With all the fancy spread offenses in college football, Temple is proving that teams can still prosper playing the old fashioned way - by running the football down the collective throats of opponents.

The Owls are 5-3, and3-1 in the American Athletic Conference and would earn a second straight trip to the conference championship game by winning their final four games.

Temple will look for its first three-game winning streak of the season when the Owls host Cincinnati (4-3, 1-3) in Saturday's 3:30 p.m. AAC game at Lincoln Financial Field.

In the Owls' consecutive wins over Central Florida and South Florida, they have rushed for 516 yards and five touchdowns on 102 carries. Temple has attempted just 45 passes in those two wins.

"Our run game has gotten better, which has really helped at the end of games," Temple coach Matt Rhule said.

That was evident during last week's 46-30 win over South Florida. In the fourth quarter, Temple outscored the Bulls, 12-7, and rushed for 87 yards on 17 carries. Temple's time of possession was 11 minutes and 30 seconds compared to 3:30 for USF.

The biggest impact in the running game has been the emergence of sophomore Ryquell Armstead, who rushed for 210 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries last week.

A year ago, current senior Jahad Thomas rushed for 1,262 yards and 17 touchdowns, but he wore down at the end of the season.

Thomas, who missed the first two games with a thumb injury, has been much fresher this season.

He is still a major threat running or receiving.

Thomas leads the Owls with 791 all-purpose yards, which includes work as a punt and kickoff returner. He also has a team-high 12 touchdowns, two in each of his six games. Thomas has the current best streak of two or more touchdowns per game among Football Bowl Subdivision players.

As a ballcarrier he has rushed for 413 yards and nine touchdowns on 101 carries for a 4.1 average.

He has had at least 20 carries just once this season. That was two weeks ago in the 26-25 comeback win at Central Florida, when Thomas rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries.

"I feel a lot fresher compared to last season," said Thomas, who carried the ball 276 times last year. "I have nicks and bruises that are getting treated but other than that, I feel fairly fresh."

He might be getting fewer carries, but Thomas is still the key according to Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville.

Last season Thomas rushed for 196 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries in Temple's 34-26 win at Cincinnati. Thomas also had a 100 yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

"No. 5 is very elusive in the open field and they do a lot to get him the ball on swing passes," Tuberville said in his weekly press conference, referring to Thomas. ". . . He has quick feet, can really see the field and is one of the better ones in our league and makes a lot of people miss tackles."

Last year Thomas didn't return a kickoff after the third game due to the wear and tear.

Thomas has only returned two kickoffs this year, but one came in the last game and he could see more action since Armstead (613 yards and 9 touchdowns on 91 carries) is playing more.

In addition, freshman Isaiah Wright (164 yards rushing, 6.4 average) is becoming a more instrumental part of the running game, especially as a Wildcat quarterback.

"When we are able to run the football," Rhule said, "we usually have success."

mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard