NEW ORLEANS - Haason Reddick wasn't supposed to play this week. At least that was the word from Temple coach Matt Rhule on Tuesday.
Reddick was banged up, but just like his team, the redshirt senior defensive end was more than fresh at game time. He led a tenacious defensive effort, and the offense, while failing to capitalize on early chances, eventually got in gear during a 31-0 win over Tulane on Saturday at Yulman Stadium.
It was the fifth consecutive win for the Owls (8-3, 6-1 American Athletic Conference), who can clinch their second straight East Division title and earn another trip to the AAC title game with a home win over East Carolina on Saturday.
Temple's defense has not allowed a point in the last 158 minutes of play and has posted back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 2011.
The Owls looked fresh coming off their bye following a 21-0 win at Connecticut on Nov. 4.
Reddick had five tackles, including two tackles for losses, giving him 20 for the season. That broke the AAC record of 19 set last year by Houston's Elandorn Roberts.
He also forced a fumble and broke up a pass. Not bad for somebody battling tendinitis in his ankle.
"I got treatment all week and was able to go today and I felt 100 percent and came out and helped my team," Reddick said.
Leading, 10-0, at halftime, Temple put the game out of reach against Tulane (3-8, 0-7) as Phillip Walker threw third-quarter touchdown passes of 12 yards to Ventell Bryant and 42 yards on a screen to Jahad Thomas.
Freshman Isaiah Wright added a dazzling, 22-yard run in the fourth quarter for the first touchdown of his career.
Walker completed 18 of 33 passes for 337 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Bryant had nine receptions for 168 yards and the score.
"They play man-to-man [nearly] the whole game and that was a challenge to our receivers," said Bryant, who earned his second career 100-yard game. "They were one-one, press in your face, and you have to win the battles."
The game didn't start well for the Owls.
Aaron Boumerhi missed his first collegiate field goal, from 36 yards, on the Owls' first drive of the game. Temple had possession for nearly six minutes.
On Tulane's first offensive series, Reddick forced a fumble by quarterback Glen Cuiellette that teammate Artrel Foster recovered on the Green Wave 34.
Walker then hit Bryant for 31 yards, and three straight carries by Jahad Thomas resulted in the first score, a 2-yard run with 6 minutes, 12 seconds left in the first quarter. It was Thomas' 10th rushing touchdown.
Ryquell Armstead dressed for the game, but the Owls didn't play the sophomore running back because he wasn't 100 percent. Rhule said he hopes Armstead will be ready for East Carolina.
Early in the second quarter, Temple gambled on fourth and goal from the 1, but defensive tackle Tanzel Smart stopped Thomas for a 3-yard loss.
The 6-foot-1, 304-pound Smart had a dominant first half that included three tackles for losses.
The Owls increased their lead to 10-0 with Boumerhi's 32-yard field goal with 4 seconds left in the first half. That came during a drive on which a 5-yard touchdown catch by Bryant was nullified by a holding call.
The Owls were much sharper offensively in the second half.
Backup safety Nate L. Smith, a key part of the Temple defense, was injured and carted off the field with 5:56 left.
"I'm OK," Smith said, as he limped into the locker room.
So was Temple.
The Owls more than doubled Tulane's time of possession, having the ball for 40:06. It's been a constant during this five-game winning streak, not to mention a defense that has improved each week.