 remaining in the first half when Centeio threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kenny Yeboah. The scoring play was set up by a 57-yard rush from Jager Gardner that gave Temple a first-and-goal at the South Florida 2.

Franklin’s score came with 4:45 remaining in the third quarter. South Florida quarterback Jordan McCloud completed a short pass to Terrence Horne and Owls cornerback Christian Braswell stripped him on the tackle. Franklin scooped up the loose ball at the 39 and ran untouched into the end zone to make it 14-0.

It was a sweet moment for Franklin, who is from Crystal River, Fla., about an hour away from Tampa.

“It feels good, especially getting it in my home state in front of my family and friends,” Franklin said. “We just wanted to come back and play ball, not give up too many big plays. Just play a sound football game.”

South Florida (4-5) answered with a seven-play, 90-yard drive that was capped off with a 14-yard touchdown pass from McCloud to Bryce Miller to make the score 14-7 with 1:01 remaining in the third quarter.

Temple’s Will Mobley made it 17-7 with a 44-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. Russo connected with Jadan Blue on a 36-yard pass to set up the score.

Russo was 15-of-21 for 164 yards and an interception. Gardner had 133 yards on 25 carries and Blue finished with 121 yards on 11 receptions.