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Temple routs East Carolina, 49-6

A game that was expected to be much closer, had the Owls leading 35-3 at halftime.

Temple wide receiver Sean Ryan catches a first-quarter touchdown past East Carolina defensive back Nolan Johnson on Saturday, October 6, 2018. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Temple wide receiver Sean Ryan catches a first-quarter touchdown past East Carolina defensive back Nolan Johnson on Saturday, October 6, 2018. YONG KIM / Staff PhotographerRead moreYong Kim

This was supposed to be a different East Carolina football team that Temple was facing, not the one the Owls beat by a combined 71-20 score the previous two years.

The Pirates entered the game with the nation's ninth best rushing defense from a unit that was allowing nearly 20 points per game fewer than a year ago.

None of that mattered.

Apparently steamed from last week's 45-35 loss at Boston College, Temple defeated East Carolina, 49-6, Saturday in an American Athletic Conference game at Lincoln Financial Field.

The 43-point difference was Temple's largest ever over a Football Bowl Subdivision team.

>> PHOTO GALLERY: Temple 49, East Carolina 6

Temple improved to 3-3 overall, 2-0 in the AAC, as it begins the heart of its schedule next Saturday at Navy. ECU, which beat Power Five North Carolina and lost by just seven at AAC contender South Florida, fell to 2-3, 0-2.

"It was an impressive win against a really good opponent," Temple coach Geoff Collins.

The margin of victory was shocking, especially to the opponent.

"It is very surprising when you go out and don't play well," ECU coach Scottie Montgomery said. "We expected to play extremely well and we didn't."

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Anthony Russo, making his fourth consecutive start for the Owls, had the best game of his young career. He completed 21 of 25 passes for 254 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Russo was replaced for good by Todd Centeio with 12 minutes, 19 seconds left in the game. (Collins said that quarterback Frank Nutile, who has been battling an undisclosed injury, wasn't available).

The touchdown passes went to four receivers, the first time this happened at Temple since Nov. 6, 2015, in a 60-40 win at SMU.

Temple running back Ryquell Armstead saw his streak of four consecutive 100-yard rushing games end. Armstead came up limping and left the game with 5:57 left in the third quarter and Temple leading, 35-3. He returned for a series early in the fourth quarter, but limped off after a carry. Armstead finished with 91 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown. He wasn't available after the game, and Collins said he would know more about him and all his players Sunday.

As for the decision to put Armstead back in the game, Collins said, "He is a tough, tough young man. He wanted to go in, and he is playing at a high level, and he will keep fighting and battling."

This game was over at halftime, with Temple leading, 35-3.

ECU, which entered the game allowing 94.8 rushing yards per game, yielded 173, including 88 in the decisive first half..

After throwing an interception on the first series, Russo rebounded by leading the Owls to touchdowns on their next three possessions.

"We were able to bounce back, and knew we had a bunch of opportunities to hit them over the top with our receivers with the coverage they were playing," Russo said. "So with the coverage they were playing, scoring [on] the next couple of drives was huge for us."

The first touchdown came on a 24-yard scoring pass to freshman Sean Ryan midway through the first quarter. It was the first career touchdown for Ryan, the highly regarded 6-4, 195-pound product from Brooklyn, N.Y., whose role should continue to expand, after redshirt senior receiver Ventell Bryant was hurt during the week in practice and saw limited game action.

On the next series, ECU gambled by going for it on fourth-and-1 at its 43. Quarterback Holton Ahlers, who was in the shotgun, tried to run it up the middle. Delvon Randall was credited with the tackle, but it was the initial hit by linebacker Shaun Bradley that slowed the ECU backup quarterback, who often comes in on running plays.

The Owls then scored on a 7-yard reception by Branden Mack, a 1-yard run by Armstead, and Isaiah Wright's 59-yard punt return, which made it 28-0 with 12:24 left in the first half.

"I saw everybody collapsing inside and I faked to the right and I just hit outside," said Wright, who has three career returns for touchdowns, two via punt return.

It was also the sixth consecutive game that Temple has scored a non-offensive touchdown.

The Owls were never challenged from there, and had other big plays, including Randle Jones' leaping 31-yard touchdown pass from Russo, which Collins lobbied was spectacular enough to be on ESPN's SportsCenter.