Keith Kirkwood's leaping catch in the end zone of Phillip Walker's 8-yard pass with one second remaining gave the Owls an improbable 26-25 win over Central Florida in an American Athletic Conference thriller Saturday night before 38,299 at Bright House Networks Stadium.
"I have never been part of anything like this before," Rhule said.
Trailing by 25-20, the Owls took over on their own 30-yard line with no timeouts and 32 seconds remaining. Three straight completions to Ventell Bryant gave the Owls a first and goal with eight seconds left. Then came the game-winner to Kirkwood.
"P.J. called all goes and whoever had the best matchup and leverage, he was putting the ball in your hands," Kirkwood said, referring to Walker. "I beat the guy off the line and the ball was in the air and I made a play."
Temple moved to 4-3 overall and 2-1 in the AAC. UCF fell to 3-3, 1-1.
With all the euphoria surrounding Temple, imagine how the opposite locker room felt.
"I am sick to my stomach," UCF coach Scott Frost said. "We let one get away."
The Owls put an extra emphasis on running the ball and gained 197 yards on 51 carries. Jahad Thomas rushed for 120 yards and a score on 27 carries, and Ryquell Armstead added 78 yards on 14 carries.
Walker, who attempted 59 passes in last week's 34-27 loss at Memphis, completed 12 of 24 for 167 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He has enjoyed many better statistical games, but none that brought this type of satisfaction.
"This ranks as No. 1 just because of the fact we battled all four quarters every second of the clock," Walker said.
The Owls scored on their first possession of the third quarter as Aaron Boumerhi hit his first career field goal, a 32-yarder that cut Central Florida's lead to 25-17 with 7:39 left in the quarter.
Temple got another Boumerhi field goal, from 47 yards, on its next drive to get to within 25-20 with 3:02 left in the third.
"When a field goal comes up like that, you don't think of the distance," Boumerhi said. "... You see the upright, see the ball, and try to kick it through."
UCF's Matthew Wright was wide right on a 43-yard field-goal attempt on the next possession. That came one play after Taylor Oldham almost made a leaping grab near the end zone.
Early in the fourth quarter, Temple's Nate Hairston had his first interception of the season and returned it 21 yards to the Owls' 48. It didn't lead to any points because Walker, facing heavy pressure, threw an incompletion on the run during a fourth and 15 from the Knights' 31.
That left the deficit at five points with 6:12 remaining.
UCF went three-and-out the next series after Temple safety Delvon Randall tackled dangerous Dontravious Wilson for a 4-yard loss on third down.
On the next possession, a 45-yard run by Thomas and a 14-yard completion to Adonis Jennings gave the Owls a first down on the UCF 15. Temple then had two runs for losses and an incomplete pass, and Walker was sacked and fumbled on fourth and 18 from the 23 with 1:41 left.
Temple held, then completed its comeback.
"It showed the tremendous maturity of our kids. They just kept playing, playing, playing," Rhule said. "I am proud of them."
UCF scored on the game's first series when McKenzie Milton hit Tre'Quan Smith on a 55-yard go pattern. Smith, last season's AAC rookie of the year, beat Artrel Foster on the play. It was UCF's longest touchdown pass of the season.
Temple came right back when Walker connected on a screen pass for 28 yards to Thomas. Walker threw the ball right before Jamlyus Pittman could get to the senior quarterback.
UCF made it 11-7 on Wright's 42-yard field goal with 3:52 left in the first quarter.
The Knights increased the lead to 18-7 on Milton's 16-yard scoring pass to Adrian Killins, who beat linebacker Jarred Alwan to make the end-zone catch.
Temple had two personal fouls during the drive, one on Alwan and another on Jacob Martin, who was called for roughing the passer on an incomplete pass on third down.
The Owls were coming unglued when Milton increased the lead to 25-7 on a 63-yard run with 12:34 left in the first half. Little did anybody know that UCF would be shut out the rest of the game.
The Owls stopped the bleeding when Thomas scored on a 7-yard run with 2:35 left in the half to cap a nine-play, 71-yard drive. That cut the UCF lead to 25-14.
It was his fifth straight multiple-touchdown game, the longest current streak in FBS.
That also was the beginning of an improbable comeback from a team that played to the very last second.