Temple executed the only type of game plan that could stop a quick-strike South Florida team. Using a ball-control offense that accounted for 319 rushing yards, the Owls upset South Florida, 46-30, on Friday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
Now Temple controls its own fate in terms of winning a second straight American Athletic Conference East Division title. The Owls are 5-3 overall and 3-1 in the AAC. South Florida, the preseason favorite, fell to 6-2, 3-1.
The win avenged last year's 44-23 victory by the Bulls.
Temple owned a gigantic edge in time of possession, 39 minutes, 7 seconds to 20:53.
"So many guys made plays, that is what makes this a huge win for me and it obviously gives us some control," Temple coach Matt Rhule said. "But that can change in a week in the blink of an eye so they better stay focused."
Sophomore Ryquell Armstead rushed for a career-high 210 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, while Jahad Thomas added 56 yards on 16 carries and two scores. It was his sixth consecutive game with two touchdowns. Freshman Isaiah Wright added 58 yards on six carries.
"We tired them out with me, Jahad, Isaiah Wright ran well," Armstead said. "[Fullback Nick] Sharga, our line blocked big time."
On defense, the Owls played well against a team that was averaging 44.1 points a game, eighth in the nation. Temple often used its top defender Haason Reddick as a spy on elusive USF quarterback Quinton Flowers, limiting his big plays, although not holding him down entirely.
"Once the defense settled down and got used to the tempo, it became much easier and it was just about everybody doing their job," said Reddick, who had 1.5 tackles for loss.
Flowers 50-yard run set up his 3-yard touchdown that gave the Bulls a 23-20 lead with 5 minutes, 21 seconds left in he third quarter.
Armstead's 42-yard touchdown run on a great lead block by Sharga gave the Owls the lead for good, 27-23, with 3:51 left in the third quarter.
After Temple held on the next series, Avery Ellis blocked a punt, putting the ball on the USF 20.
Two plays later Thomas scored from 9 yards out, boosting the lead to 34-23 with 1:44 left in the third quarter.
Aaron Boumerhi made it 37-23 with a 42-yard field goal with 10:09 left.
USF came right back on the next series when Marlon Mack reversed fields to score on a 30-yard run, capping a four-play 75-yard drive to make it 37-30 with 8:42 left.
Temple stalled on its next drive, but got the ball back when Delvon Randall intercepted a pass by backup quarterback Brett Keane, and after a USF penalty on the return, Temple had a first and goal from the 3 with 3:23 left. Keane had replaced Flowers, who was hurt on the previous play.
Thomas then gave the Owls a 44-30 cushion by scoring from 3 yards out on the next play. Temple also earned a safety on a Romond Deloatch sack in the end zone.
Temple had two scoring drives in the first half, totaling more than 16 minutes. The game's opening drive was 7:50 and resulted in a Boumerhi 22-yard field goal.
In the second quarter, Phillip Walker's 1-yard scoring pass to Colin Thompson, which was the tight end's first career touchdown, ate up 8:12 of clock, giving Temple a 10-7 lead.
The Bulls showed their big-play capability when Flowers hit a streaking Tyre McCants with a 31-yard scoring pass with 5:04 left in the half. McCants ran by safety Khiry Lucas.
Temple defensive end Praise Martin Oguike blocked the PAT, keeping the USF lead to 13-10. That was Martin-Oguike's fifth career blocked kick.
Armstead's 76-yard touchdown run, the longest of his career, gave Temple a 17-13 lead with 4:01 left in the half.
Boumerhi's 35-yard field goal with five seconds left extended the Owls' lead to 20-13 at halftime.
Temple's Ventell Bryant had five catches for 115 yards, all in the first half. It was the first 100-yard game of his career.