ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Temple is known for its offense.

Make that the Owls are known for their running game with tailbacks Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown and even quarterback Chris Coyer.

Yet, Temple's defense lit it up in 12 of this season's 13 games. And it had Wyoming freshman quarterback Brett Smith for lunch Saturday.

"Our starting point is playing great defense," Owls coach Steve Addazio said following the 37-15 victory over the Cowboys here at University Stadium. "That's what our program's built around."

Smith found out the tough way.

He completed 20 of 30 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns (one in garbage time), but he threw three interceptions. And he gained roughly half of his 65 rushing yards after the game had essentially been decided.

But Smith was supposed to be Temple's toughest challenge on the season. He had completed 233 of 385 passes for 2,495 yards and 18 touchdowns to go with eight interceptions coming into the game. Smith also led the team in rushing touchdowns (10) and was second in rushing yards (645).

"Our D-linemen were relentless," Temple senior defensive end Adrian Robinson said. "We made him force balls. And we were getting after it."

Senior outside linebacker Tahir Whitehead finished with a team-high 11 tackles en route to being named the game's defensive most outstanding player.

Senior linebacker Stephen Johnson (10 tackles), Robinson (five tackles, half sack), senior safety Kevin Kroboth (five tackles, interception), freshman cornerback Anthony Robey (interception, tackle), senior cornerback Kee-ayre Griffin (interception) and sophomore defensive tackle Levi Brown (half sack) also stood out.

"As I said, that's our game plan to win," Addazio said, "and our kids executed that way. But we are very proud of our defense, extremely proud."

Temple came into the contest with the nation's third-ranked scoring defense (13.8 points per game), 15th-ranked total defense (315.5 yard per game) and 19th-ranked pass defense (192.92).

"All the coaches do a wonderful job of getting us prepared," Kroboth said. "And they just put us in all the right positions to make plays."

And that's what they did most of the season.

Contact staff writer Keith Pompey at 215-854-2939, kpompey@phillynews.com, or @pompeysgridlock on Twitter. Read his blog, "Owls Inq," at www.philly.com/owlsinq