FOR THE second time in two weeks, Temple was a touchdown underdog. In the opener, the Owls beat Penn State for the first time in 74 years, by 17 points at home. Saturday night at Cincinnati, they beat the American Athletic Conference favorite, 34-26, after leading by 22 early in the fourth quarter.
Aside from the obvious historical ramifications, this win was bigger: It makes the Owls the team to beat in the East Division. And on paper, Cincy (1-1) has the tougher AAC schedule.
The Owls should be favored in every game they have - at Massachusetts (0-1) this Saturday, at FBS newcomer Charlotte (2-0), vs. Tulane (0-2), vs. Central Florida (0-2) and at East Carolina (1-1) - before Notre Dame visits South Philly on Halloween. And the Irish, it should be duly noted, have already lost their starting running back and quarterback for the year. Saturday, they needed a 40-yard touchdown reception by Roman Catholic's Will Fuller with 12 seconds left to avoid being upset at Virginia.
Temple's toughest remaining AAC game figures to be here against defending champion Memphis (2-0), which is in the West, on Nov. 21. The inaugural conference title game will be hosted by the highest-ranked divisional champ on Dec. 5.
Speaking of which, the Owls received 38 votes in the latest media poll. That left them at No. 26, 10 points behind Oklahoma State. The coaches have them 32nd, sandwiched between Duke and Miami. They haven't been in the Top 25 since the final poll of 1979, when they finished 17. It was actually still only the Top 20 back then. The poll didn't expand until a decade later. For anyone keeping tabs, the Owls have been ranked a total of eight weeks in four years (the others were 1934, '41 and '74). The highest they ever got was 13 in 1941, in the same month they last beat Penn State.
These Owls got a touchdown with 32 seconds left in the second quarter to take a 10-6 lead into halftime. Jahad Thomas then ran the second-half kickoff back 100 yards. A minute-and-a-half later, following an 88-yard Cincy TD pass, Thomas ran for a 56-yard score. He would finish with a career-high 193 yards on 26 carries. The junior, who played defensive back as a freshman, has rushed for 328 yards. He had a team-best 384 in 2014.
P.J. Walker threw for two TDs and had another called back due to a penalty. The Owls intercepted Gunner Kiel four times. The last came with 13 seconds to go, by linebacker Tyler Matakevich (his second of the game) off a tip in the end zone after Cincy had driven 66 yards to the Temple 5 in eight plays following a Thomas fumble.
The Owls had lost five straight to the Bearcats going back to 2002. They're 2-0 for the first time since 2011. They started 3-0 in 2010. They haven't won their first four since the 1974 team went 5-0.
Cincy coach Tommy Tuberville called them "the nation's darling team."
Sophomore wide receiver Brodrick Yancy suffered a neck injury early in the second quarter and was taken off the field on a stretcher. After being transported to a hospital for evaluation, he retured home with the team and was re-examined yesterday by Temple doctors.
The Nittany Lions, playing the first of five straight home games, evened their record by winning their Beaver Stadium opener in wet conditions.
Christian Hackenberg, after being sacked 10 times by Temple the week before at the Linc, completed 14 of 27 for 128 yards and his first TD pass of the season, a 5-yarder to DaeSean Hamilton that made it 20-7 with 12 minutes left. This time he wasn't sacked once, the first time that's happened since a late-November win over Wisconsin in 2013.
True freshman Saquon Barkley, who played only in the second half, rushed for 115 yards on 12 carries. That included a 3-yard score with 9 minutes remaining. The Bulls (1-1) got a late TD.
Fifth-year end Carl Nassib (Malvern Prep) had a career-best three sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception, a week after he had a career-high 10 tackles.
This week in their Big Ten opener, the Nits host Rutgers (1-1), which lost at home to Washington State, 37-34. They won last year in New Jersey, 13-10, in the first meeting since 1995.
In New York, the Wildcats (1-1) got one they really needed against their first FCS opponent.
The Wildcats reached the end zone on two of their first three possessions. Villanova had 400 yards, 218 more than the Rams (1-1). With starting running back Gary Underwood out with a chest injury, Javon White carried 23 times for 143 yards. John Robertson went 12-for-18 for 161 yards and a 6-yard TD. He also ran for a 4-yard score.
The Wildcats, ranked third in the coaches' poll, play their first home and Colonial Athletic Association game on Saturday against Delaware (1-1), which has been their annual finale opponent for the longest time. A quirk in the schedule made the change necessary.