Temple redshirt freshman running back David Hood was so far down the depth chart that he couldn't see the field - until October.

Considered the fifth of five running backs in August, Hood took advantage of his most extensive playing time during Saturday's 31-12 win over Memphis that kept the Owls on track to win the American Athletic Association East Division.

Now Hood could be a factor as Temple hosts Connecticut in a Saturday's key 7 p.m. AAC game at Lincoln Financial Field.

Temple (9-2, 6-1 AAC) will clinch the East Division title with a win and earn a berth in the inaugural AAC title game. UConn (6-5, 4-3) has won three in a row.

If Temple loses, South Florida will be the division winner, presuming the Bulls also beat winless Central Florida on Thursday.

A product of South Jersey's Absegami High, Hood entered last week's game with 76 rushing yards. He added 61 in 14 carries and scored on a 14-yard run in the second quarter that extended Temple's lead to 14-6.

"One thing I am proud of is we played with a kid who basically started the year as a fourth-team or fifth-team tailback." Temple coach Matt Rhule said, referring to Hood. "All he has done is work and you see what he is capable of . . ."

Hood appeared in two games last season but earned a redshirt year. This season junior Jahad Thomas (1,069 yards, 15 TDs) has earned the right to be the No. 1 tailback. But Thomas has been hampered the last few weeks by sore ribs and hasn't had more than 15 rushing attempts in each of the last three games.

Of the other running backs, freshman Jager Gardner has been a key contributor. Fellow freshman Ryquell Armstead, who had been the No. 2 back, has missed the last two games with an undisclosed injury.

Yet another freshman running back, T.J. Simmons, is not with the program.

And now it's Hood's turn. He didn't see action in the first three games before getting two late-game carries in a 37-3 win at Charlotte on Oct. 2.

"It was hard in the beginning," Hood said about not seeing much playing time.

He said the veteran players helped keep his spirits up.

"We've got seniors on the team who tell you that patience is the key and what they went through when they were a freshmen or a redshirt freshman and their time eventually came," Hood said. "I always practiced like I was a starter and tried to be the best I could eventually be and my time eventually came and I handled it like a man and did what I needed to do."

His attitude and production against Memphis impressed his teammates.

"I think Hood showed me a lot last week," Temple quarterback P.J. Walker said. ". . . He is striving to be great every day and goes in with the mind-set that he will be the best third-down back or any role."

Besides having good speed, the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Hood is strong for his size. That enabled him to bounce off multiple tacklers in his 14-yard scoring run last week.

Now Temple has a must-win situation and Hood is looking to build off last week's effort.

"It meant a lot to get to show my talents and what I could do in a college football game," Hood said. "I think from here on out I will continue to improve and do anything I can to help this team."

@sjnard