Devin Tyler was sitting with his mates on the offensive line at the Temple football team's annual banquet last weekend when the time came to announce the Owls' most valuable player.

Just before being called out, previous honorees had been shown on the big-screen televisions that were sprinkled around the room.

"I didn't know who it would be, and I'm waiting to see, and all of a sudden, all of us are on the big screen," said Tyler, 6-7, 308-pound tackle from Suitland, Md. "I said 'Oh, man.' I didn't expect it. It was a big deal for us."

Look no further than running back Bernard Pierce for proof of the role Temple's offensive line played in the program's best season in 30 years.

As the Owls were going 9-3 overall and 7-1 in the Mid-American Conference, Pierce led the league in rushing with 1,308 yards in only 10 games. A first-team all-MAC selection, Pierce set Temple freshman records for rushing and touchdowns (15). His touchdown total tied a school record, and he was named the MAC freshman of the year.

Temple's rushing attack is a big reason the team was invited to the Dec. 29 EagleBank Bowl in Washington, where the Owls will meet UCLA (6-6) in RFK Stadium.

"I saw that the offensive line was the biggest difference in our team," said Temple coach Al Golden, who was named MAC coach of the year after guiding the Owls to their first winning season since 1990 and their first postseason appearance since 1979. "They're all mature guys now; they're stronger and know the system now. They really played well together."

Pierce, who is expected to play against UCLA after sitting out Temple's last two regular-season outings, applauded the MVP status of the guys who block for him.

"They earned it," he said. "Every one of them. They are the reason I got my yards. I may have made somebody miss every now and then, but it all starts up front."

Tyler, a redshirt senior who is the only offensive lineman on Temple's two-deep chart who will not return next season, made second-team all-MAC. He arrived at Temple as a 215-pound defensive end. Like the other players on his unit who shared in the award, guards Steve Caputo and Colin Madison, center John Palumbo, and tackle Darius Morris, Tyler has put on weight and gotten stronger each year.

Golden said that Tyler would be able to play at 315 and that he is an NFL prospect.

"The first 30 or 40 pounds weren't so hard because of the lifting and the meal plan they put us on," Tyler said about gaining 93 pounds since arriving at Temple. "The rest of it, you really have to work and make a conscious effort. You eat before you go to bed, and you eat a big breakfast every morning."

For Tyler, who arrived at Temple the year before Golden took over, going to a bowl game this year is especially sweet.

The team went 0-11 his freshman year as he redshirted, and 10-26 in his first three seasons in uniform.

"It's great to see us go from worst in the nation to a bowl," said Tyler, whose hometown is just outside Washington. "I've seen it all. The bowl game is a big thing. It's the first time for all of us. It gives me a chance to play my last game with my family and friends there. And we're looking forward to playing our best game."