FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - It was certainly not the route Temple wanted to take, but the Owls had no other alternative.

Temple needed a madcap finish, one that included scoring two points off a blocked extra point, and executed a last-minute drive that set up a game-winning field goal

After Temple had come back to score a 25-23 win over Massachusetts before 10,141 at Gillette Stadium on Saturday, coach Matt Rhule could finally exhale.

"Games like this, you have to find a way to win," Rhule said about his 3-0 Owls, who will enjoy a bye week.

The way Temple found to win was certainly unconventional.

The Owls said they had no letdown after signature wins over Penn State and Cincinnati, but there were long stretches of inconsistency - until the end, when it mattered most.

Sophomore Austin Jones nailed a 32-yard field goal with seven seconds left for the game-winner. Jones is now 7 for 7 on the season after making three against UMass (0-2).

"It was like any other kick," Jones said, before slightly changing course. "I was a little nervous, I will say, but it was like any other kick."

This was a game like no other that the players could remember.

"It's up there," said receiver John Christopher, who had seven receptions for 72 yards.

After recovering a Jahad Thomas fumble, UMass marched 59 yards in eight plays and took a 23-20 lead on a 16-yard screen pass from Blake Frohnapfel to Jamal Wilson with 1 minute, 20 seconds left.

"We probably celebrated a bit too early," UMass coach Mark Whipple said.

The zaniness then began on the conversion kick. Temple's Praise Martin-Oguike blocked it, Stephaun Marshall scooped the ball up, and Temple went on the offensive.

"I was about to get tackled and heard Will Hayes call my name," Marshall said.

The special teams, coached by Ed Foley, works on such plays in practice. So Marshall lateraled the ball to Hayes.

"[Marshall] heard me, and thank God he pitched it, and I took it and kept running," Hayes said.

He ran all the way to the end zone, giving Temple two points and closing the gap to 23-22.

After a 15-yard, unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty on the Minutemen and a 9-yard kickoff return to the Temple 35-yard-line, the Owls took over with 1:16 left.

Quarterback P.J. Walker moved the Owls 50 yards in nine plays. The final one was a 12-yard completion to Christopher, who got out of bounds at the UMass 15, setting up the winning score.

"Everybody stayed poised," Walker said.

Especially the quarterback, who completed 28 of 48 passes for 391 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions.

With Adonis Jennings' first career touchdown reception of 23 yards and a 14-yard run by Thomas, Temple took a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.

UMass tied it by halftime, 17-17, led by two touchdown receptions by fullback/tight end Rodney Mills and record-setting receiving from Tajae Sharpe. With 11 receptions for 156 yards, Sharpe became the school's all-time receptions leader (188).

So at the end, Temple had to feel fortunate to leave the New England Patriots' stadium with an unblemished record.

"We just did some things we don't normally do," Rhule said. "We'll just get back to playing football and keep getting better."

mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard